Summer in Minnesota is almost always the best. With all our lakes and state parks, festivals, and other events going on, there are so many ways to get outside and soak up the sunshine, enjoying every moment of heat. The snow and cold of winter was just a distant memory this past summer, which was truly too hot for anyone’s liking, in Minnesota and around the globe.
Thankfully, with the widespread distribution of vaccines and deeper understanding of the Coronavirus, Summer 2021 was a bit more fun and relaxed than Summer 2020. Even though things were still not “normal,” we were definitely improving and heading in the right direction.
Hiking & Exploring State Parks
Minnesota has so many incredible state parks, and there are ample hiking opportunities all around the state. Buying an annual state parks pass is a great way to make it easy to explore all the outdoors options.
Cabins, Pontoon Rides & Lake Life
It’s mandatory to find a way to spend some time on a boat on a lake in Minnesota, at least once during the summer. I had a few chances to go boating, and it was glorious each time. Someday, I’ll own a pontoon on a lake, or at least regularly rent one with GetMyBoat. If you plan to go fishing while on a boat ride – don’t forget to buy a fishing license first.
Another favorite thing of summertime and getting together with friends and family – making epic meals, grilling, and spending time with people sharing food. Pictured below are some of the things we made at Katie’s cabin for the weekend. Everything was delicious and I feel lucky to have so many friends who enjoy cooking and sharing meals together.
Going camping at least once per summer is a goal of mine. With a huge tent and a lot of camping supplies I can borrow from my dad, it’s always a fun way to spend a weekend and Minnesota has so many campgrounds to check out. It had been two years since my last camping trip with this group, since we had to put our Summer 2020 trip on hold from the pandemic.
Mystery Caves State Park
The group campsites at this state park are awesome! We had a ton of space, multiple picnic tables, our own little parking lot, a fire pit, and drop toilets. There was no one else around us either which was nice during the late night bonfires. Camping with a large group is the best I’ve decided. It’s so nice to rely on a bunch of people to bring different essentials and plan a different meal to take the burden off one person to bring it all. Probably my favorite thing we ate was our shrimp boil foil packet dinners cooked on the fire – but everything was super delicious, including hashbrown bowls for breakfast and campfire nachos.
The Mystery Cave Tour
If you go camping at Mystery Caves, you must buy tickets for an official tour of the Mystery Cave! It is the longest cave in Minnesota, spanning 13 miles underground. The tour is about an hour long, in a group no larger than 20 people. It’s super informative and fascinating to learn about the cave systems of Minnesota. Wear warm clothes or at least bring a sweatshirt – it is cool in the cave no matter how hot it is outside above ground.
Hiking + Swim in the South Branch Root River
There are great trails that we could access right from our campsite, we spent most of the day on Saturday hiking. After a whole day of walking up and down inclines, through the woods, and across a prairie, I needed to cool off.
One thing that is a requirement for me with camping is a chance to swim, so even though no one joined me, I went for a zip in the South Branch Root River. It likely is not the cleanest river to swim in – a lot of the land surrounding this region of the state is farm land so runoff pollution is likely, but it was clear, cold, and refreshing enough and I didn’t contract a disease. I’ll call that a win.
Forestville Ghost Town
We made it all the way to Forestville, a ghost town that was first settled in 1852. The town only made it until 1910 – the railroad passing through caused many occupants to move to other cities in search of new opportunities. Now it’s a historic site that you can access from Mystery Cave State Park via the Forestville Trail, a 7 mile trail that basically took us all day to complete, there and back. There are bathroom and water refill stations along the way, and many parts of the trail are shaded. Download the app AllTrails to see all trail options around Mystery Cave and Forestville.
Mystery Caves State Park is near the town of Fountain, Minnesota, which boasts this great brewery. They had ample outdoor seating and an interesting selection of beers. It was a nice stop on Sunday afternoon before we headed back to the cities. The town itself is tiny, so it is definitely a “locals” brewery, but the staff and other patrons were friendly and we could find seating. Check out Karst Brewing if you visit Mystery Caves State Park or are passing through this area of Southern Minnesota.
Golfing at Brookview Golf Course
I’m really not a golf enthusiast but I have a set of clubs, I love driving a golf cart, and who doesn’t love enjoying a drink while smacking a ball around a groomed course during a summer evening? This summer we went to Brookview Golf Course in Golden Valley, a great spot for an affordable round and cart rental. I highly recommend going in the evening so you can see the sunset!
Delano’s 4th of July Celebrations
After the Minnesota State Fair had been canceled in 2020, one might think I was crazy to not go in 2021, but I just didn’t feel up for it once it rolled around. Thankfully, there’s always next year. I did get some of my fair cravings satisfied, however, at the 4th of July Celebrations in Delano, a town about 45-minutes west of the city.
For being a small, local fair, it was super impressive! With tons of fair food, rides, live music, entertainment (sadly I did not win bingo) and other things going on. It’s definitely more geared towards families but it still had plenty of adult activities. I would 100% recommend visiting the Delano 4th of July celebrations if you love a fair atmosphere but are overwhelmed in huge crowds, it scratches the itch without being an all-encompassing affair.
Family Time for the 4th of July
After a year of isolation, missed holidays, and celebrations being canceled or put on hold, seeing my family again for the Fourth of July Weekend was amazing. We enjoyed the waters of Ottertail Lake, the pizza and party atmosphere of Zorbaz, and I finally got to spend some time with my cousin’s adorable baby. It was extremely relaxing and special to catch up with everyone after so much uncertainty and time apart. And who doesn’t love a small town parade?
New Ice Cream Shops in Minneapolis
With unrelenting sunshine, minimal rain, and day after day of 90 degree weather, ice cream was a bigger part of my life during the Summer of 2021 than it usually is. Two new spots I had the joy of trying this past summer are both in Northeast Minneapolis – MN Nice Cream and Fletchers. MN Nice Cream is the spot to check out if you’re looking for an epic sundae or Instagrammable ice cream concoction (think edible glitter vibes). It’s not just looks though – it’s still a delicious, sweet treat, and the shop is cute and has outdoor seating next to Able Brewery.
Fletcher’s has a vast array of unique, house-made flavors. From Muddled Mint Lemon Sorbet to Rose & Pistachio, Vegan Chocolate and some traditional favorites like Cookies & Cream – if you love trying new types of Ice Cream, definitely go to Fletcher’s. I personally am not a huge ice cream person, only in the summer, so if you want more traditional tastes, I would maybe try a different spot.
Adult Sailing Course at Minneapolis Sailing Center
One thing I strongly believe in is that everyone should nurture their hobbies, even as adults. I really loved sailing as a kid – I was lucky enough to go to sailing camps and learn a lot of the basics of rigging up a boat and navigating in the wind. In 2021, I took the Intermediate Keelboat course at Minneapolis Sailing Center, an excellent organization that operates on lake Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. Not only do they have classes for adults, but of course also kids, and they do a lot of community outreach to bring the joys of sailing to underserved populations. It was a lot of fun to go sailing and learn more skills with their instructors this past summer. It’s a hobby I am glad I’ve continued to work on my skills for into my adulthood, and next summer I hope to introduce it to some of my friends with the membership offered at MSC.
And that pretty much sums it up! Summer always flies by with so many things going on, but I really love every minute of the chaos. I am hoping that Summer 2022 is not as oppressively hot and there is more rain for both my sake and our environment. What are some things on your Summer bucket list for this year?