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Five lakes near the Twin Cities to visit this summer

Discover some of the best lakes near the UMN campus.
Image by Photo by Max Mueller
Lake Bde Maka Ska, pictured here, has lots of options for recreation, from sailing and windsurfing to picnic tables and beaches.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have more to offer than a flourishing metropolitan culture and thriving arts scene. Beyond the busy city streets is a network of charming lakes that provide recreational and leisure activities for residents and visitors alike. These lakes offer a variety of recreational opportunities, from peaceful walks to thrilling water sports. 

If you are a University of Minnesota student looking for something to do over summer break or a Twin Cities resident bored on a hot day, these top lakes close to the Twin Cities are some any Minnesotan should check out.

Bde Maka Ska

Bde Maka Ska (previously known as Lake Calhoun) is a lively urban oasis tucked away in the middle of Minneapolis. It provides a diverse range of outdoor recreation options, including sailing and windsurfing in addition to kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals. Included with the rental is a free self-guided tour of the lake.

Joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers can travel the 3.2-mile path encircling the lake thanks to its wide network of pathways and take in the gorgeous view. 

“I’ve been visiting Calhoun for years now … it is such a staple in the Minneapolis community,” St. Louis Park resident John Carter said. 

Bde Maka Ska is the perfect place to spend a fun-filled day with family and friends because it also has a number of sandy beaches, picnic spaces and restaurants. Only 13 minutes away from the University of Minnesota campus by car, this lake is a close-by spot to visit.

Lake Nokomis

Lake Nokomis, which is located in South Minneapolis, is a well-liked destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It features beaches, fishing piers and walking and cycling trails. Swimming, sailing, windsurfing and kiteboarding are all common here. 

The lake is renowned for holding a number of events and festivals all throughout the year. The Painted Turtle is a restaurant on the beach offering a variety of food from wings, salads, chicken tenders and walleye. This lake is a 16-minute drive from campus, making it one of the closer lakes to campus. 

Lake Harriet

Located directly south of Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet is a popular spot for locals looking for a quick escape into the great outdoors. The lake is an 18-minute drive from campus, and offers a range of activities, including swimming, fishing and paddle boarding, all while being surrounded by green space. 

Along the shoreline, visitors may also take leisurely strolls or bike rides while taking in the panoramic views and the quaint bandshell. 

“I regularly walk around this lake when the weather is nice. I’m very lucky to have such beautiful parks nearby my house,” frequent visitor Cameron Friedland said. 

The park regularly hosts free concerts and movie screenings, with a full schedule of events found here.

Lake Elmo

A tranquil and untainted haven from the bustle of the city, Lake Elmo is nestled in the Lake Elmo Park Reserve, 26 minutes east of the University campus. The 166-acre lake is bordered by thick forests, rolling hills and an abundance of wildlife. Swimming, kayaking and fishing are just a few of the outdoor activities that visitors can enjoy. 

“It’s very easy to spend a day out here in the summer,” boater Ethan McCaffery said. “I prefer it to the St. Croix because it feels more private and peaceful.” 

The neighboring park is a great place for a weekend trip in the middle of nature because it has picnic spaces, hiking paths and camping areas. You can also try your hand at archery at their seven target archery range

White Bear Lake

White Bear Lake is a beautiful body of water surrounded by attractive towns and verdant woodlands. It is located northeast of St. Paul, a 23-minute drive from campus. With public boat launches nearby, it offers plenty of chances for boating and water sports enthusiasts. 

It is known for its fishing, with Lions Pier and City Pier being the best spots for fishers. Nature lovers can take leisurely lakeside picnics or explore the charming paths in the adjacent Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park. 

Residents and visitors to the Twin Cities can choose from a wide variety of stunning lakes as the summer progresses. These lakes close to Minneapolis and St. Paul provide the ideal setting for unique outdoor adventures; whether you’re looking for relaxation, exciting water sports or a tranquil natural setting. 

So gather your supplies, explore these gems and take in the serene beauty that the treasured lakes of the Twin Cities have to offer.

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