With 180 stunning parks, Minneapolis has rightfully earned its reputation as a City by Nature. Many people are familiar with the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Theodore Wirth Park and Minnehaha Falls Regional Park as top tourist – and locally loved – spots in the park system. However, what truly sets Minneapolis apart is the exceptional and diverse amenities that its parks offer, many of which may surprise visitors.
Here are the top 10 unique features at Minneapolis Parks that you don’t know about, but should:
1. New Bde Maka Ska Pavilion Features Pimento Jamaican Kitchen and Native Art
The Minneapolis Parks’ most anticipated change is the rebuilding of Bde Maka Ska Pavilion. The boat launch reopened in July and the year-round, all-gender, accessible bathrooms are set to open in August, with the remainder expected in September. The completed structure will house Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, a Black-owned restaurant by James Beard-recognized owner Tomme Beevas, a performance space and outdoor seating. In addition, the pavilion will be adorned with a mural created by emerging Native artists and mentors to display Native and Indigenous storytelling in the community.
2. The Trailhead Brings Out the World’s Best
The Trailhead, located in Theodore Wirth Regional is a hub for year-round outdoor fun with a range of activities like snow tubing, fat tire biking, off-road cycling, skijoring, snowtubing and snowboarding. The park is known best for cross-country skiing, and the Loppet Cup will bring the world’s best athletes here for the first world cup race to be held on U.S. soil in 20 years in February 2024.
3. Take a Lap in a Natural Swimming Pool
Visitors can beat the summer heat and take a dip at Webber Park’s Natural Swimming Pool, North America’s first public natural swimming pool that runs through a natural filtration system, and is free to visit.
4. Bocce Ball on the River
With magnificent views overlooking St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge, Water Works at Mill Ruins Park surprisingly features space to play bocce ball alongside the Mississippi River. After a game, visitors can nab a patio spot at James Beard Award-winning 2022 (national) Best New Restaurant, Owamni by the Sioux Chef to continue to take in the views with modern Native American cuisine.
5. Grand Rounds Circles the City
Visitors can explore Minneapolis’ allure and natural beauty through the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Connecting the Mississippi River to Minnehaha, the Chain of Lakes and more, Grand Rounds circles the city with 102 miles (51 miles biking, 51 miles walking) of trails, across seven segments. The scenic byway has been the preeminent urban parkway system for more than a century and encompasses more than 4,600 acres.
6. Disc Golf, of Course
Disc golf is a flying disc sport formerly known as frisbee golf. The premise of the game is similar to traditional golf. The aim is to throw a disc toward the target, known as a basket, throwing again from where your disc lands until you reach the basket. For seasoned disc golf players or beginners, Theodore Wirth Park, Fort Snelling Golf Club and Minnehaha Regional Park each provide a great course within a beautiful setting.
7. Convene with Nature
Escaping to Lyndale Peace Garden provides visitors a picturesque, serene retreat within Minneapolis. The garden’s charm is embellished by Japanese-influenced structures like “The Spirit of Peace,” Japanese yatsu-hashi crooked path bridge and a peace pole dedicated to peace between nations. Eloise Butler Wildflower and Bird Sanctuary is home to more than 600 plant species and 130 bird species within Theodore Wirth Regional Park. Activities such as bird watching, bog tours and garden walks are available, as is a nearby Quaking Bog.
8. Try Cricket and Rugby
International sports have a home in Minneapolis parks. Cricket fields at Bryn Mar Meadows Park and Bohannon and a Rugby field at Columbia Park offer unique experiences for enthusiasts. (Bryn Mar Meadows Park pitch is currently under construction and will reopen in fall 2024.)
9. Arch Your Bows
For current archers or folks eager to learn how to use a bow and arrow, Edward C. Soloman Park, Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park and Columbia Park all offer archery ranges for you to take aim.
10. Explore More with an Online Public Art Tour
Minneapolis Parks now offers a revitalized online public art tour, showcasing an array of artworks situated on public land across the city. With seven free curated tours and geographic guides of public art, visitors can embrace an enriching journey through the city’s captivating public art scene using a mobile device.