Minneapolis has 13 lakes that are 5 acres or greater. The largest 5 lakes in Minneapolis make up the chain of lakes, and are a portion of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. Read more to get the insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes.
There are a ton of scenic spots throughout the city that do not include the lakes. The Midtown Greenway and Minnehaha Creek run passed some of the lakes. The creek creates Minnehaha Falls and ends in the Mississippi River.
Each lake has a different vibe and purpose. Decide what lakes are worth the visit for you with this guide.
Lake Nokomis, the insiders guide to the minneapolis lakes
Lake Nokomis was formerly known as Lake Amelia. It was renamed in 1910, in honor of Hiawatha’s Grandmother, Nokomis.
The city of Minneapolis created this lake from a marsh in 1907. When they purchased the land the water was 5 foot deep at it’s deepest. Minneapolis made it 33 feet at it’s deepest point by excavation of the land. That is why this lake is considered “man-made.”
One of the most memorable things setting this apart from the other Minneapolis lakes is it’s 80’s fitness course. There is a spot for pullups and dips among other metal equipment.
Lake Nokomis has two beaches, the large beach has a park for kids to play at and a kioski for watersport rentals. Sand Castle is a restaurant next to the big beach. There are seats overlooking the water to enjoy a cold brew from the brewery trucks that come on the weekends (in the summer).
The Cedar Ave Arch bridge crosses over the lake. Occasionally, there are airplanes directly over head.
Most of the photos below have been taken within the last 4 years we have lived here. It showcases how the seasons can really make the lake come to life.
Lake Harriet‘s walking path is 2.75 miles, and the biking path is 2.99 miles.
One of the best things about this lake is looking at the many houses that overlook the water as we walk/bike. The houses are diverse in architecture and most are large with a ton of windows. Occasionally, we will guess how much they are worth. We are floored to see the cost not only of the homes, but also the property taxes.
The castle-like pavilion has excellent coffee and a variety of foods if you get hungry.
The Lyndale Park Rose Garden is 1.5 acres of garden. It was the second rose garden open to the public in the United States. Located directly next to Lake Harriet, making it easy to see both in the same outing. It is best to visit late June to September when the garden is in full bloom.
Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska
The largest (401 acres) and the deepest (87 feet) of the Minneapolis lakes is Lake Calhoun. Since Uptown is adjacent to the lake it also receives the most amount of people visiting the area. Making this one of the best locations to put up a hammock or have a picnic and people watch.
This Lake is 3.2 – 3.4 miles around. Those numbers depend on what path you are on (biking or walking). It features 3 beaches, multiple playgrounds overlooking the water, and some sculptures scattered throughout the land.
Lake Calhoun was Bde Maka Ska in 1800s. They Incorporated the name back in 2018. Bde Ska Maka means “White Earth Lake.” Even though it may be hard to say, it is cool that the history of the lake was brought back to light.
There is free street parking in all of the neighborhoods around the lake. Remembering where you parked can be easy. Simply, make a mental note of what mansion you are in front of and what angle you have of the Minneapolis skyline.
Lake of the Isles, the insiders guide to this Minneapolis lake
Lake of the Isles is sandwiched between two other connecting lakes (Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska and Cedar Lake). Millions of visitors arrive each year to bike and walk the 3 miles of trails around the waters edge.
Starting as an odd shaped marsh, the Minneapolis Park Board engineered this lake into what it is today.
Even though there are upwards of 5 million people who visit each year it is one of the quietest lakes in the city. I assume it is because there is not a beach. Since there is no record of water quality, swimming is not advised
If you insist on being in the water, consider renting a non motorized boat or another water sport option. There are an abundance of people who enjoy paddling/boating. This allows you to explore the multiple connecting lakes in one day.
At Lake of the Isles many stately houses outline the edge. Some of the old homes even have statues in their yard. We enjoy picking out our favorite homes as we pass by.
To keep you and your pup entertained, one end of the lake is home to a dog park. There is a portion of it for small dogs in conjunction to another area for bigger dogs.
Free street parking is easy assessable in neighborhoods surrounding the lake. The parkway circles the lake, if you choose to experience a scenic drive from your car. Just another helpful tip from the insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes.
There is nothing like walking through a park with the smell of giant pine trees to welcome you to the lake. This is the insiders guide to the Minneapolis Lakes.
Lake Hiawatha is merely steps north of Lake Nokomis. The city of Minneapolis bought the 240 acres of land in the 1920s. Originally, the lake was just a marsh. The city transformed it to an oasis with large trees.
Today it is a beautiful lake with a variety of amenities and park activities overlooking the water. They even have a wading pool to accommodate little ones. Some years regrettably, they have to close the beach due to contamination (good thing they have that pool).
When you walk Lake Hiawatha there are many options. The golf course takes over a large portion of the land on one side of it. If you want to walk more than the portion of sidewalk next to the lake, here are a couple suggestions.
Option 1: Walk in the residential area around the golf course.
There are parking garages close to Loring Park, and street parking if you get lucky. To see everything in the area we recommend parking in the sculpture garden parking lot. Then, take the pedestrian bridge over to it. We hope this insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes is useful.
The Holidazzle is hosted in Loring Park next to the lake. The month of December they string Christmas lights along every tree. This event hosts beer tents, craft booths, food stands, fireworks, movies in the park, and other fun events!
Powderhorn Lake, the insiders guide to the minneapolis lakes
Get the insiders guide to this Minneapolis lake, Powderhorn. It consists of 11 surface acres of water with a 22 foot maximum depth, it is small but mighty. It features a wading pool, ice rink, and 65 acres of park land.
The Powderhorn Art fair is hosted here every year. To be honest, the only times we have been to Powderhorn was for that event. The 2020 fair is going to be online, from the comforts of your own home.
I appreciate any events next to a scenic place. This is one event attracts visitors to come to Powderhorn would not visit otherwise.
The best part about this art fair is it is free for artists to participate, and there is no obligation to buy.
The art tents are those white dots across from the lake in our photograph. Parking in the nearby neighborhood is pretty painless. If you are anything like me and can’t remember where you park drop a pin on Google maps to help you find your car when you are finished.
With a maximum depth of 51 feet, 169 surface acres of water, and 3 beaches, Cedar Lake is a fantastic swimming lake.
The best part about this lake (in our opinion) is the beach on the North side. Parking can be tricky in the residential neighborhood and often you will have to walk a ways. That is helpful in keeping the crowds low, for more family friendly swimming.
The beach on the east side tends to be the most crowded, but excellent people watching. As a result, this helps give you the insiders guide to the Minneapolis lakes.
Diamond Lake, the insiders guide to the minneapolis lakes
Diamond lake is 55 surface acres of water directly East of 35W. Most of the trails are right off the busy road, but it is still gorgeous.
This lake features a great park, and sports and rec center called Pearl Park.
We regularly drive by this lake to get to many other places within Minneapolis. Unless you have kiddos there is not much to do there, other than fishing and taking in the scenery.
Smaller Noteworthy Lakes
In comparison to the other bodies of water in Minneapolis these are tiny. If you are close by to them they are still worth at least driving by.
- Brownie Lake
- Grass Lake
- Wirth Lake (technically in Golden Valley)
- Mother Lake
Enjoy the all the lakes with these fun activities:
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