Unplug: 2010 Summer Guide

A guide for unwinding and enjoying the outdoors in Southwest this summer

It’s time to step away from the computer, head outside and reacquaint yourself with the natural wonders of Minneapolis. We’ve put together a guide to some fun summertime activities. If you have ideas you’d like to share with Journal readers, comment on this story at southwestjournal.com or on our Facebook page: facebook.com/SWjournal.

Run around the lake

Perhaps the cheapest, simplest source of entertainment in the summer is outdoor exercise. Lake Harriet offers an uninterrupted view of water with its 2.75-mile walking and running loop. Runners of all skill level are welcome, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said.

“It’s pretty impressive that we have people that are hardcore — they run, they train, they do triathlons — and then we have people that are just starting to jog as part of a new routine,” she said.

Groups often meet at the lake for weekly exercise, she said; those who enjoy working out in the company of others might find Lake Harriet to be a good fit. “There’s certainly a lot of folks that team up and motivate each other,” Sommers said.

While the park is fully staffed during open hours, Sommers stressed that personal responsibility is just as important to park-goers’ safety. Weekend afternoons are especially busy, which make them dangerous for children in strollers, Sommers warned. And while regular park attendees have rules and regulations ingrained in them, new visitors are not as aware or alert. Sommers urged caution and patience on the trails in these cases.

“They’re so in awe,” she said, “They’re not paying attention.”

When: 6 a.m.–10 p.m. daily
Where: 43rd Street West & East Lake Harriet Parkway
Cost: Free

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Sip sake with a view

The only sake brewery outside of Japan, moto-i offers nine styles of the Japanese alcoholic drink, made from rice, that are all brewed on-site. The three-level restaurant features Stryker’s Lookout, a rooftop dining area that can hold 150 people, general manager Susan Rowland said. Only open in the summer, the area features picnic tables, “tons of flowers” and view of the skyline.

The rooftop area stays packed through happy hour — which features half-priced sakes — and into the early morning hours until bar close.

When: Weekdays, noon–2 a.m.; 11 a.m.– 2 a.m., weekends; happy hour is 2:20 p.m.–6 p.m., daily; and 10 p.m.–close, Sunday–Thursday
Where: 2940 Lyndale Ave. S.
Cost: Sake drinks range from $6.50–$14; a trio “Sake Flight” is $15

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Do some urban angling

Quality fishing often takes people away from the metro area, but one lake within Minneapolis offers a great supply of fish that can be caught from the shoreline.

Cedar Lake has 169 acres of open water that is home to a number of bass, northern pike, sunfish and occasionally walleye, according to Sybil Smith’s “Twin Cities Fishing Guide.”

Shore fishing is possible along the majority of the west side of the lake where water depths are fairly deep. A fishing dock and a launch for a canoe or kayak are also located along the west side of Cedar Lake.

For the best spot to throw your line, weedy areas near the shore and under lily pads are great places to find fish like bass and northern pike, according to Smith.

When: 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
Where: Cedar Lake Parkway and Basswood Road
Cost: Free

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Catch a concert at the Lake Harriet Bandshell

One of the more beautiful places to watch a concert in Minneapolis features nightly performances and has no admission fee.  

With sailboats afloat in the clear waters of Lake Harriet as a backdrop, the Lake Harriet Bandshell plays host to daily performances all summer, through the beginning of September.

The Bandshell features performances from a number of musical genres with big band, orchestra, rock, pop and even a Simon and Garfunkel tribute band.

Seating for the Bandshell varies depending on how you plan to spend time during the concert. If attendees would like to sit closer to the stage, there are plenty of park benches arranged in rows. For families planning to have a picnic during the show, there is a patio area immediately behind the benches and plenty of open grass to lay a blanket down and still have a great view of the concert.

During select summer dates, the Bandshell plays host to “Music and Movie Nights” where along with musical performances, a movie will also be shown on a large screen put up on the Bandshell. Sommers said the experience makes for a great night.

When: 7:30 p.m Monday–Saturday; 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sundays
Where: 1300 W. 42nd St., northwest corner of Lake Harriet
Cost: Free

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Make a trip to the dog park

The only city-designated dog park in Southwest, the Lake of the Isles Off-Leash Recreation Area offers city dogs an oasis of open space. With the purchase of a permit, owners are granted 12 months of access to exercise and wagging tails for their pooches.  

At the 3.6-acre park, pets entertain themselves with meeting, greeting and chasing other furry friends.

Physical exercise is not the sole benefit of the dog park atmosphere, however. Ashley Solmonson has brought her 8-month-old French bulldog, Addi, to the park for the past six months. In the designated small dog area, the puppy is free to meet and play with dogs — something impossible at Solmonson’s Midtown condominium.

“Socialization with other dogs is really big,” she said. “In addition to the dogs having a good time, it really is a pretty tight community of dog owners.”

Since the beginning of this year, permits and enforcement have been operated by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board instead of the city as was the case before, said Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers. The increased enforcement was well-received by dog owners. Now, incidents between dogs can be taken care of more promptly and dogs are guaranteed to be vaccinated if they’re in the area, she said.

The park is one of six dog parks in the city, the newest being the Camden off-leash area, which opened this month. One permit is valid for all off-leash areas in Minneapolis.

When: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.
Where: 2845 West Lake of the Isles Parkway
Cost: Permits are $35 for one dog, and $25 for each additional dog. Rates are higher for non-Minneapolis residents

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Paddle the lakes

With its beaches, bike trails, walking trails and other amenities, there are a number of things to do around Lake Calhoun. And for people looking to get out on the water, there are ways to do that, too.   

Located near the Tin Fish restaurant on the northeast side of the lake, Wheel Fun Rentals offers canoes and kayaks for rent to take out on Lake Calhoun. Open every day, its watercraft can be rented on an hourly basis.

Renters are able to navigate beyond Lake Calhoun and into Lake of the Isles if they choose. Paddlers can take in great views of the skyline from the water and soak up some summer sun.   

Ali Schnell, a employee at Wheel Fun Rentals, said during weekdays rentals are most popular when they first open and after dinner. On weekends, Schnell said they are pretty busy with rentals all day. Canoes are typically easier to rent than kayaks, but no more than a short wait is necessary for any rental, Schnell said.

For avid canoe and kayak renters, an annual pass is available for $10, and it gives a 50-percent discount on rentals for the remainder of the summer.

Cost: Canoes, $16/hour; Kayaks, $11/hour; Double Kayaks, $16/hour
When: 10 a.m. until sunset everyday through Labor Day
Where: 3000 East Calhoun Parkway

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Bike the Greenway

If you’re looking for easy access to Downtown, or simply a pleasant bike ride, walk or run, the Midtown Greenway is the way to go.

The 5.5-mile long former railroad corridor runs from Chowen Avenue to West River Parkway. It’s a well-paved and relatively flat trail with numerous easy access points. The trail runs right by Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, and there are many flowerbeds in full bloom that make for a scenic ride.

Be sure to also check out the plaques on the Greenway — they provide interesting information on the background and history of Minneapolis. If you need a few minutes to catch your breath, the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center is located right on the trail between Chicago and 10th avenues and provides a drinking fountain, bathroom, and serves all of your bike needs.

For more information on the Midtown Greenway, visit midtowngreenway.org.

When: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Where: Access points available from Chowen Avenue to West River Parkway
Cost: Free

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Sample Sonny’s ice cream

Crema Café is not your ordinary coffee shop — it’s much more. In addition to a full espresso bar, this small café offers a variety of wine and beer, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and award winning Sonny’s ice cream. The assortment of ice cream is constantly changing, with flavors ranging from cookies and cream to fresh fruit sorbets to unique flavors such as olive oil and sweet corn.

All of the food at Crema Café is made from scratch with organic ingredients, and its meat is hormone-free and locally raised.

The interior of the café is quaint and warm, decorated with artwork and luscious plants. There is also outdoor seating in the gardens just outside of the shop.

You can find specials, happy hour deals and flavor updates by becoming a fan of Crema Café on Facebook or by following them on Twitter at CremaCafeMpls. For more information, visit or call 824-3868.

When: Monday–Thursday, 2 p.m.- 11:30 p.m.; Friday, 2 p.m.–midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m.–midnight; and Sunday, 10 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
Where: 3403 Lyndale Ave. S.
Cost: food, $3.95–$14.95; ice cream, $3.50–$9.95

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Eat a fish taco

Open only from late April to mid-October, this restaurant is one you shouldn’t miss this summer.

Located just off Lake Calhoun, The Tin Fish offers a beautiful view of the lake. After ordering at the café-style counter, you are free to take a seat anywhere in the large pavilion or on the patio. A waiter will bring your food after a short wait and you can enjoy your meal while watching the boats on the lake.  

The Tin Fish offers a big menu with affordable prices. It has unique fried and grilled fish tacos, sandwiches, entrees and fried platters. There are also burgers, salads, a la carte items, desserts, a full kids menu and a variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.

There is also free WiFi for customers on the patio, and rainy day specials.  

For more information and a full menu, visit thetinfish.net and select the Minneapolis location.

When: Rain or shine, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily
Where: 3000 East Calhoun Parkway East, right off of the Midtown Greenway
Cost: $3.95 and up

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Downward dogs in the sun

Looking for a way to spice up your yoga routine?

There are several places you can try yoga outside this summer.

Yoga teacher Jennifer Colletti hosts a vinyasa class at the Lyndale Rose Garden near Lake Harriet on Friday mornings in the summer. The class is free, but donations are accepted. It runs 7–8 a.m.

In Kingfield, Nan Marie Zosel is leading a free backyard yoga class Tuesday & Thursday evenings. The classes start at 5:30 p.m. at 4019 Blaisdell Ave. Donations will be collected for Haiti relief efforts.

CorePower Yoga is also holding free outdoor classes near Lake Calhoun south of the volleyball courts near the south beach parking lot. The classes will be 10:30–11:30 a.m. The dates are July 3, July 17, Aug. 17 and Aug. 21.

The Gorilla Yogis also have a fun outdoor yoga event lined up for Walker Art Center’s Open Field.

They are hosting a free vinyasa yoga practice for the community on June 26 at 10:30 a.m. Organizers hope to create a “moving sculpture garden of sorts.”

The Gorilla Yogis — led by local yoga teachers Jessica Rosenberg and Nan Gane Arundal — host yoga gatherings at unique venues around town once a month.

Since launching earlier this year, the Gorilla Yogis have met at the Mpls Photo Center, the Cedar Cultural Center, the Guthrie and the Soo Visual Arts Center. At each gathering, they collect donations for local charities.

“Gorilla Yogis is a movement, a migration to yoga beyond studio walls gathering to practice urban jungle yoga in unexpected, offbeat places,” the Gorilla Yogis wrote of their new group.

For more information, visit gorillayogis.com.

Life Time Fitness is teaming up with Lululemon Athletic for lakeside yoga events at Lake Calhoun this summer, too.

The classes are free and will feature live music. They will be held Sunday, July 18, 11 a.m.–noon; and Sunday, Aug. 15, 11 a.m.–noon. The August event will feature a community picnic after the class.

The lakeside yoga will be by the volleyball courts — West Calhoun Parkway & Xerxes Avenue. They will be led by Life Time Fitness  yoga instructors, Nick Bez and Kimberly Spreen.

When: Times vary
Where: Various locations around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet
Cost: Free (donations accepted).