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Family-Friendly Lake Street Adventures

Do you know what I love about where we live? I love that I can get lost in my car by taking one wrong turn, winding up in an area that, even after years and years of residency, I’ve never seen before – that I didn’t even know existed! The same could be said for the experiences that are located on those roads we drive far too often.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become semi-resilient to this big city. I take the same streets to get to the same places but never look left or right on the actual journey. There are self-proclaimed “holes-in-the-wall” that are diamonds in the rough just waiting to be noticed. This summer, I want to dedicate some time to these kinds of discoveries. And this past week, the toddler and I took off on our first experimental adventure down the richly-tapestried Lake Street

Visit Lake Street

Lake Street sits in the heart of Minneapolis, zipping through Uptown, Lyndale and Longfellow neighborhoods and just a stone’s throw from the Powderhorn, Linden Hills and Corcoran areas – to name just a few. I could get lost around Lake Street for days, eating tacos, bar hopping and book shopping until my head explodes. But this is a family blog (no bar hopping allowed), so my adventuring of Lake Street was focused on finding kid-friendly stops. Before we hopped in the car and hoped for the best, I prepared a bit using the awesome guides on VisitLakeStreet.com

I had fun using the Visitor’s Guide tab, clicking through all their categorized lists – a Sweet Tooth Tour, a Music and Books Tour, even a Fish Taco Tour (YES, I LOVE FISH TACOS TOO!). There also happens to be a Happy Kids and Parents Tour, which I read thoroughly. We took some notes and headed out to discover Lake Street, family-friendly style.

GET BREAKFAST (AND COFFEE)

Rustica

If there’s one thing that starts my day off on the right foot, it’s a foam-stamped latte and a mouthwatering cinnamon roll. Lake Street has an impressive display of breakfast joints – from grab-n-go pastries to sit-down bacon-n-eggs.

Because we had a lot to cover that day, we sped through a cinnamon bun and scone from Rustica in Calhoun Village. This artful bake shop is known for its breads and danishes, offering pastries named so fancily that I had to Google what a few of them were. It’s not sprinkle donuts (which I know kids love), but it’s fun to let the kiddos expand their horizon at places like Rustica

Rustica Bakery

lake street minneapolis

If you are specifically searching out the best cinnamon/sugar/frosting combination (because why not?), you can’t pass up a stop to Isles Bun & Coffee. Sitting only 3 blocks north of Lake Street Uptown, your kiddo will form an instant addiction for their Puppy Dog Tails – basically twisted mini cinnamon rolls with a way cuter name. This place often has a line out the door, but you guys, SO. WORTH. IT. 

Isles Bun and Coffee

Isles Bun & Coffee

Other places to consider near Lake Street for a fun breakfast with kids include:

DO SOME BOOKSTORE READING

bookstore lake street

Books are a kid’s best friend – and thankfully, there’s no shortage of bookstores in the Lake Street area. If you have time, shop local and purchase from some awesome businesses, or just enjoy the kids sections, cozy up with your littles and read, read, read! 

moon palace books

I’m going to be honest – I had never even noticed this gem of a bookstore before our adventure day. How I missed Moon Palace Books is beyond me, with its brightly-painted stripes and huge welcoming windows. Parking was easy in the back and the kids area, while small, was packed full of goodies. My toddler helped himself to a slew of board books, plopped himself in the beanbag chair and kept himself busy for a good, long time. There were plenty of out-of-the-box books that I don’t see at your common chain book shop so I vowed to definitely come back someday to pick up gifts for friends, or heck, for myself and my kiddos. They offer frequent storytimes too so check out their website for that info. Oh- and there’s a cafe in the back called Geek Love Cafe (adorbs) with a side patio that serves salads, pizza and even breakfast (kids breakfast meals go for around $4). 

Moon Palace Books

moon palace books

The East Lake Library is right along Lake Street and, while you can’t purchase books here, you can kill some time and let your little one play pretend in their small children’s section and of course, borrow a whole pile of books to bring along with you as you continue to cruise the Lake Street area. 

I actually have a small blog on this particular library here

east lake library

Not necessarily “kid-friendly” but pretty awesome and unique book stores also in the area are:

HIT UP THE LAKES

Bde Maka Ska

Well, duh, Minnesota has lots of lakes, right? But two of the very best and most popular are on and around Lake Street (hence…the…name). If the weather is nice and the kids are restless, our go-to is literally any lake we can get our hands on. Some have beaches, some have playgrounds, some have ducks, some have concessions…lakes are what make our state so great. And, hey, it’s free entertainment! 

Bde Maka Ska

A lake that’s close to our hearts (and a big reason we won’t ever move from St. Louis Park) is Bde Maka Ska (pronounced Be-DAY Mah-KAH-Ska), formerly Lake Calhoun. Yes, it’s probably the busiest and I get nervous biking with my kids here because it’s theeeee path for intense athleticism, but the playgrounds are fun, the beaches are GREAT and they have an eatery and rentals for all sorts of water equipment from Wheel Fun Rentals right on the lake. It’s on my list to do some stand up paddleboarding with my oldest one of these summer weekends. Rentals for those are $21/hour, and full rates can be found here. The North Beach is nice, but the playground on the East Beach is better than anything you’ll find on the North. Thomas Beach on the south end is good for swimming too, but I always get the feeling that one is more of a “young adult” beach than for my little ones. 

Bde Maka Ska

A little bit farther from Lake Street, but in my opinion well worth the venture, is Lake Harriett. It’s actually my personal favorite for so many reasons: 

  1. It has ducks and concessions (ice cream, coffee, and more) with outdoor seating right on the lake.
  2. The pavilion hosts live music and movies in the park. SO fun!
  3. There’s an amazing playground right up the hill from the pavilion called William Berry Park and another one down the road with a small wading pool called Linden Hills Park. We love it!
  4. It feels less crowded than some of the neighboring lakes. And it’s as picturesque as it comes.
  5. It’s a couple blocks from the Linden Hills neighborhood which is one great – home of Wild Rumpus Bookstore, Sebastian Joes Ice Cream and more. I have a whole blog dedicated to this ‘hood here.

william berry park

Lake Harriett

TREAT YOURSELF TO ICE CREAM GALORE!

What would a day of adventures be without ice cream? I’ll tell you what – horrible. It would be horrible. If there’s one thing that Lake Street does almost as well as tacos, it’s ice cream. So treat yourself. Because adventuring is hard and ice cream makes everything better. A couple of our go-to favorites around this area include the following…

milkjam creamery

I followed Milkjam Creamery on Instagram well before I actually made my way there to taste it, and was so pleased when the taste lived up to the photography! I went for the JamBun (look it up – oh my G!), but wound up trying numerous flavors as “samples” because every concoction sounded so unique, it was hard to pass up. If you have a kid who is adventurous in their taste-testing, bring them here to try passionfruit lychee or orange coriander mixed with fruity pebbles or salted caramel. Not a ton of seating, but we like to eat ours outside and walk the street with napkin-filled pockets.

PS. Moms who love fashion: Next to Milkjam is a consignment clothing shop called Buffalo Exchange and it is my very favorite stop when my wardrobe needs a remodel. Seriously. I don’t joke about shopping.

milkjam

La Micheacana

Immigrants from Michoacán, Mexico, took a leap of faith to make their dream a reality: to bring their favorite childhood frozen treats to Minnesotans. So we are definitely reaping the benefits and hungrily appreciating their dream of opening La Moichoacana Purepecha on East Lake Street in 2018. Fresh berries embedded in popsicles, 30+ flavors of savory ice cream with a unique variety of toppings, and a taco in a bag the size of your head (yup, you heard me) make this place a gotta-try-it stop on your Lake Street adventure.

La Michoacana ice cream

la micheacana

Other ice cream stops that are worth a mention here include:

BE WINED, DINED AND ENTERTAINED

If you’re anything like my family, we get hungry. A lot. We love trying new places to eat and there’s no better area of town to expand our palates than Lake Street. For real! Some of our top choices to stop with kids are listed below, but let’s just keep it real and agree that you can’t go wrong with a visit to any of the stellar (and plentiful) Mexican restaurants that line the street (like Taqueria la Hacienda). Seriously, my friend lives on Lake and says she has 14 awesome places to go get tacos within 4 blocks of her house. Lucky duck. 

Mix in a little entertainment for the littles and you’ve got a win-win for the Lake Street adventure day! 

hi lo diner

I have had Hi-Lo Diner on my list of must-trys for a shamefully long time so when we were out on our discovery, I demanded that this is where we spent our lunch hour. So glad we did! The kids thought it was super rad because it’s an actual diner (think Mickey’s Diner Car, but slightly bigger in size and pricier in cost). We’re talkin’ classic milk shakes and root beer, BUT the food wasn’t straight grease and calories. In fact, it felt clean and tasteful – and OMG the food was awesome! Kids meals were about $7 but the diner experience was a throwback worth paying for. 

hi lo diner

midtown global market

One of the most representative displays of our beautiful Minneapolis melting pot is the Midtown Global Market. An eclectic pocket of shops and restaurants in a big brick building on the corner of Lake and Elliot Avenue, this is a place we will take the kids when dad and I are craving African food (or any other international cuisine) but don’t feel like fighting the sit-down fancy-restaurant fight to get it. Instead, we get our food from Safari Express (or Fresco’s for Italian, Moroccan Flavors for Moroccan, Pham’s Rice Bowl for Asian, Holy Land or Ziadi’s for Mediterranean, or my personal favorite – Mama D’s for the best soul food I’ve ever had) and pick up a hamburger from Andy’s Garage or slice of pizza from Jakeeno’s for the kids, then meeting at a table in the middle and enjoying dinner together. I LOVE the food in Midtown Global Market! ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT.

There’s also a small, semi-dingy play space in the corner of the building, but it holds my kid’s attention for a few minutes tops. They love trying food samples and watching shows performed on the stage – plus, they have Wee Wednesdays on Wednesday mornings with live music and plenty of space for dancing. Parking is paid in meters or the ramp and takes credit cards. 

And the last two words I’m going to say about this place is: Taco Cat. The tacos, burritos and nachos from Taco Cat are a staple of deliciousness in the Global Market. Just get one. Just do it.

midtown global market

Midtown Global Market

midtown global market

Other amazing restaurants worth mentioning in the Lake Street area (although they ALL are, let’s be honest) are:

FOR A WINE STOP:
It says right on their website that they’re kid-friendly, so don’t question it. Urban Forage is an urban winery and cider house is completely gluten-free and has board games and entertainment for the littles, plus ciders ranging from super dry to super sweet and everything in between. 

You can bring in food and snacks, but they often have a good ol’ food truck sitting outside too. 

Urban Forage

In the colder months, there are a few Lake Street options worth mentioning as well. They host “Lake Street Saturdays” from January through May on one Saturday a month where one local business is highlighted, giving the public a sample of what it offers – from ice cream to entertainment. 

FOR ENTERTAINMENT WITH KIDS:
Also in the area of entertainment in the non-summer months is the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. This theater is crazy cool and does a lot of professional performances by very skilled artists. But they also have Saturday morning matinee puppet shows for kids in the fall and winter months. We’ve never gone (because my middle child is deathly afraid of puppets), but I’ve heard it’s hilarious and adorable and is an awesome way to support this unique business at only $7/suggested donation. 

Have you been to Bryant Lake Bowl? Kids can bowl for only $2.75/game (+ shoe rental) and mom and dad can sit back and enjoy a beer and a reuben in this Minneapolis icon directly on West Lake Street.  Fun in all months of the year!

The heart of Lake Street, we learned after a long day of discovering a slew of small, local, homegrown businesses, is its cultural beauty. There is a whole world of opportunity for us city folk to enjoy on one long road that stretches from the West metro to the East metro – colorfully lined with dream-built businesses that provide incredible food, fun and merchandise.

Follow Lake Street 

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Enjoy this video to learn more about the area and its business-owners and be sure to bookmark VisitLakeStreet.com for a go-to list of adventure ideas.

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  • Heidi
    05/28/2019 at 8:19 pm

    Great, informative post!

  • Linnea Fonnest
    05/29/2019 at 8:23 am

    Some fun ideas for our family to try! Thanks! As a children’s librarian, I have to point out that you don’t “rent” books from public libraries. Borrowing books is free! New immigrant families especially may not be aware of this amazing free resource! Books, magazines, current DVDs and CDs, ebooks and eAudiobooks and CD audiobooks (great for summer road trips), free music and videos to download (and keep), homework help, more than 1,000 summer programs for kids and families (when adding storytimes to the school-age programs to keep kids brains fired up while school is out), computer use and wifi — all FREE! Maybe you could blog about that, though as a benefit of government, there wouldn’t be any direct advertising income. Maybe promote the businesses located near any of the 41 free Hennepin County Library locations in Minneapolis and its suburbs to make a day of it with children. Most libraries have dedicated interactive play areas. Kids are always welcome (all people are welcome) at public libraries. HCL has about 5 million items. That should keep budget-conscious families busy all summer!