38 Perfect Parks – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Davida Erdahl

Editor’s note: This feature was originally published in our April 2020 issue, before the coronavirus pandemic and Governor Tim Walz’s initial stay-at-home order, so information is subject to change. Follow the most up to date CDC guidelines around going outside and visiting parks and playgrounds. We Minnesotans always want to pinpoint what makes this […]

Editor’s note: This feature was originally published in our April 2020 issue, before the coronavirus pandemic and Governor Tim Walz’s initial stay-at-home order, so information is subject to change. Follow the most up to date CDC guidelines around going outside and visiting parks and playgrounds.

We Minnesotans always want to pinpoint what makes this place special. The reality, of course, is that our identity comes from many things—our people, our northness, our semi-compulsive need to figure out what makes us special. That said, if we had to pick one overriding state trait, it would be our generations-long embrace of Minnesota’s outdoor spaces.

In this issue, we explore that treasured landscape: from the grandeur of Longfellow’s storied waterfall to the vast expanses of prime suburban and exurban real estate that will, ironically, never be real estate at all, because it is public parkland. As visionary city park planner Horace W. S. Cleveland put it in the 1870s, with “the advancing tide of civilization,” the beauty of this state should not ever “be thrown aside as worthless, because no one is at hand to detect its lustre.”    

The result? Minnesota truly is a state within a park. Now, go enjoy it.


The City is a Wild, Wild Place

You could drive three hours to a state park. Or you could drive three minutes for a dose of deep nature. 

By Elizabeth Foy Larsen

New York City’s Central Park is roughly the same size as our Theodore Wirth Regional Park (843 acres versus 740 acres), and it gets upward of 38 million visitors a year. That’s a lot of humanity crammed onto a few well-worn walking paths. At Theodore Wirth, by contrast, it’s possible to spot fewer than five other visitors in an hour of rambling.

That’s one of the wonders of our city parks: You can get from the bustle of the North Loop or downtown St. Paul to a remote and unmanicured space in about 10 minutes—and on a city bus to boot. 

Here, we share our favorite wild places. 

Looking for the cliffs-and-trails vibe of a state park without leaving the city? Try Battle Creek Regional Park (2300 Upper Afton Road, Maplewood). The stream that gives this park its name refers to an 1842 altercation between Sioux and Ojibwe Indians. Today, the surrounding parkland is an 1,890-acre mash-up of grasslands, oak woods, and sandstone bluffs. The entire park comprises two essentially separate areas, with different entrances, in St. Paul and Maplewood. We prefer the section with views of the Mississippi, which is laced with hiking options and single-track mountain bike trails that zag through the trees before offering up bonus views of the river and downtown. The park sprawls enough that you can get happily lost on unpaved trails that feel like they are being swallowed by untamed grasses, shrubs, and huge stands of goldenrod.

Battle Creek forms a circuit with the city’s newest wild space, Pig’s Eye Regional Park, which hosts a heron rookery. If you’re patient, you’ll spot these graceful giants nesting in the cottonwoods as they prepare to take flight.  Witnessing them flap their way above the water will reset even the most frazzled mind. (Open year-round, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.)

Moving upriver, the park that offers the best variety of big views and small pleasures is Crosby Farm Regional Park (2595 Crosby Farm Road, St. Paul). On a recent visit we spotted a red-tailed hawk coasting the crest of an updraft, yarrow that was bleached beige and pink by the autumn chill, and . . . humans dressed as Roman soldiers. Historic reenactments aside, this bucolic section of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area gives you an opportunity to rest on a secluded river beach or jog through a floodplain forest that looks up to oak-studded bluffs. We particularly like the hiking trails, which snake through tall prairie grasses that unexpectedly open up to views of Crosby Lake. (Southern unit is open from sunrise until 9:00 pm; northern unit open from sunrise until 10:00 pm.) Bonus points: Crosby Farm connects by bike trail to several of our other favorite wild places, including Lilydale Regional Park (400 Water Street, St. Paul) and Fort Snelling State Park (101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul), which has several hidden paths to explore. 

For a more intimate escape, head to Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary (1 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Minneapolis). On a summer day, the foliage in this oasis at the southern edge of Theodore Wirth Regional Park appears so lush and tangled you’ll be tempted to think you’ve been transported into the inner workings of the universe’s largest tossed salad. The bluebells, showy lady’s slippers, and autumn prairie grasses try to hog the attention. But there are over 500 other plant species that deliver subtler but still-thrilling charms. Ferns, flowering forbs, sedges—they’re all here in this cozy reserve.

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States, Eloise Butler also supports more than 100 species of resident and migratory birds. Listen for their trills and caws and chirps, and you’ll forget that I-394 sits only blocks away. (Open from early April  to October 15; 7:30 am–1 hour before sunset. Weekends only October 16–31.)


Ungroomed Adventure

Where to go in the city when you’re trying to get lost.

Swede Hollow Park 

665 Greenbrier St., St. Paul—This idyll from the buzz of Payne Avenue once housed an immigrant community that lived down the hill from Hamm’s Brewery. (The city declared the area a health hazard and demolished their homes in 1956.) It’s now an appealingly shaggy ravine with trails that plunge from street level to the banks of Phalen Creek. Pass through the landmarked masonry highway bridge, with its unique slanted brick patterns, and you’ll hit the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (East 4th Street, St. Paul): a stretch of restored oak prairie between the sandstone bluffs and the rail line. 

Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary

4124 Roseway Rd., Mpls.—In rainy years, this 31-acre canopy of sugar maples, aspen, and willows can get flooded to the point of being impassable. So pull on your rain boots and slosh on through the muck, reminding yourself that nature both gives and takes. If you have a yearning to check out avian life, this is a great place to spot anything from downy woodpeckers to least flycatchers. The nonprofit Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary (friendsofroberts.org) offers guided birding tours on selected Saturday mornings. 

Winchell Trail 

West River Pkwy., Mpls.—This chain of barely paved pathways, dirt footpaths, and general desuetude stands as the first rustic nature trail in the city. The trail is so old, in fact, that it’s been widely forgotten and thus can be walked in near solitude. Two stairways, between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue, will get you down to the sandy flats. Standing beneath the towering cottonwoods creeping with wild grapevines, you may find yourself wondering, Am I actually standing in a city of 425,000 souls? The map tells you one thing; your eyes, something else. —E.F.L.


Parks plus Parking!

All of the attractions, none of the crowds. In the popularity contest among our state parks, sometimes the losers win. 

By Steve Marsh

When you flip through the state park postcards of the mind, you’re apt to picture Minnesota’s most famous public landscapes: the serene and wooded Mississippi headwaters of Itasca; the dramatic limestone bluffs of Whitewater, or the imposing rhyolite cliffs of Tettegouche, on Lake Superior. Many of us have developed long-term relationships with these places. I made my first camping trip to William O’Brien, a perennial top-five-most-visited park along the St. Croix River, back in the ’80s, when I was a Cub Scout. And then there’s Itasca, basically Minnesota’s own Yellowstone, our oldest and one of our most popular parks, where my wife and I honeymooned last year. I love our state parks! 

So I was stoked when my editor called me in for a big state park assignment. But he quickly explained that he wasn’t offering to send me to any of the beloved and iconic ones. There are  more than five state parks, he said. Minnesota actually has 67 of them. What would we discover if we visited our five least popular parks? 

Jennifer Conrad, the visitor services supervisor for Minnesota State Parks and Trails, emailed me a spreadsheet of park attendance figures dating back to 2003. And we whittled down the list to five parks that consistently fail to attract visitors: Monson Lake, Lake Louise, Zippel Bay, Schoolcraft, and Upper Sioux Agency

I hear your next question: What makes them so…underappreciated? Unvisited? Unattractive?! Some of these spots, it turns out, sit in the shadows of our state’s more popular destinations. Schoolcraft, for instance, is a gorgeous park on the upper Mississippi, downriver from Itasca. (It takes its name from the geologist who discovered the headwaters in 1832.) Other parks, according to Conrad, suffer their own rotten luck. “Upper Sioux Agency has some awesome camping,” Conrad said. The park offers three campgrounds with canvas tipis for $35 a night. So my wife and I reserved a tipi for a Sunday in late September. 

Driving west on Highway 7 toward Upper Sioux Agency takes you through what might be the  bleakest stretch of highway in the state. (I’d suggest brightening it up with a stop for the beef commercial at Molly’s Café in Silver Lake.) But once we got closer to Granite Falls, we found ourselves in the Minnesota River Valley. We drove through town, passing the falls and the historic home of famous teetotaler Andrew John Volstead. (His name went on the act that gave us Prohibition). And then we began to see more green, more trees, as the flat prairie buckled into knolls and big hills. 

Pulling into Upper Sioux Agency, we first encountered the ruins of the Bureau of Indian Affairs buildings. The agency was destroyed during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. The Dakota call this area Pejuhutazizi Kapi, or “the place where they dig for yellow medicine.” And this landscape served as their home for thousands of years. They still live here, too, on a reservation a couple of miles down the road. 

We located our tipi in the campground, unloaded our pads and sleeping bags onto its raised wooden deck, and started cooking a steak in the fire ring. It was a quiet Sunday; only one other campsite appeared to be in use. The air felt warm for fall, and a golden light bathed the stands of bur oak and the tall prairie grasses rolling toward the Minnesota River. 

We had found a place that we should’ve discovered years ago. Lesson learned. If this is the second-least popular of Minnesota’s state parks, it’s time to check out the rest.


Crowds? Not a Problem.

A brief tour of our five least visited state parks. 

Lake Louise State Park

Near Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, 21071 County 118, Preston—Just north of the Iowa border, Lake Louise was created by an earthen dam of the Upper Iowa River. It’s our state’s oldest continuously used recreation area, and a landscape now bisected by the paved Shooting Star State Trail. The park’s best known (or, um, unknown) attractions? Check out the bloom of wild onion and purple orchids in the spring. 

Monson Lake State Park 

1690 NE 15th St., Sunburg—Originally established as a memorial to 13 Swedish American pioneers killed in the U.S-Dakota War of 1862, this is one of our smallest state parks. The landscape, forested with basswood and bur oak, includes two lakes, Monson Lake and West Sunburg Lake. A short portage lies between them, and there’s good fishing for walleye and northern. 

Schoolcraft State Park

9042 Schoolcraft Ln. NE, Deer River—White pine forest still stands here, so you can see what Henry Rowe Schoolcraft saw when the Anishinabe guide Ozawindib led him to this place in the 1820s. The Mississippi begins to widen as it winds through the park, and you’ll find boat access for anglers and canoeists. 

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

5908 Hwy. 67, Granite Falls—You can hike down to the edge of the Minnesota River and fish for walleye, northern, catfish, and carp. White pelicans and great blue herons wade in the shallow pools. 

Zippel Bay State Park

3684 54th Ave. NW, Williams—Zippel Bay takes its name from William Zippel, one of the first white men to settle here, in 1887. A busy fur-trading post used to occupy these white sand shores of Lake of the Woods. Today, it’s a massive park of 3,000 acres: a home to the timber wolf, black bear, mink, and pine marten. —S.M.


King of the Jungle Gym

Designing an enchanting playground isn’t child’s play—or is it?!

By Dan Hyman

For almost the entirety of their lives, Matt Swenson’s seven-year-old twins expressed zero interest in their dad’s career as a landscape architect. Then, last year, he started a job with Three Rivers Park District. 

“This type of work actually interests them a lot,” Swenson says with a laugh. His current gig involves overseeing the designing of new and innovative play areas for some of the area’s most beloved parks. As it happens, Swenson’s kids share their good fortune with a lot of other children around the Twin Cities. The area supports many unusually inventive playgrounds.

For instance, take French Regional Park, in Plymouth. Look up and you’ll spy adventurous climbers scaling its swooping cargo nets to reach the summit of a massive twist-and-turn green slide. Or visit Treasure Island Community Playground in St. Paul, a buccaneer bonanza of wood spires and pirate paraphernalia, where plank walkers careen atop its timbers. (It’s scheduled for renovation this summer.) The slides at Central Park of Maple Grove spiral down a massive bowl-like structure to a basin filled with tumbling toddlers. And at Madison’s Place Playground, in Woodbury, a child might take off on a platform and wind up a world away, having mazed a trail through the playground’s 16,000-square-foot footprint. 

What these playgrounds share is a progressive mindset. Hardly your ho-hum slide-and-swing facilities, these and other playgrounds have adopted a new-age philosophy that incorporates contemporary educational curriculum and pedagogy. The priorities at these spots are open-ended play, sensory development, and tactility.

When renovating French Park in 2017, Three Rivers not only employed an outside playground consultant but enlisted some uncommonly tough critics. “Because when it comes to what’s really fun, the kids are the experts,” Swenson says. Specifically, the park district recruited students from Park Brook Elementary, in Brooklyn Park, to help bring the project to life. “We allowed them to pick colors, pick equipment, see the full process of what goes into budgeting a project, managing a project,” Swenson says. Given how eagerly children destroy a playground—through enthusiasm or mischief—it seems only right to have them do some building. 

Public input has become a regular component of play-area projects. Recently, Swenson has been hard at work on a completely renovated play area at Baker Park Reserve, in Maple Plain. The park includes a campground and therefore attracts people from all over the state. In turn, Three Rivers enlisted insight from its diverse array of visitors. After all, Swenson says, they’re the ones who will soon be enjoying a sparkling new playground. 

A parent visiting these playgrounds can feel both awed and a little cheated. In the ’80s and ’90s, playgrounds often looked like replicas of one another: metal poles and ladders, square and triangle decks, bridges and slides. This samey quality partly reflected the emergence of a playground bully: that is, stringent safety codes that cities and park districts must follow. 

“You’d be surprised,” Swenson says. “You could have a pretty substantial footprint. But with all the requirements—separation between pieces of equipment, clear zones—you might have 14,000 square feet and, in the end, look at it and go, ‘Why are there only five pieces of equipment out here?’”

While these standards remain in place today, playground designers have adapted. Their newer creations can be far out and fun while pursuing specific goals. These include not just large-muscle-group development but peer-to-peer social engagement. Specifically, modern playground designers are “trying to diversify the engagement of the senses through types of actions educationally that are less prescriptive,” says Megan Panzano, an assistant professor of architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Practically, this means encouraging children to touch and manipulate their environment without insisting on what they should do with it (i.e., go down the slide already, kid). 

Panzano knows from experience: She spearheaded the design of “High Sees,” a “perceptual playground” at a suburban Boston preschool that eschews traditional elements like a slide or swing and instead features geometric patterns, gray plastic sheeting, and objects with varying shapes and sizes. Like an increasing number of  modern-day playgrounds, the emphasis is on imagination and abstraction. 

These same approaches define the work of influential playground designers in the Twin Cities. As founder of New Hope–based Cre8Play, Todd Lehman designs and manufactures state-of-the-art playgrounds that utilize everything from grain silos to touchscreen LED lights. His office looks more like a video arcade than a workplace—fitting for a creator whose employees call him the “Willy Wonka of Playgrounds.” But technology is hardly an end unto itself: Lehman says his entire ethos represents an attempt to bring back the innovative playgrounds of his youth. 

“All those amazing playgrounds from the ’60s and ’70s came down, and everything became boring, nothingness,” he says. He works frequently in parks and private businesses across the country. (You can see some of his creations locally, including at Children’s Minnesota hospitals, in both St. Paul and Minneapolis.) Lehman notes that Twin Cities kids should feel lucky. He praises French Park for its diversity of play options and Central Park of Maple Grove for its inventive architecture. 

Still, he often sees nondescript playgrounds, where the focus seems to be about “how much stuff they can jam in there,” Lehman says. “And then it doesn’t foster those incredible things that play should do.” 


Players Gonna Play!

No one has to use her indoor voice at these creative play spaces. 

French Regional Park

12605 Rockford Rd., Plymouth—Renovated in 2018, this multifaceted playground includes 47 individual climbable nets, a 12-foot slide, and water misters for the summer months. (Grownups can seize the chance to hike Medicine Lake Regional Trail, which leads out of the park.)

Central Park Of Maple Grove

12000 Central Park Way, Maple Grove—Minutes from MG’s downtown area, this bowl-shaped playground provides a 24-foot climbing tower, four slides, and a 120-foot-long climbing wall.

Treasure Island Community Playground

540-482 Warwick St., St. Paul—Nestled between Cretin-Derham Hall High School and Holy Spirit elementary, this playground is an old-school throwback with a theme: wood spires, maze-like connectivity, and skull-and-crossbones insignia. Pirates, ahoy! 

Hyland Play Area

10145 Bush Lake Rd. E., Bloomington—Affectionally known as “Chutes and Ladders,” this award-winning playground is a dream: numerous tunnels, hilltop rope climbing, a 50-foot-long slide, rock walls, and climbable netting.

Madison’s Place Playground

4125 Radio Dr., Woodbury—This suburban St. Paul fun house comprises 16,000 square feet of play area and platforms. Come summertime, hop over to an adjacent splash pad. —D.H.


Attention Youth: Remove Your Hands from the Xbox.

With 24 parks and 17 regional trails in parts of five different counties, Three Rivers stands out as one of the most impressive regional park systems in the country. But more impressive than its geographic scale is the scope of its programming, much of it aimed at adventurous summer breakers and a lot of it funded by the largess of the Legacy Amendment. From swashbuckling to Paul Bunyan-ing, we weeded through hundreds of Three Rivers offerings to unearth a handful of the coolest and gnarliest (and weirdest) to-dos in the coolest and gnarliest (and greatest) regional park system around. 

By Drew Wood

Paddle Palooza Camp

Perfect for the kid who loves the idea of paddling, but doesn’t want to commit to a vessel. This four-day on-water adventure includes paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, and, flying in the face of its very name, logrolling.

 June 29–July 2  Baker Park Reserve 

 June 29–July 2  Cedar Lake Farm Regional Park

 July 13–16  Fish Lake Regional Park

 July 27–30  Cleary Lake Regional Park

 Aug 3–6  Bryant Lake Regional Park

Laura’s Adventures Camp  

This Little House on the Prairie–themed camp offers all the magic of being a kid in the 1880s—bonnet sewing, old-time dancing, cooking over a fire—with none of the scarlet fever. July 8–10  Lowry Nature Center

Jack and Jill Lumber Skills

Has your eight-plus-year-old daughter been inspired by that lumberjack guy from the Brawny paper towels, but lacked an outlet to channel her inner Brawny man? Then this daylong program—which includes everything from logrolling to hatchet throwing to nasty-juice-spill cleanups—should do the trick.  July 9  Fish Lake Regional Park

Adventure Camp for Girls

Your daughter will learn how to do literally every gnarly thing the park has to offer—logrolling, slacklining, geocaching, rock climbing, and more—without the hassle of all those grimy, yucky boys.  Aug 3–6  Cleary Lake Regional Park 

Forts, Fire, and Fun Camp 

Should your family ever get lost in the woods whilst camping, wouldn’t you hope that your 10-year-old would rescue her elders?  So, send her to this four-day survival palooza. She’ll learn how to start a fire without matches, how to build an emergency shelter, and how to navigate dense forest. She’ll also learn how to camouflage herself…should she want to ditch you suckers once and for all. July 14-17  Eastman Nature Center

Civil War Camp

Like Laura’s Adventures Camp but with more of a life-and-death, the-country-is-coming-apart-at-the-Mason-Dixon-Line-so-you’d-better-load-your-musket-and-form-a-skirmish-line vibe. Kidding. Sort of. In this camp you learn about Minnesota’s role in the Civil War, you do military drills, you reenact a simulated skirmish, and, logically, you learn how to make rope. June 16–18  The Landing

Mermaids in the Mississippi

According to the camp description, kids will “discover whether there are mermaids and mermen in the Mississippi River.” God help us all, should they actually make said discovery. July 23–24  Mississippi Gateway Regional Park

Superhero Camp

The idea here is that your child makes a cape and superhero persona and bands together with fellow heroes to help save Elm Creek Park from the strange forces that are taking it over…those damn hammock teens! Aug 4–7  Eastman Nature Center

Pirates of Carver Park Camp 

While there haven’t been actual pirates roaming Lowry Nature Center since at least 1957, this camp presupposes there still are, and that your children are among their ranks. Treasure hunts, a voyage to Lipfish’s Beach, and even “sword work” await young swashbucklers here. Aug 18–21  Lowry Nature Center

Kid vs. Wild Camp

Like a Bear Grylls adventure—shelter building, fires with flint and steel, animal tracking—but without the helicopter entrance and inevitable need to sleep in a rotting mountain goat carcass for extra warmth.  July 14–16  The Landing

Three Rivers Ninja Warrior Camp 

Slacklining, survival skills, water sports, axe throwing, and more await wee warriors at this boot camp. Purpose: to harden them into little obstacle course–dismantling machines. There’s even a camp-wide competition on the last day. Aug 17–20  Cleary Lake Regional Park

Explosion Camp 

In the spirit of having your pyro-prone youngsters blow stuff up in a controlled environment rather than the garage, Eastman Nature Center offers them the chance to build their explosion skills from whiz-bangs to booms. They’ll start with innocuous kitchen experiments like mints in soda, and by the end of day two will be launching water rockets into the stratosphere. Aug 18–19, 20–21  Eastman Nature Center


The Invisible National Park

Pop quiz: What was the last national park you visited? 

If you’re thinking of your epic paddle in Voyageurs or that family road trip to Yellowstone, you are probably wrong—at least if you live in the Twin Cities. Why? Because every time you cross the Mississippi River in the greater metro, you are, technically, within the boundaries of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. 

Established by Congress in 1988 and administered by the National Park Service, the MNRRA encompasses a 72-mile stretch of river corridor that runs from Dayton (northwest of Minneapolis) to Hastings (southeast of St. Paul). Unlike typical national parks, the MNRRA owns only a smidgen of the real estate within those capacious boundaries. The bulk of its holdings, a little over 50 acres, comprise nine unnamed islands, which Congress transferred to the park upon its creation. More recently, the MNRRA acquired 27 acres of old Bureau of Mines property south of Minnehaha Falls. This includes the lovely restored prairie around Coldwater Spring, near the airport. The park also operates two visitor centers: one at the Science Museum in St. Paul, and the other at Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam in Minneapolis. 

Unlike conventional gated parks, the MNRRA operates as a “partnership park,” teaming up with other organizations to promote the river’s history and natural resources. Its programming ranges from bike share–like kayak rentals to the State of the River Report, which it issues in conjunction with the nonprofit Friends of the Mississippi River.

If that sounds appealing, by all means, go ahead and schedule a visit to Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. But you’ll probably end up there eventually anyway. 

—Mike Mosedale


Into the Woods

Minnesotans rarely say, “The world is your oyster.” We don’t have oysters—or an ocean, either (although Superior sure feels like one). So how about we start saying, “The world is your chokecherry”?

Our growing season may be short. But an abundance of wild foods grows right under our noses, in parks and public spaces where we’re free to roam. Granted, some parks have general restrictions on what and how much you can take—AND PLEASE CONFIRM THE SAFETY OF WILD FOODSTUFF AND ESPECIALLY MUSHROOMS! PROMISE US YOU WILL! And, oh yeah, don’t strip the woods like a jerk. With those caveats in mind, here’s a quick guide to eating your local parks. 

By Stephanie March


Lobster mushrooms

Mushroom hunters love to head up to Voyageurs National Park to collect the abundance of these beautiful sunset-colored mushrooms. Look around Sullivan Bay from July through October. 


Wild blueberries 

Look for them in high summer around Chippewa National Forest, or any area with young, open pine barrens. Alan Bergo, the Minnesota chef behind foragerchef.com, calls the park service in advance to ask about areas that have been burned. The acidic soil produces more fruit. 


Morels

The Winter Carnival medallion of the foraging world is the Minnesota State mushroom. No one will tell you where to find morels; everyone guards their stomping grounds closely. (Hint: Whitewater State Park is a good place to start.) But you can take a class from Forest to Fork (with a counter at Keg and Case) and try your luck in the wilds around mid-to-late spring.


Spruce tips

Chefs love the ends of these piney paintbrushes to turn into syrups for cocktails or baked goods. Look for Eastern white pines in Theodore Wirth Regional Park to start producing tips in late spring. And try not to pluck the top off any young tree, which can deform the tree’s growth.


Wild plums

Naturalist Maria Wesserle. founder of Four Season Foraging (fourseasonforaging.com) leads workshops along the Midtown Greenway bike path, where a number of harvest snacks can be found. Wild plums—sweet-tart bombs with tannic skins—tend to appear in late summer.


Chanterelles

One of the most sought-after Minnesota mushrooms, these yellow beauties can be found from mid-summer through fall. Look near oaks and pines, in either the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest or the Pillsbury State Forest. Some false chanterelles are poisonous; consult an expert (or put us in your will?).


Black cherries 

Bergo reports these cherries appear widely in mid-to-late August along the Willard Munger State Trail (passing through Moose Lake State Park). Alternately, they grow prolifically in small urban county parks. Bergo soaks them in vodka with some maple syrup to warm up in the winter.


Highbush cranberries 

According to Bergo, you can find these berries at Tettegouche State Park, or any park along Highway 61 heading north from Duluth. Try late August or September—even after a frost.


Can’t-Miss Park Food

(Just forage for cash.)

Sandcastle on Lake Nokomis

Chef Doug Flicker’s beach shack with beach food.

Eat: The Dog Flicker, a hot dog topped with kimchi and a fried egg.

Treat: A local craft beer or a cold bottle of Mexican Coke. sandcastlempls.com


Bread & Pickle on Lake Harriet

This Kim Bartmann project feeds the bandshell set with fresh and local food.

Eat: The Works Burger with special sauce and griddled onion.

Treat: Root beer float, with locally churned vanilla ice cream. breadandpickle.com


Sea Salt Eatery near Minnehaha Falls

The local legend still garners lines for seafood all summer long.

Eat: You can’t find a fried crawfish po’boy like this anywhere else in town.

Treat: A bottle of rosé makes this your spot for an IG date. seasalteatery.wordpress.com

—S.M.

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