The Minnesota Summer Bucket List
This list was originally published in the summer of 2016, but just about all of the activities are ones that you can still do this summer.
Are we missing something? Share your ideas here.
MPR News is Member Supported
What does that mean? The news, analysis and community conversation found here is funded by donations from individuals. Make a gift of any amount today to support this resource for everyone.
• More resources: Enjoy all the outdoors has to offer in Minnesota
• Share your adventures: Inspire other Minnesotans to get out, too!
• Why it's important: We have a lot to gain by getting outdoors
How do you summer in Minnesota?
Is it all about barbecuing in the park? Or dipping your toe in Lake Superior? Do you hit the city beaches? Or road trip to a state park?
We're building a list of 40 essential Minnesota summer activities. We've pulled together the first half — now, we need your help to fill out the rest of the list. What are your favorite ways to celebrate summer in Minnesota?
The Minnesota summer bucket list
1) Cross the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park.
Lake Itasca is where the Mighty Miss begins — but it's not so mighty at the start. Walk across the shallow waters where the Mississippi begins its 2,552-mile journey from Lake Itasca to New Orleans. The water at your feet will take 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
2) Take in a ball game.
Catch the Twins at Target Field (and choose from 10 different kinds of hot dogs), or see the Saints (and maybe Bill Murray) at CHS Field.
But you can also catch a town ball game: Drive out of the metro to see the Albertville Villains, the Lakefield Horn Frogs, the Bemidji Bucks or one of more than 30 other teams that play around the state.
3) Picnic in the park.
Minneapolis just took the top spot for best parks in the country, according to The Trust for Public Land. St. Paul came in a close second. Not a bad place to eat lunch.
4) Go to a county fair (because we know the State Fair's already on your list).
Come Aug. 25, it's time for Pronto Pups, baby animals, giant slides and Ye Olde Mill — but before you hit the State Fair, mark your calendar with a county one: They're smaller affairs (pun very much intended), and there are more than 60 every summer.
The Minnesota Federation of County Fairs has a full schedule.
5) Put a toe in Burntside Lake.
Head north: Burntside Lake is a beautiful gateway to the Boundary Waters. If you're up for an excursion, you can continue into the BWCA (with the necessary permit). But if you're looking for a vacation that involves less portaging, there are several great places to stay along the lake, from classic lodges to woodsy camps.
Don't miss Sigurd Olson's Listening Point on the south side of the lake. The well-known author and environmentalist lived and wrote at the lake retreat, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. You can arrange a tour to see the property.
6) Drink a Minnesota-brewed beer — or root beer — outside.
Surly, Steel Toe, Summit, Northbound, Bent Paddle, Bad Weather, Indeed... There are more than 110 breweries around the state. (Up from just five 10 years ago!) Take your pick and sit back in the sun with a local brew. For non-alcoholic options, many breweries have whipped up their own custom sodas.
7) Pitch a tent and gaze at the stars in one of the darkest parts of the state.
City lights obscure the stars, so check a light pollution map and pick a camping spot where it actually gets dark — really dark.
If you time it right, you could also catch an aurora on your trip.
8) Take a waterfall tour.
Minnesota is known for its lakes, but its other water features aren't too shabby. Sit by Ramsey Falls in Minnesota's largest municipal park, or Minneopa Falls at Minneopa State Park, where you can take a side trip to see the park's bison herd.
Minnesota has (at least) three different Hidden Falls — all worth finding. There's the Hidden Falls in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul and Hidden Falls in Temperance River State Park up north.
And, of course, Gooseberry Falls, Taylors Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Devil's Kettle Falls... The list goes on. What we're saying is: Do go chasing waterfalls.
9) Catch a big one (or a little one!).
The DNR has an easy guide to finding a prime fishing spot, whether you want to road trip or stay near home.
City dwellers: There are plenty of options for you, too. The department's Fishing in the Neighborhood program includes spots all over the 7-county metro area.
10) Play Minnesota wildlife bingo.
Spot a moose, an eagle, a bear, a loon and a wolf. (All from a safe distance!) Zoos count.
11) Visit the world's largest _______.
Otter? Ball of twine*? Hockey stick?
Minnesota likes to go big with its roadside attractions. Take a detour this summer to get your picture taken with a 20-foot-tall loon, a giant Viking named Big Ole or a 9,000-pound booming prairie chicken, to name a few.
*Technically, it's the largest twine ball rolled by one man.
12) Climb the Witch's Hat water tower.
The landmark tower that looms over Prospect Park in Minneapolis is open to visitors only one day a year. If you want to climb the 100-year-old, 60-foot-tall structure, it's typically open on the first Friday after Memorial Day, at the neighborhood Pratt Ice Cream Social.
13) Eat a Dilly Bar in the Dilly Bar capital of the world: Moorhead, Minn.
Dilly Bars were invented at a Dairy Queen in Moorhead in 1955, or so the lore goes. Bob Litherland is credited with perfecting the frozen treat.
The Moorhead store still makes them fresh on location — so it's likely the best Dilly Bar you'll ever eat.
If you can't make the trek, luckily there's ice cream everywhere.
14) Take a ride on the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail System.
More than 30 years ago, mining companies abandoned this 5,000-acre stretch of pits and rock deposits. Now, the state has turned it into a recreational destination: The Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. There's camping, fishing and some of the best biking the state. Cuyuna has more than 25 miles of trails spread across 800 acres. There are 30 routes to choose from, for everyone from beginning bikers to pro-riders.
Looking for a less extreme ride? There are thousands of miles of bike trails around the state. Ride the Willard Munger State Trail, which stretches from Hinckley to Duluth, or take a spin around the chain of lakes in Minneapolis.
15) Go underground.
In case you think summer is just too sunny, indulge your shadow-loving side and head deep under the earth. Tour a historic mine at the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park or explore the Mystery Cave. (Bring a sweater: It's 48 degrees down there.)
There's also Niagara Cave in Harmony, which comes complete with an underwater waterfall.
16) See a drive-in movie while you still can.
Drive-in movie theaters are a rare sight in Minnesota, so enjoy the open-air treat while they remain open. There's Vali-Hi in Lake Elmo, Long Drive-In in Long Prairie, Starlite Drive-In in Litchfield, and a few others still keeping the past alive.
If you can't make it out to a drive-in, there's plenty of walk-in movies this summer, at parks all around the state.
18) Ride the Como-Harriet Historic Streetcar.
The historic streetcar only operates six months of the year, so catch this slice of history during the summer.
The 100-year-old cars travel between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun, and volunteer guides are on hand to answer history questions about the area. The round trip only takes about 15 minutes.
18) Watch a wildlife race.
Minnesota loves to get competitive with its small creatures. You can see duck races in Pine River, turtle races in Longville, Perham and Nisswa, pig races in Nevis and minnow races in Pelican Rapids. Take your pick.
19) Stand atop the Three-Way Continental Divide.
Northern Minnesota is home to a geographic curiosity: A three-way continental divide, located north of Hibbing. Rain that falls here could flow into one of three major watershed systems: the Hudson Bay Watershed, the North Atlantic Watershed or the Mississippi River Watershed.
20) Beat the heat in a museum.
Museums are fascinating, educational — and usually air-conditioned. Whether you want to brush up on the art of Southeast Asia at Mia or dive into local history at the Minnesota History Center, there are plenty of options in the cities and out.
MPR News intern Gitanjali Raman contributed to this story