Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Excelsior, MN

  • Published 2023/04/25

Excelsior in Minnesota is known for its relaxed atmosphere and scenic views, a small city with big vibes.

It was the first white settlement in the area and was established in 1853.

Just 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis, the city is the perfect place for a day trip or weekend getaway.

In 2021, the buildings on Water Street, which house many local shops, were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Excelsior is nestled within Hennepin County, on the south shore of Lake Minnetonka, bordered by Shorewood and Greenwood cities.

Visitors will have a grand time in Excelsior Commons and Port of Excelsior, along with the Lake Minnetonka shoreline.

You can enjoy many activities in this charming city, from exploring the local shops and restaurants to taking in the natural beauty of the area.

Here are some of the best things to do in Excelsior, Minnesota:

Discover the Beauty of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Pretty tulips at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Anh Luu /

Fill your days with wonders, as the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is one of the top things to do in Excelsior.

This 160-acre arboretum and botanical garden feature a variety of gardens, plant collections, and natural areas.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is near the University of Minnesota Fruit Breeding Farm and was established in 1958.

Rock lantern at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's japanese garden

SergeBertasiusPhotography /

There are miles of trails to explore, making it the perfect place to get fresh air and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Some of the gardens at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum include the Aquatic Garden, the Formal Rose Garden, and the Perennial Garden.

In addition to these gardens, the arboretum also features a variety of plant collections, including maples, oaks, and conifers.

However, visitors should make a reservation to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Small flowers at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

enjoy.the.image /

Soak up the Old Town Vibes at the Water Street Historic District

The Water Street Historic District is the perfect place to start your exploration of Excelsior.

It is the main drag in Excelsior and is lined with cute shops and restaurants.

This area is home to historic buildings, including the 1853 Excelsior House Hotel, Minnesota’s oldest continuously operating hotel.

The district also includes a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as the Dakota Rail Trail, perfect for a stroll or bike ride.

After your fill of history, head to downtown Excelsior to explore the shops and restaurants.

Explore the Minnesota Streetcar Museum

The Minnesota Streetcar Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in transportation history.

It is housed in the former Excelsior Street Railway Powerhouse and features a variety of streetcars and trolleys from different eras.

The museum has refurbished several vintage Minnesota streetcars and runs them for the general public in Excelsior and Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

Tourists can ride one of the vintage streetcars or trolleys or explore the museum’s exhibits to learn more about the history of streetcar transportation in Minnesota.

Additionally, the Minnesota Streetcar Museum publishes a quarterly journal about the history of Minnesota streetcars and keeps an archive of about 10,000 photographs.

The pictures highlight the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul while displaying all facets of streetcar operations in the state.

Taste the Local Flavors at Excelsior Brewing Co.

A visit to Excelsior would not be complete without tasting the local flavors at one of the many breweries in town.

The town is home to several breweries, including Excelsior Brewing Co., one of the most popular breweries in the state.

The brewery offers a variety of beer tastings and tours so that you can learn about the brewing process.

Excelsior Brewing Company’s taproom has 20 tap lines, live music, games, parties, trucker hats, and an incredibly hip atmosphere.

You can also find several beer gardens and taprooms throughout the town, so you can enjoy a cold pint while exploring Excelsior.

Visitors can come to enjoy a crisp craft beer alone or with companions.

Explore the Waters of Lake Minnetonka

A boat docked at Lake Minnetonka

etalei /

The ninth-largest lake in Minnesota, Lake Minnetonka is also one of the busiest lakes in the United States.

The lake is home to several popular attractions, including Big Island Nature Park, Silver Bay, and Wayzata Beach.

The waters of Lake Minnetonka

etalei /

Several boat rental companies are also located around the lake, so you can explore the waters at your own pace.

Visitors can enjoy fishing, hiking, boating, and picnicking in the park.

The 4th of July celebration in Lake Minnetonka is an annual event that takes place in the summer and features a variety of family-friendly activities.

Step Back in Time at the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society Museum

The Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society Museum is a great place to learn about the town’s history.

It features a variety of historical documents, photos, and artifacts that tells the story of Excelsior.

The museum also features a genealogy research center to learn about your family’s history.

You may take a self-guided tour of the archive to learn about the city’s history.

Visitors can also join the Run for History 5k, held annually to raise money for the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society.

The museum is a great place to visit if you are interested in learning about the history of Excelsior and the surrounding area.

Explore the Natural Beauty of Excelsior Parkland

A 15.5-acre nature park, Excelsior Parkland is located on Oak Street and features a variety of walking trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds.

The park is home to the Community Garden Park, which allows you to rent garden plots to grow your vegetables.

Studer Pond, a vast wetland, is part of Excelsior Parkland and provides a habitat for forest animals.

Visitors have several opportunities to enjoy serene natural settings and see various wildlife in this area.

Excelsior Parkland is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and take in the city’s natural beauty.

Chill in the Excelsior Commons

Creative art event on the grounds of Excelsior Commons

Wendy Ashland /

The Excelsior Commons is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.

It is a vast public park with a bandstand, fountain, and several sculptures.

The park is also home to various events throughout the year, including the Excelsior Art Fair and the Excelsior Farmer’s Market.

Summer concert series are also held in the park, so you can enjoy live music while relaxing in the Excelsior Commons.

Visitors will also love the scenery while attending the events at the Excelsior Commons, as the park offers a stunning view of Lake Minnetonka.

The Excelsior Commons is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the beautiful Minnesota weather.

Have Fun at the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail

Between Hopkins and Carver Park Reserve, the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail spans over 15 miles and provides breathtaking views of the lake.

The trail is popular with runners, bikers, and walkers alike and is a great place to get some exercise.

In Excelsior, the trailhead can be found at Water Street and Lake Street.

The cities of Minnetonka, Deephaven, Greenwood, Excelsior, Shorewood, and Victoria are all traversed by this breathtaking trail.

For more adventurous hikers and bikers, Carver Park Reserve offers camping opportunities where they can spend the night outside.

Before crossing the former location of the renowned Excelsior Amusement Park and entering the city’s center, the trail briefly follows the shoreline.

Exploring the Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail is a great way to see the lake and enjoy the outdoors.

Buy Some Vintage Finds at Leipold’s Gifts and Antiques

Leipold’s Gifts and Antiques, established in 1971, is brimming with gifts and antiques.

Located in the Excelsior Historic Downtown District, the store is chock-full of nautical gifts, vintage finds, and locally made goods.

It also contains collectible magazines, books, trinkets, modest home decor, dishes, glassware, and much more.

Leipold’s Gifts and Antiques is the place to go if you want a unique gift or a particular piece of home decor.

This is also a must-visit shop if you’re looking for souvenirs from the Excelsior Amusement Park (antique photos, wooden signs, or books).

Stroll through the Excelsior Farmers’ Market

The Excelsior Farmers’ Market is situated just behind the Excelsior-Hennepin County Library in the back lot of Excelsior Elementary.

It seeks to support regional agricultural and artisan output while giving farmers and artisans a venue to showcase and market their wares.

It also aims to encourage a regional alternative for mass-produced products, and we encourage local purchasing.

The market sells fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, and more.

Live music performances are held here on select days.

The Excelsior Farmers’ Market is open from June to August.

Find Amazing Entertainment at the Port of Excelsior

Daytime view of the Port of Excelsior

Greg Gjerdingen, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Port of Excelsior is a marina and public dock located on Lake Minnetonka’s shores.

It is home to businesses, including restaurants, shops, and a hotel.

The marina also features a public boat launch to enjoy a day on the water.

In addition to the businesses, the Port of Excelsior is also home to several events throughout the year.

While watching the boats, you can enjoy an ice cream cone from one of the many surrounding ice cream shops.

Sunsets are also exceptional at the Port of Excelsior, so you can enjoy a beautiful lake view while relaxing on the dock.

Dine by the Wharf at Maynards

Savor the waterfront dining at Maynards, which offers the best views of Lake Minnetonka.

It’s located on the wharf, which makes it more inviting for many locals and tourists to both enjoy comfort food and the atmosphere.

The restaurant is known for its mouthwatering lunch and dinner specials, including walleye, back ribs, firecracker shrimp, French onion soup, buffalo chicken wrap, and more.

Both the cheese curds and waffle fries are also a must-try.

Those who are gluten-sensitive can enjoy the restaurant’s gluten-free options on request.

Also, don’t miss out on its Happy Hour for great discounts on food and drinks.

You can find Maynards Excelsior Boulevard.

Watch a Play at the Old Log Theatre

The Old Log Theatre on Meadville Street brings both contemporary musicals and children’s productions in a rustic and serene atmosphere.

Founded in 1940, it’s the state’s oldest professional theater, and even in the U.S. for its decades of being active in the performing arts.

From musicals, comedies, and contemporary plays, this charming theater can seat up to 560 audiences.

It also has an on-site restaurant called CAST & CRU, where you can dine before or after the play.

The Old Log Theatre was owned by theater actor Don Stolz until theater enthusiasts and producers Greg and Marissa Frankenfield purchased it in 2013.

Catch a Blockbuster at Excelsior Dock Cinema

Operating three screens and can seat up to 260 audiences, Excelsior Dock Cinema is the best place in the city to watch a blockbuster.

The cinema has an old-town feel to it for its vintage vibe, especially since it had its humble beginnings in the 1940s when the old Tonka Theater opened.

Located near the shores of Lake Minnetonka, the cinema features first-run movies.

Movie-goers also love how the cinema uses real butter on its popcorn, so grab some to enjoy the movie!

Excelsior Dock Cinema is located off Water Street.

Take Down Some Pins at the Country Club Lanes

Bring your family and friends out to the Country Club Lanes, where you can both hang out and play bowling.

Established in 1992, the bowling alley features 12 lanes; old-school style with a great atmosphere and warm smiles from everyone around.

It also hosts birthday parties, tournaments, and leagues for kids, teens, and adults.

The bowling alley also offers Glow Bowling, which is popular among bowlers and visitors.

Also, if you need to grab a bite, you can order its delicious starters, pizza, burgers, drinks, and more.

Have fun at Country Club Lanes on Manitou Road.

Hang Out at The Suburban

After a day of exploring the beautiful city of Excelsior, you can cap the night at The Suburban, which features industrial-chic digs with an outdoor patio.

This quaint sports bar serves burgers, hotdogs, flatbreads, and many other bites made from scratch.

It also has TV screens to watch your favorite sport while enjoying a bite and some specialty drinks, including cocktails, wine, and draft beer.

Also, people are raving about its mouthwatering Labor Inducer burger, which is a must-try!

Cindy, Kelsey, and Ashley Berset established The Suburban in 2014 on Water Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Immerse Yourself in Nature at Christmas Lake

Swans on the Christmas Lake

Chardonnay Vance, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas Lake is a 265-acre spring-fed lake in western Minneapolis’s Shorewood and Chanhassen suburbs.

Hennepin and Carver counties’ borders intersect at the lake, and most of the region is within the former’s jurisdiction.

According to the DNR, Christmas Lake has the best water clarity in the Minneapolis metropolitan area, with a recorded clarity level of 20 feet.

Although only a tiny portion of the lake’s surface, Christmas Lake expands rapidly to a depth of 87 feet, creating a depression whose basin stretches the whole length of “the Ridge,” the lake’s rim.

Due to the steepness of the shoreline, several homes are constructed high above the lake, with motorized vehicles railed against allowing access to docks at water level.

Christmas Lake is one of several lakes in the Minneapolis metropolitan area formed by glaciers.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Minnetonka Orchards

Located in Minnetrista, Minnetonka Orchards is a family-owned and operated farm that has been in business since 1980 on a 40-acre farm in the west end of the Twin Cities.

The orchard offers a variety of fruits and vegetables, fresh-pressed apple cider, pies, donuts, and other fall treats.

Enjoy a private event at the picturesque Minnetonka Orchards, complete with all its amenities.

School field trips and tours of the orchard and its grounds are also offered.

As one of Minnesota’s most well-known orchards, Minnetonka Orchard welcomes visitors in the fall for apple-picking, hayrides, children’s activities, live music, hot apple cider, its famed apple donuts, and other activities.

Minnetonka Orchards also has a bakery where you can purchase pies, pastries, and other sweet treats.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Lake Minnetonka Regional Park

Lake Minnetonka Regional Park is situated along the picturesque Lake Minutenetonka Shoreline in the city of Minnetrista.

The park is an excellent spot to visit with the whole family; it has a spacious play area with a nautical design and a chlorinated swimming pond.

Picnic areas, a three-hole disc golf practice course, a fishing pier, biking and hiking trails, and a boat launch and access point are all available.

There are also numerous camping sites and picnic areas.

A portion of Big Island that is protected and designated as the Arthur Allen Wildlife Sanctuary is owned by Lake Minnetonka Regional Park.

The park features a swimming beach, a fishing pier, and a boat launch.

Lake Minnetonka Regional Park is a popular spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of things to do in Excelsior, Minnesota.

From farmers’ markets to apple orchards, there is something for everyone.

So get out there and explore what Excelsior and the surrounding area offers!

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