Best Outdoor Activities in Minneapolis: Minneapolis, MN Outdoor Activities & Recreation Guide

Best Outdoor Activities in Minneapolis

Whether you know a lot or a little about Minneapolis, what you've heard probably involves cold, snowy winters. While that's true, there's a lot more to this Midwestern city. Combined with neighboring Saint Paul, Minneapolis is one-half of the "Twin Cities." Aside from vibrant nightlife and arts scenes, as well as legendary Midwestern friendliness, Minneapolis has an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. Regardless of the season (yes, even in the dead of winter) and one's specific interests, there's always something to do outside in this city. Read on to discover some of Minneapolis' top outdoor activities.

Water Recreation in Minneapolis

Minneapolis Water Recreation Opportunities

  • Lake Superior
  • Local fishing holes
  • Great Wolf Lodge
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Stand-up paddleboarding
  • Jet skiing
  • Boating

Minnesota is famously called the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," but it technically has 11,842. Of course, that doesn't even account for the 69,200 miles of rivers and streams in the state. Needless to say, water recreation in Minneapolis is a serious pastime, and there are plenty of places to do it.

Kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, jet skiing, and boating of all types are popular, but they're largely seasonal warm-weather activities. Fishing is also popular and can be enjoyed year-round (ice fishing, anyone?). Whether you head to Lake Superior or seek out a local fishing hole in town, there are countless spots to fish in the Twin Cities area. All Minnesota residents over age 16 must have a state fishing license. Children under 16 are exempt as long as a parent or guardian is licensed.

Another way to enjoy the water in Minneapolis is to head inside to Great Wolf Lodge. There are numerous pools and slides, including some specifically for the littlest swimmers, a lazy river, and restaurants. Visitors can purchase a day pass or book a suite and make a weekend out of it when they need a change of pace from their condo or townhome. For those who would like to enjoy the water in their front yard instead, Minneapolis has plenty of waterfront properties as well.

Minneapolis Hiking & Biking Trails

Minneapolis Hiking & Biking Trails

  • Big Rivers Regional Trail
  • Bruce Vento Regional Trail
  • Cannon Valley Trail

A wonderful way to experience a city is to hit its hiking and biking trails to refresh and recharge, which gives people the feeling they're "getting away from it all" even though they're really in the heart of the city. Many people don't immediately associate Minneapolis with hiking — after all, there are no large mountain ranges nearby. But the city actually has many pedestrian and bike paths, even in the most densely populated urban areas. Minneapolis also maintains many idyllic regional and nature trails that will make you wonder if you've been transported to the wilderness.

One of the most popular trails is the 4.4-mile Big Rivers Regional Trail, running right along the Minnesota River near its convergence with the mighty Mississippi. Views of both rivers, Fort Snelling, and downtown Saint Paul are all excellent on this trail. Big Rivers is part of the much larger Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which has hundreds of miles of trails.

Another popular trail is the Bruce Vento Regional Trail, a seven-mile trail running between White Bear Lake and the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary near downtown Saint Paul. This area is also popular for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Minneapolis Parks

Popular Minneapolis Parks

  • Mill Ruins Park
  • Minnehaha Regional Park
  • Gluek Park

Like its regional trail networks, Minneapolis has many open green spaces and beautiful parks for all to use. Parks are free to enjoy, accessible, and invite all manner of outdoor recreation, so visiting them is a wonderful way to enjoy the Twin Cities. While there are literally hundreds to choose from, here are a couple of the city's highlights.

Mill Ruins Park, part of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park downtown, offers a peek at Minneapolis' significant history in the milling industry. The park is designated on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors can see the remnants of one of the earliest mill turbines. Mill Ruins Park also features walking and biking paths.

Another popular Minneapolis park is Minnehaha Regional Park just outside of Minneapolis proper, featuring the impressive 53-foot Minnehaha Falls at its center. The waterfall is beautiful, but bring a picnic lunch and explore the park's other features, including walking and biking paths and the many life-size sculptures. There's also a playground, volleyball courts, a disc golf course, and a seasonal wading pool.

Snow Activities in Minneapolis

Minneapolis Snow Activities

  • Theodore Wirth Regional Park
  • Fort Snelling State Park
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Fat biking
  • Ice fishing
  • Snowmobiling

Minneapolis typically experiences over 100 snowy days each year, receiving an average of 43.5 inches annually. That doesn't mean people can't be outside during the snowy winters; in fact, it presents plenty of opportunities for recreating outdoors. Sure, you can head to the neighborhood park and build a snowman or have a snowball fight, but the Twin Cities' snow activities certainly don't stop there.

Cross-country skiing, also called Nordic skiing, is one of the most popular winter activities in Minneapolis. Many of the larger city parks and open green spaces, as well as several golf courses, maintain groomed trails in the winter so that visitors ski right in the heart of the city. Check out Theodore Wirth Regional Park and Fort Snelling State Park for good examples.

Snowshoeing and fat biking (bicycles with special "fat" tires ideal for both snow and sand) are also popular outdoor activities in Minneapolis winters. Oftentimes, you'll find trails alongside those designated for cross-country skiers. Other options include ice fishing and snowmobiling, both of which can be done on designated lakes throughout the greater Twin Cities area.

Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities

Minneapolis Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities

  • Minnesota Zoo
  • Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park

Technically, of course, children can participate in almost any outdoor activity in Minneapolis. However, some activities are more geared toward their interests than others. Take the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, just 25 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and a short drive from the Mall of America. It's open year-round, every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Visitors of all ages love the Minnesota Zoo because it's home to several unique animals, including American bison, African penguins, caribou, and monk seals.

Visiting the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park is another kid-friendly outdoor activity. There's a little something for everyone here, including Minnesota's longest cave. Visitors can take tours in the summer and early fall to explore the hidden underground pools, stalactites, and stalagmites. Forestville is the village's name, and it's been restored as a "living history" village to offer guests an interactive step back in time. About two hours from Minneapolis, this is a perfect day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Stay Active in Minneapolis

Whether you prefer more leisurely outdoor recreation or activities that get your heart pumping, there's something for you in Minneapolis. This guide barely scratches the surface of all there is to do in this wonderful city; there's a lot more to love and enjoy.

If Minneapolis is the city for you, contact Kris Lindahl Real Estate at 1-(855) 967-7653 to get in touch with a local real estate agent who can help you find your dream home today.

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