One of my all-time favorite places to go on warm days in Minneapolis is Minnehaha Falls. I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t really “explored” this park to the extent I know it deserves, but I have found some lovely ways to burn kiddie energy, cool off when it’s scorching outside, capture some cool photos, and even treat ourselves to some ice cream and/or beer and/or seafood. My kids love the space and freedom this park offers to run and play and they even appear to appreciate the jaw-dropping, genuine beauty of the Falls. Whether you’re an authentic outdoorsy Minnesotan or a faux impostor, good luck getting through this park without some mud on your shoes and a smile on your face.
What is it?
Minnehaha Falls is a powerful creek with a 53-foot waterfall tucked not-so-discreetly into the urban setting of South Minneapolis. Minnehaha Park offers a variety of activities including biking, hiking, outdoor concerts, a wading pool, a dog park, and some dining. Beautiful in the summer. Gorgeous in the fall.
Fit for what ages?
Depending on what you do at the park, the age range varies. But for the Falls portion that we love the most – which involves climbing stone steps, staying on a dirt path, and avoiding falling/jumping in a high-watered rushing creek – I wouldn’t recommend this for tiny people…unless they can be backpacked or otherwise safely carried around. My 2 1/2-year old was being constantly reminded to stay away from the water and to step back from the ledges. Most areas have a guardrail of some sort, but if your little busybody is faster than you can run, consider this your warning. There are many areas of the park that are more kid-friendly though, including the wading pool and the upper portion of the Falls. Lots of grass to picnic, and the wonderful Sea Salt Eatery (where ice cream and beer are sold by the same cashier – yay!). Grade-schoolers will love this adventure. Lots of exercise and climbing, rock throwing and water wading.
How much are we talkin?
The whole park is free. It’s not a state park, so there is no “admission fee” and the only things that cost money are the eatery and the “silly bikes” (what our family calls the Wheel Fun Bike Rentals). Sea Salt Eatery has semi-expensive seafood, or cheaper ice cream and desserts. Wheel Fun Bike Rentals range from $12-$30 per hour.
Want some tips?
Watch your kids closely if you are adventuring near the water. This year especially, the creek is crazy high and fast. As always, safety first. Ok, now I will step down from my soap box and continue with my tips…
My crew often packs a picnic lunch and hikes down the stone steps behind the Wheel Fun Rentals. We snap some photos by the waterfall, then take Bridge #2 across the creek to wade in the water while dining on our PB&Js. Of course, we stop along the path 50-100 times to throw rocks into the water. You’ll get some sun, so lather up, but more importantly, you’ll get chomped by bugs if you don’t remember the spray. Where there are water and woods, there are mosquitos. Duh, Minnesota. Backpack carriers work nicely for smaller kids. Strollers will only work if you don’t plan on doing the lower Falls. Sometimes we pack our bikes and bike around the upper Falls area. It’s really pretty to ride around the entire park, including over bridges through some stunning gardens (including my favorite – Longfellow Garden). Sea Salt Eatery is drool-worthily delicious if you have time to sit and dine on seafood. But more importantly, they serve beer and ice cream via a separate line, which is never as long as the seafood line. If you want to skip the hustle and bustle that often accompanies this eatery, head across the street to Bridgeman’s for ice cream. Or if you want (better) ice cream than that, make a pitstop only five minutes away at Grand Ole Creamery on Cedar Ave.
Parking is metered on the street, but doesn’t cost more than a couple bucks for a few hours. Some take coins only while others have been upgraded to accept cards, so come prepared. If you’re a regular at these parks, consider a Patron Permit, which gets you lot parking for the year for a one-time fee. Restrooms are not easily accessible throughout the park, so make sure you drop the line, “Does anyone have to use the bathroom?” before heading out for your adventure. There is one public restroom located in the pavilion behind Sea Salt Eatery and a few around the Wabun picnic area if your crew needs one though.
So pee first.
Oh, and tennis shoes. Wear tennis shoes.
Hours and Location
4801 South Minnehaha Park Dr. | Minneapolis, MN 55417
The park is open from 6am until midnight. Most of the amenities are only open April through October. Take some time to check out some of the cute neighborhoods, shops and trails in the Minnehaha area. That is what Minneapolis is all about! The waterfall is just a really tall bonus.
Follow Minneapolis Parks on Facebook to hear about upcoming events in the parks, hours and seasonal updates, or to simply read some news stories about the park area.