Our picks for things to do and see this summer—all without leaving the metro.
The “staycation” trend makes so much sense: Put together a day or weekend trip for your family, and save time (and money) on the travel itself. The Twin Cities metro has an abundance of sites to see and activities to do, so grab your calendar and plot a quick trip to one (or a handful) of these delightful destinations. Our editors are experts in their local communities, and they’ve chosen their favorite spots to share with us.
Blue Ox Log Rolling
Some travel experiences can be a leap of faith. Rather than leaping, how about taking small balanced steps and challenging yourself along the shores of Victoria’s Lake Auburn?
As owner and lead instructor of Blue Ox Log Rolling, Sarah Beron’s been teaching people of all ages how to log roll for fun, exercise and sport since May 2016. Summer sessions take place in the Berons’ backyard the lake. Visit the website to book a family lesson or party.
MN Landscape Arboretum
In our book, this is the MN OurEscape Arboretum. Visitors can find themselves deeply rooted along the bog walk or Green Heron Pond; cooled by the hidden waterfall; steeped in the Japanese Garden; challenged by the Maze Garden; and delighted by the too-many-to-count blooming gardens, a carefully curated gift shop and a stop-worthy restaurant. Need more? Visit the Learning Center, Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center and the Sculpture Garden.
Gale Woods Farm
To get a taste of rural life without having to drive too far from the metro, Gale Woods Farm (part of Three Rivers Park District) is a can’t-miss. The regional park includes hiking and biking trails—through woods, pastures and prairie—a lake for fishing or paddling, and a working farm. Visit the cows, pigs, chickens and sheep, take a stroll through the abundant teaching garden, or stop at the farm store to pick up some fresh produce, meat or cheese on your way home. You’ll also find yarn and other fiber products from Gale Woods’ flock of fluffy sheep.
Staring Lake Amphitheatre
Talk about a scene stealer. Staring Lake serves as the backdrop to the park’s amphitheater, which plays host to several summer programs. This year’s annual events feature the Starring at Staring and Kidstock Concert Series, an eight-week lineup of musical performances; The Eden Prairie Players present a summer musical during seven performances in June; Minnesota Festival of Jazz on the Prairie showcases six area big bands in June in partnership with the Eden Prairie Noon Rotary, which feeds the crowd some napkin-worthy barbecue ribs; and, on the first three Fridays in August, Movies in the Park begin with family-friendly entertainment before the credits roll.
Head west and tour the wineries of the county—Carver, that is, not California’s Sonoma. Parley Lake Winery, Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery, and The Winery at Sovereign Estate welcome visitors to tour and sample the fruits of their efforts. Whether your tastes span Minnesota wine, locally brewed beer, beautifully prepared food, local art (including July’s ArtStock at Parley) or live music, you’ll be in your element at any of these sparkling venues.
Centennial Lakes Park
At hidden gem Centennial Lakes Park, rent a paddle boat, snap pictures with the sculptures, and when the blazing summer sun turns to twinkling starry skies, catch an evening concert or movie. The 25-acre park features a 10-acre man-made lake spread out over three interconnected ponds, new ADA-compliant pedestrian bridges, and a 1.5-mile paved walking path around the lakes. Bag fresh veggies at the farmers market, Thursdays 3–9 p.m. June 6–September 26.
White Bear Lake
It’s not hard to plan a summer staycation in White Bear Lake—the town was well-known as a summer retreat well over 100 years ago. Mark Twain even included it in his book Life On the Mississippi. Take in the regattas on Saturday mornings, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Watch from the lakeside, or rent a boat and follow the fun from the water. Top off the day with an elegant dinner at Acqua Restaurant & Bar, or go casual with pizza from Donatelli’s and a stop at Cup and Cone—the classic White Bear spot for sundaes, malts and more.
Elm Creek Park Reserve
With 4,900 acres, the largest park in Three Rivers Park District, Elm Creek, offers a breadth of outdoor opportunities for all interests and abilities. Consider hopping on miles of hiking and biking trails, dipping into the swimming pond, attempting the mountain biking trails and more. Don’t forget to bring the binoculars—wildlife calls this park home, so don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of eagles, sandhill cranes, deer, bluebirds, beavers, loons, trumpeter swans and hawks.
For a nearly perfect small-town shopping day, wander down Excelsior’s Water Street, the eminently Instagram-able main drag. There are indie boutiques aplenty, from The Golden Rule (featuring art, jewelry and more from local makers) to Pip & Pal (children’s apparel) to Ace General Store (men’s gear) to Excelsior Bay Books. Grab a cup of coffee and listen to live music at 318 Café, and perhaps snuggle in for a nightcap at the Rebel Room, a speakeasy-esque lounge paired with its sibling, Italian eatery Red Sauce Rebellion. At the end of the street, stop for a perfect view on the shore of Lake Minnetonka.
Day of Museum Fun
The words “museum” and “fun” do go together—especially at the Walker. Try Skyline Mini-Golf on the Walker terraces, play the ten artist-designed holes, and enjoy spectacular views of Minneapolis. Then proceed to the sculpture garden, with its iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, and many new sculptures. Next, head to the Mill City Museum. Built inside what was once the world’s largest flour mill, it’s packed with fun for all ages, including water and baking labs, a Flour Tower elevator show and more. Nearby lunch choices include the casual Zen Box Izakaya for Japanese comfort food, French Meadow Bakery & Café, or, for a more upscale experience, Spoonriver.