Long Lake Regional Park
1500 Old Hwy 8, New Brighton
One time I read there are 115 lakes in Minnesota named “Long Lake.” I guess with more than 10,000 lakes to name there are bound to be duplicates. Just a little northeast of Downtown, near 35W and 694, is a hidden gem of a lake. It’s not big and round with walking and biking trails like Nokomis, Harriet, and Calhoun, but more elongated with houses, apartments, industrial buildings, and a rail line along it’s shores. A big section of it was saved though for you and me by Ramsey County Parks and Recreation.
Long Lake Regional Park has a wide grassy lawn that slopes down to a vast sandy beach complete with lifeguards. This is more like a true resort beach then many city parks offer. And it’s packed with families. It’s easy to spend a whole day here either in the water or at the volleyball court, ball field, numerous playgrounds, picnic shelters, bike trails, or the depot museum. There’s also shore fishing and a boat launch.
New Brighton History Center
Three rail lines intersect here in the park and railroads have been a big part of this area’s history. So when the opportunity came up to move an 1887 train depot to the site the New Brighton History Center grabbed the chance. The renovated depot contains a stationmaster’s office, waiting room, and complete living quarters for the station agent’s family. A 1945 Great Northern caboose sits on the tracks just off the loading platform. The New Brighton History Center is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1–4 p.m. through September. (Side note: one of my favorite movies is “The Station Agent!” — available on Netflix.)
Rice Creek Trail
While there are more than three miles of paved bike trails throughout park, the Rice Creek Trail actually goes right through it. Of course it’s road construction season and that affects bike trails too, but it’s possible to bike to Long Lake. The best way is on the Rice Creek Trail which runs from the Mississippi River near the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts all the way north to Lino Lakes. Google maps show it’s about ten miles from Downtown if you go up Marshall St. NE to the Mississippi River Regional Trail. Or just bring your bike to University Ave. and 69th Ave. NE and go east from there. It’s a nice ride through neighborhoods and along the creek. (A map’s helpful because the trail’s hard to find at some intersections.)
Go to the lake! There’s no excuse. There’s one for all of us. This is a good one. Plenty of parking, lots of grounds, many things to do, nothing to do—it’s all here. With 90,000 miles of shoreline in the state of Minnesota, more than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined, you need to go jump in a lake once in awhile.
LUNCH BREAK: The beach concession stand is open, but this park is perfect for a homemade picnic—pack it up!