If These Lakes Could Talk

If These Lakes Could Talk

Minneapolis is known as the City of Lakes. With more than 15 bodies of water for recreation and picnicking, each has its own personality.  

By Caitlin Nugent

As the saying goes, ‘you have to go, to know.’ When strolling around the perennially popular Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, this advice couldn’t be more relevant. Each of the four lakes within this crowd-pleasing chain contributes its own unique personality toward the collective consciousness of the city’s lakeside social scene. Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles, and Cedar Lake are a must-do in Minneapolis’ experiences. This rings true regardless of the season. Make your way around each lake on foot, bike, or rollerblades in the warmer months. Or, better yet, get out on the water by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. Drill a hole through the ice to fish for dinner. Forge your way through Calhoun, the Isles, and Cedar Lake via a system of connecting channels and enjoy what truly makes Minneapolis The City of Lakes.

LAKE CALHOUN

 

Make no mistake; this is where the party’s at.

Oh, the humanity. People of every stripe make Lake Calhoun just short of a second home every summer. Its proximity to Uptown and its mix of activities make it a favorite hangout. If you are new to the Minneapolis Lakes scene and don’t know where to start, look no further than Lake Calhoun. There’s no shortage of things to do. Lake Calhoun is like that friend with all of the connections. Want to rent a canoe or paddleboard? No problem. You’ll find rentals through Wheel Fun Rentals located next to the main boathouse. Want something more low-key? If you’ve got your hammock in hand you can get your “mocking” on near the volleyball courts for good people watching. In the colder months, you’ll find people gathering for pickup pond hockey games, cross country skiing and even kite surfing across the frozen surface of the lake.  Feeling hungry? Head to Lake Calhoun’s lakeside eatery, The Tin Fish, which has been a crowd-pleaser since its arrival in 2004. And the nosh is worth the long lines on the weekend. Fresh fish is their modus operandi, conceived in every combination under the sun. They also offer gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Not a fan of dining out? Bring your own lunch, and picnic with the best of them. Afterwards, take in the sights as people play volleyball, relax on hammocks or meander around this social magnet of a lake. Join the party. Lake Calhoun will take you in as one of its own.

LAKE HARRIET

 

If Calhoun is the most popular kid in class, then Lake Harriet is more like visiting a favorite aunt.

Both familiar and friendly, Lake Harriet embodies the spirit of an idealized childhood. This lake has a decidedly family-centric flair. The surrounding grounds feature an historic trolley, an archery range, a rose garden and a bird sanctuary designated by the National Audubon Society. Sans kids? Don’t worry, there is plenty of charm to go around for all ages. As with Lake Calhoun, rentals can easily be found to explore a new favorite water sport, but the beloved bandshell is the highlight of this lake. With nightly concerts and family-friendly outdoor movies in the summer, picnicking could be considered an olympic sport here. Get set up with your own gourmet picnic lunch at Lake Harriet’s lovely little canteen Bread and Pickle. This charming lakeside eatery is housed next to the bandshell and offers a surprising seasonal menu that highlights local farmers and producers. With something for everyone, their lunch menu is uniquely satisfying. But try the black bean burger or salmon sandwich for lunch. And, if yoga is your thing, grab your breakfast at Bread and Pickle after Harriet’s free sunrise classes. With most items around $5, the organic egg and cheddar sandwich is affordable awesomeness. They also offer the traditional lakeside classics such as the familiar buttery popcorn and ice cream for hot summer days. There’s even a doggie treat bag on the menu for Fido. And Lake Harriet keeps the fun coming all year long. Not even old man winter can stop the bandshell from attracting fans. The Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival convenes here each year and draws kite enthusiasts with kites of all shapes and sizes strung up high above the frozen lake, adding bursts of color to the whitewashed landscape. You can find warmth at the marshmallow-roast, take a break on a horse-drawn wagon ride or get serious about winter with some real-deal ice fishing.

LAKE OF THE ISLES

 

Make the inspirational loop around this serpent-shaped lake and be sure to check out the diverse architecture of the lovely lakeside residences. It’s Minneapolis’ favorite son.

Perfectly coordinated exercise enthusiasts and the fashion challenged alike make Lake of the Isles one of the most entertaining people-watching experiences in the city. Reserve judgment as that fellow passerby in the neon track suit is quite likely to be one of the owners of this lakes’ impressive collection of homes. Keep your ears open too as the city’s dirty secrets leak in tiny sound bites. You may hear every rumor from “So-and-so’s messy divorce...” to “That great spot in Uptown is rumored to be closing its doors soon…” But, if you’re interested in making new friends, be sure to bring a dog. Or, at least a friend who has a dog. Just about every breed circles the Isles on any typical weekend like a small-time Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In mid-winter, Lake of the Isles offers up the uber-popular Luminary Loppet. A nighttime wonderland of illuminated ice, glowing candles, and uplifting ‘togetherness’, as the city congregates to celebrate its hearty winter souls with a walk, ski, or snowshoe around the lake at night.

Wind down your visit to Lake of the Isles with a stop at The Kenwood. Located just off Lake of the Isles Parkway and 21st Street, The Kenwood is a great place to linger. The space feels a bit like the lake itself: stately, in an above-it-all sort of way, yet somehow also friendly and comfortable. One of the best ways to enjoy The Kenwood is for brunch. There are no bad choices here, but the cured salmon and the huevos rancheros are two top-sellers. Feeling adventurous? Try the wild boar pappardelle. The menu reminds visitors, “History favors those who take risks,” a message that certainly rings true of the ambitious personality that embodies Lake of The Isles.

CEDAR LAKE

 

Check out the infamous Hidden Beach... or not.  

Cedar Lake is having a bit of a personality crisis.  At once pristine and untouched, this lake now walks a somewhat blurry line between peaceful solitude and raucous mayhem. The controversy surrounds what has long been known by locals as, the “hidden beach”. Recently re-asserting itself with an official name, Cedar Lake East Beach, is not-so-hidden anymore thanks to a sweeping clean up of trees and brush by the city, creating new sightlines down to the water. Its former reclusive persona attracted a few ne’er-do-wells to its shore each summer. But the longtime nefarious activity has recently given way to a more grown-up kind of fun. Residents have all but made-over the beach with local programming including log rolling contests, lakeside meditation, and lap swimming in the summer. Winter brings pristine snow-covered paths for walking alongside cross country skiers and nature enthusiasts. Lesser-known Point Beach and Cedar Lake South Beach round out the quieter swimming spots that can be found on this small lake. You won’t find any sustenance sold at Cedar Lake, so bring your own picnic. Relax and stay awhile, the new vibe is casual and welcoming around Cedar Lake.

YOUR SOUL-MATE LAKE

Belly up to the bar, or lake, as it were, and enjoy.

Take in one, two, or all four of these natural watery wonders and tap into the energy unique to each area. It’s easy to jump from one lake to the next, so an entire weekend can be filled with walking, biking, paddling and eating your way around this welcoming loop. Lakeside is where it’s at in Minneapolis, so find the one that speaks to you.


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Caitlin is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and contributor for Carry On. She has a background in the world of graphic design and art direction, and her writing and design work have been on exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. She keeps her creative focus fueled through travel, and enjoys its renewing quality. She admits to having a mild deviled egg fixation and recently discovered her love for Okonomiyaki. She has three children and a sheepdog named Wendel who works overtime to keep things interesting. Read more about Caitlin on her website. 

Caitlin is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and contributor for Carry On. She has a background in the world of graphic design and art direction, and her writing and design work have been on exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. She keeps her creative focus fueled through travel, and enjoys its renewing quality. She admits to having a mild deviled egg fixation and recently discovered her love for Okonomiyaki. She has three children and a sheepdog named Wendel who works overtime to keep things interesting. Read more about Caitlin on her website.