Considered a Minneapolis outer-ring suburb, Lakeville, Minnesota, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. Part of that expansion may be due to the city's location next to I-35. The major interstate highway offers zippy access to the Twin Cities, but Lakeville boasts attractions of its own. The city's small-town vibe blends with abundant park and recreation options, creating a family-friendly atmosphere.
When planning things to do in Lakeville, a strong starting point would be one of the city's public recreation venues, which include skating rinks, fishing areas, swimming beaches, bicycle greenways and community parks. Begin at Antlers Park, just northwest of Lakeville's downtown area. Comprising 12 acres on Lake Marion, the park has a sizable beach, larger than the typical coastline found on Minnesota lakes.
For a leisurely trail walk while visiting Lakeville, make the next stop Ritter Farm Park, a 340-acre wildlife refuge west of Downtown. Hikers, cross-country skiers, horseback riders and more than a few deer share the park's wide paths. A special one-mile nature walk winds near lily-covered ponds and through fields of native grasses and wildflowers.
Strolling through the Mayberry-like downtown area is one of the popular things to do in Lakeville for locals and visitors alike. Charming picks along Holyoke Avenue—the town's main stretch—include locally owned shops like Pink Door Boutique, which offers quirky home decor and chic clothing, and Isabella's, a clothing store with ample jewelry choices.
For a taste of local cuisine and music, head to Babe's Music Bar, also on Holyoke Avenue. The neighborhood hangout, a hit with families, prides itself on being a hometown burger joint. The battered onion straws, in particular, win raves for their melt-in-the-mouth coating and Southwestern ranch dipping sauce. About three miles west of Babe's, Baldy's BBQ is a small, unassuming restaurant that serves up some of the area's most popular barbecue, including a smoked brisket sandwich playfully called The Beast.
After a day of visiting Lakeville, head just 10 miles north to neighboring Apple Valley, where the Minnesota Zoo is a top attraction. Considered revolutionary for its exhibit design when it opened in 1978, the zoo has continued to provide distinctive spaces for its animals, including an indoor tropical area and large-scale aquariums. One of the zoo's most popular draws is the Medtronic Minnesota Trail, featuring animals native to the state in settings that evoke the state's northern wooded areas.
Burnsville Center is another destination for a quick jaunt while visiting Lakeville. The shopping mall, eight miles north of town, boasts over 120 stores, along with a 15-screen movie theater and children's play area. Particularly fun for kids, Tilt video arcade and game center offers an indoor mini-golf course.
Located about 20 miles south of Minneapolis and close to additional tourist spots like Valleyfair amusement park and the original mega-shopping complex, Mall of America, Lakeville shares a taste of small town life, while still being close to urban attractions.