This summer, head north. Minneapolis is a vibrant and exciting city that truly comes alive in the summer. With its picturesque lakes, gorgeous parks, and bustling streets, this city has something for everyone. Whether you’re a local looking for new experiences or a visitor seeking the best of the city, I’ve got you covered.
In this blog post, we will highlight some of the most fun things to do in Minneapolis during the summer months. From outdoor activities and attractions to festivals and free events, I’ll show you why Minneapolis is the perfect summer destination. So, grab your sunscreen, put on your walking shoes, and get ready for an unforgettable summer in the Twin Cities!
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Things to know before you go to Minneapolis
Minneapolis and St. Paul tend to get grouped together as the Twin Cities, and for this article, I not only include St. Paul attractions, I include other nearby towns as well. So, while the focus is on Minneapolis, cities like Bloomington and Eagan also will be mentioned as they’re pretty darn close and offer some cool things to see and do in the summer.
Public transportation is great throughout the city. There’s the “free ride” bus along Nicolette Mall, as well as buses running in the Downtown Zone for only .50 cents a ride. Otherwise, buses can take you further for a little more than a couple of dollars. What’s even better is the Metro Light Rail, that even goes out to Mall of America.
Wondering what to pack for a trip to Minneapolis in the summer? Scroll down to the FAQ section at the end of this article for information on what kind of weather you can expect.
Things to do outdoors in Minneapolis
I’ve made family trips to Minneapolis and St. Paul in the winter and in the summer, and not at all surprisingly, we had more fun outdoors in the summer. There’s a lot to do and a three-day weekend wasn’t enough time to fit it all in!
The most memorable park for my young family was Minnehaha Regional Park. The park is best known for its 53-foot-tall waterfall. However, in the summer, the cool waters of the wading pools is the place to be at Minnehaha. The park is also a nice place to bike around, and the playground is a hit with kids.
Also water-related, the Chain of Lakes is a must-visit in the summer. The lakes are connected by biking and walking trails. They have swimming beaches, playgrounds and picnic areas, so it’s not usually just a quick stop for families. Following an afternoon at the Bakken Museum, we waded into the shallow waters of Bde Maka Ska where my daughter was enchanted by a flock of ducks.
Minneapolis is incredibly bike-friendly, and one of the most memorable summer mornings for me was riding across Stone Arch Bridge with my family. Designed only for pedestrians and bike traffic, the bridge has some superb views of the city skyline while you bike over the Mississippi River.
Biking a trail along the riverside, we encountered a farmers market with buskers creating a lively atmosphere. Here are more fun ways to enjoy the outdoors this summer:
- Visit area zoos – The Minnesota Zoo is a large zoo located in Apple Valley, just south of Minneapolis. The zoo features a variety of animals, including dolphins, giraffes, and tigers. The much smaller Como Park Zoo is in neighboring St. Paul. It’s a charming zoo that’s great for younger kids (and admission is free!).
- Hike, swim, or bike at nearby parks – Minneapolis is near some amazing parks and nature centers. Mississippi River Gorge Regional Park is a large park in Minneapolis filled with hiking trails, scenic views, and picnic areas. Theodore Wirth Regional Park is the largest park in the Minneapolis Parks System. Located in Golden Valley just west of downtown Minneapolis, Wirth offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking and golfing. The park also has a beach on Wirth Lake for swimming. Outside of Minneapolis, parks include the 160-acre nature preserve Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park, just west of Minneapolis; Baker Park Reserve in Medina, just west of Minneapolis; Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, just south of St. Paul; Afton State Park on the St. Croix River, just east of Minneapolis; and Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge along the Minnesota River, just south of Minneapolis.
- Walking tours in the Twin Cities – Whether you want to explore the seedy side of Minneapolis, or the haunted side, or just get some cultural and historical background on the city, there’s a guided or self-guided tour for you.
Free things to do Minneapolis
I love an occasional splurge while on vacation, but we can all agree that finding great things to do that also happen to be free is the ultimate travel win. Luckily, the Minneapolis area has plenty of budget-friendly options in the summer.
That cherry on a spoon sculpture is synonymous with Minneapolis, and it happens to be found in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden located outside The Walker Art Center. The sculpture garden is free to stroll through, and it a gloriously large outdoor park. Some sculptures are interactive, making it a nice spot for families to let kids roam. The artworks are quite impressive and there are plenty of photo opps, to boot.
As I mentioned earlier, the Como Park Zoo is a free zoo in the area. There are plenty of animals to see there. The Como Park Conservatory is next to the zoo, and also free to visit. It has beautiful gardens both indoors and outdoors, as well as a butterfly exhibit. I’m impressed both of these places offer free admission!
Here are more free things to do in Minneapolis this summer:
- Shop and people watch at a farmers market – We accidentally found the Mill City Farmers Market one Saturday morning while biking around downtown Minneapolis. We stopped to walk around, browse the goods, and listen to some music. There are nearly 20 farmers markets in the Twin City area!
- Explore the Minnesota State Capitol – The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul offers free guided tours. Visitors can learn about the history of the state and explore the beautiful art and architecture of the capitol.
Indoor attractions in Minneapolis
The last place I want to be is indoors on a nice summer day. However, on a hot or rainy or stormy summer day? I’ll go to somewhere fun that’s indoors, thank you very much. Here are some of my favorite indoor attractions around the Minneapolis area.
I tell everyone I know that they should visit the Bakken Museum when they are visiting the Minneapolis area. It’s a fantastic science center inside a gorgeous mansion. If the weather is nice, don’t skip the outside medicinal gardens.
The Science Center of Minnesota, in nearby St. Paul, is a much larger science center with several floors of exhibits ranging from dinosaurs and fossils to space, the human body, and sports. It’s hands-on and interactive and you could spend the entire day there.
For something totally different than a museum, Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul is in a class all of its own. It’s an artist-made indoor putt putt golf center/vintage arcade/bar. It’s a fantastical place where you’ll want to pause to admire the view several times, as well as snap selfies.
Head over to Bloomington for a full day at Mall of America. I’m not much of a shopper (especially with kids in tow) but I do love all the attractions inside the mega mall. The obvious first stop, especially if you’re traveling with kids or thrill ride fans, is Nickelodeon Universe. It’s a complete theme park inside the mall with rollercoasters and dozens of rides.
SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium was another great place to explore and it’s also found inside Mall of America. There are some touch tanks, but generally you marvel at the sea life behind aquarium walls. It’s an immersive place, and you’ll be impressed by the 360 Degree Ocean Tunnel.
We spent a day at Mall of America and only scratched the surface on attractions there. We played a round at Moose Mountain Adventure Golf and soared through the mall on the zipline that’s a part of the Dutchman’s Deck Adventure Course.
Here are more unique indoor attractions in Minneapolis (and nearby):
- My introduction to American Swedish Institute was during the holiday season, and it was an utterly charming visit with holiday decorations, Swedish treats, and live music. The historic mansion (that looks very much like a castle, if you ask me) is open year-round and features exhibits as well as cultural programs.
- The Mill City Museum in Minneapolis explores the history of flour milling in the state through exhibits and artifacts.
- Great Wolf Lodge is a hotel in Bloomington, yes, and you can shell out a lot of money to stay there and have access to the indoor waterpark. However, you can also get a day pass at an affordable price and get to enjoy the same awesome waterpark.
Top summer festivals in Minneapolis
I always check if there are any festivals happening while I’m visiting a city. When we visited over Labor Day Weekend, we wandered our way into a blues festival by accident. It was awesome! In a metro as large as Minneapolis, there is usually something festive planned each weekend.
- Music and Movies in the Parks – Minneapolis Park and Recreation hosts free concerts and movies in parks throughout the city; concerts are held at seven different locations! There are events almost every night of the week during the summer.
- Twin Cities Pride Festival – The Twin Cities Pride Festival is a free, multi-day event that takes place in late June in Loring Park in Minneapolis. The festival features music, parade, and activities that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
- Minnesota Fringe Festival – The Minnesota Fringe Festival is a free, multi-day event that takes place in August in Minneapolis. The festival features over 130 performances by local and national theater companies.
- Minnesota State Fair – Called the Great Minnesota Get Together, this massive state fair is held in late August through Labor Day each year. It’s held in Falcon Heights, which is between St. Paul and Roseville.
Is Minneapolis nice in the summer?
Minneapolis is generally very pleasant in the summer, with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Average high temperatures range from the mid-70s Fahrenheit (around 24°C) in June to the mid-80s Fahrenheit (around 29°C) in July and August. There is also relatively low humidity, making it a comfortable time to be outdoors.
Is Minneapolis crowded in the summer?
In terms of tourism, Minneapolis tends to see a fair number of visitors during the summer months. It’s a popular time for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and enjoying the city’s lakes. Several major events draw crowds, like the Minnesota State Fair in late August.