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The Insider's Guide to Lake Minnetonka

Everything you wanted to know but didn't want to ask.

Melinda Jacobs
Melinda Jacobs enjoys the lake with her English Bulldog Walter, daughter Madeline, and husband Howard Grodnick

The Right Address

Where to live the good life around Lake Minnetonka


Lake Minnetonka is a many-splendored thing, consisting of 125 miles of lakeshore, 25-odd bays, more than a dozen towns, a brace of islands, private marinas aplenty, nine liquor stores, seven country clubs, four ice cream shops (not counting Culver’s and DQ), two independent bookstores, two pet shops, a sushi bar, and a movie theater with three screens.

To help decide where you fit in, here are The Lake’s most popular towns and neighborhoods, organized geographically and alphabetized to obscure favoritism.

North-ish

ORONO

Our own Town and Country, where local bluebloods, new money gentry, and their horses co-exist. A three-acre minimum and a five-star school are sources of local pride. Home to generations of Crosbys, Cargills, Pillsburys, Pipers, and Jaffrays.

WAYZATA

• The social center of the Lake Minnetonka universe, pronounced Wuh-zeh-teh by those who really know. Overheard recently in a local Lake Street boutique: “It really doesn’t matter what’s going on in the rest of the world. Wayzata is always the same.”

East-ish

DEEPHAVEN

Martha’s Vineyard on the shores of Carson’s Bay. Between sailing off Lighthouse Island, tennis at the public courts, and neighborhood get-togethers at the quaint Cottagewood General Store, it’s the good life done better.

West-ish

MINNETONKA BEACH

More enclave than neighborhood, Minnetonka Beach feels like vintage New England, even as tiny cottages give way to grander, more fabulous family homes. We’ve heard tales of old-timers who inform non-residents that they’re not welcome to use the beach, so discretion is the order of the day.

MINNETRISTA

Situated on the western edge of Lake Minnetonka, Minnetrista is a Northwest Territory-turned-suburb with palatial “new builds” and a big-ticket golf course.

MOUND

The most delightfully downscale lake community, with prices to match, Mound serves the pricier lake towns in much the same way that West Palm Beach serves Palm Beach. It’s considered sacred by the Dakota Indians, and we often wonder whether the native spirits have staved off gentrification and other so-called evils.

NAVARRE

It’s the gateway to Mound, and home of Culver’s, Dairy Queen, and The Narrows, a saloon/blues bar with a kids’ menu and a Facebook page. Navarre feels like a Brainerd Lakes crossroads without guile or pretension.

SPRING PARK

Not to be confused with Spring Lake Park near Coon Rapids, this small stretch of lake is home to Lord Fletcher’s and a row of funky lake cottages with cars for sale in the front yards, interspersed with towering two-lot trophy homes.

South-ish

EXCELSIOR

Nantucket meets Northern Exposure. Passionately iconoclastic individuals and a conservative old guard make city council meetings entertaining and occasionally enraging. The town was the epicenter of the Petters dyspepsia, but that’s another story.

GREENWOOD

Word has it that the 812 residents of Greenwood on St. Albans Bay seceded from amoeba-like Shorewood in order to make their own lakeshore rules. It’s a destination in its own right for Adele’s luscious frozen custard and live bait at the Lake Shore Market.

SHOREWOOD

With very little lakeshore to call its own, Shorewood barely makes the list. But since one must drive through Shorewood to get virtually everywhere on the southern side of the lake, we’ll give it its due.

TONKA BAY

Neither Wayzata nor Excelsior, but residents seem to like it that way. Heartbreaker, Joey Nova’s, and Hazellewood (on the former site of the Copper Stein, aka the poor man’s Lord Fletcher’s) have made this town-without-a-center a destination for fashion and food.


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