Illustrated map of Lake Minnetonka
Lake Minnetonka gets a bum rap. Outsiders dismiss it as a hedonistic dystopia where the moneyed and beautiful retreat to flit the summer away. And that can sometimes be true. What's also true is the place offers otherworldly opportunities for outdoor fun in the summer. In fact, with 125 miles of shoreline, 31 channels, and 42 bays, Tonka is an anomaly of awesome, if you know where to look. Here are five PG-rated reasons why every man, woman, and (when applicable) child should enjoy the lake this summer.
1. You can bike there.
It turns out the fantastic urban bike trail infrastructure that allows you to go anywhere you want in the city also lets you go far, far west. All you've got to do is hop on the Midtown Greenway, which eventually becomes the Cedar Lake LRT Trail. You're on that through Hopkins, where you'll pick up the crushed-limestone Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail, and that takes you to Excelsior and beyond. Total trip is about 15-20 miles depending on where you start and stop.
2. It has a darn good brewery within spitting distance of the water.
Excelsior Brewing Co. is on the home stretch of a major expansion that's provided Water Street storefront and a vastly bigger taproom. A beer fest favorite, from the XLCR Pale Ale to the Big Island Blonde, EBC's craft-centric brews are proving that the lake is thirsty for more than just Mich Golden Light. 421 3rd St., Excelsior, 952-474-7837
3. You can rent a cabin on an island.
Look past the mile-long floating party locals call "the gauntlet" on the shores of Big Island and you'll notice a remarkably beautiful beach that said revelers can't legally set foot on, but thanks to a privately owned one-bedroom rental cabin, which sleeps four for only about $200 a night, you totally can.
4. There's a place that delivers tacos to your boat.
Should you be lucky enough to find yourself topside this summer, you'll learn that it's paramount that you remain so, which Excelsior eatery Lago Tacos makes super easy with its call-ahead, "dockside" menu. Just call in an order from your boat and a short time later your tacos will be waiting for you on the municipal docks. 30 Water St., Excelsior, 952-300-8495
5. There's a live music venue that almost never hosts GB Leighton.
Before restaurateur Matty O'Reilly opened his lauded urban beer bar Republic, he had The 318 Cafe; a similarly understated joint with a small yet meticulously-curated menu. Be your interest beer, wine, third-wave coffee, or talented musicians playing intimate acoustic sets, 318 is the type of spot that coolly transcends everything you ever thought bad about the lake. 318 Water St., Excelsior, 952-401-7902