Spending a summer day at Minnehaha Park is a quintessential Minneapolis experience. While Minnehaha Falls is the main attraction here, there are also plenty of trails for walking and biking, and the fun, hipster restaurant, Sea Salt, tops off a perfect summer Minnesota day.
I lived in Minneapolis for nearly a decade, and somehow never made it to Minnehaha Park. So while continuing our summer road trip across the Midwest and visiting family in Minneapolis, we decided it was the perfect family-friendly destination for our group, which included children ranging in age between 2 and 7.
One of the things I’ve always loved most about the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul is a special combination of friendliness and edginess you only find in this part of the Midwest. Perhaps because the state is forced into hibernation for six months of the year, when things heat up you’ll find the locals outside and enjoying life on their own terms.
This exuberance was clearly evident on this warm summer morning.
Minnehaha Park is named after Minnehaha, a fictional Native American women documented in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. Minnehaha actually means “waterfall” in the Dakota language.
Exploring Minnehaha Falls.
The Minnehaha Falls waterfall is the centerpiece of Minnehaha Park. There are a few different vantage points, including a high view from near the main pavilion and a low view from down in the gorge. If your brood is up for walking down (and back up!) about 150 steps, you can be rewarded with a nice view of the falls and a safe place where the river is calm and your kiddos can splash in the river.
Want a more intense view of the falls? Check out this video from 2014 of a kayaker going down the falls. Yikes.
After ogling Minnehaha Falls, the kids quickly turned their attention to the line of bikes and pedal carts lining the walkway. It didn’t take long for them to convince us it was worth the $20 per hour to explore Minnehaha Park via these fun pedal bikes available for rental from Wheel Fun Rentals.
After winding around the wide, paved walkways through the park, we crossed the street to check out the old train tracks and a series of historical homes.
We loved a stop at the Longfellow House, a historical house across the street from the falls. This is the base of the Minnesota School of Botanical Art and not surprisingly the gardens on site are stunning! (A perfect place for family photos if you live in the area!)
Sea Salt Eatery at Minnehaha Falls.
We were warned by Minneapolis veterans to line up for lunch at Sea Salt Eatery, the famed restaurant in Minnehaha Park, at 10:50am on the nose. Yes, I know this is a crazy early hour to think about lunch, but we heeded this advice and I’m glad we did!
By 11am the line snaked across the walkway and through the grass down towards the pavilion. This would have been virtually impossible to manage with small children.
But on the other hand, if you have a bit more time on your hands, grab a beer while you wait in line and enjoy the park and the people watching!
Sea Salt Eatery is a casual seafood restaurant. Open every day from May through to October from 11am – 9pm, these yummy meals sure beat a picnic lunch. We loved the fish tacos and the kiddie fish plates. My daughter pronounced the calamari appetizer her “favorite lunch in Minneapolis!”
Sebastian Joes, of uptown Minneapolis fame, has six flavors on offer and was a hit for a post-lunch sweet treat.
The crowd on a Friday morning in the summer is a combination of retired bicyclists and young families. But with no less than 8 beers on tap, a local brewery truck set up outside the restaurant and Sebastian Joes ice cream on hand, the scene quickly moves from quiet lunch hour to a lively afternoon happy hour scene. Minnehaha Park is the perfect place to spend a summer day in Minneapolis!
What else is there to see around Minnehaha Park? What other fun, family-friendly things to do in and around the Twin Cities do you recommend? Let me know below!
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