Now that July 4th has come and gone, it seems like summer is half over. Next thing you know, we'll be going to the State Fair, and then: winter.

But there's still plenty of sweet summer fun to be had before we have to start wearing socks again. Here's our highly curated list of must-do-before-Labor-Day activities. Squeeze in as many as you can while you can, and maybe the memories will keep you warm over the cold, dark days ahead.

Streetcar 'owl service'

Several afternoons and evenings a week, restored historic trolleys run a short portion of the onetime Como-Harriet Streetcar Line between lakes Harriet and Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. But on select nights, the trolley runs "owl service" between 9 p.m. and midnight, to re-create the era when streetcars ferried passengers into the wee hours. The 15-minute round trip, which skims the south edge of Lakewood Cemetery, makes a memorable date or kid adventure. Aug. 13 and Sept. 10. For those over 3, a single fare costs $3 and unlimited rides are $7. See for details.
Rachel Hutton

Crayfish, aquavit and song

What can be more festive than sitting with about 100 people at long tables decorated with string lights and paper lanterns outside on a beautiful summer night? You're all wearing bibs because you're going tuck into a mound of boiled crayfish and a shot of aquavit. The annual crayfish party — this year on Aug. 26 — at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis re-creates kräftskiva parties, which are a Swedish summer tradition. It's often accompanied by traditional drinking songs. $65. And, no, you don't have to be Swedish to enjoy it.
Richard Chin

Mississippi River Rats

If you've ever struggled to get up on water skis, you'll appreciate this family-friendly, synchronized spectacle. The River Rats perform stunts and skits all summer long in the Mississippi River in northeast Minneapolis. It's a little kitschy (think Wisconsin Dells meets St. Paul Winter Carnival), but performances are free. Grab a blanket and your kids, as well as some cash for the collection bucket. Round out the trip with a stop at nearby Pryes Brewing Company.
Laura Yuen

Amateur night

Check out this weeklong outdoor variety show, where you can see everything from an opera singer to a guy juggling pizza dough. It's the auditions for the Minnesota State Fair Amateur Talent Contest held at the fair's bandshell. Hundreds of performers mount the stage and offer up their best singing, dancing, baton twirling or ventriloquism, hoping the judges will pick them to perform at the fair. It's free (even the parking). Perhaps you'll see some rising stars. 5:30 p.m. July 25-July 29, 11 a.m. on July 30-31.

Swan boats and Sandcastle

This summer's the last for waterfront concession Sandcastle, which has been serving dolled-up hot dogs and other fun fare on Lake Nokomis for nearly a decade. Make a final visit. My family likes spending a weeknight at the beach going for a swim, then gathering around a picnic table for Dog Flickers, topped with kimchi and an egg. While you're there, try the new swan boats that Wheel Fun is renting. The whimsical boats, which light up when the sun goes down, bring a little novelty to a slow glide around the lake.
Erica Pearson

Flowers on demand

It's not too late to catch some colorful blooms at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The arb just launched a user-friendly resource, Garden Highlights, to let you know in real time what's blooming. The digital map also shows where the beauties — from roses and daylilies to wild bergamot and rattlesnake master — are. Go to
Nancy Ngo

Dog days of summer

Taking your dog to the ballpark day has become so popular at CHS Field that the St. Paul Saints have had to add additional days for dogs to woof-woof-woof for the home team. Dog Day 2.0 takes place at 7:07 p.m. on Sept. 3, as the Saints take on the Omaha Storm Chasers. Even if you don't have a dog, it's fun to see the variety of pooches cruising the concourse, looking for dropped concessions.

Do the lakes

Make a bucket list to run, walk, bicycle or inline-skate around the five major circumnavigable lakes in the metro: Isles, Bde Maka Ska, Harriet, Nokomis and Como. Once you've checked off all five, take a bonus hike on Pike Island, where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers converge at Fort Snelling State Park.
Jeff Strickler

Llama love

Into yoga? Like llamas? You can combine the two at Carlson's Llovable Llamas in Waconia. Llama yoga sessions, on July 21 and 30, and Aug. 6 and 18, are hosted by Yoga Ananda. After savasana, you can hang out with the llamas and have all your llama-related questions answered by local 4-Hers. Tickets are $25. Register at
Jasmine Snow

Opera on the lake

There's music in the park, movies in the park, Shakespeare in the park, and now thanks to Anne Wieben, a University of Minnesota-trained soprano, we've got opera in the park. Opera on the Lake ( has been staging operettas at the Como Lakeside Pavilion in St. Paul. How often can you take your dog to the opera, and have a beer during the performance while enjoying a summer breeze off a pretty little lake? 7 p.m., July 26, 27, 29.

From lake to falls

Set aside a day to canoe or kayak these scenic 22 miles of Minnehaha Creek from Lake Minnetonka to Minnehaha Falls. Start near Gray's Bay Dam and float by wooded parks, historical sites, lavish homes, not to mention freeway culverts. Along the way you can stop for lunch at Taco Bell or Dairy Queen. Just make sure to ground your vessel at Longfellow Lagoon, right before the falls. Check the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District's website for a route map and conditions.

Make a memory

This one is simple: Go fishing with your kid. It doesn't take much planning. Just drop by your local hardware store and let your kid find a fishing kit branded with their favorite superhero or cartoon character. There are dozens of lakes to choose from and kids under 16 don't need a license. Will you actually catch anything? Perhaps. My daughter and I never did, but that didn't matter. Sitting by the water, chatting, or falling silent while we watched the bobbers — that's what you catch. Someday it may feel like your kid was the one that got away. But if you're lucky, they'll remember this.
James Lileks

Tell us about your summer fun

What did we miss? Let us know about a local simple summer pleasure that we should try out before summer is over. Send an e-mail to