Good day sunshine

As a lifelong Minneapolis resident, I’m a big fan of summer in the Twin Cities. 

When I was growing up, summer meant long days at the Richfield pool, bike rides around Lake Nokomis and visits to Dairy Queen after my soccer games at Pearl Park. 

And when I eventually reached adulthood, summers took on new significance — the best time to bike the Grand Rounds (50 miles of trails that edge the chain of lakes, the Mississippi riverfront and more), hang out on the patio at the Black Forest and make the trek across town to Izzy’s. (Our ice cream options are so much more diverse now! See page 30.) 

So whenever I learn that a friend is due to have her baby in the summer, I feel a twinge of envy. “What luxury!” I think, imagining a glorious postpartum world of picnics by Lake of the Isles and late-afternoon visits to Sea Salt and Minnehaha Falls (the baby sleeping soundly in her bucket carrier, of course). 

I had my babies in October and December, respectively, and my maternity leave-memories include hazy nightmare images of infant snowsuits, ice scrapers and 4:30 p.m. sunsets.  

Since Minnesota summers are so magical (if only in contrast to our brutal winters), it seems like it would be easy to think of things to do with one’s baby during this sunny season. 

But sleep deprivation can take its toll on your ability to think and make decisions, so here are some suggestions for summertime fun based on my personal experience.

 

  • Things will be great when you’re downtown 

Summertime is obviously the ideal time to visit your local farmers’ market, and our options have only grown better in recent years. 

But I still have special feelings for the tried-and-true Nicollet Mall market on Thursdays in downtown Minneapolis. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., so you’ve got all day to get out the door. Bring your stroller and watch your baby spark joy (or indifference) in the eyes of the Target employees on lunch break. If you get overwhelmed by the produce or feel heat stroke coming on, you can simply duck into one of the nearby office buildings and wander the skyways. 

This year construction has moved the market over to Hennepin Avenue between Fifth and 10th streets.

 

  • Trails and taxidermy 

Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield (pictured above; photo by ) is one of my go-to destinations in the winter when I need to get the kids out of the house. The main building features a cozy little play area, salamanders, snakes and turtles and a wide range of taxidermy. 

But Wood Lake is especially delightful in the summer, when you can wander the three miles of trails (including a floating boardwalk), while checking out the wildlife and pretending you’re not actually in the city. Quieter and shadier than some of our more extroverted outdoor areas (Lake Calhoun, I’m looking at you), this is a serene place to bring your baby for a relaxing, contemplative stroll (or just a sleep-deprived zombie stagger).

 

  • Keep it simple 

“We’re going to the Children’s Museum tomorrow,” my friend texted. “Wanna join us?” 

I was on maternity leave with my second baby, and he was about 4 months old when we received this invitation. 

I declined; taking Felix all the way over to St. Paul just seemed like … so much work. 

After I had my first baby, however, I would’ve been all over this. Take my 6-month-old to the Minnesota Zoo? Yes, please! (Never mind that she slept in the Ergo for the entire outing.) 

Keep in mind that some of the best experiences you’ll have with your baby will be the simple ones.

I asked a friend whose son is now a teenager about her favorite memories from when he was a baby. 

“I was home with my son on a perfect summer day — bright blue sky, big puffy clouds — when he was about 8 months old,” she said. “I brought a blanket to the backyard and we just hung out together, him burbling and smiling, me watching him and the clouds. We were just enjoying the moment, no agenda, nothing to do. I still remember it like it was yesterday — one of the best afternoons of my life.”


Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. Write her at skeough@mnparent.com.

Photo by Josh Volk