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These are some of the best things to do around or on Lake Minnetonka for all seasons.
Lake Minnetonka is a sprawling city lake that is full of history, charm, and things to do. There are plenty of things to do no matter the season. When deciding what to do around Lake Minnetonka, think about what kind of experience you want.
It’s one of the best things to do in Minnesota and is filled with a variety of activities no matter the season and makes for a great day trip from downtown Minneapolis.
- Are you a family of four? Head to Excelsior.
- Group of college students? Head to Big Island.
- Somewhere in the middle? This whole list is for you.
We gave you the best things to do along the Minneapolis riverfront. Let’s head to one of the most well-known lakes in the North. Read on for tips on things to do around Lake Minnetonka from some locals.
- What to know about Lake Minnetonka
- A brief history of Lake Minnetonka
- Map of Lake Minnetonka
- Best Things To Do Around Lake Minnetonka
- Grab a Delicious Beer at Back Channel Brewing
- Ride the Steamboat Minnehaha
- Family Friendly Thing To Do: Lake Minnetonka Regional Park
- Fun Things to Do Around Lake Minnetonka: Visit Excelsior
- Explore Lake Minnetonka by Car
- Visit Wayzata: an upscale lake town with a new-age vibe
- Go to the Narrows: a re-imagined dive bar
- Go to Big Island Park for Camping and Hiking
- Go to “Big Island” for Partying
- Visit Lord Fletcher’s Wharf for Live Music
- Visit Enchanted Island
- Go to Maynard’s for football and waffle fries
- View the Lake Minnetonka area wildlife
- Free Things to Do: Check out the Three Rivers Park District parks – Gray’s Bay Dam Park & Nuremberg Gardens
- Places to Stay Near Lake Minnetonka
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Can you swim in Lake Minnetonka?
- How many acres is Lake Minnetonka?
- Where is Lake Minnetonka?
What to know about Lake Minnetonka
Lake Minnetonka is located just 20 minutes west of Minneapolis. It is one of the largest lakes in Minnesota, with over 100 miles of shoreline.
Lake Minnetonka is one of over 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, making the landscape unique. Lush greens, extensive wildlife, and interesting history make Lake Minnetonka a unique place to visit.
There’s a lot to do around Lake Minnetonka but also a lot to learn. Lake Minnetonka was formed by glaciers millions of years ago. Minnesota was at the bottom of the ocean back then. You can even dig for dinosaur bones in some areas!
A brief history of Lake Minnetonka
The lake was formed by glaciers millions of years ago, but Lake Minnetonka became a popular vacation destination when the steam engine became popular. Families who lived downtown would come out to the lake for weekend trips and summer vacations.
Then, in the mid-1800s, a railway was built from Minneapolis to Wayzata. You can tour the Wayzata train station. The rails are still in use today! Once the railway was built and trade from the lake to downtown blossomed, people moved to Wayzata, Minnetonka, and Deephaven to live full-time.
Today, Lake Minnetonka is one of Minnesota’s most desirable places to live. Lake Minnetonka has activities, fairs, concerts, museums, parks, top restaurants, and shopping. Lake Minnetonka has everything you need to have an enjoyable visit.
See Related: Best Indoor Activities in Minnesota
Map of Lake Minnetonka
Best Things To Do Around Lake Minnetonka
There is something for everyone around Lake Minnetonka. We’ve traveled the world but choose to live in Minnesota and near Lake Minnetonka to experience all of these things.
These are some of our favorite things to do on, around, or in Lake Minnetonka.
Grab a Delicious Beer at Back Channel Brewing
They say save the best for last, but we’re putting it first. One of our favorite breweries in the Twin Cities, Back Channel Brewing, is hidden far west on the lake. It might be a bit of a drive, but it is well worth it. You can get there by boat or on land.
Back Channel specializes in small-batch beers and imperial stouts. Our favorite is the Dublin Irish stout. We’ve driven 45 minutes out of the way to have one. Their beers are always changing. You can even have a beer in a bowl – try one for Instagram.
And their apparel is top-notch. High-quality soft shirts, glassware, boat gear, and everything in between that will stand the test of time.
Highly recommend spending an afternoon on this patio. You can bring in your snacks or enjoy whatever food truck stops by. There’s an excellent drive-in nearby too.
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Ride the Steamboat Minnehaha
The Steamboat Minnehaha was raised from the bottom of Lake Minnetonka. Yes, it sank. The steamboat was built in 1906, sank in 1926, then was raised in 1980. Then in 1996, the boat came back to sail across Lake Minnetonka.
You can ride the steamboat Minnehaha on weekends and holidays from late May through early October. It is a family-friendly activity that teaches some history about the lake while sailing on a piece of history yourself. The steamboat picks up and drops off in Wayzata and Excelsior. Plan to spend an hour or two on the boat.
While on the boat, you’ll see several iconic landmarks on the lake, including watching sailboats at Minnetonka Yacht Club, the old location of Hotel Lafayette, and the lake’s jaw-dropping shores.
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Family Friendly Thing To Do: Lake Minnetonka Regional Park
Lake Minnetonka Regional Park is a park in Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, part of the Three Rivers Park District. Lake Minnetonka Regional Park was created in the 1950s and 1960s before Lake Minnetonka was built.
With various activities for kids, this park has rock walls, bridges, tunnels, ladders, stairs, and slides. This is a great place to have your kids get some energy out.
Fun Things to Do Around Lake Minnetonka: Visit Excelsior
Excelsior is by far the best lake city on Lake Minnetonka. Walking through the main street, you catch a feel of old-town America. At one point, Excelsior Amusement Park was the top tourist attraction in the area.
Local shops, antique stores, watering holes, and ice cream parlors now line the streets. Excelsior is home to many events, including the best Fourth of July festival around the lake, Apple Day in the Fall, and beer festivals in the Spring.
With two beaches and a small carnival, Excelsior has the most space to view fireworks and lay out a blanket. One of the highlights of Excelsior is the ice cream selection. Two competing ice cream parlors are Adele’s and Lick’s Unlimited.
The locals have a favorite, and they are loyal. My husband loves Adele’s, while I love Lick’s Unlimited. Lick’s Unlimited has chocolate-dipped waffle cones and unique ice cream flavor mixes like cotton candy, turtle, etc. They are always thinking up something new. Right on the main street, this ice cream shop is easy to stop when the line isn’t around the corner.
Adele’s is frozen custard. Soft, creamy, with a flavor of the day that will always make you smile. Adele’s has a drive-through that will weave up and through the neighborhood to get a taste. It’s easy to walk to, just a 10-minute walk from downtown Excelsior.
See Related: Things to Do in Duluth, Minnesota
Explore Lake Minnetonka by Car
Just because it’s a lake doesn’t mean you have to tour Lake Minnetonka by boat. The lake is such a beautiful place to tour by car. Riding outside Lake Minnetonka by car helps you see more of the lake fast, and you can skirt down side streets to find hidden neighborhoods.
Lake Minnetonka is home to the most prestigious neighborhoods in all of Minnesota. Long, winding roads, surrounded by lush forests and breathtaking wildlife, are next to huge mansions built to resemble every era. No matter which side road you take, it will surely surprise you.
We recommend taking a drive in the fall when the leaves are changing. Head down Ferndale Road to see some of the beautiful homes in the area.
The landscape is beautiful, and the wildlife is out and about. Otherwise, rent a limo to go light-looking around the lake. You can view all the gorgeous homes and their holiday lights.
While exploring Lake Minnetonka by car, you can stop at some local drive-ins. Also, stop at viewpoints along the way.
See Related: Best Lakes in Minnesota
Visit Wayzata: an upscale lake town with a new-age vibe
Wayzata is the place to be seen on Lake Minnetonka. Swarming with upper-class wasps and finance moguls, Wayzata is home to some of the wealthiest people in Minnesota.
This means two things: great restaurants and great people-watching. Cov is another great restaurant steps away from Lake Minnetonka. This patio is outstanding, with views of the lake and a Saturday afternoon happy hour. Come hungry. Their portions are large – including their wine pours.
Wayzata Beach is a great spot to rent paddleboards and other beach activities. A small beach with few visitors (most people own boats in Wayzata), this beach is a great way to experience Lake Minnetonka.
Wayzata has a historic train station right off the lake. This station was used back when people would travel by rail from Minneapolis to spend their holiday in Wayzata.
Now, the train station is a small museum. Just outside the museum is a model train that runs. You can read funny names of local businesses across it. Wayzata also has different festivals. From Cinco de Mayo and St. Patricks Day to the Chilly Open, there is something for every season.
When visiting Wayzata, make sure to stop by Woulettes. They have the best cakes and cupcakes in town. Like what you hear? These are some of the best things to do in Wayzata.
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Go to the Narrows: a re-imagined dive bar
The Narrows Saloon is a Lake Minnetonka classic. A few years ago it was a sticky-floored dive bar with live music and pull tabs. Today, it’s cleaned up and opened an upscale restaurant next door.
The Narrows Saloon has been popping up for over 20 years now. It’s a great spot to spend a weekend evening listening to a local band and invest in some pull tabs for the table. They have great beers on tap and a full menu to choose from.
Next door is The Lake Room, with an upscale, modern interior and a homey vibe. Their food is outstanding – from the seasonal soups to steaks to mushrooms and they will not disappoint. Have some dinner, then head next door for live music and drinks!
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Go to Big Island Park for Camping and Hiking
Lake Minnetonka has many islands, and the “Big” island is the biggest. Big Island Park is a perfect location for camping, fishing, and hiking.
The park offers 20 campsites with fire pits, picnic tables, and grills. Some campsites are handicapped and accessible with paved trails to the area. Lake Minnetonka offers great fishing opportunities inside and outside the Big Island Park boundaries.
Lake Minnetonka has many fish, including bass, walleye, northern pike, perch, and crappie. This is one of the best areas to do it on land while camping and taking some time away from the crowds.
In the summer, it’s a great place to stay overnight in a tent, swim, and see the stars.
See Related: Things to Do in Ely, Minnesota
Go to “Big Island” for Partying
This is the island’s opposite end and is where boaters from all over the Twin Cities come together to party their hearts out. Not for the faint of heart, especially on a sunny Saturday, Big Island is in the middle of Lake Minnetonka and is a hangout spot for people who like to drink on boats.
One side of the island is great to visit for camping and relaxing. The other side is for day drinking and lounging. If you’re on the lake, stop by for a bit. You may get spotted by “Tonka Paparazzi,” a professional photographer who boats around and takes impromptu photos of all the Minnetonka gossip. You can purchase photos online.
Bring a pair of Tevas or flip-flops if you go to Big Island. We’ve found these shoes helpful. There are many people, and the bottom of the lake can have sharp rocks. It is best to protect your feet so you can enjoy your day!
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Visit Lord Fletcher’s Wharf for Live Music
Lord Fletcher’s is one of the most iconic places on Lake Minnetonka. It’s a great place for people-watching, good drinks, great food (inside, the food outside is general bar food), and awesome live music.
Fletchers is a great spot for every season. In warmer months, you can sit on the wharf, play volleyball, and listen to live music. Fletchers are popular – be prepared to search for a table in the summer. It is worth it, though. Keep your eyes open, and don’t be shy.
In the dead cold of winter, you can ride a snowmobile and play ice hockey on the lake. The inside of Fletchers has a different vibe than the pier. Warm and cozy cabin vibes come from every corner. Sit by the fire, order a hot toddy, and settle in.
Check out how Lake Minnetonka looks in this footage and tour of the lake from our YouTube channel. Fletchers also has fun weekly specials. From $5 burgers to $22 Maine lobster night, there’s a special for everyone. You can arrive at Lord Fletcher’s by boat, motorcycle, car, bike, walk, snowmobile, and everything in between.
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Visit Enchanted Island
Enchanted Island is a great spot to swim, fish, kayak, or boat when Lake Minnetonka is warm enough. It’s a nice escape from the crowds at the park and beach, and you can relax on the sand or explore the area.
There are picnic tables for those who come by land, and it is a good place to stop for lunch if you’re making your way around Lake Minnetonka. This is one island that can be accessed via car rather than a boat.
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Go to Maynard’s for football and waffle fries
Maynard’s is another dock bar on the lake. It’s a similar style to Fletcher’s but a completely different atmosphere. Maynard’s is in Excelsior which is home to traditional Minnesotans who like their beers big and no-frills.
Maynard’s has the best waffle fries around – and they serve them with homemade seasoned sour cream. Their bar food is fantastic and makes any football game better. Maynard’s has great specials on football Sundays and throughout the week. It is a completely different scene for dinner and holiday brunch.
Maynard’s has the best Mother’s Day, Easter, and any holiday brunch. It is buffet style, and their food is outstanding. If you’re looking for a nice date night, too – Maynard’s has an excellent dinner that is much fancier than their dock food. Don’t worry; you can still get the waffle fries!
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View the Lake Minnetonka area wildlife
Lake Minnetonka is surrounded by small lake towns and large mansions, but it’s also home to a lot of wildlife. In the winter you can see coyotes walking across the lake (just don’t get close).
In the summer you will see and hear the Minnesota Loon – our state bird. Loons can dive 90 feet down to catch fish. They are fast and slim in the water but walk funny on land.
Around the lake, you can see deer, foxes, coyotes, hawks, owls, red-wing blackbirds, and more.
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Free Things to Do: Check out the Three Rivers Park District parks – Gray’s Bay Dam Park & Nuremberg Gardens
If you are looking for free or cheap things to do, look no further than the parks to exercise, see amazing houses, and soak in the lake views.
Gray’s Bay Dam Park, another part of the Three Rivers Park District, has an awesome boardwalk (pictured above) trail that allows you to view birds, fish, otters (yes, I’ve seen them), beavers, and turtles. This is another spot for swimming if you don’t have a boat.
This park also features a boat launch to start your cruising journey if you have a boat. The dam is the start of Minnehaha Creek, which curves through the Twin Cities to eventually end up at Minnehaha Falls.
Minnehaha Falls then feeds into the Mississippi River, so… Lake Minnetonka travels a long way. If you think about it, in a way, people from all over the U.S. are “purifying themselves in Lake Minnetonka,” as Prince famously said.
Nuremberg Gardens has a garden (obviously) and a Chinese-styled pier. These parks are great for setting up a lakeside picnic during sunset. It will save you a few bucks along the way. If you are in the area, check out these best things to do in Minnetonka.
Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota’s ninth-largest lake, is a true gem of Minnesota. The architecture and the living offer a true North experience. There is a cultural mix of free, paid, and family-friendly things to do. If you are visiting Minnesota, it’s truly a must-do activity.
See Related: Best Minnesota State Parks
Places to Stay Near Lake Minnetonka
If you're looking for a terrific lakeshore getaway, look no further than The Call of the Loon! This lovely spot on Spring Park Bay is just what you've been dreaming of. You can enjoy all that the area has to offer, including dining and nightlife at nearby Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge. Or just relax and enjoy the wonderful views of Lake Minnetonka across the street. It's the perfect spot for your Minnesota vacation!
Looking for a cozy spot to call your own on Lake Minnetonka? This charming little cottage is located on Cooks Bay, and would be perfect for anyone who wants to enjoy all the lake has to offer. With 2 small bedrooms and 2 single beds in the loft, it can comfortably accommodate up to 6 people. The fully-equipped kitchen has everything you need to prepare your meals. The bathroom has a shower and tub, and the sunsets from here are absolutely stunning.
Looking for an affordable place to call home that's still close to all the action? This great two bedroom lower level in a great suburb might be perfect for you! It's located near Clear Spring Elementary, and backs up to a huge preserve / park - perfect for those who love nature. You can walk, jog or bike to your heart's content on the miles of trails, and see deer, turkey and other wildlife along the way.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you swim in Lake Minnetonka?
Yes! Lake Minnetonka is home to designated lifeguarded beaches in Excelsior and Wayzata. However, check the latest water quality index and water level before you visit, as Lake Minnetonka’s over-boating environment has caused issues with water quality.
How many acres is Lake Minnetonka?
Lake Minnetonka covers over 14,000 acres and is enjoyed year-round for its recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing, swimming, ice fishing, hiking, and biking.
Where is Lake Minnetonka?
Lake Minnetonka is approximately 20-30 miles from the Twin Cities and in Hennepin County. The lake covers a number of cities, including Minnetonka, Orono, Wayzata, Minnetrista, and Spring Park, to name a few.
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- About the Author
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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.