Fun Things to do in Excelsior MN: Escape the Ordinary
Excelsior Minnesota is one of those magical little lakeside towns. You will always find fun things to do in Excelsior MN for the whole family. It has managed to preserve its small-town feel and attracted visitors every day.
It probably helps that it sits alongside one of the most popular lakes in the Twin Cities, Lake Minnetonka. Excelsior is bustling with things to do, whether it’s strolling the shops and restaurants, enjoying the lake view, stopping there to get on a chartered boat, or attending one of the many festivals the town is known for.
Most people from the cities, think of Uptown when they think of cool lake destinations. But for me, I would much rather spend time away from the one-way streets and endless loops, and spend time in Excelsior. I get my lake fix, good eats, and the sunshine that I’m craving. Plus I get to avoid downtown.
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Excelsior, Minnesota is a small lakeside town located on the western shores of Lake Minnetonka. It has a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century, when it was founded as a summer resort community.
In the 1850s, a group of investors from St. Paul purchased land on the western side of Lake Minnetonka and founded the town of Excelsior.
They built a hotel, the Water Street Inn, and began promoting the town as a summer resort destination for city dwellers. The town quickly grew, and by the late 1800s, it was a popular destination for tourists and locals.
Over the years, Excelsior has continued to thrive as a lakeside community, with a mix of residential and commercial development. It has maintained its small-town charm, with a historic downtown area featuring a variety of shops, restaurants, and other businesses.
Excelsior, Minnesota is known for its small-town charm, beautiful lakefront views, and many outdoor recreational opportunities. Located on the western shores of Lake Minnetonka, it is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, offering a mix of history, natural beauty, and modern amenities.
Some specific things that Excelsior is known for include its historic downtown area, with a variety of shops, restaurants, and other businesses; its many festivals and events, such as the Excelsior Art Fair and the Excelsior Apple Day; and its variety of outdoor activities, such as boating, fishing, and hiking.
Things to do in Excelsior MN
Excelsior MN is the quintessential #LakeLife destination. It’s a quick escape for those that love the city and don’t want to drive to the North Shore. It’s only fitting that the town has plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors.
Rent a Boat and Cruise Lake Minnetonka
One of the biggest draws to Lake Minnetonka is boating. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water but none is better than renting your own private charter boat. They range in size depending on the company and activities.
When they aren’t running private groups around the lake, they do public cruises too. The most popular are Al and Alma’s Charter, Lady of the Lake, and Paradise Charter Cruises
Sit at the beach
The Excelsior Commons dates back to the start of Excelsior. Today it’s a 13-acre recreation area with picnic sites, docks, buoys, and docking for boats. It is commonplace for all the town festivals and other activities, including holding the Ice Castle in 2018.
As a visitor, this is the perfect place to sit next to the shore and watch the waves come in. Enjoy a nice picnic and let the sun sit on your face. Further down at the west end of the beach is a playground for the kids to enjoy.
The City of Excelsior is investing tons of time into revamping the Excelsior Commons during 2021, including a brand new bandshell. The existing bandshell, made out of concrete was home to concerts in the park and a feature for a lot of the town’s events and celebrations.
The newly designed bandshell will be open and modern, fitting in with the town’s green landscape. Make sure to check out the Commons Concert Facebook Page to see when you can catch a concert or two when it’s finished.
Take the Trolley Through Downtown Excelsior
How better to spend the day in Excelsior than riding on a trolley? The trip takes visitors through the historic Excelsior’s half-mile track. The car stops at the car barn so passengers can view the photo gallery of historic Excelsior in the 1800s.
The ride takes is only about 15 minutes, but the perfect amount of time to entertain little ones. The streetcar is running continually, so no reservations are required.
During the fall, they hold special events like Story Time Trolley and Tick ‘r Trolley and required advance reservations. this is one of the fun things to do in Excelsior MN you gotta check out.
Excelsior is not the only town that has some great family fun Halloween activities. Make sure to check out Valleyfair’s Tricks and Treats in Shakopee or FUN Halloween Things To Do in Minneapolis for Everyone in 2022
Bike along the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail
The Lake Minnesota LRT Regional trail is over 15 miles long, stretching between Hopkins, and Carver Park Reserve, alongside Lake Minnetonka.
Excelsior is in the middle of the trail. In my humble opinion, the Excelsior portion of the trail is by far the best because of its lakeside views and entrance into the Carver Park Reserve. Plus you can walk your bike into town and enjoy the restaurants and get an ice cream treat!
Love biking around the Twin Cities? There are tons of trails. We just have more than any other state. Make sure to check out some of these other great trails: 40 Scenic Bike Trails in the Twin Cities
Ride on a Steamboat that once sat on the bottom of the lake
In 1906, the streetcar system in the Twin Cities wanted a new way to get around. They created an express steamboat to ferry residents and tourists around the lake.
At 70 feet long and 15 feet wide, it was widely used until the pesky automobile became popular. They decommissioned the boat along with the four others being used in the bottom of the lake.
When steamboats went out of commission in the 1920s, instead of storing them on land, they decided it was easier to sink them to the bottom of the lake.
In 1980 the boats were found by a salvage team and brought back Steamboat Minnehaha to its former glory. Today the ship takes visitors on tours of the lake throughout the summertime.
I got the opportunity to take a Steamboat ride a few years back and it was so much fun. Plan a fall colors trip and then enjoy the other fun things to do in Excelsior MN.
Rent your own watercraft at Tommy’s Tonka Trolley
If a party boat isn’t your thing and you want to get in the water yourself, you have to check out Tommy’s Tonka Trolley. Instead of having a brick-and-mortar store, they sell out of an old streetcar.
Serving Sebastian Joe’s handmade ice cream treats, novelty, and other summer favorites. But my favorite reason for stopping by is actually their water rentals. Tommy’s Tonka Trolley rents Paddleboards, Kayaks, and Canoes.
Excelsior attracts some of the best boutique shopping stores along Water Street. Stop in at GRAY Home + Lifestyle, Ooh La La Boutique, Brightwater Clothing & Gear or The Lakes Running Company. Listen to music at the many café, get a treat at Tommy’s Trolly. The shops are all filled with unique gifts and treats.
Excelsior MN reminded me of a great mix of both Red Wing and Stillwater. They both have the same great shopping, festivals and more, all with the history you love.
Country Look In Antiques
If you are looking for something truly unique then you have to check out The Country Look In Antiques. The store is filled with everything perfect for setting up your lake house or cabin.
Old Log Theatre
The Old Log Theatre has been a staple in Excelsior since 1940. It started out as a small production company in a log stable. They received critical acclaim for their plays and still do today.
The theatre has increased in size and now has a modern theatre space with state-of-the-art lighting and sounds. Inside the lobby is a fine dining restaurant called Cast & Cru.
Food and Drinks in Excelsior MN
A day enjoying the water would not be a day without stopping for something to eat or drink or snack on. Thankfully Excelsior has you covered with plenty of delicious treats and trendy restaurants to keep you going strong.
Get Some Ice Cream
In Excelsior, it’s hard to walk very far before seeing someone with an ice cream cone. On a warm summer day, just getting off the water, can you blame them? There are two big suppliers, Licks Unlimited and Adeles Custard. Why not try both and see who has the best?
Tommy’s Tonka Trolley also has ice cream treats. It’s probably why most people stop by. They have dairy-free sorbets and popsicles, as well as a coconut milk ice cream my daughter can’t stop talking bout.
Licks Unlimited serves Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream from Madison Wisconsin. They have over 40 different flavors, 11 cones, pints, quarts, banana splits, and more. Plus they have dairy-free sorbets. They are located on Water Street just a block from the water.
Adeles Custard serves both ice cream, frozen custard pies, deli fresh sandwiches, brats, and more. They are off of Excelsior Street but totally worth the car ride for the delicious treats!
Sit at Shoreside at Maynards
Maynards in Excelsior is a favorite for many due to its beautiful dining location. They offer two different styles, fine dining indoors and relaxed patio dining on the Warf. On a beautiful summer day, it can be hard to find a table.
After a long day of boating, guests pull right up to the dock and get a drink, listen to music, watch some beach volleyball and enjoy the festivities. There really isn’t anything better.
Have a drink at Excelsior Brewing
Inspired by the lake lifestyle, the Excelsior Brewing taproom is a fun environment to meet up with friends or grab a beer to stock up your fridge. Their taproom is filled with live music and a great atmosphere.
They are family and dog-friendly. The taproom serves 20 draught lines of fine beers, hard seltzer, crafted sodas, and infused waters.
Lago Tacos takes some of the freshest ingredients and makes them into creative taco mashups, house-made sauces, and delicious margaritas. Located a block away from the lake this taco joint has the best atmosphere in Excelsior.
With live music and good drinks, it’s hard to walk by it without turning heads.
Olives Fresh Pizza Bar
Don’t let the name bar mislead you, Olives Fresh Pizza Bar is all about specialty pizzas, salads, and specialty drinks. The dough and sauce are made fresh daily, topped with a unique flavor combination, and cooked at a wood fire. You can smell what’s cooking just by walking by.
Red Sauce Rebellion
Casual Italian Restaurant in the heart of downtown Excelsior. They serve Italian classes, specialty sandwiches, and breakfast that make your mouth water.
What I love about Red Sauce Rebellion is they take familiar dishes and add an unexpected twist. The whole family will find something to eat here
Red Bench Bakery
If you are looking for a breakfast treat or other carb you need to stop at the Red Bench Bakery in downtown Excelsior.
The first time I came across a Red Bench Bakery was in Chaska. At the moment there are only two locations. They have beautiful pastries, served all day long, as well as freshly baked bread.
During the lunch hour, they also sell a few deli sandwiches. Make sure to get there by two before they close, or run out of product!
Get some sweets at Truffle Hill Chocolate
Just outside of downtown Excelsior is the cute Truffle shop you’ll come across. Inside a historic home, Truffle Hill Chocolates are crafting old fashion sweets in small batches, made fresh.
They have the largest collections of truffles I’ve come across in every flavor. Plus other handcrafted treats. You gotta check it out.
Minnesota has some amazing candy stores. They are hiding in small towns all over. Truffle Hill made my list. How many others have you been to on the list: 16 of the Best Candy Stores in Minnesota
Excelsiors Festivals You have to See to Believe
Excelsior’s lively downtown and Lake Minnetonka view make it one of the best places in the Twin Cities for a festival or outdoor celebration. They host big events all year round. It’s hard not attending one of these things to do in Excelsior MN.
Fall is apple season and what better way to celebrate it than have an entire festival dedicated to Apples! Vendors come out with their best apple-inspired foods, live music, and dancing in the streets.
The lakeside festival is a one of kind event you don’t want to miss. Apple Days are usually held in Mid-September.
Art on the Lake
Excelsior is already a town buzzing with cute shops along the lake, it only seems fitting to have one of the best Art Festivals in the Twin Cities.
The best in fine art comes out to the Commons to display and sell their amazing creations. Take a stroll through the beautiful park and enjoy the festival.
Typically held each year in June, during 2021 they have pushed it back to September with all the COIVD uncertainty.
Excelsior Farmers Market
During the summertime, the best place to get fresh produce, flowers, honey, jams, beef, lamb, chicken, plants, herbs, baked goods, and more is the Excelsior Farmer’s Market. Held every Tuesday from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm., May through October. The market is positioned on Water Street between Second Street and Third Street.
Pond Hockey Championship
The North American Pond Hockey Championship is played each year on Excelsior Bay on Lake Minnetonka. This tournament started as a fundraiser for the family of a well-known Hockey Player David Wynn Bigham.
Since then, it is used to help out other families in need. Eighty teams compete on 12 pond hockey rinks. Every dollar produced from the three-day tournament benefits charity.
Fourth of July Celebration
Watch the fireworks over Lake Minnetonka during the 4th of July Celebration. All day long the activities start, including food, music, and games. They wrap up with a stunning display that attacks over 100,000 visitors.
Tour de Tonka
One of the biggest biking events takes over much of the southwest metro, including Excelsior for a day. Usually, during the first week of August, the routes vary in length from 16, 30, 36, 48, 57, 62, 71, and 100 miles.
The Tour de Tonka is “Minnesota’s Ride” with over 3,500 riders each year. The routes take riders all around Lake Minnetonka. More information is available at Tour de Tonka.
Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby
In January 2022 the Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby returned to Excelsior. This fun dog sled route starts in downtown Excelsior and racers make two laps around the lake before finishing back in Excelsior.
This is a fun event to watch. Enjoy watching teams take off and cheer for them. These mushers are hardcore!
Where to stay in Excelsior MN
Excelsior is such a small town, there isn’t even an established hotel. But that’s ok because you can stay in the Bird House In and Garden in the Historic James H Clark House.
The 1858 Victorian Italianate bed and breakfast hotel is located on Waterstreet, keeping you close to everything fun to do in Excelsior. If that fills up, you can always stay at the neighboring Country Inn and Suites by Radisson in Chanhassen.
Fun Facts About Excelsior
Where was the Excelsior MN Amusement Park located?
Excelsior Amusement Park was located in Excelsior, Minnesota, United States. It was situated on the south shore of Lake Minnetonka and was a popular destination for more than 75 years, from 1925 until its closure in 1973.
Today, the site of the former park is occupied by a housing development, but many of the original park structures, including the famous “Cyclone” roller coaster, have been preserved and are now part of the Excelsior Amusement Park Historical District.
Is Shorewood MN the same as Excelsior MN?
Shorewood and Excelsior are separate cities in Minnesota, although they are located close to each other in Hennepin County.
Shorewood is a city with a population of around 7,500 people, located on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka.
Excelsior, on the other hand, is a smaller city with a population of around 2,500 people, located just to the west of Shorewood.
Both cities are known for their beautiful lakefronts, charming downtown areas, and vibrant communities.
Would I go back for more things to do in Excelsior MN?
Excelsior has become a second home to me as a quick getaway. I love strolling the streets and seeing what new shops have come in. On date night, it is the first place we go to for a reservation. Or the perfect place to watch the sunset on a beach. Even if you aren’t taking a boat out, there is plenty of things to do in Excelsior MN.