SUMMERTIME IS FINALLY HERE, and now’s your chance to show your guests how spectacular Minnesota can truly be. From the city’s rooftops to the riverfront, we’ve found outdoor venues that will give your guests a breath of fresh air and show the Twin Cities at their very best.

The Skygarden at Crowne Plaza Northstar Hotel

Rooftop gardens are a summertime favorite in any city, but even more so in Minneapolis after a long, brutal winter. The Skygarden at the Crowne Plaza Northstar Hotel has hosted fashion shows, Oktoberfest celebrations and the wedding of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. The space can accommodate 200 guests for a seated meal or 300 for a cocktail party.

Lindsay Reiske, director of catering, can help planners customize menus, with all food freshly prepared in-house. The manicured gardens and flowers, plus a stunning view of the historic Foshay Tower and Minneapolis skyline make for stunning built-in surroundings.

"We do so many events up on the garden, but it still seems to be a hidden jewel to a lot of people," says Reiske.

Farmers Market Annex

Each morning the Minneapolis Farmers Market is full of local vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers. But in the afternoon and evenings, it’s home to rock concerts, comedy shows and corporate picnics. The urban garden can seat 240 guests or 400 mingling guests, while the main lot pavilions can hold as many as 5,000 guests.

The simple, homegrown food served here is sure to satisfy. And while the Farmers Market doesn’t have a liquor license, planners can secure a permit to serve alcohol.

Audrey Lord, chief financial officer for the Farmers Market Annex, says the venue is perfect for a tailgate party: "The long, red pavilions lend themselves well to pregame Twins events." Guests can park for just $5 per car, enjoy a burger or brat, then take a leisurely 10-minute stroll to the ballgame, avoiding traffic and enjoying the summer afternoon.

Nicollet Island Pavilion

Nestled in the heart of Minneapolis is the Nicollet Island Pavilion, a perfect island getaway. The venue is an elegant option for galas, award ceremonies and luncheons. Up to 5,000 guests can enjoy the scenic property, which includes a covered riverfront patio, stone terrace and acres of manicured park grounds.

Catering is hosted by Mintáhoe Catering & Events and offers plenty of delicious summertime menu options. Also at your disposal is a state-of-the-art sound system, ceiling mounted projectors with drop-down screens and wireless Internet. Angie Hanson, marketing director for Mintáhoe, says this venue makes an impression: "Unforgettable views, state-of-the-art technology, ample parking, and topnotch service make Nicollet Island Pavilion an island oasis in the city."

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

For affordable outdoor spaces around the city, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is an excellent resource. Many of its outdoor spaces can be reserved from April 15 to Oct. 15 with the proper permits. With no permanent catering services, permit holders are free to choose their own food and beverage options.

"Our outdoor event spaces are beautiful, historic and affordable," says Robin Smothers, marketing and social media consultant for the board. Take Gluek Park for example; situated alongside the Mississippi River, the park boasts a picnic shelter that can hold 50 guests.

For a larger party, consider Minnehaha Park. With a stunning waterfall and plenty of green space, this is a scenic backdrop for events ranging from family reunions for 200 to fundraiser walks with as many as 12,000 attendees. Parking is plentiful and easy to access.

Black Bear Crossings

Located on placid Lake Como, Black Bear Crossings combines the beauty of a pleinair venue with a soaring covered roof. The Promenade is 16,000 square feet and can accommodate 600 guests for a seated meal, 900 for theater-style seating and up to 1,200 for a cocktail party. A stage, complete with audio equipment, is available for presentations or speeches, and parking is free.

A complete catering menu is available, and catering often includes a complimentary chef with a carving station to serve guests individually.

Pam and David Glass have owned the St. Paul venue for 14 years and help plan many of the events; they take pride in being personally involved. "We just have this one location and we care about what we’re doing," says Pam Glass. "We are personally here with you for your event."

Some 35,000 people of Native American heritage call the Twin Cities home, and sites across the area have indigenous cultural roots.

Since winning the 2022 James Beard Best New Restaurant in the nation, Owamni by the Sioux Chef in Minneapolis has brought Native American cuisine to the forefront of fine dining in the eyes of foodies. It is one of many indigenous businesses in the Twin Cities. 


Explore Minnesota Tourism is accepting nominations for the agency’s tourism awards through Jan. 10, 2023. The awards honor people, marketing campaigns, and other initiatives that promote Minnesota as a destination.

To be considered for an award, a form must be submitted for each nomination. Explore Minnesota Tourism requests specific details about each nomination, i.e., goals, results, return on investment figures, accomplishments, etc. Supporting documents and creative elements help the Explore Minnesota Awards Committee score each submission.


The Roger Toussaint Award is the highest honor from the Minnesota Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus.