Named after the lake that takes center stage in this southern Minneapolis neighborhood, Nokomis balances natural splendor with some of the most original dining and shopping experiences around. Minnehaha Creek runs through the heart of Nokomis, providing miles of shoreline for serene hikes, bike rides and picnics. As if that wasn’t enough for waterfront rec, the creek flows into Lake Hiawatha, home to its own park, playground and pool.
Things to Do
For a full day of outdoor adventures, start at Lake Nokomis—the heart of the neighborhood—and branch out from there. As one of three sailing lakes in the Minneapolis parks system, the lake draws flocks of boaters who depart from the launch located just south of the Main Beach. Canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding are also popular activities here, and Wheel Fun Rentals can hook you up with the gear you need (they offer bike rentals, too).
On warm days, the lake’s two beaches are lined with families lounging and playing along the sandy shoreline. At the Main Beach, Sandcastle serves tasty bites including shrimp tacos and fried cheese curds. The 50th Street Beach is smaller and a bit of a hidden gem, as it tends to be less crowded. Come winter, the lake becomes a frozen battleground during the annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. More than two dozen rinks host some of the country’s players for nonstop action on the ice.
Canoers can paddle their way through the neighborhood along Minnehaha Creek, which features a dramatic climax with the 53-foot-tall Minnehaha Falls (don’t worry; you’ll be out of the water before you get there). A stone’s throw from the falls, savor fresh seafood and apps at Sea Salt. A nearby 6-acre dog park allows Rover to roam leash-free, while hikers love roaming the Minnehaha Creek Trail, a gorgeous, wooded 1.8-mile loop.
Hop across Hiawatha Avenue to explore Longfellow Gardens, teeming with a broad palette of perennials and annuals in addition to trees and shrubs. Photo tip: The arched white arbor provides a perfectly framed selfie op.
When cooler weather arrives, the adventures continue indoors. Retro ‘50s décor meets contemporary comforts at Town Hall Lanes, a ten-lane bowling alley, restaurant and craft brewery. Their Super Strike Light Lager pairs beautifully with a friendly round of ten frames. If you prefer striking artwork to knocking down pins, embark on a cultural journey at The Museum of Russian Art, showcasing rotating exhibitions in addition to live music and dance performances.
Where to Eat & Drink
A great play day around the lake starts with a fresh cup of Java at Nokomis Beach Coffee. Regulars rave about their mochas and almond croissants, and it’s totally acceptable to make a return trip in the afternoon for a scoop of ice cream. If you’re a coffee and doughnuts kind of person (and honestly, who isn’t?), head two blocks north for a sugar rush at Mel-O-Glaze Bakery, whipping up addictive batches of generously sized doughnuts since 1948.
For another Minneapolis classic, dive into the award-winning Juicy Lucy’s at the 5-8 Club. Around since 1928, the local hot spot has decades of practice mastering the art of the cheese-stuffed burger (try one with a side of deep-fried pickle chips). More classic comfort awaits at Hot Plate, serving carbo-licious breakfasts such as caramel apple French toast and pumpkin buckwheat waffles among eclectic décor—think vintage dolls and mannequin heads. Looking for something a little more health conscious? Sassy Spoon features a menu of wholesome, locally-sourced cuisine, with a myriad of gluten-free and vegan options.
More recently, the neighborhood has garnered praise for its growing international dining scene. Mexican specialties—handmade tamales, chiles relleno, and carne asada—star at Dominguez Family Restaurant. If you’re craving authentic Italian, try the freshly made pastas (the pillowy gnocchi is a favorite) at ie Italian Eatery.
No matter where you head for a meal, save room for a massive scoop of ice cream from Grand Ole Creamery. The best way to enjoy your favorite flavor: in a freshly made waffle cone with a malted milk ball at the bottom to prevent leakage.
Where to Shop
The shops within Nokomis are as original as the neighborhood itself. Case-in-point: Arlee Park. Twin sisters Jamie and Ashley run this gem that showcases vintage home furnishings, décor and retro fashion accessories. It may be the only place in the country where you can head home with both a hand-knotted Persian rug and a pair of cutoff Levi’s.
Jenny in the City focuses on modern women’s fashion, and they also carry chic jewelry and fun gifts (yes, you really do need that Betty White coffee mug). Cake Plus-Size Resale offers sweet deals on plus-size clothing. You can even book a one-on-one style session with owner Cat Polivoda, who’s known for giving thoughtful fashion advice and personal attention to anyone who walks through the door.
One of the most fun stops in the neighborhood, Tom’s Popcorn Shop takes visitors on a tasting tour of freshly popped goodness. After 40 years in business, the cheese, caramel and Krunch Corn (made with sugar and butter in a copper kettle), remain tried-and-true favorites.
Getting to and Around Nokomis
(Starting point of Meet Minneapolis Visitor Center on Nicollet)
Most streets around the neighborhood offer free parking. You’ll find both pay lots and free lots scattered around Lake Nokomis.
The eastern end of Nokomis can be easily reached from downtown via the Metro Transit Light Rail Blue Line, with stops at the 46th and 50th Street stations. It takes about 15 minutes to reach these stops.
The 14 and 22 buses also travel south from downtown through the neighborhood, reaching Nokomis in 20 to 30 minutes.