When summer finally comes to our state, it seems all Minnesotans have one common goal: to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible until the weather turns cold. For those in the Twin Cities, taking advantage of those three short months of great weather often means heading up north to a cabin, but there’s another option much closer to home.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Lake Minnetonka was a renowned resort community that boasted summer cottages, hotels, steamboats, an amusement park, streetcars and even streetcar boats, attracting visitors from all over the world. And it’s easy to see why: With 125 miles of irregularly shaped shoreline, the lake’s beautiful bays, inlets, islands and beaches make it a perfect setting for exploring, relaxing, swimming, fishing, boating and nature-gazing.
Nowadays, the area is still a top destination for urbanites who crave fun in the sun. Lake Minnetonka has no shortage of idyllic settings to host your next event—whether you’re seeking the old-school supper-club vibe of its resort days, or something a little more modern.
For those who can’t decide whether the land or the lake is right for their event, downtown Excelsior’s BayView Event Center and Mound’s Al & Alma’s Supper Club and Charter Cruises have a suggestion: Why not do both?
Want to add a happy hour cruise to your all-day sales meeting, or an indoor lunch to allow attendees to get their land legs after a boating breakout session? In addition to a wide selection of charter yachts and indoor spaces—all of which have a panoramic view of Excelsior Bay—BayView’s guests can opt for a completely personalized mix of indoor and outdoor business and fun. “When we host meetings [here], they all seem to end on time because everyone’s staring out the window at the boat waiting to depart,” says BayView President Bob Ziton.
The two-level BayView Event Center has a variety of spaces that range from St. Alban’s Bay Room (1,200 square feet; 36-75 capacity) to the Lake Minnetonka Room, which features bay windows, a natural stone fireplace and 22-foot timber cathedral ceilings (4,000 square feet; 190-450 capacity). The tented 1,800-square-foot cobblestone patio is a prime location for lakeside events for 140 seated (electricity and heat are provided, and a bar can be set up as well) or 250 when combined with the Lower Lake Room (2,700 square feet). A variety of mix-and-match options are available throughout; the patio can combine with the adjacent St. Alban’s Bay Room as well, and The Lower Lake Room can be shared with Lake Minnetonka Room, which is right above it.
A timely meeting wrap-up is just one of the reasons to hop aboard one of BayView’s six luxury yachts. BayView’s vast—and highly customizable—catering menu and bar packages are available on the boats as well; an executive chef will even join your journey onto the water (plated meals only). Ziton says a new California Cruise menu will debut this summer, featuring fresh, trendy selections like sushi, spinach-quinoa salad, pistachio-topped lemon-mint salmon and molasses-marinated steak. He adds that BayView’s menu infuses plenty of personality to an already unique outing: “It’s a more creative [catering and venue] experience,” he says. “We tend to attract corporate events that have more of a social bent to them—that’s our specialty.”
Further west, just south of Mound, Al & Alma’s (which started out as the Chester Park Grocery Store during the resort boom) has been a Lake Minnetonka institution since the ‘50s. The supper club introduced its first boat in ‘70s, and Al & Alma’s summer suppertime cruises in Cooks Bay quickly became local tradition. Nowadays a fleet of six yachts (with capacities ranging from 10 to 149 people) is available as a venue for— or an accompaniment to—celebrations and events. Indoors, a charming loft above the main dining room serves as a venue for private gatherings (for up to 40 people), with a cabin-style catering menu full of classics like prime rib and walleye.
Speaking of cabins, the old-school charm of Lord Fletcher’s in Spring Park (between Mound and Tonka Bay) is perfect for more intimate gatherings like birthdays, team celebrations and dinners, according to General Manager Tom Emer. The Chart Room, designed as an homage to a Lake Minnetonka steamship, seats up to 16 and includes a humidity- and temperature-controlled wine storage. Lord Fletcher’s other four rooms (ranging in capacity from 36 to 200) likewise feature dark wood, fireplaces, cozy atmosphere and retro furnishings—some from the club’s 1968 beginnings—for a Mad Men-meets-Minnesotan flair.
Of course, there’s also the proximity to the water—something Lord Fletcher’s has long been known for. “We have an awesome lake view; it’s the perfect summer setting,” Emer says.
Just east of Lord Fletcher’s lies the idyllic Lafayette Club, set on 3,000 feet of pristine lakeshore overlooking Crystal Bay. While the Lafayette is normally a members-only club, Catering Director Brenda Rogers points out that its event spaces are open to nonmembers (and organizers don’t need to be a guest of a member). In fact, on Mondays, when the club is closed to members, groups often book golf outings on the club’s fairway. Throughout the week, the Lafayette welcomes bookings for corporate parties, retirement dinners, meetings and awards dinners in addition to bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings.
“It’s a misnomer to think we’re a formal space,” says Rogers, who’s been at the club over 25 years. “We have formal space, but we’re open to all kinds of events, and we’re completely open to nonmembers.”
Most of the Lafayette’s seven indoor main spaces feature lake views and some sort of outdoor access via a deck, porch or patio. Rooms range from cozy (Presidents Room, James J. Hill Room and a small meeting room crafted from a former apartment each accommodate 25) to dramatic (the adjoining Crystal Ballroom and Lakeview Room form 8,000 square feet with a 600-capacity space complete with all-wood floor and crystal chandeliers; Lakeview Room alone is 3,500 square feet and fits 250). If getting attendees out and about is your goal, the 250-capacity Crystal Bay Garden is perfect for enjoying the lake views in an outdoor setting. Golf outings are available, and groups arriving via boat can park at one of the club’s 22 slips (Mondays only) and do drinks or from-scratch dinner. The Fairway Room, with patio access and lake views, includes a built-in bar and fireplace and seats 35-125.
Hop off the dock in downtown Excelsior and you’re only a block away from Jake O’Connor’s Public House, the perfect place to decompress and escape from the sun. This hardware store turned Irish pub (owned by a real Irishman!) specializes in a wide variety of pastas, steaks, fish and seafood, with an event menu that’s customizable based on the type of event and the size of your group. Host a ceremony or post-cruise dinner in the wine room or the cellar (which hold up to 50 and 80, respectively) or rent out the main level (for up to 175) and you just might forget you’re in Minnesota—in a good way.
While it might not be right on the lake, Minnetonka’s Spasso is likewise a perfect place to start or end a day on the water. Located at the corner of Minnetonka Boulevard and Highway 101, just east of Deephaven and south of Wayzata, Spasso hosts business dinners, parent events for nearby schools, holiday parties and more in its private dining room, which can accommodate groups of up to 55. In addition to an Italian-inspired menu that’s available in many different configurations (including family style), Spasso offers tabletop floral arrangements, candles and a choice of linen color—all at no charge.