Life at the lake is a dream full of gorgeous views, activities on the water, and a sense of peace you can’t quite seem to find anywhere else. But, more often than not, these perks come at the cost of a road trip, a lack of amenities, and sometimes even lousy Wi-Fi.
But in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, just 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, both Wayzata and Excelsior offer groups the comforts of the city as well as the lure of the lake, thanks to downtown districts located within steps of the shoreline.
Learn about what these two lakeside communities have to offer, not only for residents and visitors, but meeting and event planners as well.
Since Lake Street—downtown Wayzata’s main road—runs parallel with Lake Minnetonka, there is no shortage of venues that overlook the peaceful water.
Right off Lake Street, steak and seafood restaurant 6Smith boasts a rooftop bar that will impress up to 130 seated attendees with sunset views. On rainy days, the restaurant has four other private and semiprivate spaces to consider, including the Revel Room with its accompanying private patio space and Knotty Room, featuring a community table for intimate social or business dinners. Down the road, popular seafood restaurant CōV Wayzata offers the Lake Room that has a semiprivate patio complete with cushioned lounge chairs and the ability to hold 30 standing and 24 seated for gatherings.
Meeting and event planners can get even closer to Lake Minnetonka by booking private corporate cruises. Al & Alma’s Charter Cruises offers several options that can be geared toward customer entertainment, employee reward, teambuilding, and more for groups of up to 149 on a single yacht. When the cruise is over, attendees can find rest in one of 92 guest rooms at Hotel Landing and wake up the next day to grab breakfast at ninetwentyfive, get down to business in the hotel’s ballroom, which holds up to 150, and attend breakouts in smaller meeting rooms or one of the porches.
Even larger groups can look to neighboring suburb Minnetonka, where Sheraton Minneapolis West Hotel has a ballroom and several meeting rooms just a 10-minute drive from downtown Wayzata and the classy Lafayette Club with a variety of function space surrounded by picturesque lawns and a well-manicured golf course.
Right across from Hotel Landing is The Pavilion at The Promenade of Wayzata, a space favored by Elli Ansari, Rockwell Portfolio’s development and event specialist, who has planned several events in Wayzata. The two-story, moderately sized venue overlooks The Promenade’s Great Lawn and is perfect for business meetings.
“It’s spacious and intimate at the same time,” says Ansari. With plentiful windows and space for receptions and breakouts, she describes The Pavilion as “really unique for the right type of meeting.”
Ansari also recommends One Door West by Gianni’s, one of the newest private event spaces in Wayzata. As the name implies, it’s one door west of Gianni’s Steakhouse and has its own private entrance, full bar, and patio for groups of up to 30.
“It’s just a nice extra space for every group of people that feels really private and accommodating,” says Ansari.
Despite all that Wayzata has to offer already, the lakeside city has many improvements in the works. The town plans to begin construction on a boardwalk next spring and to add community docks and expanded gardens as part of the Panoway on Wayzata Bay project.
While Excelsior’s downtown district doesn’t hug the shoreline (the main road, Water Street, runs perpendicular to the lake), the downtown district is still packed with local businesses, venues, and restaurants to discover within sight of Lake Minnetonka.
“We have such a great mix of independent retailers and restaurants that have distinguished Excelsior from so many other communities,” says Amy Edwards, event coordinator for the city. “It’s very family friendly, but then very appropriate for business lunches or anniversary or birthday dinners as well.”
One attraction that sets the lakeside community apart is Excelsior Streetcar Line, which offers rides on 100-year-old streetcars from spring through fall. Each short ride gives a glimpse into Excelsior’s history via photos, landmarks, and more, boarding right on Water Street.
More history on Water Street can be found at Hotel Excelsior, a small boutique hotel offering four apartment-style suites on the second floor of a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hotel Excelsior will be opening The Lobby Coffee & Leisure, a coffee shop on the ground floor where groups can reserve the community table for up to 10 people.
DeGroodt House is another historic venue that is perfect for small meetings, weddings, and luncheons. The house-turned-event venue has three connected rooms inside and a rentable suite upstairs for overnight stays. Planners also can take advantage of the intimate backyard, The Grove, when the weather is warm.
Beyond its historic buildings and attractions, Excelsior is known for hosting several citywide annual events, including a Fourth of July celebration that attracts up to 10,000 visitors. These events make use of Excelsior Commons & Port of Excelsior, a 13-acre park that separates Lake Minnetonka from the downtown district, complete with a pavilion that can be rented for private events.
Larger groups also can rely on places like Pique Travel Design, a restored lumber warehouse that can hold up to 150 people in the available 3,000 square feet. The space feels like a Minnesota lodge complete with a full-length deck, sliding stable doors, a concrete bar, and more.
Dana Allison, owner of Keyed Up Events and venue and rental manager at Pique Travel Design, says that several corporate and private events begin in Excelsior at places like Pique—or even at larger venues or hotels in neighboring suburbs—and finish up with a boat tour off Port of Excelsior.
“Obviously, people here in Minnesota love our water,” she emphasizes. “We love our lakes, so being able to be close to that is very important for a lot of people.”
In Excelsior and Wayzata, life—and events—really are better at the lake.