Summer in the Cities!

It arrived early this year, and it came bearing gifts: an 80-degree St. Patrick’s Day, food trucks in March, and a not-quite-but-almost snowless April. (Hey, it’s still Minnesota.) Welcome to your extended-run, already-in-progress summer (the season doesn’t officially start until June 20). Though the weather’s been warm for some time, the heat of sunshine-event season is just starting to cook. What follows is a list of can’t-miss stuff to do, from old standbys to brand newbies. Yay, summer!

Sports & Leisure

Key Log Rolling

Roll Call!

Want to keep your kids out of trouble? Get ’em into log rolling. That’s the message espoused by Abby Hoeschler, a 25-year-old log-rolling and boom-running champion who’s made it her mission to bring lumberjack sports out of the forest and into the city. Along with her three siblings—all champion log rollers themselves—Hoeschler last year launched a summer program in Minneapolis, for both youth and adults, offering log-rolling classes Monday and Wednesday nights on Lake Calhoun. This year, the program expands to the Three Rivers Parks District, just west of the Twin Cities. Once you feel like you’re getting good, sign up for the August 18 Key Log Rolling Open, an annual tournament open to newcomers and world champions alike. Classes start the third week of June, Mondays and Wednesdays, 6 p.m., Lake Calhoun, 32nd St. beach,

A Dash on Insanity

Part Iron Man, part Renaissance Festival, the zany/grueling Warrior Dash returns this summer to Afton Alps, transforming the snowless ski slope into a hellish 5K obstacle course of fire, mud pits, barbed wire, and rope nets. Runners (often costumed) will trudge, splatter, and crawl their way through 14 new feats of endurance—and of course, be rewarded with beer, turkey legs, and live music afterward. Sound too exhausting? A spectator section is available for rubberneckers. Proceeds benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. June 30–31,

Bike by the Moonlight

Now in its 34th year, the annual Midnight-to-Dawn Metro Bike Ride gives insomniacs a chance to sweat out their sleeplessness on a 38-mile, all-night bike tour. Timed to coincide with the height of the full moon, 150 riders cruise empty, romantically lit streets, and area businesses like Mel-O-Glaze Bakery and Grand Ole Creamery stay open as all-night pit stops. The long haul wraps up with a gourmet breakfast at sunrise on the shore of Lake Harriet. July 7–8, 612-668-3100

Kings of Croquet

See Minnesota’s top croquet players storm the wickets at the state’s only bent-grass croquet courts, in Edina’s Centennial Lakes Park. Leagues and tournaments happen throughout the summer, and competition is fierce—at the champion level, opponents rarely get a single turn. You can rent the court yourself—as well as all equipment—by the hour. Just don’t forget the white polo. Or the iced tea.

Kayak the City

It’s the ultimate wilderness adventure for the committed metropolitan. Bob Schmitz’s kayak tour company, Above the Falls Sports, which guides city dwellers on paddle expeditions of the urban Mississippi River, is one of the most unique summer offerings in town. Tours launch in downtown Minneapolis, meander through hidden pockets of wildlife, then pop in on riverfront landmarks. We recommend the Supper Cruise, an up-river jaunt to northeast Minneapolis for dinner at Psycho Suzi’s and the Sample Room.

Friday Night Polo

The Twin City Polo Club—home to the Twin City Polo Classic, an annual fundraiser polo match and summer fashion spectacle—this year launches a weekly polo series, hosting a free game every Friday night throughout the summer. Experience the thrill of “hockey on horseback,” as 1,000-pound steeds race down the sidelines at up to 30 miles per hour. Want to try it yourself? The Polo Club offers lessons, and newcomers are always welcome.

Summer Chess

Pasty skin may be a chess-playing stereotype, but members of northeast Minneapolis’s Chess Castle Club—the oldest chess organization in the state, founded in 1972—have been getting a lot more sun ever since they installed a pair of outdoor game boards in Logan Park. They’re the only al fresco boards in the city, and they’re completely open to the public. Chess heads can borrow pieces free of charge from the park building. Or they can drop in on Chess Castle’s lessons in the park.


Nice Melon

Ah, the watermelon. Could there be a more laid-back fruit? With its sloppy juices and seed-spitting temptations, it begs to be eaten outdoors, near water, by some swimsuit-ed individual ready to wash off any stickiness with a plunge in the lake. But maybe we’re underestimating it. Maybe it likes to get dressed up every now and then. Chef Josh Brown, Gather’s Executive Chef, knows this, and so, in honor of the restaurant’s one-year anniversary, he’s giving the watermelon a chic summer makeover in a gorgeous, minimalist salad. Bits of salty cheese cling to a firm wedge of melon, which gets drizzled with a bright vinaigrette and topped off with some arugula and pickled watermelon rind. Your favorite summer fruit just put on a tuxedo. Gather, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-253-3410,

Loring Alley

It’s Old Europe right here in downtown Minneapolis: a twisting, cobblestoned corridor, with Chinese lanterns strung criss-cross from the historic brick buildings it separates. And now that Café Maude is moving in—the south Minneapolis bistro is opening a second location in the old Nick and Eddie space—the Loring Alley is getting some new energy. Owner Kevin Sheehy is already talking about packing it with bands and beverages. Grab an Adam Harness-designed drink—Maude’s bar genius is one of the best in the business—close your eyes, and you’d swear you were in Paris.

Beer Dabbler Highland Fest

Summertime is beer season, and craft connoisseurs all over the metro will flock to St. Paul for one of the biggest suds fests of the year. Highland Fest this year boasts 65 beer makers and more than 200 brews to sample. Once again, festivalgoers will vote for their favorite to win Lord Dabbler’s Cup. Think you can do better? Consider entering the officially sanctioned Beer Dabbler Homebrew contest. July 21,

Pedal Pub

Pedal Pub

It’s teamwork, people. Sixteen people on a giant, goofy, mobile bar, powered by pedals, huffing and puffing to get each other from one watering hole to another. The Pedal Pub is the vehicular hallmark of summer. But it’s also a bonding experience, and one of the most unique ways to explore Twin Cities neighborhoods, with eight routes to choose from in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Just be sure to stretch beforehand.

Town Hall Wee Heavy

Did we mention that summer was beer season? Town Hall’s Wee Heavy, a dark and deadly (8.5 percent alcohol) mélange of toffee, caramel, and wood flavors, was voted the fourth best Scotch Ale in the world by the international members of Drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it—which your server will be happy to do—and you’ve got a boozy Brown Cow perfect for a July evening.

Meals on Wheels

The food-truck population has exploded in the last two years, which is great for gourmands on the go—but overwhelming for those who feel they need to Twitter-stalk their current craving. (Where are the lobster rolls/mini-donuts/bahn mi today?) Luckily, the St. Paul Food Truck Court is returning for its second summer, offering a buffet of four-wheeled dining options in one regular location. Every Wednesday at 11 a.m., five food trucks roll up on the corner of Kellogg Boulevard and Wabasha Street, attracting hordes of hungry office workers. You can kill a handful of hankerings with a single lunch break. Check Twitter #foodtruckcourt

Black Forest Inn

Yes, of course you knew that the Black Forest Inn had the best patio in Minneapolis. But when’s the last time that you’ve gone? When’s the last time you settled into the ivy-lined brick terrace, surrounded by sculptures and the tinkling of the fountain, a heavy stein of Hacker-Pschorr in your fist, the fireflies just starting to glow in the dusk? That’s what we thought. Time to fall in love again with the metro’s best beer garden.


It arrived early this year, and it came bearing gifts: an 80-degree St. Patrick’s Day, food trucks in March, and a not-quite-but-almost snowless April. (Hey, it’s still Minnesota.) Welcome to your extended-run, already-in-progress summer (the season doesn’t officially start until June 20). Though the weather’s been warm for some time, the heat of sunshine-event season is just starting to cook. What follows is a list of can’t-miss stuff to do, from old standbys to brand newbies. Yay, summer!



The Decision Tree

What is the right summer concert for me? With Target Field playing host to its first-ever concert, a new Live Nation festival storming Harriet Island, and a smattering of high-profile cancellations (both the Pizza Lucé Block Party and the new First Ave fest are off), it’s never been more difficult to make summer music plans. So we’re here to help. Mind if we ask you a few questions? Take a look at our Decision Tree to find the best choice!

Summer Essentials

Summer Survival Kit

How can I get prepared to get lost? It’s just not summer without a road trip or two. The romance of hitting the road, picnicking in the park, hazy sun-flare photos,  a little light reading—consider this your all-purpose blow-this-pop-stand kit.

1. Hawaiian Tropic, $9 @ Target,
2. Diana camera, $99 @
3. Picnic basket, $250 @ MartinPatrick3, 
4. Magazines, $4-$20 @ Barnes & Noble,  
5. Pierrepont Hicks blanket, $150,
6. Leather flip-flops, $25 @ Gap, 
7. Jonathan Adler dominoes, $138 @ MartinPatrick3
8. JW Hulme thermos, $340 @ MartinPatrick3  
9. Sketchbook, $16 @ Patina, 
10. Sunglasses, $17 @ Target


Farewell to XYandZ

XYandZ, we hardly knew thee. Scarcely two-and-a-half years ago, the scrappy, street-art obsessed gallery launched as a tribute to Ryan Quirt, a local graffiti artist who died tragically at 24. It has since evolved into one of Minneapolis’s most experimental spaces (last time we were there, we coughed our way through fake fog to watch video of a tree sinking in ooze). And now it’s closing. But not to worry. Gallery director Mike Bishop, along with his creative agency Permanent Art and Design Group, has big plans: namely, opening a new non-profit gallery/project space this fall in northeast Minneapolis. As a final farewell, XYandZ hosts Broken Crow, the internationally celebrated, Minneapolis-based stencil/mural duo of John Grider and Mike Fitzsimmons. Knowing those guys, the show should be beastly. June 15,

Opera in the Ruins

Nothing like a few arias under the stars. The brand new Mill City Opera company, which stages open-air productions amidst the otherworldly ruins of the Mill City Museum courtyard, debuts this summer with Pagliacci. The story, a play-within-a-play tragedy about jealous actors in a commedia dell’arte troupe, gets updated, in both costume and set, to 1878, the year that fire first engulfed the old riverside mill. July 12–20,

Ad-libbed Antics

Forget Who’s Line Is It, Anyway? Today’s improv is light-years beyond prop games and audience shout-outs. To prove it, the sixth annual Twin Cities Improv festival gathers over two dozen comedy troupes from all over the country—as well as a few big fish from the local pond—for a four-day laugh fest at HUGE Improv Theater. See how local yuksters Brave New Workshop and ComedySportz stack up against the funniest comic improvisors from New York and Chicago. June 21–24,

Walker Art Museum

A Walk(er) in the Park

Consider it a community park for the conceptual art-minded. For the third year in a row, Walker Art Center launches Open Field, its summer-long experiment of art activities on the museum’s lawn. In addition to Walker programming, individuals can book the grassy space for any activity they dream up (last year witnessed everything from bull-whipping and yarn-bombing to guerilla yoga). This year, look for Minneapolis-based design studio ROLU, who plans to build an exact-replica “set” of an Alec Soth photograph. June 2–September 2,  

Garden-Variety Opera

Scotty Reynolds’s nutritious, ambitious theater tour of urban community gardens, Picnic Operetta, is back. This summer’s show is The Return of King Idomeneo, a crunchy, street-corner update to Mozart’s classic Italian-language opera. As usual, collaborating chef/gardeners will be preparing a story-specific menu of organic eats. So put on your Crocs and pull up a lawn chair. August 11–September 23,

Shakespeare Comes to Powderhorn

You think the Globe Theatre had air conditioning? Or a sound guy? “I like to say The Strange Capers do Shakespeare like Shakespeare did it,” says company founder Eric Holme. “God is our lighting designer, and we create the middle of the night in the middle of the afternoon by saying ‘O tedious night!’” The outdoor acting group, stacked with Guthrie talent, adds a second venue this year, bringing The Comedy of Errors to the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center as well as to the company’s usual home at Powderhorn Park. June 30–July 15,

Puppets in Your Driveway

It’s part puppet show, part utopian community experiment. Dubbed the Driveway Tour, Open Eye Figure Theatre will send a puppet show right to your backyard. Or your front yard. All you have to do is invite your neighbors over. Since 2003, the Driveway Tour has reached 40,000 people in more than 500 neighborhoods. June 1–August 15,

*See The Agenda for everything you need to do, see and hear this summer.