If you’re looking for a lake that’s more peaceful, a little quieter and more rugged – you should get yourself and your littles over to Cedar or Brownie Lakes. Both are on the west side of Minneapolis and offer a variety of beaches, trails and experiences.
These lakes don’t have nearly the hustle and bustle that the other Minneapolis lakes do. I think of them as the “hidden gems” of the whole chain. Cedar Lake offers three designated beaches with guards. One has metered parking and the other two have nearby street parking. Point and South Beaches are big enough for lots of playing, picnics and launching your paddle board. You’ll get a killer view of the Minneapolis skyline from Point Beach. East Beach is a free-spirited place with hula-hoopers and bongos. All of the beaches have plenty of trees around if you need some time in the shade. The Cedar Lake Regional Trail loops around the lake if you want to go for a bike ride or walk. This is the lake to go to if you need an escape, to refresh, to let your kids be free. It is connected to Lake of the Isles if you want to bring your kayak or paddle board (you will have to bring yours as there are no rental options on this lake). There’s a fishing pier if that’s more your speed too. We always see lots of turtles and herons. And there’s no airplane flight path to contend with. Did I mention it’s very peaceful and quiet?!
As for Brownie Lake, this is your escape within the city. There are no beaches, but you can get to it via Cedar Lake if you’re in a kayak. It has a footpath around the 27 acre lake that makes for a woodsy nature walk. Our dog loves this walk, and the kids are always pointing out some interesting bird, frog, or rock. Lots of tree climbing possibilities too. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great sledding hill in the winter on the north side.) This is where you want to go if you need to feel your feet on the earth.
Once you’ve explored all you can, you should head over to Sparks in Bryn Mawr for happy hour! Their seasonal menu is all made in their wood-fired oven. You’ll want to put in an order for the ziti and cheese right when you walk in. And be prepared for your kids to expect all “mac and cheese” to taste this good ever after. As for entrees, you really just can’t go wrong, but their pizzas are great. Whatever dessert is on the menu, I highly recommend you get. And they have a good variety of, mostly local, beers and cider on tap. There’s a patio too, which we’ve discovered seems to entice some of the nicest fellow diners around. Plus, the waitstaff are great with kids.
So go explore a lake you haven’t yet. These two are the kind you can just let your kids run wild and swim with abandon. In other words, the perfect Minnesota summer place.
(Happy Hour at Sparks)