Summers in Minnesota are beautiful, and fleeting, so soak up every moment of them when that first wave of warm weather rolls in. We make the most out of our summers here, so there’s a variety of fun activities to partake in throughout the state. From camping, to movies in the park, to state fairs, here are the 10 best summer activities to enjoy in Minnesota.
In its more than 30-year history, Duluth’s Bayfront Blues Festival has grown into one of the largest music events in the Midwest. Over the weekend, thousands of visitors throng to Bayfront Festival Park on the city’s harbor to see national, regional, and local acts, sample food from vendors, and enjoy summer in the Northland.
As awesome as it is to catch a Twins game at Target Field, a Saints game at CHS Field in St. Paul’s Lowertown feels more intimate, casual, and well… summer. For example, you can’t sit in the grass at a Twins game. But at CHS, you can plotz in the lawn above left field. Dozens of beer and food vendors, along with family activities and regular cameos by co-owner Bill Murray make a Saints game a singular summer experience in St. Paul.
Preceded by the Beach Blast at Lake Calhoun—which includes the popular milk carton boat races—the Minneapolis Aquatennial is the City of Lakes’ annual celebration of water. The Torchlight Parade kicks off events on opening night and the best fireworks in the state, which have been rated among the top five in the nation, close the celebration a few days later. In between, enjoy a slew of live music, family activities, and friendly competitions in the warm, July weather.
The rocky, forested North Shore of Lake Superior is a year-round destination for Minnesotans. When it comes to camping, though, most of us partake only in warmer weather. Several stunning state parks and the Superior National Forest draw flocks of folks from around the Midwest to sleep under the stars every summer.
After St. Patrick’s Day is a few months gone, folks in St. Paul seem to need a fix of Irish. Fortunately, every August the Minnesota Irish Fair is their to feed their Jones for corned beef, Guinness, and Jameson. A couple days of dance, ale, and whisky in the summer is enough to tide folks over until the following March. And the weather is much more kilt-friendly.
Although largely known for its walleye, Mille Lacs Lake has a national reputation for huge muskies and is creating a big buzz over its smallmouth bass. After playing host to major tournaments, Bassmaster magazine ranked the lake as one of the 10 best smallmouth bass fisheries in the country. USA Today listed Mille Lacs among “America’s  best bass fishing lakes and ponds.” This is why folks grab their rods every summer and head for the big, round lake in the center of the state.
Sometimes simply celebrating summer isn’t enough: You just need to go out and live in it with no interruptions from phones, screens, or motor vehicles. This is why people lucky enough to win a permit in the annual lottery head for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and paddle away the stress of the modern world among the moose, bears, and wolves.
The Minneapolis park system is regularly lauded as the best in the United States. One thing that makes them so awesome is programming. In evenings during the summer, for example, folks can head to a park with a picnic dinner to hear live music or catch a movie in a gorgeous, natural-yet-urban setting. There are so many programs and venues on the schedule that you could attend an event almost every night throughout the summer.
Voyageurs is the only full-fledged National Park in Minnesota—and it’s quite magnificent. Named for the 18th century French fur-traders who plied the region in their canoes, it’s only fitting that Voyageurs celebrates the waterways from which the Land of 10,000 Lakes gets its nickname. The park and its features are best (and in many cases, can only be) viewed from the water. So, bring a canoe or kayak, take a tour, or rent a houseboat and explore the area like a voyageur.
No matter how you measure the size of a state fair, the Minnesota State Fair is big. In terms of average daily attendance, it’s often been the largest in the country. Folks flock to the fairgrounds for their love of livestock, to sample food on a stick, and to see the dozens of live events that go on daily. Taking place over the several days leading up to Labor Day, the Great Minnesota Get Togther is how many folks cap off their summer.