The flora and fauna of Minneapolis’ parks merge well with the city’s grid, enticing many to take a mind-clearing pause from the urban buzz. Woodsy patches backed by the skyline and riverside spots that seem made for picnicking are not to be missed on a visit to Minneapolis. 

Minneapolis has such distinct seasons that its residents know exactly how to make the most of these green spaces when the sun shines down — or even under a feather-light dusting of snow. Here are the best parks to visit in the city.

Boom Island Park

Best park for picnicking with a view 

Despite being right over the river on the northeast side of downtown, Boom Island Park is serene as can be. Generously sprawling fields run up to the riverfront, with ample space to string up a hammock solo or picnic with an ensemble. Skyline views are framed by the trees, providing a postcard-like backdrop to enjoy the greenery. Equipped with a mini lighthouse and playground, Boom Island Park is also family friendly. Steps to the south, a walking bridge connects the park to Nicollet Island, an unusual residential area smack dab in the middle of the river. Get a classy drink at Nicollet Island Inn, an upscale hotel dating back to 1893.

Two people cycling on a path in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Off-road paths will help you explore the many green spaces in Minneapolis by bike © Juli Hansen/ Shutterstock

Powderhorn Park

Best park for events and recreation

Energetic festivals, basketball courts, a baseball field, recreation center, a wading pool for kids and a lake – to say it’s all happening at Powderhorn Park is a downright understatement. The park is home to the Powderhorn Art Fair, an arts and crafts festival that has taken place for more than 30 years, along with the MayDay Parade, a springtime celebration with rotating themes put on by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. Despite all of the action, you can still post up with a book next to the petite Powderhorn Lake to catch some repose.

Father Hennepin Bluff Park

Best park for walking along the Mississippi River

With shaded footpaths and longstanding bridges that crisscross the Mississippi River, Father Hennepin Bluff Park is the go-to place for getting some steps in. Here, you’ll get prime views of the river gorge, skyline and Stone Arch Bridge, a former railroad bridge that is now a well-loved staple for leisure strolling and cyclists. Not only will you find movies and live music in the park, but the popular Main Street is also right up against it. This cobblestone stretch is typically filled with activity, whether moviegoers at St. Anthony Main Theater or al-fresco diners at Aster Cafe. Father Hennepin Bluff Park is much more than just a park: plan for a full afternoon and evening here.

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View of Gold Medal Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Take in the views of the city skyline from atop the grassy mound at Gold Medal Park © Madelinekarita Fleming / Shutterstock

Gold Medal Park

Best park for watching the world pass by

A carefully designed spiral path leads you up a grassy mound in the middle of Gold Medal Park, with the glittering skyline on one end and sweeping Mississippi River scenes on the other. Post-sunset, bright blue LED lights illuminate the benches atop the hill, mimicking the city’s lights. Joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, visitors and locals meander about the area, making it prime for kicking back and letting the afternoon slide by with ease. It’s also next to the Guthrie Theater, a futuristic-looking venue for live performances.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Best park for iconic Minneapolis sights

A visit to the Twin Cities isn’t complete without a stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This garden is not your average greenspace: it’s a full-on visitor attraction that draws many of the city’s tourists. Not only does this 11-acre park hold the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, a widely recognized emblem of the city, but it also has more than 40 other artworks, ranging from a towering bright blue rooster to giant abstract inventions. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a fusion of nature, arts and culture, and it’s a beautifully curated experience put together by the adjacent Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

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Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minnehaha Falls are a popular year-round destination, just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis © YinYang / Getty Images

Minnehaha Falls Regional Park

Best park for immersing yourself in nature

It’s no surprise that the sprawling Minnehaha Falls Regional Park sees more than 850,000 visitors a year. Just 15 minutes from downtown, the powerful waters of Minnehaha Falls cascade 53 feet down into a limestone gorge. You might encounter a small crowd around the waterfall itself, but with 193 acres of woodlands, bluffs and river views, you’ll never be pressed to find your own quiet corner to relax in. In the summer, hike the bluffs in the shade of oak and maple trees and then grab a plate of tacos at Sea Salt Eatery, an open-air seafood spot right in the middle of the park.

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Photographers capturing the twilight city views from Tower Hill Park in Minneapolis
One of the best spots for a shot of the Minneapolis skyline is the wooded hilltop of Tower Hill Park © Sam Wagner/ Shutterstock

Tower Hill Park

Best lesser-known park with full skyline views

Earning its name from a 1914 water tower with a roof that mimics a witch’s hat, Tower Hill Park somehow flies under the radar. The heavily wooded, hilly terrain encompasses a relatively small plot of land, but the precipice gives some of the widest views of the city. Here, you can see the entire Minneapolis skyline – and beyond – from afar. The surrounding neighborhood of Prospect Park is worth exploring as well, with uncharacteristic-for-Minneapolis winding streets and architecture from the late 1800s.

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Lake Nokomis Park

Best park for families and lake recreation

Fittingly named after Lake Nokomis, Lake Nokomis Park is the place to be for beach days and water activities. Sailing and paddlesports rentals are popular in the summer, enticing visitors to float around under the much-appreciated Midwest sunshine. With swings right on the beach and a swim-friendly shoreline, kids are often milling about, but it’s an ideal hangout for groups of friends as well. You might encounter noisy kids on the main beach during warmer days, but there are still tons of spots along the lake’s perimeter to kick back in total solitude. 

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street view on Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota - July 24, 2017: USA; Shutterstock ID 1964255125; your: Tasmin Waby; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: Demand Project

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