A guide to the 74th Minneapolis Aquatennial

Highlights from this year's Aquatennial events calendar

A scene from last year's milk carton boat race on Lake Calhoun. Credit: Submitted image

The 74th-annual Minneapolis Aquatennial kicks off July 12 with exciting events citywide.

The Aquatennial runs from the morning of July 12 to the night of July 20, and will include over 40 separate events. This year’s schedule for the weeklong celebration is jam-packed, but below are some of our favorite highlights from the extensive list.

 Midtown Global Music Festival

July 13, 2 p.m.–8 p.m.

Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St.

New this year, the music fest will feature a lineup of live song and dance from around the world. Choose between the two outdoor stages and one indoor stage at the venue, or grab some food and multicultural artisan products available for purchase nearby. Like all Aquatennial events, this festival is open and free to all attendees.

Mississippi River Rats water ski show

July 13 and 14, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. (both days); July 18, 7 p.m.

Mississippi River West Bank along West River Road, between Broadway and Plymouth avenues

If you happen to miss the first performance from this water ski show team, you’ll have four more chances over the course of Aquatennial week. This year’s special Super Mario World-themed performance showcases tricks from ballet and barefoot skiers, along with the famous River Rat four-tier floating pyramid. All shows will run one hour each.

Beach Bash

July 14, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Lake Calhoun Thomas Beach, Thomas & West Calhoun Parkway

Join others at Thomas Beach to observe or participate in several Aquatennial cornerstones. The sandcastle-building competition invites everyone from master craftsmen to young children to sculpt their masterpiece on the shore. Audiences will decide whether participants in the milk carton boat races will sail or swim when they hit the water in full-size boats made from old dairy jugs. In addition, the Beach Bash will offer Voyageur canoe rides, a blood drive, members of the Minneapolis Fire Department and food from vendors, including Big Bell Ice Cream, Jerry’s Lemonade and others.

The Best Days of The Bakken Museum series

July 16–20, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (until 8 p.m. Thursday, July 18)

The Bakken Museum, 3537 Zenith Ave. S.

The Bakken Museum near Lake Calhoun is offering guests free admission during Aquatennial week. The Best Days features the Green Energy Art Garden along with lots of social programming in accordance with their five themed days: Inventors (July 16), Benjamin Franklin (July 17), Frankenstein (July 18), Wizards (July 19) and Arts & Science (July 20). From monsters to forefathers, the Bakken will educate and entertain local children in these specialized areas.

Torchlight 5K

July 17, 7:30 p.m.

Start from the Basilica, 88 N. 17th St.

For the fitness-minded, the Aquatennial offers a scenic 5-kilometer run through downtown Minneapolis. The Torchlight invites runners of all kinds to join in a jog from the Basilica to Father Hennepin Bluffs Park near the Stone Arch Bridge. A post-race party will feature complimentary refreshments and musical entertainment, but first you need to make it to the finish line.

Torchlight Parade

July 17, 8:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.

Hennepin Ave. between the Dunwoody College of Technology and 5th Street

The Torchlight returns this summer with more floats, bands and mascots. Hennepin Avenue will light up with extravagant performances from local bands and dance teams, favorite local characters and illuminated rolling floats. Make sure to bring a comfy seat and grab some food from the AZ Canteen, Top Dog hotdogs, Big Bell Ice Cream or other on-site vendors; you’re in for a long show as the Torchlight is the largest nighttime parade in the region.

Midtown Festival

July 20, 12 p.m.–8 p.m.

Stewart Park, 2700 12th Ave. S.

This family friendly afternoon carnival at Stewart Park will begin the wrap-up of Aquatennial 2013 festivities. Guests can enjoy live music played all day, with performances from The Little Thunderbirds Drum & Dance Troupe and spoken word artists. The festival will also feature carnival favorites like games, children’s activities, puppets with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and a selection of local food vendors.


July 20, 6 p.m.–10:30 p.m. (fireworks at sunset)

West River Parkway between Portland and 3rd avenues

The grand finale: Aquatennial’s annual closing fireworks show will light up the sky over the Mississippi River. Guests can prepare for one of the largest annual fireworks shows in the country with hours of pre-show live music performances on the West River Parkway and onsite food like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, O’Neil Amusement’s burgers and cheese curds or Firebrick corn on the cob.

For more information or expanded schedules, visit the 2013 Aquatennial website, aquatennial.com.