Did you know that the state of Minnesota has more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii combined? Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” and the city of Minneapolis is rich in lakes as well. We have over 22, in fact. Minneapolis lake culture makes it easy to get outdoors, stay healthy and enjoy the beauty of nature. Many Minneapolis lakes are part of the Minneapolis parks system, and as such boast well-maintained walking and biking paths and restrooms. Several have casual lakeside restaurants. In this post you’ll learn all about Lake Nokomis, the easternmost large Minneapolis lake located in south Minneapolis.
Nokomis is one of three sailing lakes in the Minneapolis park system and it offers a ton of recreational opportunities. With two beaches, a restaurant, and the ability to rent a huge variety of watercraft and bikes, you can easily spend the day here.
The lake’s name, adopted in 1910, honors Nokomis, Hiawatha’s grandmother. There are 2 pathways circling the lake, a 2.7-mile pedestrian trail and a 2.8-mile bicycle trail. Didn’t bring your bike? No worries, you can rent one, or you can rent something to get on the water!
Lake Nokomis has 2 beaches: the 50th Street beach, where no lifeguards are on duty, and the Main Beach. The Main Beach has a lifeguard, a restroom facility, and a casual restaurant, the Sandcastle. Sandcastle offers fresh, local food at moderate prices and has a great outdoor seating area overlooking the lake. Click here for hours and menu.
The Main Beach also offers picnic areas and a playground; it’s a great spot to bring the kids. Regular season lifeguard hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Be sure to check the Park Board’s Main Beach page for lifeguard hours when you plan to visit.
Found at Lake Nokomis Main Beach, Wheel Fun Rentals provides all kinds of rentals so you can enjoy your favorite outdoor activities at any time. Hours are 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and holidays.
Consult the Lake Nokomis Wheel Fun Rentals page for full details. Hours vary according to the season.
For fun on the water, watercraft rentals include kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and my personal favorite, the new swan boats! You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards hourly, by the half day or for a full day. You can rent the swan boats hourly. And the fun doesn’t stop when the sun sets.
Swan boat night rides feature the iconic swan boats illuminated by LED lights that add a little after-dark sparkle. Sounds like a good way to romance that special someone! Or just the perfect opportunity to have some fun after the sun goes down on beautiful Lake Nokomis. On cooler nights, bring a blanket or wear layers to stay warm and comfortable. Night rides are offered 7 days a week from sunset to 10 p.m.
My personal fave: Swan boats!
Glide across the water in style while commandeering a Swan Boat. Swan Boats fit up to 5 people with a total capacity of 1,400 pounds. Fun and eye-catching, these boats are perfect for dates, a family outing, or fun with friends. Their large hulls add increased buoyancy to create a super stable, safe, and smooth ride. The enclosed back bench seat makes for the perfect spot for young skippers and adults alike.
All boats come equipped with a Bimini top for sun shade. You can bring food and drinks aboard the swan boats (but no alcohol or large coolers).
Surreys and Bikes
You can also rent a variety of bicycle conveyances to take you around the lake on the pathways.
What the heck is a surrey? A small carriage with four wheels and a roof, and seats facing forward, pulled by a horse or horses; that was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when surreys were popular in the U.S. Nowadays surreys are people-powered via pedals. People have been wheeling around in surreys at the lake for over 20 years! The smaller surrey seats 3 adults plus 2 small kiddos in the front basket. The larger surrey seats up to 6 adults and 2 small children.
You can also rent an individual bike or (tricycles, chopper), one that seats two. These are not traditional bikes, but 3 wheelers It’s a new kind of bicycle built for two, for sure.
For your safety, watercraft rentals include life jackets and bike rentals include helmets.
I always see several fishermen when I’m taking a walk around Nokomis. The lake contains many types of fish, including bluegill, bowfin, largemouth bass, sunfish, walleye, and yellow perch. Give it a try—people fish from the bridge, the shore, and the docks, as well as from boats on the water.
Fishing piers are located on the North side of the lake at East Minnehaha Parkway and Lake Nokomis Parkway and on the Southeast side of the lake, East Lake Nokomis Parkway between East 54th and 55th streets. If you have a boat, use the public boat launch to get on the water. The Nokomis boat launch is on the West side of the lake. Gas powered boat motors are not allowed on Minneapolis city lakes, but you can use your gas-powered boat if the motor is propped up and out of the water.
You can continue on fishing in the winter, as well! Minneapolis lakes offer the same great fishing in the winter months as they do in the warm seasons. Ice fishing houses dot the lakes in winter.
Enjoy native flowers at Lake Nokomis gardens and Naturescape
On the lake’s northeast shore (50th Street and Nokomis Parkway), you will find the Lake Nokomis Naturescape. Featuring a variety of native flowers and grasses, the Naturescape is an official Monarch Waystation and National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat site. Before 1850, the uplands of what is now Minneapolis were covered with prairie grasses, wildflowers, and scattered oak trees. This oak savanna plant community has become very rare. This project—a 4-acre native planting—brings back a glimpse of this ecosystem and provides a model of sustainable landscaping for urban dwellers. For more information, check out the Nokomis Naturescape Facebook Page.
Find the Nokomis East Gateway Garden at the at the corner of East 50th Street and Old Hiawatha. It’s kitty corner from the Minnehaha station on the Hiawatha LRT line. It’s designed to resemble a Monarch butterfly wing when seen from an aerial view. The garden was planted in October of 2010 using plants indigenous to the region, including a Bur Oak to represent the Oak Savanna found in this area centuries ago. Neighborhood volunteers maintain the garden. Everyone is welcome to volunteer and visitors are encouraged. To learn more, see the Nokomis East Gateway Garden Facebook Page.
Near the lake more park features. Several playing fields, a pickleball court, and lots of places for kids to play. Nokomis Park offers outdoor programming year-round with pond hockey in the winter. Learn more about Park activities on the Minneapolis Parks site here.
Thinking of moving to Minneapolis?
Minneapolis neighborhoods in this post: Diamond Lake, Hale, Keewaydin and Wenonah. Nearby: Ericsson, Northrop