Best of Summer 2011

Everything you have to eat, do, and see


Watch a regatta.

Head to Wayzata on a Sunday afternoon, park yourself at a bench along Lake Minnetonka’s shoreline, and enjoy a front-row view of one of the weekly regattas. ★

Ride a wave at soak city.

To simultaneously sate your cravings for an adrenaline rush and a day spent submerged in water, head to Valleyfair’s Soak City, which opens May 28. Between the massive wave pool, water slides, lazy river, and tube and raft rides, the only option not available is staying dry. ★

Captain a sailboat.

Can’t tell starboard from a Starbucks? Develop some nautical know-how by enrolling in Minneapolis Parks and Recreation sailing lessons at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. Coaches from the city’s parks department teach students the basics, from tacking to knot tying, in just four lessons. Ships ahoy! ★

Take a dinner cruise.

Climb aboard one of Afton Hudson’s three cruise vessels for one of its weekly Friday night cruises or any of its myriad special events. With a drink in hand and a band playing in the background, you’ll be leading sea shanties in no time. ★

Relax on the river.

Nothing beats kicking back with a cocktail on a hot summer night. Well, nothing except sipping that drink out of a coconut at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge. Their new location overlooks the majestic Mississippi, offering the perfect backdrop for the perfect mini getaway. ★

Catch a water-ski show.

Agile cheerleaders doing fancy formations at high-school pep rallies ain’t got nothin’ on the Twin Cities River Rats, who routinely create four-layer pyramids—on waterskis. You can check out the team’s impressive acrobatics at their weekly Thursday night show near the Broadway Avenue bridge on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, from the end of May through August. ★

Rent a cruiser.

Want to play skipper without drowning in the monthly payments? Call On Trailer Boat Rental in Delano and lease the boat or equipment you need. The business has everything from fishing boats to pontoons, waterskis to wakeboards. All you’ll need is your credit card—and a captain’s hat. ★

Learn to Scuba dive.

To fully experience the state’s 10,000 lakes, you need to get below their shimmering surface. St. Paul’s Air Down There Scuba offers certification classes that end with a splash in Stillwater’s Square Lake. There’s no coral or tropical fish to ogle, of course, but you will see the submerged tail of a Cessna plane. ★

Tube down a river.

Pack a cooler, don your swimsuit, and make your way to the Cannon River in Welch. Once there, grab an inner tube, kick back, and get ready to go with the flow. A trip down the river takes roughly four hours. ★

Explore a wild and scenic riverway.

The St. Croix River, which separates Minnesota from Wisconsin, offers 164 miles of canoeing heaven. The lower St. Croix, in particular, has no major rapids and is officially designated as a wild and scenic river. Enjoy a backdrop of heavily wooded, steep-sided valleys peppered with bluffs as you paddle down the 52-mile stretch. Multiple canoe rental options are available. ★

Hit the beach.

Ready to splash in the waves and soak up some sun?
slather on the sunscreen at these Eight metro hot spots.

Bush Lake Beach, Bloomington
Floating docks, a playground, a volleyball court, a beach house, and concessions make it so you’ll never want to leave.

French Regional Park, Plymouth

Ideal for kids with a large beach, canoe rentals, a large jungle gym and rope playground, concessions, and a trolley.

Excelsior Commons, Minnetonka
Complete with playgrounds, a floating dock, tennis courts, grassy knolls, baseball diamonds, and a band shell, this beach is the total package.

Thomas Beach, Minneapolis
The clear waters of Lake Calhoun are the ultimate urban getaway—skyline view included.

McCarthy Beach, Side Lake

Voted one of the top 17 beaches in North America by Highways magazine, this sandy spot offers half a mile of shoreline and—especially good for those new to swimming—lots of shallow spots.

Phalen Beach, St. Paul
A large sandy beach and water with little to no weeds make for the perfect relaxation destination.

Snail Lake Beach, Shoreview
Great for quiet picnics and a relaxing day in the sun.

Square Lake Park, Stillwater
With 950 linear feet of sand, this beach is ideal for young swimmers.



Watch a movie under the stars.

What happens when the Walker, 89.3 The Current, and Loring Park partner up? Find out the first four Mondays in August at Summer Music & Movies in Loring Park. Entering its 38th year, each night includes a performance by a local band followed by a film screening. The park fills up fast, so be sure to arrive early to claim your patch of grass. ★

Travel back in time to early Minnesota.

Historical reenactments aren’t just for the bitter ancestors of ex-Confederate soldiers. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Fort Snelling gives visitors a chance to see what life was like in Minnesota in the 1820s, complete with food, cannon firings, costumed actors and guides, and, of course, the preserved fort itself. ★

Listen to music outdoors.

Mears Park is the place to be Thursday evenings during the summer. That’s when Music in Mears, a weekly event running from June to August, offers free outdoor concerts ranging from jazz to classical to rock. The last six weeks will also feature a movie. Grab your favorite lawn chair, crack open a beer, and enjoy. ★

Mellow out in a Japanese garden.

If your last encounter with Japanese culture consisted of take-out sushi, perhaps it’s time for a more substantial experience. The Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival, scheduled for August 21 in Como Park, is reminiscent of Japan’s annual Obon holiday. The celebration will feature Japanese food, stage performances, cultural demonstrations, activities, and a traditional lantern-lighting ceremony at dusk.

Shop three art fairs in one day.

Can’t decide which art fair to attend: the Uptown Art Fair, the Powderhorn Art Fair, or the Loring Park Art Festival, all of which take place the first weekend in August? You don’t have to choose. Attendees can take advantage of the free Metro Transit Art Hop, which shuttles people via bus between all three events. ★,,

Find a yard-sale bargain in Bryn Mawr.

The Bryn Mawr festival of garage sales is the oldest, grandest annual garage sale in Minneapolis. This two-day thrifting extravaganza, held May 7 and 8, includes over 100 participants and all the second-hand goodies you can imagine. Print off a map from the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association’s website before going and enjoy a weekend of garage-sale bliss. ★

Rent a bike.

Don’t have wheels? Take Nice Ride—Minneapolis’s non-profit bike-rental program—for a spin. Just find a kiosk (they’re filled with green bikes), buy a subscription (for one day or up to one year), and enjoy the ride. Trip fees increase by the half-hour, so be sure to plan ahead.

Hear tunes in some ruins.

Eclectic venues and outdoor music prove to be an irresistible combination during the summer. If you can’t get enough of either, don’t miss Mill City Live. Held in the ruins of the historic Mill City Museum every Thursday night in July and August, each week features a different local artist. ★

Enjoy baseball—and a bath.

Nine innings is a long time to sit in the bleachers. Which is why you should grab one of the two hot-tub specialty seating options to watch the St. Paul Saints play ball. That next home run could really make a splash. ★

Metro Fests

20 reasons to celebrate the cities

Comcast Movies in the Park
St. Paul, June-September,

Robbinsdale Whiz Bang Days
Robbinsdale, July 7-10,

Edina Art Fair
Edina, June 3-5,

Minnesota Orchestra Sommerfest
Minneapolis, July 8-23,

Grand Old Day in St. Paul
St. Paul, June 5,

Hopkins Raspberry Festival
Hopkins, July 9-17,

Stone Arch Festival
Minneapolis, June 18-19,

Ramsey County Fair
Maplewood, July 13-17,

Twin Cities Jazz Festival
St. Paul, June 23-25,

Minneapolis Aquatennial
Minneapolis, July 15-23,

Twin Cities Pride
Minneapolis, June 25-26,

AirExpo 2011
Eden Prairie, July 16-17,

Music in Plymouth
Plymouth, June 29,

Minnesota Irish Fair
St. Paul, August 12-14,

9 Nights of Music
St. Paul, Thursdays, July-August,

Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Shakopee, August 20-October 2,

Arbor Lakes’ Summer Faire 2011
Maple Grove, Thursdays, July 7-August 4,

Art and All That Jazz Festival
Burnsville, August 19-20,

Basilica Block Party
Minneapolis, July 8-9,

Fringe Festival
Various metro locations, August 4-14,




Enter a triathlon.

Feeling puffy? Shed that marshmallow middle faster than you can say “rock-hard abs” by training for the Life Time Fitness Triathlon, slated for July 9 at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. Toe the same starting line as the elite athletes, then set your own personal record. Not sure you can endure several hours of grueling athletic activity? Find a spot along the route or near the finish and cheer on the competitors. ★

Explore a cave.

Sure, you could try to fry that egg on the sidewalk, but why not cool off at Mystery Cave near Preston instead? Relearn the difference between stalactites and stalagmites, check out the underground pools, and breathe easy in the air that hovers at an autumn-like 48 degrees. ★

Ride in a hot-air balloon.

In 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones spent 19 days in a hot-air balloon, becoming the first people to circumnavigate the globe by such conveyance. You’ll understand the appeal after spending a day floating above the treetops with Aamodt’s Balloons in Stillwater. The view is spectacular, and the experience serene. No first-class flight was ever this nice. ★

Play bocce.

Somewhere between softball and shuffleboard lies bocce, the perfect summer game for the sportsman who’s not interested in wrenching a knee yet not quite ready for the retirement home, either. Join one of Valley Lounge’s summer bocce leagues and enjoy those warm July evenings with a brew, some friends, and, hopefully, a win. ★

Shoot an eagle—or a cougar.

Tired of shooting nothing but birthday-party pics with that DSLR camera you bought last year? Pretend you’re on safari with a visit to Sandstone’s Minnesota Wildlife Connection, where photographers can get unprecedented access to area wildlife, from deer to bald eagles to cougars. Get that perfect shot, and maybe your next assignment will be from National Geographic. ★

Explore the North Shore.

Whether you’re looking to sweat the day away or simply enjoy the beauty of Minnesota’s North Shore, head to the Superior Hiking Trail, which traverses the old Sawtooth Range. Each section is clearly marked to keep you on track, and multiple trails are available, offering different levels of difficulty. Check out the website for information on conditions, guided hikes, shuttle options, and other services. ★

Attend a polo match.

Draw a Venn diagram of spectator sports and fashion, and you may find just one point of intersection: polo. If you like horses (or just need an excuse to wear an oversized hat or sundress) head to Maple Plain for The Polo Classic, an annual event that helps raise money for Children’s Hospital. ★

Sink a putt.

You may not slice like Jack Nicklaus, but if putting is your pastime, you’ll appreciate Prior Lake’s Legends Golf Course. Serious players love the course layout and meticulous attention to fairways and greens. Even duffers comment on the spectacular scenery and fantastic clubhouse. ★

Go geocaching in a state park.

Take the kids on a high-tech treasure hunt. At any of the 25 demo parks across the state, you can borrow a handheld GPS device and use it to find the coordinates of containers that hold tiny trinkets around the park. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, get your own GPS device and continue the hunt across all 72 state parks. ★

Road-trip revels

11 weekend festivals worth the drive

Rochester, June 17-26,
Lumberjack Days
Stillwater, July 21-24,
Great River Shakespeare Festival
Winona, June 22-July 31,
WE Fest
Detroit Lakes, August 4-6,
Granite City Days
St. Cloud, June 23-26,
River City Days
Red Wing, August 5-7,
Grand Marais Arts Festival
Grand Marais, July 9-10,
Dakota County Fair
Farmington, August 8-14,
Bayfront Reggae Fest
Duluth, July 16-17,
Blue Collar BBQ and Arts Festival
Faribault, August 13,



Have supper at a farm.

The best meal of your summer might look a lot like a picnic—if your hamper was filled with top-flight restaurant food. The monthly Tour de Farm meals, which are hosted at farms around the state, feature four-course meals prepared by celebrated chefs, along with wine pairings. Afterward, visitors feel filled and fulfilled in a way few restaurants can match. ★

Sip a Superior brew.

Celebrate summer with one of Fitger’s summer brews. The Duluth brewpub has been creating handcrafted beers with pure Lake Superior water since the 1800s. The next time you’re in Duluth, grab a patio seat and a mug, and make a toast to the best summer yet. ★

Shop a farmers’ market.

Saturday morning is the new Friday night at Minneapolis Farmers’ Market. Cellists pluck out lively versions of jazz standards, lines form for Tollefson’s brats at 8 a.m., and mouth-watering fruits and vegetables are piled high. Thousands descend on this Minneapolis mainstay every weekend, so count on a crowd as well as more fresh produce than you can carry. ★

Drink in a beer garden.

Patios seem like a great idea—until the mercury hits 90. For those hotter-than-hot days, head to the beer garden at Black Forest Inn. The covered patio and nearby burbling fountain will keep you cool enough to spend all night tipping back mugs of the restaurant’s signature Hacker Pschorr Weissbier—and maybe a schnitzel, too. ★

Hook a trout.

If your favorite part of fishing is the moment you feel a tug on the line, avoid the hours of waiting and head to Star Prairie Trout Farm. There, they’ll set you up with bait and tackle and point you to their well-stocked pond. Simply drop in your line and reel ’em in: it’s that easy. ★

Order the lobster.

If you have already fallen hard for food trucks, then the Smack Shack is a must-try. Chef Josh Thoma’s seasonal sensation serves up lobster rolls that have already achieved legendary status as well as an equally scrumptious fresh seafood menu. ★

Sweat garlic.

Twilight foes seeking an extra layer of defense against vampires should plan to spend August 13 at the Minnesota Garlic Festival, where more than 100 varieties of the pungent bulb will be in use and on display. Cooking demonstrations are just part of the fun: the full-day celebration includes musical performances, kite-making, and a parade. ★

Get fresh veggies delivered to your door.

Cardboard-flavored tomatoes, wilted iceberg lettuce—these may be your Minnesota winter vegetables, but during the summer? Not a chance. Sign up for community-supported agriculture (CSA) deliveries with an organization like Big Woods Farm, which will provide you with a box of freshly picked seasonal herbs and veggies each week for four months. From green beans to pumpkins, you’ll get the best that the state has to offer plus recipes to spin each ingredient into an amazing dish. ★

Tour a Minnesota winery.

Can’t afford to fly to Napa? Then hop in your car and head to one of Minnesota’s own wineries, like Hastings’s Alexis Bailly Vineyard. The vineyard’s owners have spent decades developing grapes that deliver just the right flavor and can withstand Minnesota winters. It’s a comfortable setting with picnic areas and bocce courts, but our favorite part was the vineyard’s sly, Keillor-esque motto: “Where the grapes can suffer.” ★

Eat buttered corn at the State Fair.

The sweet corn sold at the Minnesota State Fair’s Corn Roast booth not only brings in the fourth-highest sales at the fair, but is so famous it has a song written about it. Grown from special seed, each savory ear is roasted, dipped in butter, and salted. Find it at the southeast corner of Nelson Street and Dan Patch Avenue. ★

Get an extra scoop.

Lines at Izzy’s Ice Cream can stretch down the block, but visitors don’t mind: they swear by these locally crafted scoops. With more than 30 flavors, it’s tough to choose just one. That’s why each order comes with a smaller “Izzy” scoop, letting you test out that chocolate peanut butter-raspberry combo you’ve been considering, or even the Summit oatmeal stout–marshmallow fluff pairing you insist will be the next big thing. ★

Try some pie.

A sampler of slices from around the state, plus one
from across the border.

Betty’s Pies
A favorite of Duluth-area visitors for more than half a century, Betty’s serves up pies so good that they should be eaten for the main course and dessert. Try the raspberry, with just enough sugar to balance the berries’ tartness and a generous sweet-crumble topping.

Turtle Bread Company
There are great pie shops scattered around the state, but thanks to the ubiquitous Turtle Bread Company, there’s one close to home, too. You can’t go wrong with the lattice-crusted blueberry-rhubarb pie, which has generous chunks of rhubarb and an unbeatably flaky crust.

The Chocolate Moose
Attention Boundary Waters adventurers returning to Ely: head straight to the Chocolate Moose, where good meals are topped off with spectacular pie. Pies feature thick, almost bread-like crust and two scoops of ice cream with every slice. The rhubarb combination pies—peach, strawberry, raspberry—are all plate-scrapingly fantastic. 218-365-6343

Stockholm Pie Company
There are fewer than 100 souls in Stockholm, Wisconsin, but don’t be surprised if every last one seems to be at Stockholm Pie Company each Friday afternoon. There, locals and visitors debate the merits of peach over strawberry-rhubarb slices. Don’t worry if you can’t decide: order two half-slices of your top picks.



Get soaking wet.

The kids want a water park with all the good stuff—a four-story waterslide, a play fort with water blasters. But you’d like a nice getaway, maybe a hot-stone massage, a game of tennis or a round of golf, plus a private whirlpool in your room. Instead of compromising, head to Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria for a weekend getaway that will please the whole family. ★

Plant some seeds.

If that spindly bean sprout growing in a milk carton isn’t cutting it as a gardening experience, consider a community gardening program like the East Side Garden Corps in St. Paul. Kids ages 14 to 18 can work at one of seven organic gardens around the metro, bring their produce to local farmers’ markets, and develop such products as herbal vinegars. ★

Ride a trolley.

Kids have plenty of wheeled transportation to get them from point A to point B. But even today’s longboard generation will appreciate the old-time joy of a streetcar ride. Climb aboard one of the meticulously maintained trolleys near the Lake Harriet Bandshell and chug along the Como-Harriet Line while a bow-tied streetcar operator shares a bit of history along the way. ★

Visit a sculpture garden.

Museums can be stressful for parents with curious young children. But at Franconia Sculpture Park, kids are encouraged to touch the constantly changing works, which include everything from apartment-sized animals to hobbit-like houses. ★

Cast a fishing line.

Give a kid a fish stick and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a kid to fish and, well, he might reel in tonight’s dinner. Bring young anglers to the fishing pier at St. Louis Park’s Wolfe Lake for a chance to hook bluegills, largemouth bass, and yellow perch. ★

Spend a day at a water park.

After six months of winter, Bunker Beach is like manna from heaven. This 1,700-acre water park has everything from a wave pool to six waterslides to aqua climbing walls. ★

Visit a farm.

Show your kids how fantastic freshly picked strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries taste at Emma Krumbee’s Orchard. After filling their baskets, kids can visit farm animals and check out the play area while you sample some fresh fruit pies and jams at the general store. ★

Sleep in a train.

Travel back in time with an overnight stay in a sleeper car. At the Northern Rail Traincar Suites in Two Harbors, spacious, well-appointed rooms are built within authentic train cars. Grab breakfast at the depot building nearby, then spend the rest of the day hiking at nearby Gooseberry Falls. All aboard! ★

Huck a hole-in-one.

If there’s no way your shaggy-haired teen would consider hitting the links with you, suggest a compromise with disc golf. For a few bucks, you can spend the day playing Eden Prairie’s much-loved Bryant Lake Park course, which overlooks a lake and includes a disc-eating cliff at hole 17. ★

Explore the Milky Way.

If you’ve ever told your kid to wish upon a star only to realize it’s actually a satellite, it might be time to head to a Universe in the Park event. The programs, hosted at parks around the state by the University of Minnesota’s astronomy department, include a short talk and slide show. Afterward, the kids can peer through a reflecting telescope and check out the night sky. ★

Send your kid to camp.

Today’s camps aren’t just about archery, campfire songs, and friendship bracelets.
Check out these offbeat options.

iD Tech Summer Computer Camps
Designed for kids ages 7 to 17, this camp gives participants hands-on computer programming experience. Campers work to create their own video games, websites, iPhone apps, animations, and more.

Zoo Camp
A chance for campers to get up close and personal with animals at the Minnesota Zoo. Some highlights include learning about the rainforest, games, creature crafts, animal demonstrations, and behind-the-scenes tours.

YMCA DayCroix
With special programs for horseback riding, creative arts, science, nature, outdoor sports, and teen adventures, this day camp is designed for the active camper. Kids ages 4 to 15 engage in small-group activities that practice the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.

Guthrie Summer Day Camps
These week-long full-day camps provide lessons for our future thespians ages 7 to 17. Themes and classes vary by year.

Pony and Critter Camp
Animal lovers ages 5 to 16 get an opportunity to learn about the responsibilities of caring for farm animals and pets. Activities include riding, swimming, and crafts.

Arts on the River
Kids play music, bake bread, and construct books while exploring the rich culture along the Minneapolis riverfront district, with a special focus this year on bridges. Arts on the River Day Camp offers children a new experience each day at four top arts centers—the Guthrie Theater, Mill City Museum, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and MacPhail Center for Music. Campers will start each day at Mill City Museum and will walk with camp leaders to the other nearby arts organizations. Designed for children ages 9 to 11.