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What are the best lakes in and/or around Minneapolis?

My friends and I are heading to Minneapolis this summer and are looking for the best lakes for being active! Any recommendations for good places for running, canoeing, etc?

Also, bonus points for good spots to enjoy some wine or cocktails afterward. I recently heard about a bar called Lord Fletchers - is that a good spot? Thanks!

8 Answers

top answer by
Gina from Minneapolis

Hi Tandy! It all depends on the vibe you want and where you're staying, I suppose. 

My first instinct is to tell you to head for the Chain of Lakes, which includes Lake HarrietLake CalhounLake Of The IslesCedar LakeBrownie Lake and Twin Lakes. Calhoun and Lake of the Isles are on the western edge of Uptown and there is a lot to do. You can canoe or kayak the entire chain or just a couple—whatever your ambition level tells you!

Wheel Fun Rental has locations on Calhoun and Harriet where you can rent pedal boats, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. You can also rent bikes from them, but there are Nice Ride (the Twin Cities' city bike rental program) stations dotted around the area, too. The Nice Ride bikes are super comfy, for what it's worth, and there are bike trails all along the chain. Calhoun, Isles and Harriet are all really popular running lakes, as well, and are ringed with amazingly beautiful homes. Right by the Wheel Fun location on Calhoun, there's also Tin Fish, where you can get fish tacos and other goodies. If you go to Harriet, hit up Bread & Pickle for a bite. 

The real advantage of the Chain of Lakes is that this is Minneapolis' urban outdoors at some of its best—you can really be active and enjoy the outdoors, but you're also relatively close to more urban exploits like shopping and dining. If you go east up Lake Street from Lake Calhoun, you'll be tripping over restaurants and bars (e.g. BarbetteAmore Victoria and JJ's Coffee + Wine Bistro really close to the lake), and just a few blocks beyond, you'll be smack at the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Ave, and you can't swing a mouse, much less a cat, without hitting a bar or resto (Lucia's is great, in particular).

Near Lake Harriet (just a couple blocks west, actually) is the Linden Hills Neighborhood, which also has good shopping and outstanding dining, but on a smaller scale. Tilia is a hot ticket in town, and The Harriet Brasserie, which also gets lots of praise, is right next door. Just around the corner and a very short walk away is Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream Cafe, a Minneapolis institution, which has the best Oreo ice cream anywhere, I promise. If that's not your thing, try the raspberry chocolate chip or Pavarotti (caramel, banana, chocolate chip), both of which they're famous for.

If you want a more chill, neighborhoody (less scene-y) lake, try Lake Nokomis. The lakeside concession there is Sandcastle, and it's my personal favorite for lakeside eats in town. How good is it? It's helmed by Doug Flicker, who also runs the show at Piccolo, which Anthony Bourdain featured on No Reservations. You can walk or bike around the lake or hit the beach.

Lake Minnetonka is not my jam, to be totally honest. A bit rich for my blood and too far outside the city. Nevertheless, it's a lovely lake and there are some legitimately insane houses on it (n.b. it's fricking huge). If you're going to go out there, head for Excelsior Blvd or Wayzata, both of which have shopping and dining. Excelsior Brewing Co would be worth a shot out there, particularly if you want a taste of the local microbrew scene. Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge is a madhouse in the summer, with the ladies and lords of leisure from the surrounding communities flocking there by boat or other conveyance. The menu is almost aggressively boring and what comes out to the kitchen has never impressed me (and I'm fairly forgiving). You're there to see and be seen, not rhapsodize over the food—if you know that going in, you might enjoy it!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chain of Lakes (attraction)
  2. Lake Harriet (attraction)
  3. Lake Calhoun (attraction)
  4. Lake Of The Isles (attraction)
  5. Cedar Lake (attraction)
  6. Brownie Lake (attraction)
  7. Twin Lakes (attraction)
  8. Uptown (neighborhood)
  9. Wheel Fun Rental (attraction)
  10. Tin Fish (restaurant)
  11. Bread & Pickle (restaurant)
  12. Lake Street (attraction)
  13. Barbette (restaurant)
  14. Amore Victoria (restaurant)
  15. JJ's Coffee + Wine Bistro (restaurant)
  16. Hennepin Ave (attraction)
  17. Lucia's (restaurant)
  18. Linden Hills Neighborhood (attraction)
  19. Tilia (restaurant)
  20. The Harriet Brasserie (restaurant)
  21. Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream Cafe (restaurant)
  22. Lake Nokomis (attraction)
  23. Sandcastle (restaurant)
  24. Piccolo (restaurant)
  25. Excelsior Blvd (attraction)
  26. Wayzata (attraction)
  27. Excelsior Brewing Co (attraction)
  28. Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge (restaurant)
9 thankscomments (4)

answered by
Michael from Orono, Minnesota

Lake Minnetonka would definitely be a great lake to check out. It is the largest lake in the area and has plenty of restaurants/bars on and around it. Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge is a good one and has volleyball nets. Maynards in Excelsior is an excellent happy hour spot as well.

For running around a lake, or recreation like sailing/canoeing on a lake I would suggest Lake Calhoun, or Lake Harriet in Uptown. Plenty of bars/restaurants around there as well.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lake Minnetonka (attraction)
  2. Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge (restaurant)
  3. Maynards (restaurant)
  4. Lake Calhoun (attraction)
  5. Lake Harriet (attraction)
  6. Uptown (neighborhood)
6 thanks

answered by
Jadeen from Minneapolis

Hey, Tandy

If you are going to be in Minneapolis the best lakes to hangout around are Cedar Lake, Lake Of The Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet. These lakes are called the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, there are walking, bike, and running paths that connect them all. You can canoe on most of these lakes, even rent a paddle boat, and etc. Another fun place to go is Minnehaha Falls, nice place to explore. 

Don't know much about were a good place to go to get a cocktail and/or wine, but I like Harriet Brewing. Harriet Brewing has live music on most days and always has the best food trucks parked outside. 

Good luck and I hope you have a wonderful summer!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cedar Lake (attraction)
  2. Lake Of The Isles (attraction)
  3. Lake Calhoun (attraction)
  4. Lake Harriet (attraction)
  5. Minnehaha Falls (attraction)
  6. Harriet Brewing (attraction)
  7. Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
D from Orland Park

Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge is a great place. Good food and you can sit outside and watch the boats come in. Lake Minnetonka is a great lake for boating. The Minnehaha offers scenic ferry rides across the lake. Maynards in Excelsior is another fun place to eat and drink. Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge (restaurant)
  2. Lake Minnetonka (attraction)
  3. Maynards (restaurant)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Aaron from North Loop

So this REALLY depends on exactly what you mean by "active."  Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge is definitely fun for cocktails, if you want to be boating on Lake Minnetonka.  If, on the other hand, you want to go for a run, bike, or canoe trip...I would suggest Lake Of The IslesLake Calhoun, and/or Lake Harriet (the "Chain of Lakes).

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge (restaurant)
  2. Lake Minnetonka (attraction)
  3. Lake Of The Isles (attraction)
  4. Lake Calhoun (attraction)
  5. Lake Harriet (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Corey from Minneapolis

When it comes to lakes Minneapolis has a few that are stellar!  The most popular would have to be Lake Calhoun, which is the largest lake in the area and has great trails for running/walking.  People love to set up picnics, eat at the nearby cafe's (Tin Fish is a must in the summer!), lay out to catch a tan or rent the kayaks and canoes that are available.  Because it's the most accessible of all the lakes it's also the busiest, so if you're looking for a quiet place it's probably not for you.

The next lakes to hit are Lake Harriet and Cedar Lake, which aren't as big as Calhoun but have many of the amenities it has to offer.

I've never been to Lord Fletchers, but a couple of places I can recommend are The News Room or The Local, which are both great pubs with delicious food and amazing drinks.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lake Calhoun (attraction)
  2. Lake Harriet (attraction)
  3. Cedar Lake (attraction)
  4. The News Room (restaurant)
  5. The Local (restaurant)
2 thanks

answered by
Sandra from Long Beach, California

The best and closest lake for everything is Lake Calhoun. You can head on over to Cafe & Bar Lurcat in MPLS afterwards. It's about a 10 minute drive. Good luck and have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lake Calhoun (attraction)
  2. Cafe & Bar Lurcat (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Jacey & Scott from Fort Collins

I absolutely LOVE Lake Of The Isles.  If you are hoping to run,walk, bike-that's the best.  And gorgeous houses all along.  Perfect for a picnic too. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lake Of The Isles (attraction)
2 thanks

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