Look no further than lakeside Waconia for a low-key weekend with family or friends.

Image by Thomas/Flickr

Located a short 30-minute drive southwest of the Twin Cities, Waconia has long been considered the “paradise of the Northwest” for its breezy lake town charm. Resting on the shores of the second largest lake in the area, Waconia is a beautiful destination any time of year.

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

From the Cities, head west on Highway 5 for a scenic drive through Chanhassen and Victoria. This route will also take you past the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum—if time allows, we highly recommend you stop and smell the roses.

Start your day on a caffeinated note at Mocha Monkey Coffeehouse. The original downtown location is nestled in a unique 100-year-old home. Owner Jon Schmidt is something of a Renaissance man—dabbling in pottery, music and, of course, artisan coffee. Friendly baristas will help you choose from a menu that includes everything from the classics to more inventive creations. Will it be the dark chocolate and hazelnut Jungle Mocha or the Lucky Monkey Mocha with white chocolate and crème de menthe? Plus, their food menu includes fresh baked goods, gourmet soft pretzels twisted by hand and baked from scratch, and soups and sandwiches.

Spend some time on the water at Lake Waconia. The more than 3,000-acre lake is one of the largest in the area and hosts a number of species of fish and other wildlife. In Towne Marina, a family-owned boat rental shop located on the southern shore of the lake, has everything you’ll need to enjoy an afternoon on the lake.

Be sure to explore the trails on Coney Island. The historic parcel on Lake Waconia was privately owned until the city recently purchased it for public use. Now part of Lake Waconia Regional Park, Coney Island features hiking trails, picnic areas, wildlife observation and historical interpretations. Consider it Minnesota’s indigenous counterpart to Brooklyn’s roller coaster-studded peninsula.

Lola's Lakehouse in Waconia

Image by Todd Buchanan/Greenspring Media

If you find yourself in Waconia between the months of May and December, spend an afternoon at Sovereign Estate Winery, located on the north shore of Lake Waconia. This family-owned country vineyard saw its first vines planted in 2008. Locals enjoy the award-winning wines paired with delectable food and a side of live entertainment courtesy of local bands. For $10, you can taste five samples of your choosing and take a souvenir glass home as a keepsake.

Dinner on the lake is a must in Waconia. Lola’s Lakehouse serves perfect lakeside-vacation fare: beautifully crisp fish and chips, a large selection of fresh oysters, a bacon-and-ham-rich clam chowder, and one of the best crab cakes in the Twin Cities. Sit on their spacious deck that places you right on the water with pristine views of Coney Island. If there are no deck tables available, fear not: The restaurant’s wide doors open onto the deck, which, in nice weather, makes the whole place feel like it is outdoors.

After a day of exploring the town, rest your weary bones at The Simple Cottage. Located just 15 minutes west of Waconia, this 1928 bungalow is the perfect place to unwind and relax.

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