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The 10 Best Parks in Minneapolis To Fall in Love with Nature (In the City!)

One of the best parts about living in Minneapolis? Our incredible park system.

Minneapolis’s park system is consistently ranked either #1 or #2 in the entire country, according to surveys completed by the Trust for Public Land. Nothing exemplifies this more than my favorite, mind-blowing stat about our city parks: over 98% of Minneapolis residents live within 10 minute walk to a park!

With all those options, it can be tough to choose favorites.

But, that’s exactly what we tried to do today. So if you’re looking to fall in love with nature (in a city known for its parks), here are our 10 best parks in Minneapolis. 

Map of Our Favorite Minneapolis Parks

Our All-Around Favorite – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Known as one of the best urban National Park Service sites in the United States, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area encompasses some of the top park areas in Minneapolis and the entire Twin Cities area. Centered around the 72 miles of Mississippi River that runs through the cities, the park includes popular biking, paddling, and hiking areas in the city.

Check out this list of the Top 10 Places to Explore in the Park, including St. Anthony Falls, Mississippi Gorge, and Water Power Park.

For a Downtown Escape – Gold Medal Park

On any given day in the spring, summer, and fall, you’ll find a happy crowd of downtown Minneapolis residents enjoying the lawn areas of Gold Medal Park.

Located on the west side of the Mississippi River near the Guthrie Theater and St. Anthony Falls, the park is our top choice for a long lunch break or an afternoon with a blanket and a good book.

During the summer, you’ll find movies on the lawn and one of the best places to watch the Red White and Boom fireworks display.

  • Address:  102 Portland Avenue,  Minneapolis, MN 55401
  • Website:  Gold Medal Park

Best Spot for a Picnic – Minnehaha Falls Regional Park

minnehaha falls regional park

Minnehaha Falls has already topped our lists for kayaking, waterfalls, bike rentals, and fun things to do in the winter. For this list, we’re including it as the best park for picnics, but Twin Cities locals love it for many reasons.

We love it for picnics because it’s a central destination in the City and easy to get to by bike, car, or light rail. You’ll find plenty of picnic tables, and charcoal grills (and some of the best picnic shelters to reserve for larger parties). And if you’re not really into the BYO picnic prep, there’s always Sea Salt Eatery, the park’s summer-only oyster bar that serves some of the best seafood in town.

For Year-Round Fun – Theodore Wirth Park

At 759 acres, Theodore Wirth Regional Park is the largest park in the Minneapolis park system. It gets our vote for the best park for year-round fun because there’s always something new to be found here.

Located just west of downtown Minneapolis, you’ll find spots for golfing, swimming, and biking in the summer. Some outstanding bird watching and hiking in the spring. A great place to check out the colors in the fall and world-class cross country skiing in the winter.

Ask a Minneapolis native, and more than likely, they’ll have a favorite spot or best recommendation among the dozens of ways you can enjoy this park.

For the Art Lover – Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

best art park - sculpture gardens minneapolis

One of our favorite ways to introduce friends and family to the outdoor spaces in the city is a trip to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This 11-acre park on the southeastern edge of downtown near the Walker Art Center showcases more than 40 different large-scale outdoor art installations, including the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry and our very own Katharina Fritsch Hanh/Cock.

Frequently voted one of the best outdoor sculpture gardens in the world, it’s really worth a visit.

P.S. – Don’t miss our complete guide to the sculpture gardens.

For Water Sports Fans – Chain of Lakes

For the best swimming, kayaking, sailing, and all-things water, you’ll want to visit the City’s top lake destinations within the Chain of Lakes Regional Park.

When Minneapolis was founded, city planners worked to ensure that as much of the shoreline of the city’s 22 lakes was left as public land. Today, the Chain of Lakes (including the trails and parklands surrounding Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet) is the most popular destination in the Minneapolis park system and one of our favorite spots in the city.

Best in South Minneapolis – Lake Nokomis

After the Chain of Lakes, Lake Nokomis is definitely the city’s second most popular lakeside park. And in the land of 10,000 lakes, that’s saying something!

In the Summer, Lake Nokomis is our pick for the best beach in Minneapolis, and in the winter, the lake stays alive with plenty of events, from Minneapolis’s popular art-shanties to the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.

  • Address: 4955 W Lake Nokomis Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55417
  • Website: Lake Nokomis Park

For the History Buff – Mill Ruins Park

best parks - mill ruins minneapolis

Much of the modern history of the City of Minneapolis can trace its origins to Mill Ruins Park.

The area near the Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Falls preserves and protects the ruins of several flour mills which used to occupy the site. Visitors can wander across the bridge, check out the falls and nearby Mill City Museum, and enjoy one of the top biking destinations in the city.

For the Romantic – Lyndale Park Gardens

Not far from Lake Harriet and the Chain of Lakes Regional Park, you’ll find Lyndale Park Gardens, one of the city’s oldest parks. It’s also one of our favorite spots to spot couples on a romantic date, snapping wedding photos, or even the occasional marriage proposal.

Opened in 1908, Lyndale Park Gardens was the first municipal rose garden in the United States and, for more than 100 years, has showcased the best in cultivated roses, perennial gardening plants, and urban landscape design.

We also love visiting here in spring, when thousands of tulips mark the opening of the park season and the end of the city’s hibernation.

For the Furry Friends – Minnehaha Dog Park

For many Minneapolis residents, spending time at the park is also a chance to spend time with the pup. Our very own resident expert on dog parks has already voted the Minnehaha Dog Park as the “best in town,” but it’s also making the list as one of the best spots to enjoy a nature hike.

The park hugs the Mississippi River (great for water-loving dogs) and features some of the oldest shade trees in the city. So even on the hottest summer days, you can find plenty of cool, shady spots in the 6-acre park for you and your pup to enjoy some nature together.

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