Port of Excelsior

Fun Things to do in Excelsior MN: Escape the Ordinary 2024

Excelsior Minnesota is one of those magical little lakeside towns. It has managed to preserve its small-town feel and attracted visitors every day. You will always find fun things to do in Excelsior MN for the whole family.

It probably helps that it sits alongside one of the most popular lakes in the Twin Cities, Lake Minnetonka.

Excelsior offers a variety of things to do, such as shopping, dining, enjoying the scenic lake view, taking a chartered boat trip, and attending festivals.

Most people from the Cities think of a lake destination, they think of Uptown. But for me, I would much rather spend time away from the one-way streets, and spend time in Excelsior.

I satisfy my need for the lake, delicious food, and the sunshine. Plus I get to avoid downtown.

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Excelsior Minnesota

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 the Water Street Inn, a hotel, to attract city dwellers and promote the town as a summer resort destination. 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.

This place is on the western side of Lake Minnetonka and is loved by tourists and locals because it has a great combination of history, natural beauty, and modern amenities.

Some specific things that Excelsior is known for are 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.

Excelsior Bay Party Rentals. One of the fun things to do in Excelsior MN

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. They even used it for the Ice Castle in 2018.

It 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.

Quick Tip: They charge for parking right next to the playground. But you can find free lots and side streets if you don’t mind a quick walk.

Excelsior MN Beach
Playground in Excelsior

Excelsior Bandshell

The City of Excelsior just revamped the Excelsior Commons, including building a brand new Bandshell.

The newly designed Bandshell is open and modern, fitting in with the town’s green landscape. Make sure to check out the Commons Concert Facebook Page to see their concert schedule. Shows run from May to August. 

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 require advance reservations. This is one of the fun things to do in Excelsior MN you have to 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.

Trolley Tracks

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. I believe the Excelsior part of the trail is the best because of its lakeside views and access to the Carver Park Reserve. My daughter and I took a ride into town. On a busy summer weekend, it’s the easiest way to get there.

We walked our bike into town and got 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

Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail
Biking 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.

Tip: If you are looking for Dairy Free Ice Cream in Excelsior, Tommy’s Tonka has some options for you! According to my daughter, it’s the best in Excelsior!

Tommy's Tonka Trolley

Boutique Shopping

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 cafés, get a treat at Tommy’s Trolly. The shops are all filled with unique gifts and treats.

Shopping Downtown Excelsior

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.

Country Look in Antiques

Food and Drinks in Excelsior MN

A day enjoying the water would not be a day without stopping for something to eat, 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 coconut milk ice cream my daughter can’t stop talking about.

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!

Licks Unlimited in Excelsior

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 can dock and enjoy drinks, music, beach volleyball, and festivities. There really isn’t anything better.

You don’t need to boat in. On weekends and during the evenings on a nice night, parking is a challenge. Carpool, plan to get there early, or plan on walking. I’ve actually had to get creative to get a spot there.

Maynards Dock

Have a drink at Excelsior Brewing

Excelsior Brewing taproom has a fun lake lifestyle vibe, perfect for hanging out with friends or picking up some beer for home. Their taproom is filled with live music and a great atmosphere.

They are family-friendly and dog-friendly. The taproom serves 20 draft lines of fine beers, hard seltzer, crafted sodas, and infused waters.

Excelsior Brewing Company

Lago Tacos

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 without turning heads.

Lago Tacos

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

Stop at Red Bench Bakery in downtown Excelsior for a delicious breakfast pastry or other carb.

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 midday, or run out of product!

Red Bench Bakery

Get some sweets at Truffle Hill Chocolate

If you need some chocolate in your life, you need to stop into Truffle Hill Chocolate. They used to be in a historic house just outside of town. I am so excited to hear that they are moving now to downtown. They are opening up in the Summer of 2024. For now you can order them online while they get the new location ready.

They have the largest collections of truffles I’ve come across in every flavor. Plus other handcrafted treats.

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

Truffle Hill Chocolate MN Chocoalte

Excelsior Festivals You have to See to Believe

Excelsior is a great place in the Twin Cities for festivals and outdoor celebrations because of its lively downtown and beautiful view of Lake Minnetonka.

They host big events all year round. It’s hard not attending one of these things to do in Excelsior MN.

Apple Days

Fall is apple season and what better way to celebrate it than to 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, a town with charming shops by the lake, is a great place for 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.

Excelsior Commons

Excelsior Farmers Market

The Excelsior Farmer’s Market is the best place to get fresh produce, flowers, honey, jams, beef, lamb, chicken, plants, herbs, and baked goods during the summer.

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 has been 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 the Lake Minnetonka Klondike Dog Derby returns to Excelsior. The dog sled race begins in downtown Excelsior and goes around the lake twice before ending in Excelsior again.

This is a fun event to watch. Enjoy watching teams take off and cheer for them. These mushers are hardcore!

Unfortunately they had to cancel in 2024 due to ice conditions. Keep an eye out in 2025 for their return.

Mushers at the Klondike Derby in Excelsior

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 located on the south side of Lake Minnetonka and was a popular spot for over 75 years, from 1925 to its closure in 1973.

Today, there are houses on the land where the old park used to be, but some of the original park buildings, like the famous “Cyclone” roller coaster, have been kept.

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 are plenty of things to do in Excelsior MN.

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