A Day Trip to Waconia
Enjoy great views, dining, and craft beverage destinations in this West Metro lakeside town
PHoto Courtesy of Mocha Monkey
According to the calendar, it’s spring, and even if the weather doesn’t agree quite yet, greenery, flowers, and lakeside day trips are on the horizon. Can anyone else hear a warm wind rustling through the trees and feel the spring sun soaking into their skin? Not yet? It's coming, I promise! Waconia, located 30 miles west of the Twin Cities, has been considered a lake destination city since 1884 when its inhabitants began to develop the large island in the center of the lake into "Coney Island of the West." Although Coney Island is not like it was in the early 1900s, with gardens, summer homes, a hotel, and a dance pavilion, Waconia itself still boasts of tasty restaurants, award-winning wineries and distilleries, and of course, the lake, the gem of all lakeside towns.
For those visiting in the morning (or even if you're just passing through), be sure to stop at Mocha Monkey, voted a few years ago as the No. 1 coffee house in Minnesota. It's easy to see why, too. Located in downtown Waconia in a gorgeous two-story 19th-century home, Mocha Monkey serves an astounding selection of coffee beverages, wine, sandwiches, and even ice cream and sorbet. With a plethora of seating options upstairs (the little nook to the left of the stairs and around the corner is the best for cozy conversations or studious endeavors) and an ever-changing collection of on-sale handcrafted pottery pieces created by owner Jon Schmidt, Oliver Clay Co., and Rhonda Tesch, the charm and atmosphere of Mocha Monkey is worth the quick trip to Waconia alone.
For more of a social outing with friends or a special someone, spend a couple hours at one of Waconia’s breweries, wineries, or distilleries. Visit Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery just outside of town; J. Carver Distillery, which was just awarded medals at the American Craft Spirit Association Awards; Sovereign Estate Winery, who can boast of four double gold honors from San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition; or Waconia Brewing Company, conveniently located right downtown.
Beach days won’t be possible quite yet (unless you're looking for a polar plunge), but for when it gets to be that time of year, take the afternoon to visit Lake Waconia Regional Park with its swimming beach, playground, and picnic shelters. The area is located on the east side of Lake Waconia and is currently being developed into a 130-acre regional park. Check out Destination Waconia for more parks and trails.
A lakeside destination doesn’t live up to its name unless there’s lakeside dinin. Fortunately, Lake Waconia has Lola’s Lakehouse just a few blocks northeast of downtown. Dine on the deck and catch some rays overlooking the lake (yes, it’s just as Instagrammable as it sounds) or enjoy your appetizers and entrees inside with Lola’s elegant ambiance and nautical-inspired decor. For more of a casual brewpub setting with rooftop dining later this spring, visit Iron Tap downtown for a large selection of craft beer that will impressive even the most avid of craft beer enthusiasts.