Summer days with access to a lake right around the corner? Plus the charming coves, darling homes, and trails that come along with it – could you picture a more perfect community? Most Minnesotans are familiar with Lake Minnetonka, but not everyone has had the chance to visit the town that the lake’s name is based upon. With a population of about 53,000, there’s a variety of businesses, both small and corporate, plenty of community activities, and a personality Minnetonka is proud to maintain.
Located only eight miles west of Minneapolis, this suburban city has a lengthy history. Like most Minnesota towns, Minnetonka is named by the Dakota Indians: mni tanka meaning “great water.” Referencing the beautiful lake right along the coast. The city dates back to the 1800s, a time of dense woods and open prairie for great hunting and excellent fishing opportunities. In 1851 the Dakota people signed an agreement allowing settlement of land west of Fort Snelling, Minnetonka was the first of these establishments.
The Charles Burwell House, pictured above, offers an opportunity to take a step back in Minnetonka’s history. Tours throughout the summer and camps offered to children, helps modern day individuals understand what life was like back then. The home is set up to resemble what it may have looked like in the 1890s, a time when the Burwell family inhabited this location and had great involvement with milling. The home features two floors including a dining room, two kitchens, a parlor, a bathroom, and five bedrooms. Also along the property are a Mill Office and workshop, a small cottage, plenty of plants blooming in the surrounding garden, and even a small bridge.
Big Island Amusement Park
At our Flagship Bank Minnetonka Location, we offer a look into the town’s history as well. Upon entry, you’ll see a mural located on your right. A lighthouse established on Big Island Park surrounded by an amusement park, shows off the old attraction that used to be located here. The Big Island Amusement Park opened in 1905 was filled with roller coasts, a casino, a carousel, boat rentals, and picnic grounds. Due to great costs and efforts in the off season though, the park closed in 1911. The buildings and parts were then dismantled to be used for World War I efforts. The Island re-established as a campground for the veterans association, and stayed this way for almost 80 years until being purchased by the City of Orono in 2003. The Island is currently opened as a nature park, allowing for hiking, picnics, and other recreational activities. Only the amusement park grand entrance, also referred to as “The Mall,” and a ditch that once contained the Old Mill ride remain of the original park.
Our Minnetonka branch also includes a large area map behind the teller line. This map provides a display of what the area looked like back in the early 1900s, along with black and white photographs. Steamboats, vintage baseball teams, and the Northome Stone Arch are just a few features among the images. We are proud to be a part of this Minnesotan history and love showing off our Minnetonka mural. Feel free to stop by Flagship’s Minnetonka branch if you ever want to view it in person.
What to do?
Having a location along a well known Minnesota Lake, had me at no surprise to see a huge community involvement in the outdoors. The first stop I made was at Robinson bay beach, a sandy hidden cove with a small dock. Here I found a mother playing with her young child in the sand. It was obvious that this was one of the more private, local spots in Deephaven (an extended establishment of Minnetonka). After snapping a couple of pictures and feeling thankful for the soft sand, I moved along to the headway of the Minnehaha Creek, Gray’s Bay Dam.
Gray's Bay Dam
Hidden among charming neighborhoods, the Dam offers access to a variety of trails. A walking bridge across the water allows crossing to the neighborhood on opposite sides. Opportunities to sit on a bench along the pier was present as well, I decided to take advantage of this and eat a quick lunch at this spot. During my tasty lunch break, I witnessed many locals taking a break for a chance to step outside as well. People were kayaking, walking their dogs along the trails, and biking. With the sun shining down on me, surrounded by trees brushing in the wind, I found myself very relaxed and encompassed by the area.
Minnetonka is filled with about 40 great public parks and 90 miles of trails. No matter what neighborhood I entered, there was an escape for a trail among large trees and natural vegetation in the community.
Along with a great outdoor scene, comes great businesses. For starters a classic retro looking diner by the name of Snuffy’s Malt Shop offers hand-spun ice cream, yummy cheeseburgers, and crunchy onion rings. You’ll be surrounded by a wall of classic memorable and photos, as well as a diner mural on the opposite side. I can never say no to ice cream, so I took the opportunity to enjoy a banana-chocolate malt. The regular size is enough to split among two people and even have left overs in the shiny malt container. Chilled clear glass and long extended spoons made the treat even more enjoyable. To take a peak at the milkshake for yourself, check out our Instagram post of it here. Along with cherry red booths and a kind staff, this is a spot you don’t want to miss.
A few businesses down from Snuffy’s is also a refreshing food co-op, Lakewinds. Inside you’ll discover organic food products, grocery aisles built for bringing reusable containers, and a fresh food station serving bakery items, pizza, and a salad bar. Besides fresh food, Lakewinds offers a selection of plants to purchase, Eco-friendly hygiene products, and an assortment of gifts. My favorite aspect of Lakewinds was the self serving kombucha tap bar, providing three different flavors and many reusable containers for purchase.
Community involvement continues with a variety of events offered throughout the summer. Local produce and vendors can be found on Tuesdays at the Minnetonka Civic Center farmers market. Entertainment in the park is another summer favorite. Various free concerts and outdoor movies are provided on select dates, also located at the Civic Center campus. Opportunities to meet local officials, get to know your neighbors, and spend some time outdoors can be affiliated with the Night to Unite.
If you're looking for an event that includes many communities in the area, check out the Tour de Tonka on August 4th. Over 3,500 riders will be moving through 24 different west metro communities. But if biking isn't your chosen activity, come join all of us at Flagship Bank at the Shaver Shuffle 5k in Plymouth. On August 4th we will be volunteering and participating in this event, along with an assortment of runners, walkers, and shufflers- moving for a great cause, the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund. For more local events, stay tuned on the Minnetonka events page for the latest information in the area.
Minnetonka is known for a thriving business community, beautiful residential areas, and excellent water activities. Whether you’re looking to venture on an old abandoned amusement park, take in a day at the lake, or are simply craving a delicious malt, keep Minnetonka in mind. All of us at Flagship Bank feel very privileged to have a branch located here.