As with many names in Minnesota, including the name Minnesota, Lake Minnetonka comes from the native Dakota Indian language and means big waters. It is one of the largest lakes in the state with over 125 miles of shoreline.
Back in the late 1800’s, Lake Minnetonka became a tourist destination! There were grand Victorian hotels all around the lake. The railroad had reached the area allowing people from all over to reach Lake Minnetonka to enjoy all it had to offer including billiards, tennis, concerts and more. Several steamships also ran on the lake and gave escorted tours of the area, one of them, the City of St. Louis, could carry as many as 1000 passengers.
Excelsior was the first town that really developed along the lake. It also had a large casino that attracted many visitors! Around 1925 the Excelsior Amusement Park opened drawing many visitors. After Excelsior, Wayzata, Deephaven, Orono and many other small towns sprung up along the lake.
In the early 1900’s, the streetcar first reached the lake from Minneapolis. Lake Minnetonka became a weekend and vacation destination for locals that wanted to get away from the city. Some of them built summer homes on the lake and others just stayed at one of the many hotels.
A century and a half later, Lake Minnetonka is still a center for fun! There are many companies that offer boat tours and excursions, some on new boats, some on restored boats, all day cruises, dinner cruises, business cruises, you name it. If you are new to the area it is a great way to see what the lake is all about and see some of the large homes on the lake.
Currently there is a lot of talk about putting up some new hotels along the lake shore to attract tourists. The small towns on the lake shore are still very classic, full of old character and fun to visit!
For those people that like to sail, each community has their own yacht club. There are several very well-known restaurants on the lake that can be accessed by boat or car, fishing is another great activity on the lake. Many well to do people have built their mansions along the lake shore and most can only be seen from a boat on the lake.
Even if you don’t have a place to stay on the lake it is a fun trip to just take a day and drive the narrow winding roads along the lake, stop in the small towns and and do some shopping, have some lunch and continue on.
Don’t forget the lake once the weather cools off! In the winter it becomes a city on ice, covered with fish houses, ice roads, snowmobile trails and more. There is always something going on on Lake Minnetonka!
Lake Minnetonka is definitely a huge attraction in the Twin Cities and in Minnesota!