Best of Summer Guide 2012

One hundred and five ways to do summer with a splash in the Twin Cities.

Best of Summer Guide 2012
Photographs by Stephanie Colgan and Katherine Harris; Illustrations by Randall Nelson

WE'RE LUCKY. Living in the land of 10,000 lakes and dozens of gorgeous rivers, we have a major asset other cities would die for: easy access to water and plenty of it. With water, water everywhere—and lots of places to drink, eat, shop, and play—summer in the Twin Cities is all about being on, in, or at least near our lakes and rivers, whether you’re going to get wet or just enjoy the cool breeze.


Just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, you can walk, run, bike, skate, swim, canoe, sail, sunbathe, and do everything else there is to do on a lake, and in a lake. Plus, there's great shopping and dining nearby. And with five million visitors a year, the people-watching is pretty good, too.



Rye Deli
 Obviously, you could pick up some tasty smoked meat sandwiches to go, but why not sit down and relax with a beer? This bright and friendly Lowry Hill deli has a bar. 1930 Hennepin Ave., 612-871-1200

Sebastian Joe’s
Locally, we are lucky to have legendary ice cream, but there is nothing with the BMOC status of Joe’s Oreo ice cream. The patio at this location is the center of the summer universe for this neighborhood. 1007 Franklin Ave. S., 612-870-0065

The Lowry
Blue Plate’s offering to the area includes many taps of local beer, a raw bar with fresh oysters, and late-night snacking until 2 am. 2112 Hennepin Ave., 612-341-2112

The Kenwood
Chef Don Saunders will soon launch a modern eatery in the space next to Birchbark Books. 2115 W. 21st St.


Bread & Pickle
Besides walking up for an early egg sandwich or an evening black bean burger, you can pre-order from the picnic menu and pick up everything you need, ready to go! Lake Harriet Bandshell, 612-767-9009

Clancey's Meats & Fish
The perfect complement to your CSA produce box, Clancey’s stocks all sorts of meaty goodness from local producers and makes a mean sandwich to tide you over. 4307 Upton Ave. S., 612-926-0222

Naviya’s Thai Brasserie
If you can’t get a table at Tilia, wander over to Naviya’s for some amazingly fresh Thai food cooked with local ingredients. 2812 W. 43rd St., 612-276-5061


Have brunch in the restaurant, take a break at the wine bar, or just grab an entire chicken dinner from the to-go shop so you can spend more time in the sun. 1432 W. 31st St., 612-825-1572

Tin Fish
Don’t be surprised to see skaters rolling with fish tacos or dog walkers happily noshing on a sandwich as they circle the lake. Tin Fish is a worthy pit stop. 3000 Calhoun Pkwy. E., 612-823-5840

Urban Eatery
The pub on the lake, UE does high-end bar food with local ingredients. Take in a spicy lamb burger with your view of the lake. 2730 W. Lake St., 612-920-5000

My Burger/Yogurt Lab
It’s a win-win-win. Tire the kids out at the beach, fill them up at fun and friendly My Burger, then top them off with a bucket of Yogurt Lab for the ride home. 3100 Excelsior Blvd., myburgerusa.com, yogurtlabs.com


Lake Hariett Bandshell
Free music almost every evening, spanning just about every musical genre imaginable: jazz, classical, folk, rock, blues, country, big band, you name it. Just stake out a spot on the lawn and enjoy. For a complete schedule, go to minneapolisparks.org.

Como-Harriet Streetcar
Yes, the trolley ride between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun may be the shortest train ride you’ll ever take, but if you have kids in tow, you’ll see the wisdom in keeping it short and sweet. $2 fare (kids under 3 ride free).< /p>

Lake of the Isles Off-Leash Recreation Area
Dogs love summer, too, especially if you let them romp with their own kind at the fabulous 1.87-acre dog park near Lake of the Isles. In order to use the city’s Off-Leash Recreation Areas, pet owners must first obtain a permit from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. 2845 Lake of the Isles Pkwy. W., 612-230-6400

Shakespeare in the Park
Cromulent Theatre Company presents the Bard at parks throughout the metro area, with several stops at these lakes. The Merry Wives of Windsor is the play of choice in June. For a complete schedule, visit cromulentshakespeare.org.

Lake Calhoun Watercraft Rental
Don’t just look at Lake Calhoun; try renting something floatable to get out on the water, where the action is. At Wheel Fun Rentals, you can rent canoes and paddleboats, as well as single and double kayaks and pedal boats (bicycles, too). You can paddle over to Lake of the Isles, where you’ll see some of the Twin Cities’ most breathtaking homes along the lakefront.



It’s always a delight to browse the wealth of clever gifts, accessories, toys, and a million other things you will immediately need. 1009 Franklin Ave. W., 612-872-0880


Wild Rumpus
Stop by for reading time with the kids, and pet the bunnies, chickens, and cats that live at this legendary independent bookstore. 2720 W. 43rd St., 612-920-5005

Bibelot Shops
This Linden Hills destination brims with gifts, jewelry, women’s clothes, stationery, and more. 4315 Upton Ave. S., 612-925-3175


Cal Surf
Get a skateboard! Or at least get outfitted in urban activewear at this longtime Uptown skate shop. 1715 W. Lake St., 612-822-6840

Local Motion
This is Uptown at its best: independent, eclectic, and edgy. Discover local designers and contemporary women’s fashion. 2813 Hennepin Ave., 612-871-8436

Moss Envy
The fresh air and pretty water are likely to put you in an earth-friendly state of mind, so check out the green gifts and furnishings at this shop. 3056 Excelsior Blvd., 612-374-4581


Take a day trip to any of the towns along the lovely St. Croix, and it will be a day to remember. You truly can’t go wrong.



The Drive-In
Since 1956, this brightly colored drive-in has been feeding summer kids with thick, juicy, hand-pattied burgers and frosty mugs of root beer. 572 Bench St., 651-465-7831

Border Bar & Grill
A typical small-town bar and grill with goodly greasy burgers and one heck of a Bloody Mary bar on Saturdays and Sundays. 367 Bench St., 651-465-1011


Olive's Pizza
Open Thursday through Sunday evenings, this sweet spot cranks out wood-fired pies topped with fresh ingredients, plus there’s a charming deck and nice round of tap beers. 11 Judd St., 651-538-2124

Bikery Du Nord
You don’t have to be a biker to enjoy this Belgian coffee shop and bikery. But it would help if you like sweet and malty Belgian waffles that are sometimes served from the waffle van. 41 Judd St., 651-433-5801


Pier 500
The best big patio on the river, it’s all good times and classic American tavern food. 500 1st St., 715-386-5504

The Nova Wine Bar
Built in caves in 1896, this wine bar is a great place to sip and relax with lighter fare. 236 Coulee Rd., 715-386-5333


Shanghai Bistro
Just up the hill from the main drag is one of the best-landscaped patios in town. It’s lounge-y, there are cabanas, and it’s dog-friendly. 324 S. Main St., 651-430-9000

If you want to tread off the beaten path where the tourists aren’t, slip into this cool, rustic wine bar for a great glass and some honest, good food. 102 S. 2nd St., 651-439-1352


Afton House Inn
This place has it all. There’s the Swirl wine shop and bar, fine dining in the Wheel Room, casual dining at Current, and quaint guest rooms so you don’t have to drive. 3291 St. Croix Tr. S., 651-436-8883

Selma’s Ice Cream
New owners have revived this historic ice cream shop. Stop in for a cone and hit the big park across the street. 3419 St. Croix Tr. S., 651-436-8067


Gondola Romantica
We recommend seeing scenic Stillwater by boat—any boat, really. You have lots of cruising choices, but there’s nothing quite like taking a ridiculous, conspicuous, highly un-Minnesotan, and romantic (especially at sunset) gondola ride manned by a stripe-shirted gent while Italian music blares. 425 E. Nelson St., 651-439-1783

Pack a picnic, rent a canoe, paddle down the river a ways, and wait for a shuttle to bring you back to your car. There are lots of places to rent a canoe along the beautiful St. Croix. For a listing of canoe-rental outfitters for all the rivers in the state, go to dnr.state.mn.us/watertrails/outfitters.html.



A newer highlight in downtown Stillwater, the flagship store showcases the best from the hometown stationery brand, plus a café serving light meals, ice cream, and cupcakes. 201 S. Main St., 651-689-1730

45 Degrees
Clothes, shoes, and gear for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. 229 S. Main St., 651-430-3609

Tremblay's Sweet Shop
No trip to Stillwater is complete without visiting Tremblay’s, where the peanut brittle is still warm and the fudge melts in your mouth. 308 S. Main St., 651-430-0087

Cooks of Crocus Hill
Round out your outing with a stop (or even a cooking class) at this shop, which recently took over The Chef’s Gallery. 324 S. Main St., 651-351-1144


Lavender Thymes
A longtime fixture in downtown Hudson. Half the store is gifts and gourmet; the other half is contemporary women’s fashion. 512 2nd St., 715-386-3866

Knoke’s Chocolates
Every river stroll deserves an ice cream cone and homemade sweets. 220 Locust St., 715-381-9866

Dilly-Dally in the Alley
It’s a gift store and a state of mind. Find it around the corner from sister store Élan. 214 Locust St., 715-381-8424

Seasons on the St. Croix
Witness artists at work and discover regional and national talents at this contemporary craft and fine art gallery. 401 2nd St., 715-381-2906


Squire House Gardens
Wander through the historic home filled with gifts and home accessories. Explore the lush grounds, where you’ll discover all sorts of rare plants and flowers and landscaping ideas. 3390 St. Croix Tr. S., 651-436-8080


For an all-day escape, head 20 minutes out of the Cities to one of the biggest lakes aroaund. Boats and beach await, and so does a remarkably walkable city with a charming downtown.



Acqua Restaurant and Bar
In addition to the rustic Italian menu, there’s a daily three-course tasting menu at this upscale lakeside place. 4453 Lake Ave. S., 651-407-7317

Admiral D's
White Bear’s waterside dock party. The patio is jammed with burgers, bands, and beers on weekends. 4424 Lake Ave., 651-330-3101

CG Hooks Eatery
Grab some Memphis-style BBQ for the boat or snag some ice cream before heading home. 4441 Lake Ave. S., 651-493-6763


Cup and Cone
The nucleus of shopping in downtown White Bear Lake for nearly 40 years brims with gifts, stationery, jewelry, women’s apparel, and Minnesota-themed items. 2184 4th St., 651-426-8006

Washington Square Bar & Grill
There’s scratch cooking going on in this modern restaurant and bar that serves breakfast options such as skillets and burritos past midnight on weekends. 4736 Washington Sq., 651-407-7162

Ursula’s Wine Bar & Cafe
Using local sources, Ursula’s cooks modern, seasonal food that pairs well with the great wine list. It also offers wine classes and wine dinners. 2125 4th St., 651-429-9600

Chez Arnaud
In this little Parisian patisserie you’ll find brioche, croissants, macaroons, even quiche and salade Nicoise. 4735 Hwy. 61, 651-653-5658


Rent a Boat
At Tally’s Dockside on White Bear Lake, rent a pontoon, fishing boat, kayak, or canoe. Load up on snacks, beverages, and bait at the marina store and head out for some of the best fishing in the metro. 4441 Lake Ave. S., 651-429-2633, talleysdockside.com

Manitou Days
(June 14–July 4) This community celebrates summer with Manitou Days, a three-week festival that ends on July 4 with fireworks and a dance party on the beach. In the meantime, build sandcastles, compete in the fishing tournament, catch the lighted-boat parade, and, yes, search for a medallion.

Imagine Art Kids Summer Camp
Every week of the summer, White Bear Center for the Arts’ summer camp offers art classes for kids of all ages. Classes in everything from cartooning and splatter art to printmaking and Chinese brush painting will bring out your child’s inner Picasso. 2228 4th St., White Bear Lake, 651-407-0597



Sail La Vie
This company recycles sails, turning them into everything from boat totes to patio umbrellas. Stop in at the store at company headquarters on the lakeshore. 4495 Lake Ave. S., 651-251-5494


The nucleus of shopping in downtown White Bear Lake for nearly 40 years brims with gifts, stationery, jewelry, women’s apparel, and Minnesota-themed items. 2184 4th St., 651-426-8006

Tri Fitness
Run! Bike! Swim! White Bear Lake has everything triathletes need, including this shop. It sells all the gear and offers support to triathletes at all levels. 2193 4th St., 651-426-1919

The Nest
Show your love for the lake by going green. The Nest is a local gift store specializing in organic, fair trade, and environmentally friendly goods—from candles to cleaning products and clothes. 4742 Washington Sq., 651-653-7630


Spend an hour or a day at St. Paul's little urban gem. Circled by 1.67 miles of trails, the lake is great for quick walks, impromptu picnic, kid-friendly bike rides, and spur-of-the-moment canoe trips. And there's much more to explore at the surrounding Como Regional Park.



Conny's Cream Cone
The official soft-serve of the neighborhood, Conny’s opens each season to cheers for the chili dogs and floats. 1197 N. Dale St., 651-488-4150


Maverick's Real Roast Beef
The hands-down, all-time best roast beef sandwiches are served in this little joint. There’s also brisket and roasted turkey, but, oh, the roast beef! 1746 Lexington Ave. N., 651-488-1788

Snuffy's Malt Shop
Juicy burgers, creamy malts, and a kid-worn room that understands that ketchup can be art. 1125 Larpenteur Ave. W., 651-488-0241

Mac’s Fish & Chips
It’s not the décor that drives you, it’s the impossible crisp they put on fried fish, chicken, and clams that wins. And daily pulled salt-water taffy, for extra points. 1330 Larpenteur Ave. W., 651-489-5299


Nelson Cheese & Deli
Picnic packers should stop here first for deli pickups, local cheese, and fat sandwiches including The Manhattan, an XL order of pastrami and cheese on a hard crust roll. 1562 Como Ave., 651-647-1288


18-hole Golf Course
One of the most scenic golf courses in St. Paul, Como’s 18-hole course doesn’t look hard, but its undulating greens, ample bunkers, and pesky water hazards make it fun to play. 1431 Lexington Pkwy. N., 651-488-9673

Como Lakeside Pavilion
The multipurpose pavilion hosts frequent concerts and plays throughout the summer, offers canoe and paddleboat rental, and serves up ice cream and other fare. 1360 Lexington Pkwy. N., 651-488-4920

Como Zoo & Conservatory
Como Zoo is the go-to zoo for strollers on a budget (it’s free). At the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, find peace of mind in the Japanese Garden, the Fern Room, or the Orchid House. The Edible Garden opens June 15. 1225 Estabrook Dr., 651-487-8200

Como Town Amusement Park
For generations, St. Paul kids have been bugging their parents for just one more ride in Como Town, where the rides are perfect (that is, fairly tame) for kids younger than 12. 1301 Midway Pkwy., 651-487-2121

Cafesjian’s Carousel
One of the oldest and best-preserved carousels in the country operates in Como Park. Cafesjian’s Carousel has 68 horses and two chariots, and the music emanates from a fully restored Wurlitzer band organ. Rides are $1.50 for everyone, unless you’re older than 90(!), in which case you ride free. 1245 Midway Pkwy., 651-489-4628



Direct your bike (or car—we won’t tell) west on Como Avenue to the charming St. Anthony Park neighborhood, home to the consummate neighborhood bistro Muffuletta (2260 Como Ave., 651-644-9116, muffuletta.com) and a pocket of local retailers. There’s the original Bibelot Shop (2276 Como Ave., 651-646-5651, bibelotshops.com), Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care (2290 Como Ave., 651-695-5559, peapods.com), and one of the last independent bookstores in town, Micawber’s Books (2238 Carter Ave., 651-646-5506, micawbers.com).


We know how to spell it, and we definitely know when we're driving over it, but our relationship with our little slice of the Might Mississippi can feel remote and impersonal. This summer, make it your mission to get to know both sides of the river that divides and—more important—connects our cities.



Psycho Suzi's
It’s still a poor man’s paradise, and the two-year-old riverside patio is a swinging place. Tiki torches, PBR cans, flaming drinks, and square-cut pizza make almost every night here a Nordeast kind of special. 1900 NE Marshall St., 612-788-9069

Aster Café
It has one of the most bucolic patios on the river, plus you get rocking live music when you step inside. Or dig into creative, light brunch offerings before heading on your Segway tour. 125 SE Main St., 612-379-3138

Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop
Get one-stop shopping for your picnic needs from the cheese shop and deli, or stock up on liquid fuel before hopping on the Pedal Pub. 303 Hennepin Ave. E., 612-379-3232

Even if you’ve snacked your way through Saturday’s Mill City Farmers Market, consider copping a squat on the nearby patio of Spoonriver for something more substantial and yet still farmy. 750 S. 2nd St., 612-436-2236

Longfellow Grill
This urban diner is the natural beginning or ending for a drive/walk/meander along West River Parkway. It has easy eating and locals galore. 2990 River Pkwy. W., 612-721-2711

Sea Salt Eatery
You’ll likely find a line snaking out of this park building in which salty clam fries, catfish po’boys, and scrumptious fish tacos are being built as fast as they can. For a fishy afternoon in the park with the falls as your backdrop, the wait is worth it. 4825 Minnehaha Ave., 612-721-8990


Tucked away in beautiful Irvine Park, this elegant old (haunted) house hosts a restaurant that delivers a more casual pub vibe on the ground floor, with a more formal scene upstairs. There’s even a rooftop veranda patio. 276 S. Exchange St., 651-224-5606

Flat Earth Brewing
Not a brewpub but an actual brewery. Stop by during tasting hours and sip some suds or take a tour. Pick up a growler (a refillable jug of beer) of the Element 115 Lager—it goes great with BBQ. 2035 Benson Ave., 651-698-1945

Mississippi Pub
With a two-tiered patio and a glassed-in porch, this little river joint loves the view. It’s all good pub fare, with burgers and sandwiches, and there’s a nice dose of fish tacos, shrimp po’boys, and the like. 4455 66th St., Inver Grove Heights, 651-455-4975

How can you have a picnic without fried chicken? You can’t, so zip through South St. Paul to this little charmer of a café for a bucket of crispy-skinned goodness. 157 3rd Ave. S., South St. Paul, 651-455-7566


Minnesota Centennial Showboat
(June 15–Aug. 25) That restored paddlewheeler docked at Harriet Island in St. Paul is home to a summer theater that never fails to entertain. This year’s play is The Vampire! by J. R. Planché, and audience interaction (booing, hissing, cheering) is encouraged. Harriet Island, St. Paul, 651-227-1100

Paddle-Wheeler Tours
One of the best ways to appreciate the Minneapolis skyline is from the water on an authentic paddle-wheeler. From Boom Island in Minneapolis, you can catch the Minneapolis Queen, and in St. Paul, the Jonathan Padelford leaves from Harriet Island for 90-minute tours of the riverfront. Great for out-of-town visitors. twincitiescruises.com, riverrides.com

River’s Edge Music Festival
(June 23–24) Live Nation, the largest producer of live music in the world, is trying to establish a major summer music festival in the Midwest and has chosen St. Paul’s Harriet Island as the place to do it. Headlining this year’s festival are Dave Matthews Band, Tool, The Flaming Lips, and 26 other bands. Harriet Island, St. Paul



Key North
Just steps from the river, Key North offers a tropical take on fashion, art, jewelry, and more. 515 1st Ave. NE, 612-455-6666

I Like You
You can’t help but smile once you step onto the turf carpet to check out all the locally made goods. 501 1st Ave. NE, 612-208-0249


Mill City Museum Store
Take home Minnesota-made pottery, cards, prints, cookbooks, and treats. 704 S. 2nd St., 612-341-7555


Weisman Art Museum
One of the most impressive views of downtown Minneapolis is from one of our most notable architectural landmarks: the Frank Gehry–designed museum perched on the east bank of the Mississippi. Check out the recently expanded galleries and the reimagined WAM Shop, featuring affordable design objects as well as pottery, books, and other items inspired by the museum collections. 333 River Rd. E., 612-625-9494


Just off West River Parkway in Longfellow, this shop is a destination for gifts, art, stationery, and more. Find an impressive assortment of locally made product lines. 4646 E. Lake St., 612-276-0198


Sure, you could spend hours on I-94, bumper to bumper between boats, trucks, and minivans, but it's so much easier to head out to Lake Minnetonka. There you'll find all the pleasures of Up North plus a see-and-be-seen social scene.



Minnetonka Drive-In
Now that the Dakota Trail is so popular, this burger and fried chicken shack that makes its own root beer is also known as the Minnetonka Bike-In. Especially on Thursdays when classic cars own the parking lot. 4658 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park, 952-471-9383

The Narrows
It may be the only biker bar near the lake, so park your hog and stop in for some dirty pork stew or a Bucksnort burger dripping with secret sauce while you listen to Lamont Cranston tear up the stage. 3380 Shoreline Dr., Navarre, 952-471-3352


Jake O'Connor's Public House
Sometimes it's nice NOT to be on the water with all the boat traffic and tanorexics. Sometimes what you need on a summer night is a street side table at the respectable local pub where a glass of Guinness or whiskey completes the day. 200 Water St., Excelsior, 952-908-9650

Licks Unlimited
The only right thing to do after a movie (with real butter popcorn) is get in line at nearby Licks. Seven years bad luck if you walk by without a cone of one of the 30 ice cream flavors. 31 Water St., Excelsior, 952-474-4791

Patisserie Margo
As you stroll the shops of Water Street, it's wise to plot your ending at Margo, where you can plop down with your bags, refresh with a strong cup of coffee, and snack on fine European pastries and baked goods. 284 Water St., Excelsior, 952-746-2232

You're not going for fine dining, you're going for the most rocking patio-bar scene on the south shore. Vikings, local celebs, the well-heeled, and the tipsy mingle to make it all fun. 685 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior, 952-470-1800


The new pub in town is small but invitingly Irish. Take in a Guinness with a burger or some oysters. 331 Broadway Ave. S., Wayzata, 952-767-2417

This local steak house has created the hottest patio on Lake Street by rerouting the sidewalk. Happy hours here are lively; dinner is quieter. 635 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-404-1100


Girls Night Out
Lace up your espadrilles and join the fabulous women (and stylish men) who flock to Water Street every Thursday night for shopping, dining, and other festivities. Excelsior

Excel Boat Club
For the ultimate in relaxation, rent a pontoon and allow one of the club’s well-mannered captains to squire you and your entourage around the lake in deluxe Minnetonka style. 141 Minnetonka Blvd., Excelsior, 952-401-3880

Tommy’s Tonka Trolley
Though this trolley is not meant for passengers, owner Tom Drummond offers fun for your Sunday morning. Rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard, and reward your efforts with a scoop of Sebastian Joe’s. 379 Lake St., Excelsior, 952-220-0101

Lord Fletcher’s
King of the Lake since 1968. On Monday evenings, head to the Lord Fletcher’s patio for Malibu-worthy beach volleyball, live music, and $4 hamburgers. 3746 Sunset Dr., Spring Park, 952-471-8513



Bungalow Beachwear
Find the latest swimsuits, cover-ups, flip-flops, and accessories for the whole family. 229 Water St., 952-474-4537

Brightwater Clothing & Gear
The place to go for active lifestyle apparel that’s as stylish as it is functional. 256 Water St., 952-474-0256

Que Sera
Get interior inspiration. Its new location at the lake has a more rustic/contemporary look. 244 Water St., 952-924-6390


Maha! Inspired Activewear
This shop specializes in “studio to street” fashion for active living. 631 E. Lake St., 952-873-7001

Frost & Budd
Beyond the blooms and benches out front, this cozy spot offers gifts and décor for home and garden. 339 Barry Ave. S., 952-473-1442

Sun & Ski Clothing Outfitters
Get dressed for the boat or beach. You’ll find a deep selection of performance and fashion swimwear and accessories for the whole family. 701 E. Lake St., 952-873-7282


Lake IndependenceLake Independence
Every lake is a great lake in our book. But since we can't include all 10,000, here are a few more of our fave places to sunbathe, picnic, dive, fish, canoe, and relax.

Brownie and Cedar Lakes
Cedar Lake has one of the best (and most crowded) beaches in Minneapolis, but the best way to experience it is to paddle by it. Rent a canoe at nearby Lake Calhoun and continue through Lake of the Isles to Cedar’s connecting waterway. Proceed under Burnham Road to Cedar and veer to the northwest corner. There you’ll find a small passageway that leads you under Cedar Lake Road and into Brownie Lake, one of our city’s hidden treasures. Cedar Lake Pkwy. & Basswood Rd., Mpls., 612-230-6400

Bush Lake
Fish for largemouth bass in the morning and spend the afternoon playing at Hyland Play Area. With some slides running more than 50 feet long, parents can laugh their way through the park’s intricate maze of climbing structures and slides right alongside their kids. And if your little one fears the lofty slides, worry not: A tamer section caters to tiny tots. 10145 Bush Lake Rd., Bloomington, 763-559-9000

Lake Independence
Escape the crowded inner-city lakes on Lake Independence, just 15 minutes north of Lake Minnetonka. Baker Park Reserve is idyllic for nearly every summer activity imaginable, including camping, golfing, geocaching, rollerblading on the area’s 30-plus miles of trails, and even horseback riding. 2309 Baker Park Rd., Maple Plain, 763-694-7860

Medicine Lake
The second-largest lake in Hennepin County, Medicine Lake is known for adjoining French Regional Park. The area boasts a large swimming beach, fishing pier, lighted trails, and a netted play structure to inspire the little pirate in everyone. 12605 Rockford Rd., Plymouth, 763-694-7750

Normandale Lake
You’ve heard of the Lake Harriet and Excelsior bandshells, but have you ever been to the one at Normandale Lake? Home to Bloomington’s Arts in the Park programs, the 5,000-seat venue offers an eclectic mix of music: bluegrass, ’80s hits, blues, and symphonies. 5901 W. 84th St., Bloomington, 952-563-8877

Prior Lake
Lakefront Park is the heart of the community. It’s the scene for summer celebrations, and it includes a beach, floating boardwalk, amphitheater, skate park, and more. 5000 Kop Pkwy., Prior Lake, 952-447-9800

Shady Oak Lake
Shady Oak Beach offers the best diving board in town. The diving dock—a long wooden plank platform flanked by a low diving board on one side and a high dive on the other—provides endless entertainment whether you’re taking the plunge or looking on from the sandy shore. The beach area also boasts a tasty concession stand, a volleyball court, a new playground, and canoe and paddleboat rentals. 5200 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka, 952-939-8200

Wirth Lake
Nestled inside Theodore Wirth Park, the property has been part of the Minneapolis Park Board since the early 1900s and hosted the Aqua Follies from 1941 to 1964—complete with diving towers and a 6,000-seat grandstand. Today, catch a view of downtown on your way into the park, and then enjoy all it has to offer: biking, walking, swimming, volleyball, fishing, and more. 3200 Glenwood Ave. N., Mpls., 612-230-6400

Slideshow: The Best of Summer in Photos

More than fifty beautiful photos of our favorite places to eat, drink, shop, and enjoy summer in the Twin Cities.

Taste of Summer

Grab a spot on the patio for the finest slice of summer.