Where do you go when it’s hot, hot, hot? You get cool, cool, cool in the water silly.

And fortunately for us in the southwestern suburbs, we’re surrounded with splash pads, water parks, swimming pools and beaches galore. Here’s a guide for some of the best places to take a dip this summer.

What are you in the mood for? If it’s an outdoor water park, the big kahuna of water parks is, hands down, Valleyfair’s Soak City. Not only is it a fabulous water park but it’s inside an amusement park. Can’t beat that. Go on spine-tingling rides, cool down in the water park, and repeat.

Highlights: Breaker’s Plunge, touted as the “tallest side-by-side speed slides in the country.” And if that’s not a thrill, try out the 350,000-gallon wave pool that has a depth that goes from 0 to 6 feet.

Also try out the Raging Rapids, a rough whitewater tube ride, and top that off with Hurricane Falls, a 70-foot-tall behemoth that drops multi-person rafts into the pool that then takes you down a 1,280 foot “river.”

If you don’t need the amusement park experience, just water thrills, try out Cascade Bay in Eagan. It has Sandpiper Beach, a zero-depth entry, a leisure pool with water slides, and when you want to take a break from the water sports, try out a round on the mini golf course.

What if you simply want sun and sand and water. Try out SandVenture Aquatic Park in Shakopee. The pool has a sandy bottom so it’s like being at the lake, but it has the benefits of being a chlorinated pool.

For another lake, but not a lake, day at the beach, try out the Lake Minnetonka Swimming Pond in Minnetrista, part of the Three Rivers Park District. The 1.75-acre swimming pond at Lake Minnetonka has a maximum depth of six feet and is completely surrounded by sand. The pond features filtered, chlorinated water, a changing shelter, concessions, and large beach umbrellas for shade. A pass is required for ages 1 year and older.

But what if you’re in the mood for a real lake and chance encounters with sunnies and bluegills and lily pads? Head to western Carver County, to Baylor Regional Park at Eagle Lake. It’s a Carver County park, covering 201 acres. It not only has a swimming beach and beach house, but it’s got a campground, 18-hole disc golf, and an observatory, too.

But what if you don’t want to drive that far?

Check out Carver County’s other lakes with swimming beaches. How about Lake Waconia Regional Park? It has a swimming beach with changing rooms and restrooms on site, lifeguards from noon to 6 p.m., picnic tables and grills and seasonal shade umbrellas for those who burn easily.

Or dip a toe at the beach in Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, Chanhassen. It’s off Highway 41 between Highway 5 and Highway 7. The beach is open daily from noon to 6 p.m. with lifeguards and a changing room with showers and restrooms.

Another option is Lake Ann Park in Chanhassen. It’s free, and all the sandy beach you want. Lifeguards, too. A nifty concessions stand and picnic shelter make life, well, a day at the beach.

Excelsior Commons Beach is a great place to swim and sun in Excelsior. You can brag about hanging out on Lake Minnetonka, and then stroll downtown for ice cream treats afterwards.

Another nifty swimming hole nearby is the aptly named Clayhole Swim Beach in Chaska. A perfect place for those who want a quieter, smaller scale place to enjoy the sun and water and concessions.

After an afternoon in the sun, pop into the adjacent Chaska Curling Center to cool down next to the sheet of ice in the curling center and enjoy a meal at the Crooked Pint Ale House.


Unsie Zuege is an award-winning multimedia journalist, who enjoys community journalism, bibimbop, Netflix, Trivia Mafia and snuggling tiny dogs, not necessarily in that order.


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