While it has been several years since there has been much basketball excitement from the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers or the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, that doesn’t mean Minnesotans don’t love the game. The WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx won the league championship last year, Minnesota State University-Mankato men’s basketball team made it to the Division II collegiate final four, and the Timberwolves resurgence with all-star Kevin Love have made for an exciting 2011 to 12 season. But it’s the area’s pick-up games that have the real heart, and these are the best places to hop in on a game in Minnesota.

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YMCA of the Twin Cities
30 S. 9th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 371-9622

Hours: Mon to Fri – 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat and Sun – 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Price: $150 enrollment fee, waived or reduced during various promotions/$63 monthly/no contract required

The most popular indoor location is the good old YMCA, with facilities all over the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and in dozens of communities across the state. Membership is required to take advantage of the courts and equipment, but the Y is definitely one of the most affordable indoor pick-up options. With pick-up games throughout the day, it’s never hard to find solid competition no matter when you play. Membership buys you cheap access to other area YMCAs, making it possible for players to pick up a game right near work or home.

Photo Credit: minneapolisparks.org

Van Cleve Recreation Center
901 15th Ave. Southeast
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 331-3144

Hours: fall, winter, spring Mon to Fri – 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun – 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

One of the best courts in the Twin Cities, this center is located in Van Cleve Park, close to Dinkytown and the University of Minnesota’s main campus. The centerpiece of the facility is its full indoor court, making it very popular year round. Van Cleve is operated by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. With outdoor park options as well, including a few additional sports fields, Van Cleve is the perfect place for players to up any game, any time.

Related: Best Places to Run in the Twin Cities

Linwood Recreation Center
860 St. Clair Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota 55105
(651) 298-5660

Hours: seasonally Mon and Wed – 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tues and Thurs – 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri – 7a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat – 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sun – closed

A very popular facility in the Summit Hill section of St. Paul, Linwood offers a large indoor gym that includes a half basketball court. With its extensive hours, it features fast-paced pick-up basketball games as well as sponsored leagues seasonally. It’s just minutes from great after-game sports restaurants along Grand Avenue and Snelling Avenue. The City of St. Paul maintains Linwood.

Photo Credit: clubs.lifetimefitness.com/

Lifetime Fitness
600 1st Ave. North
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 486-3600

Hours: Mon to Thurs – 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri – 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat and Sun – 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: enrollment fee $0 during promotional periods/$129 for new individual memberships

Lifetime Fitness is Minnesota’s premier fitness club with more than 25 metro area locations. It offers professional-grade hardwood floors, regulation-size glass backboards, mounted scoreboards, full locker room facilities and complimentary towels. Seven days a week, organized pick-up games are played at all locations that have basketball courts. Lifetime facilities also feature year-round youth (ages 13 to 17) and adult leagues that are tracked on its interactive statistical website.

Photo credit: minneapolisparks.org

Beltrami Park
1111 Summer St. Northeast
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413
(612) 370-4920

Hours: daily – 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A bustling, extremely popular city park, Beltrami is named for Italian scholar and explorer Giacomo Constantino Beltrami (1779-1855), discoverer of the source of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota. It offers a large variety of fair-weather activities, including a full-size basketball court that is locally known as a hot-bed for great pick-up games throughout the week. Bring your own gear and refillable water bottles as this area can get hot during heavy play. Even when the weather, and the games, heat up, the nearby wading pool keeps this one of the coolest places in Minnesota for a game of pick up.

CBS Minnesota Insider tip: In addition to the locations above, some of the top-rated Minneapolis outdoor basketball courts, many night-lit, are: Loring Park, North Commons and Nellie Stone. In St. Paul, the favorites include: Wabasha Street Court, Baker Park, Haskell Park, and St. Clair Playground.

Related: Best Amateur Baseball Parks in Minnesota

New York City native Marc Friedman has called the Twin Cities home for nearly 30 years. His urban upbringing has him constantly exploring Minneapolis and St. Paul for locally owned dining spots and neighborhood shops. Marc’s passions include travel, an industry which he has worked in his entire career, indie movies, a strong cup of tea with milk (his Mom is from England), dark chocolate, red wine and the Daily Show. His work can be found at Examiner.com.