When the sun is shining and my family finds that we have a few spare hours or a whole spare day with which to amuse ourselves, more often than not, we head to Lake Harriet. We are sure to find something that makes each member of the family happy. There is just enough wild and outdoors to satisfy my young boys and just enough tame and indoors {such as indoor plumbing} to please me too.

Nestled in Southwest Minneapolis is the lovely, beckoning Lake Harriet. A destination unto itself, Lake Harriet was once a bustling summer destination for city dwellers looking to spend the day away picnicking under the big trees, boating and attending outdoor concerts. Part of the trolley line that carried the people from downtown Minneapolis to Harriet and back remains, still making regular trips, going as far as Lake Calhoun before heading back to Lake Harriet.

Here are my top nine things to do at Lake Harriet:

1. Walk Or Bike Around The Lake

elf house lake harriet Family Fun Guide to Lake Harriet

(credit: Anna Berend)

A part of the Grand Rounds, there are two paths around Lake Harriet, one for bikers and skaters (2.99 miles) and one for walkers and runners (2.75 miles). Expect a beautiful, scenic jaunt around Harriet. Each side of Harriet is a bit different. Be sure to watch for turtles, ducks, fish, and the Elf House at the base of a tree just past South Oliver Avenue.

2. Attend Concerts At The Lake Harriet Bandshell
Hours: 7:30 p.m. Each Night, Monday through Saturday
2:00 p.m. & 5:30 p.m. Sundays
Free Admission

bandshell lake harriet Family Fun Guide to Lake Harriet

(credit: Anna Berend)

Every single night and twice daily on Sundays from the last weekend of May through the Labor Day weekend there are free concerts at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. The performances range from orchestras to big band to jazz to French café music to blues to pop to a mix of a little of this and that. There are solo acts, duos, bands and full orchestras. Set against the glistening lake and setting sun, the concerts are so much fun for the whole family. You can sit on a bench or bring a quilt and sit on the grass. The kids sing and dance along with the music, walkers and cyclists stop for a few minutes and dogs enjoy the outing alongside their owners. Don’t forget the insect repellant.

3. Swim At The Beaches
South Lake Harriet Beach
Lake Harriet North Beach

There are two beaches at Harriet: South Beach and North Beach. South beach is the smaller, more shaded of the two beaches. Lifeguards are on duty at the North Beach during the busier days and times of the summer, but I couldn’t find a current 2011 schedule. The sandy beaches offer a space to spread out a blanket for a picnic or for mom or dad to relax while the kids build sandcastles and splash in the cold, shallow water.

4. Go Fishing

There is no fee to fish here. There are several piers with wheelchair access, as well as lots of accessible shoreline. You’ll find Bluegill, Crappie, Muskie, Northern Pike, Bass, Walleye, Largemouth, Yellow Perch, Bullhead and Carp in Lake Harriet.

5. Rent A Kayak, Canoe Or Paddle Boat
Wheel Fun Rentals (near the Bandshell)
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
$11 to $22 per hour

boat rental lake harriet Family Fun Guide to Lake Harriet

(credit: Anna Berend)

Near the Bandshell is a small shed-like building where you can rent kayaks, canoes or paddle boats. This is another great way to see the lake and all that surrounds it. These rentals are available from Memorial Day through Labor Day and weekends in September and October.

6. Grill Or Picnic In The Park

picnicking lake harriet Family Fun Guide to Lake Harriet

(credit: Anna Berend)

The hill and valley just behind the Bandshell area offers a vast space for picnicking, grilling and gathering with friend and family. There is also an old, but still fun playground area on the top of the hill near the picnic tables and a clean indoor bathroom. A bonus: you can still hear the music from the Bandshell as you grill and chat with family and friends.

7. Ride The Streetcar
The Como-Harriet Streetcar Line
W. 42nd St & W. Lake Harriet Parkway
$2 per person, ages 3 and under free, passes available

como harriet streetcar lake harriet Family Fun Guide to Lake Harriet

(credit: Anna Berend)

Ride a carefully restored 100-year-old streetcar from Lake Harriet to Lake Calhoun. The trolleys run May through October with the schedule changing seasonally. The streetcars operate daily May through August. Check website for schedule. Each ride includes a lesson in the history of the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line presented by the enthusiastic trolley car conductors.

8. Stroll Through The Gardens, Bird Sanctuary
Lyndale Park
East Lake Harriet Blvd. and Roseway Rd.

garden e1309200399379 Family Fun Guide to Lake Harriet

(credit: Lyndale Park Gardens)

Peruse the many varietals of roses at the Rose Garden and enjoy the fountains in this beautiful park. The Peace Garden area is indeed peaceful and beautiful with pathways through flowers, shrubs, trees and water features. The Bird Sanctuary is a small, fenced, thickly wooded, set of trails. April and May are great times to view spring migratory birds, particularly warblers.

9. Grab A Bite From Bread & Pickle
Bread & Pickle (near Bandshell)
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, Open Seasonally
$1.75 to $8.75

This newly opened concession strives to serve locally-sourced foods in a zero-waste manner. Breakfast is served from 7:00 am to 11:00 a.m., offering pastries, fruit, yogurt and breakfast sandwiches. The Lunch and dinner menu consists of sandwiches, burgers, sides and snacks. There is also a purified water fountain to refill water bottles just inside the pavilion housing Bread & Pickle.

Anna Berend is an attorney and the author of Motherly Law Blog. On Motherly Law, Anna writes about legal issues that affect families and offers tips and resources that pertain to those legal topics. On occasion, inspiration strikes and Anna writes about something totally unrelated to the law.You can find Anna at http://www.motherlylaw.com, on Facebook at Motherly Law and on Twitter @MotherlyLaw.

Comments (3)
  1. Bill says:

    Thanks for the comments about the Como-Harriet Streetcar. It’s a must see when visiting Lake Harriet.

  2. Mary Elfstrand Kubes says:

    love the rose garden!!!! The walk around the lake is so beautiful!
    This is a perfect place to spend a summer day.

  3. marlys Koursh says:

    Hi Anna,
    Good good article, enjoyed.
    We are missing you on the 2nd Monday evening.
    Hoping to see you soon,

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