We take pride in providing authentic travel recommendations based on our own experiences. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product or book a reservation. Learn more ›
What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘excelsior?’ I’ll bet my bottom dollar the comic book fans among you will scream Stan Lee. But it’s not just the catchphrase of the late, great Marvel legend.
It’s also a university in New York, a mining company, a pressure washing service in Florida, and one of the best small towns in Minnesota (among many other things). But for this article, we’re interested in the latter.
Historic Excelsior, Minnesota, is a marvelous little waterside suburb in the “Land of 10,000 lakes.” Which means it’s not out in the boondocks. It’s located around 20 miles from downtown Minneapolis – the largest city in the state. It sits in Hennepin County, on the Lake Minnetonka shoreline, waiting for you to visit.
Established in 1853, it was the first white settlement on the lake when travelers from New York decided it was a nice spot to hang their hats. Today, it’s a quaint collection of cute shops, choice restaurants, and unique businesses, and a visit to the area is one of the top things to do in Minnesota.
Although small, this little town has a big heart and a closely-knit community. Let’s look at the best things to do in Excelsior, Minnesota, and why it’s a favorite among many of our writers.
- Things to Do in Excelsior, Minnesota
- 1. Relax on the Lake Minnetonka Beaches at Excelsior Commons
- 2. Choose Your Favorite Ice Cream – Lick’s Unlimited vs. Adele’s Custard vs. Tommy’s Tonka Trolley
- 3. Ride the Excelsior Trolley to the Minnesota Streetcar Museum
- 4. Soak in the Sun / Get Cozy in a Winter Wonderland at Maynard’s Restaurant
- 5. Take a Boat Ride on Lake Minnetonka
- 6. Walk Part of the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail
- 7. Grab a Beer at Excelsior Brewing
- 8. Take a Walk Down Memory Lane at Leipold’s
- 9. Dine at Top Boutique Restaurants
- 10. Explore Lake Minnewashta Regional Park
- 11. Visit During an Excelsior Festival
- 12. Watch a Local Show at the Bandshell
- 13. Visit During Apple Day
- Is Excelsior a suburb of Minneapolis?
- Is Excelsior, Minnesota, a good place to live?
- Most significant landmark: Excelsior Commons
- Best park: Lake Minnewashta Regional Park
- Best free activity: Walking the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail
- Best activity for kids: Ice cream on the beach
- Best activity for adults: Lake Minnetonka cruise
- Best food: Maynards Restaurant
- Best place to stay: Excelsior Cottage
Things to Do in Excelsior, Minnesota
1. Relax on the Lake Minnetonka Beaches at Excelsior Commons
The town has two swimming beaches right next to each other, located in Excelsior Commons Park, on Lake Minnetonka’s south shore. One is family-friendly with a playground nearby, and the other is more suitable for sunbathing. Both beaches are great spots to lay down a towel and relax all day.
The docks provide access to the lake if you don’t have your own craft, and public excursion boats are available. The park is historically important and a focal point for many of the town’s annual gatherings and events. The Excelsior Bandshell is found here, and you can keep reading for more information on this popular community entertainment hub.
Also included in the 13-acre park are recreational facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, public restrooms, and a baseball field. But even if you’re not feeling energetic, the park and its beaches are great for a relaxing stroll at any time of year. Check out this article for more top beaches in Minnesota to visit.
2. Choose Your Favorite Ice Cream – Lick’s Unlimited vs. Adele’s Custard vs. Tommy’s Tonka Trolley
Address: Lick’s 31 Water St. Adele’s 800 Excelsior Blvd. Tommy’s Tonka Trolley 379 Lake St, Excelsior, MN
The great debate among Excelsior locals is what the best ice cream shop is. You’re spoilt for choice regarding frozen desserts in these parts. For deliciously sweet treats perfect for a summer trip, there’s Lick’s Unlimited, Adele’s, and Tommy’s Tonka Trolley.
Lick’s Unlimited is a classic American ice cream parlor located on Water Street. Tommy’s Tonka Trolley is in a nearby corner of the Commons. Both offer a wide range of flavors, with enticing scoops for your ice cream cone. TTT serves Minnesota’s own Sebastian Joe’s ice cream and offers kayak rentals for splashing around on Lake Minnetonka.
Adele’s is a little different, as frozen custard is their specialty. But which is the best? Kyle (Viatraveler’s commander-in-chief) is a big fan of Lick’s because he never knows what he will get.
Writer Alex has her flag firmly in Adele’s camp. And I prefer Tommy’s Tonka Trolley by the water. I make that a three-way tie, so you get the deciding vote!
3. Ride the Excelsior Trolley to the Minnesota Streetcar Museum
Address: 501 MN-7, Excelsior, MN 55331
Ding! Ding! Step onboard and step back in time on a historic streetcar. Boarding from the Water Street ticket booth, you can enjoy half a mile of track built on the former Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway.
A ride on the streetcar only takes a few minutes, but it stops at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum. Here, you can learn all about this iconic mode of transport and how it kept the Twin Cities moving up until the mid-1950s.
The museum is free to enter and contains an interesting selection of old photographs and information on the town’s history. It’s also currently restoring a vintage streetcar for display.
The Excelsior section of the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail runs parallel to the trolly route, so if you’re hiking, you can hop on the streetcar and give your feet a break.
And if you’ve not had enough of your streetcar experience, you can also enjoy the Como-Harriet Line in the city. It runs from Lake Harriet to Bde Maka Ska, where you can enjoy some of the best beaches in Minneapolis.
4. Soak in the Sun / Get Cozy in a Winter Wonderland at Maynard’s Restaurant
Address: 685 Excelsior Blvd, Excelsior, MN 55331, United States
With an enviable location as part of Lake Minnetonka Wharf, Maynard’s Restaurant is an Excelsior, MN institution. A hopping American establishment with a great atmosphere, it offers lakeside views, delicious eats, and specialty drinks all year round. Opened in 1998, it sits on the former site of the famous Excelsior Amusement Park.
The outside patio is a real draw for locals and visitors when the sun comes out. One of the most fun things is grabbing a beer, getting some waffle fries to share, and playing with some bags.
And we love it for American football throughout the season. If you’ve not gotten Minnesota Vikings tickets, this might be the next best thing!
The restaurant’s open-air dining gets a lot of credit for the summer vibes, but it’s so much fun in winter, too. Maynards puts up greenery and holiday lights inside to make it extra cozy. Visit it whenever you’re in the Lake Minnetonka area, and you will always find a warm welcome.
See Related: The Winter Destinations in Minnesota
5. Take a Boat Ride on Lake Minnetonka
If you’re exploring the natural beauty around the shores of Lake Minnetonka, it would be a shame if you didn’t get out on the lake itself. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to do so when you’re visiting Excelsior, MN.
Al & Alma’s Lake Minnetonka Cruises is a local staple. Offering charters and public cruises, this award-winning company provides a luxurious experience with delicious fare.
Steamboat Minnehaha (pictured) is a historic streetcar steamboat that offers pleasure cruises on the lake. Minnehaha is temporarily out of action as they search for a new launch site.
Electric Shores provides boat rentals for two to three hours. And the Lady of the Lake is a beautiful paddle steamer for public and private trips. One of the best things to see and do around Lake Minnetonka is sailing Lake Minnetonka! We highly recommend going at sunset for the best views.
6. Walk Part of the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail
I’m a big fan of regional trails. They typically offer several advantages to hikers, bikers, sightseers, and holidaymakers. A good one will take in some of the best points of interest in a region through beautiful surroundings while keeping you away from traffic and helping you stay fit!
Fully paved, the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail runs from downtown Hopkins to the Carver Park Reserve at Victoria. Its full length is just under 16 miles, through six communities with scenic views of the Lake Minnetonka area en route.
The trail cuts through downtown Excelsior and can be accessed in several locations, including Lake Street and Water Street. The town makes a great stop to rest and refuel for anyone tackling the through-hike.
Cyclists will be pleased to learn that two good bike repair shops are just off the trail. And if you fancied resting overnight, The Lakefront Retreat is a comfortable place to stay on the water.
7. Grab a Beer at Excelsior Brewing
Address: 421 3rd St, Excelsior, MN 55331, United States
Excelsior Brewing is one of our favorite breweries in Minneapolis. Located in the heart of the town, it’s a family-run micro-brewery that has been in operation since 2012. Since then, it’s developed a strong connection to the community it serves.
Running a lake theme and taking inspiration from laid-back Minnetonka life, Excelsior Brewing is a great place to meet friends and make them. Brewery tours are available, and there’s a regular program of events to keep visitors entertained. Live music ensures the party is rocking every weekend.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you might stumble into one of Excelsior Brewing’s famous festivals. May Fest, Oktoberfest, Prince Day, and St Patrick’s Day are particularly raucous. Come rub shoulders with the locals, share a pint with them, and discover if all Minnesotan stereotypes are true!
8. Take a Walk Down Memory Lane at Leipold’s
Address: 239 Water St, Excelsior, MN 55331, United States
Leipold’s is a legendary antique shop in downtown Excelsior. As a child, Alex, one of our in-house writers, would bike 45 minutes from her house to visit and search for treasure. Today, it is still owned by the same family and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021.
Leipold’s is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of antiques, bric-a-brac, trinkets, and curiosities. There are hundreds of postcards from the 1800s and early 1900s. They have an extensive collection of dollhouses and miniatures.
Stacks of lampshades and lamp parts. And lots and lots of old books. In a recent visit, Kyle snagged a 1901 copy of “The Rover Boys on the Great Lakes,” which looks great on display.
A rummage through Leipold’s collection is ideal for a day – rain or shine. We highly recommend you set aside at least an hour for treasure hunting. Filled with hidden gems, you never know when you might find something truly special buried amidst decades of memories.
For more information, check out this article from Star Tribune. And bibliophiles should also head to Excelsior Bay Books for a novel fix.
See Related: The Travel Photography Books to Inspire You
9. Dine at Top Boutique Restaurants
It might surprise you that Excelsior is a great stop if you’re a foodie. The town boasts a wonderful selection of small restaurants to try. Our favorites include Olives for fresh pizza, Lago Tacos, Red Sauce Rebellion, Coalition, and Haskell’s.
Many of these eateries are located on or near the main drag of Water Street, so they’re all within a block or two of each other. There’s also 318 Cafe for delicious coffee daily and live music by night. Layline serves a seafood-inspired menu. And the Bull & Wren is an Irish-themed gastropub with a modern twist.
Take a look at this article if you’re hungry for more of the best Lake Minnetonka restaurants. But if your eyes are truly bigger than your stomach, you can go here for a full rundown of the finest restaurants in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
10. Explore Lake Minnewashta Regional Park
Address: 6900 Hazeltine Blvd, Excelsior, MN 55331
Although it’s a little outside downtown and not quite as famous as its larger neighbor, Lake Minnewashta still has an Excelsior address, so I’m allowed to include it in my list of what to do in Excelsior. It also happens to have 360 acres of attractive green space on its shores.
Lake Minnewashta Regional Park offers plenty for the whole family to see and do in a shady, lakeside environment. Outdoor activities include a swimming beach, volleyball courts, hiking and biking trails, a creative playground, and an off-leash dog area for your furry friends.
In winter, the trails are popular for snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. Equipment rental is available at weekends if you don’t have your own. No matter the season, there are always some fun outdoor pursuits to be enjoyed here.
11. Visit During an Excelsior Festival
Like most close-knit historic communities, Excelsior has its fair share of festivals and events throughout the calendar year. You should pop in and say hello if you’re lucky enough to pass through during one of these popular gatherings.
Apple Day is a lakeside festival hosted by the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce. Since 1935, it has taken place during September and champions the community, locally produced food, and handmade crafts.
Arctic Fever celebrates all things winter during the colder months. Art on the Lake is an Excelsior Art Fair that attracts thousands of art lovers, collectors, and buyers every June.
Excelsior is a great place to catch the 4th of July celebration, and hockey fans will not want to miss the North American Pond Hockey Championship when Lake Minnetonka freezes over.
Other seasonal attractions include the Excelsior Farmers Market, the flea market, and the Christkindlsmarkt, which runs through November. Note that some markets will require a small entrance fee.
See Related: Minnesota Renaissance Festival – The Things to See
12. Watch a Local Show at the Bandshell
Address: 135 Lake St, Excelsior, MN 55331, United States
Recently redeveloped and improved, the Excelsior Bandshell is a live music venue on the shores of Lake Minnetonka at Excelsior Parkland. Throughout the summer, it plays host to a “Concerts in the Commons” program of events.
The bandshell brings people together, from orchestral classics to banjo recitals and everything in between. Listen to some top tunes while enjoying a Minnesota sunset over the water. Local high schoolers also get to perform here, so you might catch the next big thing!
Check online to view their current schedule, and don’t forget to bring a blanket or chair for extra comfort. And if you don’t fancy traveling a great distance after the encore, this beautiful cottage holiday rental is right across the street.
13. Visit During Apple Day
Address: 37 Water St, Minnetrista, MN 55331, United States
Apple Day is a lakeside festival that promotes the Excelsior community while featuring locally produced food, art, antiques, and handmade crafts. The city also puts together a street dance.
On Apple Day, the city shuts down Water Street so local vendors and restaurants can bring out their best goodies for visitors to enjoy and purchase. All the local shops have a stand, and thousands of people come to shop and experience new foods.
Apple Day is fun for the whole family. Bring the kids, dogs, and grandparents for an enjoyable day.
See Related: Things to Do in Lanesboro, Minnesota
Is Excelsior a suburb of Minneapolis?
Yes, it is. With a population of 2,299 (2021) and just 26 minutes from Minneapolis, Excelsior is a suburb of the Twin Cities.
Is Excelsior, Minnesota, a good place to live?
Very much so. It offers a wonderful location within the Twin Cities, a friendly community, highly-rated schools, and a peaceful, laid-back vibe.
Related Minnesota Guides
- Best Breakfast in Minnesota
- Places to Take Pictures in Minneapolis
- Things to Do in Minneapolis
- Best Coffee Shops in Minnesota
- Top-Rated Restaurants in Rochester, Minnesota
- Minnesota vs Wisconsin: What’s Better?
- Travel Hacking 101
- Manufactured Spending Overview
- Top Sites for Booking Tours
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Alex is a travel writer for ViaTravelers currently living in Amsterdam. She has lived in three countries, 4 states, and visited over 15 countries worldwide. She enjoys top-tier restaurants, old books, and uncovering historic sites around the globe. She specializes in European destinations, particularly her favorites, Paris, Amsterdam, and Vienna and is an expert at family travel after visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks before her daughter turned 2 years old.