20 Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer


Tired of heading out to the same old swimming spot? Culled from reader suggestions, our own summer jaunts to the beach, and other fun attractions we’ve been visiting over the past month, we’ve assembled 20 of the best Twin Cities beaches and swimming holes we think are worth checking out. But hurry; as we know all too well here in Minnesota, beach season won’t stick around much longer.

20 Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer

Note that natural beaches sometimes are closed due to high bacteria counts, we highly recommend that you call or check the website before heading out for a day at the beach. However, some of beaches listed below are chlorinated and not as likely to have bacteria issues.

SAINT PAUL AND MINNEAPOLIS BEACHES

Lake Nokomis Main Beach | Minneapolis

Lake Nokomis - 20 Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer

Open: 6am-10pm, lifeguards on duty 12-7pm
Cost: Free. The beach parking lot is $0.75-$1.50/hr; there is free street parking available on Lake Nokomis Parkway, but you may walk a block or two.
Highlights: Spread out on the large and very clean sandy beach and let the lake entertain your kids for hours. The water remains shallow a decent distance out, but eventually deepens enough for older ones to swim happily. Wheel Fun rents out an impressive selection of paddleboards, canoes, kayaks and junior paddleboats for families to get out on the lake, or surrey bikes to pedal on the bike path that skirts the park. When it’s time for a lunch break, the onsite Sandcastle Restaurant stocks kid-friendly favorites and also interesting fare for the adults.


Bde Maka Ska 32nd Street Beach (formerly Lake Calhoun Beach) | Minneapolis

Open: Daily, early June-mid Aug, during park hours, 6am-10pm, lifeguards on duty 11-7 Sun-Thurs.
Cost: Free
Highlights: Little ones will enjoy wading, digging in the sand, and the quick walk to the shady tot lot. Make a day of it by hopping over to sister Lake Harriet for lunch at Bread and Pickle, a ride on the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line, or, if visiting in the evening, a movie at the Lake Harriet Bandshell.

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Lake Phalen Beach | St Paul

Lake Phalen Saint Paul Beach

Open: Daily, 1-7pm from early June-late August. The splash pad is open 9am-9pm.
Cost: Free
Highlights: The very family-friendly beach is large, so there’s plenty of room to spread out and soak up the sun. During the summertime the lake is the site of sailing lessons, swimming lessons, and inexpensive canoe & kayak clinics for kids 10+. For littles who might be timid in the water, there’s a new splash pad close to the sand. The only points lost for this beach is that the playground is on the small side and a long haul from the swim area.


Snelling Lake Beach | Fort Snelling State Park, St Paul – Still Closed Due To Spring Flooding

Fort Snelling State Park Beach

Open: Daily during park hours, 8am-10pm
Cost: $7/vehicle day permit for Fort Snelling State Park
Highlights: Thanks to reader Michelle for reminding us there’s lots in store for the visitor to the Fort Snelling State Park area – swim at Snelling Lake, check out a geocache unit for a treasure hunt through the park, or get hands-on with the exhibits in the Savage Visitor Center. Straight up the bluff is Historic Fort Snelling itself, a re-constructed vestige of the earliest days of the Twin Cities. Operated by the Minnesota Historical Society, admission costs between $6-$11/pp.


TWIN CITIES NORTH METRO BEACHES

Lake Johanna Beach | Tony Schmidt Regional Park, Arden Hills

Lake Johanna Minnesota Beach

Open: Daily during regular park hours – half-hour before sunrise to half-hour before sunset
Cost: Free
Highlights: This is an ideal spot for the youngest beach babes; head over on a weekday morning and find the place populated with parents, their toddlers and preschoolers. We love this beach for its clean, soft sand and playground so close to the shoreline that we have no problem letting older children play while I keep an eye on the younger ones in the small swim area. There is space to picnic nearby in the large pavilion.


Long Lake Public Beach | New Brighton

20 Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer - Long Lake Beach

Open: Daily during regular park hours – half-hour before sunrise to half-hour before sunset
Cost: Free
Highlights: Gianna’s family loves this beach for its huge, grassy picnic area because, as she puts it, “that means there’s less sand on your towels and blankets!” (And probably less ends up in your food, too.) To round out a day at Long Lake Park, there are playgrounds, a bike trail, and the New Brighton History Center, housed in a charming restored train depot open weekends, June-September, 1-4pm.


Elm Creek Park Reserve Swim Pond | Maple Grove

Elm Creek Swim Beach

Open: Daily 9am-8pm, lifeguards on duty noon-8pm
Cost: $5/pp daily or $18/pp season pass, other listed activities are free.
Highlights: The man-made swimming pond features a lovely sand beach and filtered, chlorinated water. Work up the desire for a cool dip while tackling the colorful, kinetic playground (“The biggest park I’ve ever seen!” according to my 3-year-old), and exploring the exhibits at Eastman Nature Center.


Snail Lake Regional Park Beach | Shoreview

Snail Lake Beach - 20 Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer

Open: Daily during regular park hours – half-hour before sunrise to half-hour before sunset
Cost: Free
Highlights: The beach is tucked away in a pocket of the north Metro, less populated, grassy, shaded and shallow with a sand-and-water play structure right at the shoreline. We only wish the unique playground equipment was closer to the water.


Lakeside Commons Beach | Blaine

Open: Daily 10am-8pm, splash pad open 10am-8pm
Cost: $5/day pass per non-resident (paid when parking), free for Blaine residents
Highlights: A few things to keep in mind – it is a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the beach, and there is little shade to speak of in the park. The beach is large and clearly roped off into shallow and deeper swimming areas, and for those not ready to take the plunge, there’s a simple sprinkler splash pad. A playground rounds out the activities.


Silver Lake Beach | North St Paul

Silver Lake Beach - best beach in twin cities

Open: 7am-11pm
Cost: Free
Highlights: This location is reader Courtney’s favorite for its huge expanse of sandy beach. The swimming boundaries are relatively small, making this a space where it’s easy to keep track of younger kids.


TWIN CITIES EAST METRO BEACHES

Lake Elmo Park Reserve Swim Pond  | Lake Elmo

Lake Elmo - best beach twin cities

Open: Memorial Day Weekend, 2018 – daily 9am-9pm, lifeguards on duty 12-8pm.
Cost: $7/daily vehicle permit, FREE first Tues/month
Highlights: If you’re leery of your lake water, this man-made swimming pond has filtered, chlorinated water that maxes out at 6 ft. and is rimmed with a lovely sand beach. Go early to grab a spot under one of the large, colorful umbrellas. The play equipment is terrific, but requires a walk across two parking lots to reach it.


Big Marine Park Reserve Beach | Marine on St Croix

Big Marine - best beaches in Minnesota

Open: Daily 9am-9pm through July 31, 9am-8pm Aug. 1 – Labor Day. Lifeguards on duty 12-8pm.
Cost: $7/daily vehicle permit, FREE the first Tuesday of the month
Highlights: Big Marine fronts on a wide, clean sandy beach and has a relatively large swimming area compared to many urban sites. The adjacent playground is not close enough to let younger ones run back and forth, but is a fun option for burning off excess energy. Consider making a day of it and stopping by The Berry Patch or Natura Farms (literally, blocks down the road) to pick your own fresh raspberries and blueberries.


Square Lake Park Beach | Stillwater

Open: Daily am-9pm. Lifeguards on duty 12-8pm.
Cost: $7/daily vehicle permit, FREE the first Tuesday of the month (upcoming: Aug. 4)
Highlights: The lake water is exceptionally clean and clear for swimming. Saturday evenings in the summer bring 45-minute campfire programs where naturalists will bring critters to the park for kids to meet. The park doesn’t feature playground equipment, but a 15-minute side trip into downtown Stillwater is worth it to discover Teddy Bear Park (207 Nelson St E, Stillwater). My kids were particularly fond of the “cliff jumping” opportunities and cuddling up on the lap of a giant granite teddy.

Square Lake - best beaches in the Twin Cities


TWIN CITIES SOUTH METRO BEACHES

Bush Lake Beach | Bloomington

Open: Daily during park hours, lifeguards on duty 11am-7pm
Cost: $7/daily vehicle permit starting June 1, 2017
Highlights: The sandy beach is great, and if the kids are looking for something a little more adventuresome than the available tot lot, the fabled “Chutes and Ladders” playground (officially the Hyland Play Area if you look it up) is just across the road – and is free to scramble around in. (The play areas closed July 15th and will remain closed through 2019. Learn more.)

Bush Lake - best beaches near Minneapolis


Cleary Lake Regional Park Beach | Prior Lake

Open: Daily 9am-8pm
Cost: Free
Highlights: In addition to the swimming beach, this regional park has a playground and a spic-and-span campground that would make a nice base for late-summer day trips to attractions like the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (Shakopee, opens mid-August) and Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store (Jordan).


Schulze Lake Beach | Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan

Schulze Lake - best beaches twin cities

Open: Daily, 10am-8pm, Memorial Day thru Labor Day
Cost: Free, and there is no charge to enter the park
Highlights: The long, sandy beach is conveniently located right next to a parking lot, making it very easy to tote in your kids and swim gear. This is a no-frills beach; no shade, no playground, no concession stand serving snacks. It does, however, manage to have the feel of a small, woodsy lake away from the bustle of the metro area. And the large regional park is full of trails to explore and, if you time your beach trip on the first Friday of the month, a free family program is presented at the visitor center (7pm) that often includes a campfire.


Clayhole Swim Beach | Firemen’s Park, Chaska

Open: Lifeguards are on duty noon-7pm from early June-mid-August. Outside those hours it is swim at your own risk.
Cost: Free
Highlights: Lots to do and see here besides the sublime summer swim: rent a paddleboat or board, splash about in the interactive water fountains (plus they light up at night!), grab a cone at the Clayhole Concessions, and take part in the free monthly family beach bashes. Kiddie entertainment is presented Tuesday mornings at 10:30 during the summertime.


TWIN CITIES WEST METRO BEACHES

Round Lake Park Beach | Eden Prairie

Open: Daily during regular park hours, lifeguards on duty starting mid-June, 11am-7om
Cost: Free
Highlights: Nothing about the beach itself stands out (except that perhaps a little cleanup was in order the day we were there), but my kids loved the marine-themed splash pad and treehouse-like play equipment at the Round Lake Play Area. Older kids might find it fun to rent youth kayaks ($5/hr) or stand-up paddleboards ($8/hr) or bike ride the one-mile path around the lake. Nearby is plenty of shaded picnic space and the new Round Lake Skate Plaza.


Excelsior Commons Beach | Excelsior

Open: Daily during regular park hours, lifeguards on duty noon-6pm
Cost: Free
Highlights: Reader Laura suggests a trip out to this beach for its calming view of the lake, a great playground close to the water, and the proximity to the fun of downtown Excelsior. Within a few blocks of the beach are rides on the historic Excelsior Streetcar Line, cruises on the steamboat Minnehaha (kids tickets are just $5), and the independent Excelsior Bay Books. Thanks for the tip, Laura!


Lake Minnetonka Regional Park Swim Pond | Minnetrista

Open: Daily 9am-8pm starting Memorial Day weekend
Cost: $5/pp daily or $18/pp season pass
Highlights: Akin to the popular pond at Lake Elmo Park Reserve, the swimming at Lake Minnetonka Regional Park is also in a man-made, chlorinated facility with well-marked areas of varying depth. While you’re in the neighborhood, there’s lots to do within a 10-minute drive from the park: the sprawling Carver Park Reserve next door houses the Lowry Nature Center, two nature playgrounds, and an archery range where kids under 16 are admitted free with a paid adult ($6/pp).


Have a favorite swimming spot you’d like to see added to the list? Drop us a line and let us know in the comments!

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Did we miss your favorite beach? Let us know in the comments!

More Summer Water Fun: Splash Happy: Twin Cities Guide to Beaches, Pools, Water Parks & Splash Pads.



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