Minneapolis Aquatennial, July 13-21

Summer in the Twin Cities is full of festivals, with one of the biggest and oldest being the Minneapolis Aquatennial celebration, running July 13-21. Touted as the “best days of summer,” this 73-year-strong festival definitely lives up to the promise. Thousands of people join the festivities, and with several events to watch and participate in over the nine-day celebration, there’s never a dull moment. Catch everything from sandcastle building and tennis tournaments to parades and fireworks. Fun fact: The Aquatennial has seen many famous faces grace its parade routes, like Bob Barker and Gene Autry.

Photos by Richard Westley Wong

One of the highlights for locals and visitors alike is the Beach Bash, which takes place at Thomas Beach at Lake Calhoun on July 15. Build sandcastles, try your skills with a stand-up paddleboard, and check out the signature, fan-favorite milk carton boat races, where teams race life-size ships made only from milk cartons. Really, you have to see it to believe it.

Other highlights include:

Aquatennial Plaza Tennis Classic (July 13-20): Watch some great tennis players swing away for cash prizes.

Life Time Triathlon (July 14): Triathletes (newbies to veterans) from all over come out for this event at Minneapolis’ Lake Nokomis.

River Rats Water Ski Show (July 14, 15 & 19): Truly a unique event, this local ski club performs a free, one-hour show on the Mississippi River.

Life Time Torchlight 5K (July 18): Runners of all abilities can take part in this evening race.

Torchlight Parade (July 18): Definitely an original experience, this evening parade, complete with bands, floats, and more, illuminates Hennepin Avenue downtown.

Queen of the Lakes Coronation (July 20): No Midwestern festival would be complete without the crowning of royalty. On this day, the Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes and two princesses receive the honors.

Target Fireworks (July 21): One of the best fireworks displays in the state and one of the largest in the country, these fireworks light off over the Mississippi near downtown. Live music and other events start in the early evening.

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