14 events and ideas to have summer fun in Minnesota

Silhouette of People Jumping
Learn about what day trips to take, what live music to hear and how to cut down on screen time this summer.

A lot of us have already started thinking about our summer vacation, or maybe you’ve even planned one out. 

But have you thought about the shorter bursts of fun you want to have this summer? 

MPR News host Angela Davis speaks with her guests about upcoming events and activities across Minnesota this summer. 

If you want to seize warm weather, Lauren Bennett McGinty, the executive director of Explore Minnesota shares a list of events and activities you and your family should consider this spring and summer:

Create a More Connected Minnesota

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See the stars from a body of water in northern Minnesota

The International Dark Sky Association recognized Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota as a dark sky park, meaning there is so little light pollution that you can see the sky very clearly.

They encourage people to put their phones away, get out into the wilderness and see the beautiful dark sky for all it has to offer.

Voyageurs National Park is the only water-based national park in the country, which means that you have to stay on a houseboat when you go out there and you can only traverse it by water, which is really fun. It's just a completely different experience than camping.

A view from above of a boat navigating through island channels.
Island channels in Voyageurs National Park in Crane Lake, Minn.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Rocks, gems and crafts in Brainerd, Minn.

On May 13 and 14 you've got the Cuyuna Gem & Mineral Show in Brainerd, and we know that gems and crystals are becoming more and more popular. And at the Brainerd High School there's the Spring Arts & Craft Festival with over 100 vendors on May 13.

Rummage sale on Park Point, Duluth

As you get later on into the summer, there is the Duluth garage — rummage — sale on June 9, where people go in and check out everything on Park Point and everybody gets kind of unique treasures.

Scooping and sipping in Minnesota

There are two passports that are going on right now: one of them is called the Minnesota Scoop passport and the other is called MN Sips. Both of them are options to have your planning done for you. With Minnesota Scoop you have access to discounts from 43 ice cream shops throughout the state. The MN Sips passport is another great option if you're into craft beverages. Of course, Minnesota has some fantastic breweries, distilleries, wineries and cideries, so you can check that one out.

A man buys a drink and ice cream.
Lamont Marable buys a cool drink and ice cream during a heatwave in Minneapolis.
Tim Evans for MPR News 2021

Minnesota brewery tours

We have a lot of award-winning breweries here and we also have just a really unique brewery scene — so many family-owned breweries and family-friendly breweries. So if you go to a tap room, you can bring your kids, you can bring your dogs.

Of course, we always encourage people to check the website for the rules. In Minnesota, we love our patios and I can tell you, all of the craft beverage places have some of the best patios around.

And for those of you who maybe aren't drinking alcohol, so many have now invested in non-alcoholic options as well. So it's a really great experience for everyone.

Summer fun in the Twin Cities metro

The metro area has a ton to offer this year. We love the Stone Arch Bridge Festival on June 17 and 18. I think that's a really great opportunity for a lot of local craft vendors and artists.

One thing that's coming up that sounds really exciting is the Twin Cities Jazz Fest in Mears Park, St. Paul, which is on June 23 and 24.

One of my favorite things to do in the Twin Cities is to go to a St. Paul Saints baseball game. So if you want to do something super fun for the whole family, that's a really great option too.

Biking all around the state

There are tons of paths that are available that are both urban and non-urban.

  • If you are a beginner biker: we recommend Canon Valley Trail or the Midtown Greenway.

  • If you are an intermediate biker: you can look to the Mesabi trail or the Paul Bunyan trail up north.

  • If you are an expert biker: we certainly encourage you to go mountain biking in Cuyuna. They have a lot of really fabulous trails. The Redhead trail is just northeast of there a little bit more, so you can try that one out too. There are some really beautiful trails that have been carved into old landscapes.

A trail at the Redhead Mountain Bike Park.
A trail at the Redhead Mountain Bike Park in Chisholm, Minn., skirts the edge of an abandoned iron ore mining pit.
Dan Kraker | MPR News 2021

Local Music

If you like to discover new artists and go-to music festivals, Jade Tittle, host and music director at The Current recommends some you shouldn’t miss:

Mid West Music Fest

The Mid West Music Fest happens in Winona, Minn., every time in the spring, May 12 and 13 this year. It's like our own mini South by Southwest. Every single venue opens up and there's a band playing almost everywhere. And it's all artists from the Midwest, so mostly Minnesota artists, but you might see an artist from Chicago, maybe an artist from Iowa as well. But really a great way to discover new music while wandering around and enjoying Winona.

TC Summer Fest

If you're looking a little further down the way there is a brand new summer festival the TC Summer Fest. This is happening on July 14 and 15 and it's going to be at Target Field. It's gonna be a big show. It's two days. It's The Killers, The Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie. They're pulling in local acts as well: Yam Haus will be performing at it. So if you want one of those, like, what's the big one that maybe you want to check out this summer? TC Summerfest.

The Green Room

So if you've been thinking about, what is happening in Uptown? Finally, there is a place to exclusively see live music. It's called Green Room. It's an independent music venue and they're doing this thing where it's like 70 percent local music and 30 percent kind of bigger-name artists. It is a big venue space where you can actually go and see live music. It's a great space.

Outside the venue, a vertical neon marquee says, "Green Room"
Green Room held its first show on Jan. 28. The lineup included Gully Boys, Scrunchies, FenixDion, Denim Matriarch and Colin Bracewell.
Lydia Smith

The Hook and Ladder: Under the Canopy

The Hook and Ladder is this wonderful, kind of small and eclectic right off of Minnehaha Space in Minneapolis. And they recently I guess during the pandemic started this series called “Under the Canopy.” So they just put up a giant tent in the parking lot. They do 36 concerts throughout the summer. It's always local bands. It’s such a great way to celebrate local music and maybe find new artists that you're going to absolutely fell in love with.

The Current’s Happy Hours

I heard earlier you guys were talking about heading out to all the breweries and how they're very welcoming to animals and children. And yes, that's what we're doing. We are kicking it off on May 24 at Surly Brewing Company, going all the way through the summer. We bring you live music and a great place to be and The Current host will be out there DJing. We’ll be bringing these bigger artists to the local breweries and bringing some live music and a happy hour to you.

Poster for The Current's Happy Hour Series - 2023
The Current's Happy Hours Return in the Summer of 2023
The Current

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Correction (May 12, 2023): A previous version of this story listed incorrect dates for the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. This has been fixed.