26 Best Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer

Kids running on beach - Twin Cities Beach and Play Areas 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. Each of these beaches offers nearby playgrounds and recreational activities for a day of family fun. But hurry; as we know all too well here in Minnesota, beach season doesn’t last long.

Please note: Inevitably, there will be some closures, changes and cancellations. Please always call or check ahead to confirm an activity before heading out. 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.

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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!

SAINT PAUL AND MINNEAPOLIS BEACHES

 

Bde Maka Ska 32nd Street Beach

3200 E Bde Maka Ska Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Open
: Daily, early June-mid Aug during park hours, 6am-10pm, lifeguards on duty 11-7 Sun-Thurs.

Cost: Free
Water Quality: MPRB’s Water Quality Page – If the beach has a red diamond next to it, do not swim. A green circle means the water quality meets or exceeds state standards.
Highlights: Little ones will enjoy wading, digging in the sand, and the quick walk to the shady tot lot. Take a walk along the fishing pier if the kids get bored. 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

Fishing Pier installed at Lake Calhoun Park (now Bde Maka Ska) in 2013. Image Courtesy Minneapolis Parks
Fishing Pier installed in 2013. Image Courtesy Minneapolis Parks

Fort Snelling State Park Beach on Snelling Lake

Fort Snelling State Park, 101 Snelling Lake Rd, St Paul, MN 55111
Open
: Daily during park hours, 8am-10pm

Cost: $7/vehicle day permit for Fort Snelling State Park
Water Quality: Fort Snelling Park Page – All visitor alerts are listed toward the top of the park page in a yellow box.
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 $8-$12/pp.

Fort Snelling State Park Beach


Lake Nokomis Main Beach

5001 Lake Nokomis Parkway W, Minneapolis, MN 55417
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.
Water Quality: MPRB’s Water Quality Page – If the beach has a red diamond next to it, do not swim. A green circle means the water quality meets or exceeds state standards.
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 Painted Turtle Restaurant has moved into the space formerly occupied by Sandcastle Restaurant, and will likely stock the same kid-friendly favorites and also some interesting fare for the adults.

Three girls playing in the water at Lake Nokomis Beach in Minneapolis, MN
Lake Nokomis Beach

 


Lake Phalen Beach

Phalen Regional Park, 1600 Phalen Dr, St Paul, MN 55106
Open
: Daily, 1-7pm from early June-late August. The splash pad is open 9am-9pm.

Cost: Free
Water Quality: Phalen Beach Page – St. Paul lists closures for any reason – including water quality – on its beach page.
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+. Bigger kids may also enjoy playing on the sand volleyball courts. 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.

Phalen Beach in Saint Paul, Minnesota


Wirth Lake Beach

3200 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55405
Cost: FREE.
Highlights:
It’s only natural that, as the largest park in the Minneapolis park system, we would include a piece of it on our top beaches list. Sandy, smooth and clean, this beach is one of our favorites in Minneapolis. There’s a large playground and Park & Rec often drops by with activities for kids. Nearby curiosities include ELOISE BUTLER WILDFLOWER GARDEN & BIRD SANCTUARY & THE QUAKING BOG.

TWIN CITIES NORTH METRO BEACHES

Beebe Lake Park & Beach

7250 10th St NE, St Michael, MN 55376
Open: 6am-half hour after sunset
Cost: FREE
Highlights: The park has a popular unguarded beach with nearby restrooms and shady areas where you can spread your blanket. Our visit confirmed that the sand is clean and the water is clear. The sand covers both the shore of the beach and the roped in areas of the water. The county has enacted a 5mph speed limit for boats in the area of the beach, keeping the wake down – ideal for your younger swimmers. 

Centerville Lake Beach

7373 Main St, Centerville, MN 55038
Open: Park hours 5am-10pm
Cost: $7/vehicle permit for Anoka County Parks
Highlights: The beach on Centerville Lake is the only spot for a public swim among the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes. Park it on the sand, play on the equipment or bring your bikes for a very smooth and even ride that circles much of the lake. The WARGO NATURE CENTER is nearby for an extra diversion.

Centerville Lake Beach, one of the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes

Elm Creek Park Reserve Swim Pond 

Elm Creek Park Reserve, 12400 James Deane Pkwy, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Open
: Daily 9am-8pm, lifeguards on duty noon-8pm

Cost: $6/pp daily plus tax or $20/pp season pass, other listed activities are free.
Water Quality: Three Rivers Beaches Page – Open/close status is listed below map.
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 ELM CREEK PLAY AREA (“The biggest park I’ve ever seen!” according to my 3-year-old), and exploring the natural area and exhibits at EASTMAN NATURE CENTER.

Kids spinning and swinging on playground at Elm Creek Park in Maple Grove, Minnesota

Lake Johanna Beach 

Tony Schmidt Regional Park, 3500 Lake Johanna Blvd, Arden Hills, MN 55112
Open
: Daily during regular park hours – half-hour before sunrise to half-hour before sunset.

Cost: Free
Water Quality: Ramsey County Beach Water Quality PageSelect the map’s icon to see open/close status.
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.

Lake Johanna Minnesota Beach


Lakeside Commons Beach 

3020 Lakes Pkwy, Blaine, MN 55449
Open
: Daily 10am-8pm, splash pad open 10am-8pm

Cost: $10/day pass per non-resident (paid when parking), free for Blaine residents.
Water Quality: Ramsey County Beach Water Quality Page – Select the map’s icon to see open/close status.
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.


Long Lake Public Beach 

1500 Old Highway 8. New Brighton, MN 55112
Open
: Daily during regular park hours – half-hour before sunrise to half-hour before sunset.

Cost: Free
Water Quality: Ramsey County Beach Water Quality Page – Select the map’s icon to see open/close status.
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 REGIONAL 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.

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


Silver Lake Park Beach 

2601 19th Ave E, North St Paul, MN 55109
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.

Silver Lake Beach - best beach in twin cities

Snail Lake Regional Park Beach

4191 Snail Lake Blvd, Shoreview, MN 55126
Open
: Daily during regular park hours – half-hour before sunrise to half-hour before sunset

Cost: Free
Water Quality: Three Rivers Beaches Page – Open/close status is listed below map.
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.

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

 

 

TWIN CITIES EAST METRO BEACHES

Big Marine Park Reserve Beach

17495 Manning Trail N, Marine on St Croix, MN 55047
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 (literally, blocks down the road) to pick your own fresh raspberries and blueberries.

Big Marine - best beaches in Minnesota

Carver Lake Park Beach

3175 Century Ave S, Woodbury, MN 55125
Open: 6am-10pm

Cost: FREE
Highlights: This popular park in Woodbury includes a very family-friendly swimming beach along with a volleyball court, a picnic area, an accessible playground, a tricked-out bike park and a 5 1/2 mile bike trail (hilly in many spots). This park hosts a community family campout each year in July.

Lake Elmo Park Reserve Swim Pond  

1515 Keats Ave N, Lake Elmo, MN 55042
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. 

Lake Elmo - best beach twin cities


Square Lake Park Beach 

15450 Square Lake Trail N, Stillwater, MN 55082
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. 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 

9140 East Bush Lake Road, Bloomington, MN
Open
: Daily during park hours.

Cost: FREE. The previous vehicle permit fee has been waived.
Water Quality: Bush Lake Beach is tested twice a week for water quality and will be closed if unsafe.
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.

Bush Lake - best beaches near Minneapolis


Clayhole Swim Beach 

Firemen’s Park, 3210 Chaska Blvd, Chaska, MN 55318
Open
: Lifeguards are on duty noon-7pm from early June-mid-August. Outside those hours it is swim at your own risk.

Cost: Free
Water Quality: City of Chaska tests weekly. Follow Facebook announcements for up-to-date reports.
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 has been presented Tuesday mornings at 10:30 during the summertime.

Clayhole Swim Beach, Chaska

Cleary Lake Regional Park Beach 

18106 Texas Ave, Prior Lake, MN 55372
Open: Daily 9am-8pm
Cost: Free
Water Quality: Three Rivers Beaches Page – Open/close status is listed below map.
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).


Lagoon Park Beach

300 Park Dr, Jordan, MN 55352
Open: 5am-10pm
Cost: FREE
Highlights: There is plenty for families to enjoy on a pleasant day – during the summer, in particular, you’ll find visitors distributed among the colorful, interactive splash pad for little ones, the large playground, sandy beach, bike path and fishing below the waterfall at Sand Creek. The Lagoon Park beach is on the small side, but sandy, shallow and clean. A free parking lot is mere steps from the sand.

Schulze Lake Beach 

Lebanon Hills Regional Park, 860 Cliff Rd, Eagan, MN 55123
Open
: Daily, 10am-8pm, Memorial Day thru Labor Day

Cost: Free, and there is no charge to enter the park
Water Quality: Schulze Lake water is tested weekly and results are posted on its webpage.
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 often presented at the visitor center (7pm) that often includes a campfire.

Schulze Lake - best beaches twin cities


TWIN CITIES WEST METRO BEACHES

Excelsior Commons Beach

135 Lake St, Excelsior, MN 55331
Open
: Daily during regular park hours, lifeguards on duty noon-6pm

Cost: Free
Water Quality: Hennepin County maintains an interactive map of water quality. Select the Excelsior Common’s icon to see current open/close status.
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 and the independent Excelsior Bay Books. Thanks for the tip, Laura!


Lake Minnetonka Regional Park Swim Pond 

4610 County Rd 44, Minnetrista, MN 55364
Open
: Daily 9am-8pm starting Memorial Day weekend

Cost: $6/pp daily plus tax or $20/pp season pass
Water Quality: Three Rivers Beaches PageOpen/close status is listed below map..
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 practice space where kids under 16 are admitted free with a paid adult ($6/pp).


Round Lake Park Beach 

16691 Valley View Rd, Eden Prairie, MN 55346
Open
: Daily during regular park hours, lifeguards on duty starting mid-June, 11am-7om

Cost: Free
Water Quality: Hennepin County maintains an interactive map of water quality. Select Round Lake’s icon to see current open/close status.
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.


Shady Oak Beach & Play Area

5200 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka, MN 55343
Open: Early June through Labor Day.
Cost: $6/pp or $3/pp after 6pm.
Highlights: There is sand carpeting much of the play area (tip: the equipment is best appreciated by kids under 8) and a sandy beach spanning 76 feet across the shoreline of a clear spring-fed lake. Lifeguards are on duty and their is a concessions stand when the beach is open. The lake is deep enough to allow the beach a high dive if you’ve brought older kids along. Visitors can also rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard.

More Beaches for Twin Cities Families to Explore

  1. Cedar Lake East Beach (Hidden Beach); Cedar Lake South Beach & Cedar Lake Point Beach, Minneapolis
  2. Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul, is located along the Mississippi River and has a beach area, but explore with caution. It is not as safe as a lake beach.
  3. Lake Harriet North Beach & Lake Harriet Southeast Beach, Minneapolis
  4. Silver Beach in Columbia Heights is hidden gem local favorite of the NE Minneapolis community (and a favorite beach among the FFTC families) because it is secluded and has walking paths adjoining it to Silverwood Park in Saint Anthony. However, it is not always the best maintained beach, so sometimes we head to Lake Johanna Beach instead.
  5. Explore the Sandy Shoreline of Lake Superior when visiting Duluth and the North Shore in the Summer.
  6. Hit up Lake Itasca when Camping at Itasca State Park (Most State Park Campgrounds have attached beaches)

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

And for young children, find clean and shallow water on a hot day at the 65+ Free Minneapolis Wading Pools and Splash Pads.

20 thoughts on “26 Best Twin Cities Beaches, Parks & Playgrounds to Try This Summer”

  1. Schulze Lake Beach in The Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan is a South metro gem. Clean water, sand and grassy areas with a picnic pavilion and clean restrooms. Rent paddle boards, canoes and kayaks in the summer. The view across the lake is a pleasant woods landscape

    1. It’s 2023, The info from 2018 is dated. I live next door to Lebanon Hills, and walk the park frequently. The beach at Schultz Lake is a nice setting, but I will not take my grandkids to it, due to poor water quality. There was a recent illness outbreak at that location. Portaging the chain of overgrown lakes at Lebanon is terrible. The lakes have significant growth, entry is from skunky mud, and the exits, from one lake to the next, are poorly visible. I wish I had nicer things to say about my home waterways, but Lake Holland is the only standout at the park. It’s a fishing lake though. We open water kayak, I would not put my boat in at Schultz until they learn how to better manage the lake.

      1. Thanks for your review, Skyking. I’m sure your grandkids are lucky to have you looking out for their health.

  2. Thank-you for this web site. I view it and share it all the time for find things to do with my child.

  3. Square Lake Park in Stillwater, part of Washington County Parks, great Sandy beach. Crystal clear waters.

  4. There is a great beach, picnic area, and playground at Anoka County Coon Lake Park in East Bethel. We love it!

  5. Ft. Snelling State Park! It does require either a daily or annual State Park permit for your car, but the beach and water is very clean, there is a small playground, lots of bike trails, canoe rental, picnic tables, grills, and lots of grassy area to lounge on. The only bad thing is the droning of planes overhead. It’s right next to the airport.

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