May 05, 2021

The Best Parks Around the Twin Cities

After a rainy and gloomy April, it seems like Spring is FINALLY here to stay. It’s no secret that Minnesota winters are brutal, but I think the silver lining is that we all collectively savor warmer weather. As soon as the temperatures hit 50 degrees in the Twin Cities, it is like the entire state flocks outdoors. Seriously though, are you even a Minnesotan if you haven’t worn a t-shirt on the first day the thermostat hits above 45?

I absolutely love this time of year - the budding trees and flowers, the longer days, the emerging animals and birds. There is something reinvigorating about springtime, and I crave getting outside to soak in all of the energy. One of the best ways to enjoy the season is by hanging out in one of the many incredible state or city parks. According to an article by US News, St. Paul and Minneapolis are ranked #2 and #3 in the nation for best park systems, which came as no surprise to me. With 15% of both cities dedicated to park spaces, there are a lot of options out there, so I decided to put together a round up of some of my favorite parks around the Twin Cities.

Minneapolis + St. Paul

Though there are plentiful smaller neighborhood parks all across the cities, these are some larger options that are great for meeting up with friends or family or enjoying solo.

  • Theodore Wirth: largest park in Minneapolis featuring a swimming beach, mountain bike trails, picnic areas, and glimpses of downtown

  • Father Hennepin: stroll or lounge along the Mississippi River, then enjoy one of the best views of the Minneapolis skyline while crossing the Stone Arch Bridge

  • Lyndale Park Rose Garden and Peace Rock Garden: located on the northeast corner of Lake Harriet, these two gardens are a lovely place to stroll with a friend

  • Minnehaha Falls: ample shaded space to lay out with the calming sounds of the nearby waterfall. Another major perk: Sea Salt Eatery fish tacos followed by Sebastian Joe’s ice cream!

  • Como Regional Park: ample outdoor space, plus extra activities like the free Como Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory (donation recommended, pictured below), or lunch at the lakeside pavilion

Minny & Paul - McNeely Conservatory.jpg

North + East

  • Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Lake: pretty garden walks and activities for kids

  • Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove: colossal park with plenty of hiking, lakeshore, and an off-leash dog park

  • Afton State Park in Washington County: enjoy some hiking with views of the St. Croix River

  • Taylors Falls: though it’s a bit further outside of the cities, it’s a must-see. Make a day trip out of it and grab some food from Juneberry Cafe to enjoy on your hike.

Minny & Paul - Taylors Falls.jpg

South + West

  • Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington: great place for a long walk or swim at one of their beaches, plus with views of nearby Hyland Hills

  • Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan: enjoy their large system of hiking trails with several lakes along the way

  • Clifton E. French Regional Park in Plymouth: right along Medicine Lake, this is a perfect spot to bike, walk, or play with kids. They also have oversized adirondack chairs to soak in the sunset.

  • Carver Park Reserve in Waconia: take in the outdoors with some peace and quiet. Another idea is to make a day of it and enjoy nearby Schram, Sovereign Estate and Parley Lake wineries.

  • Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska: this one isn’t technically a park, but it is well-worth the admission. With flourishing gardens and tranquil water features, it is a great spot to unwind.

Minny & Paul - Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.jpg

I hope this inspires you to check out a new spot to soak in a little Mother Nature!

Images sourced through Google.