Summer in Minnesota: Weather, What to Pack, What to See

Long, warm days are perfect backdrop for outdoor activities and festivals

Sunrise over Vermillion River
Alexander Lamar Photography/Getty Images

Spring in Minnesota can be short and tends to come late, which can have visitors and residents alike itching for the warmer weather of summer.

So when does summer finally arrive in this northern Plains state known for its long, cold, and snowy winters?

Here's a look at the slow segue into Minnesota's warmer seasons, when you can finally get a real taste of summer, and fun activities when the temp finally warms up.

Weather

March is firmly a winter month in Minnesota. Although winter is easing and snow melts on warmer days, usually more snow falls through this month.

The first official day of spring falls in mid-March, but you wouldn't know it in Minnesota. The weather doesn't obey the seasonal labels that are relevant in many other states. You'll have to wait well until springtime until Minnesota actually feels like spring. 

April has many above-freezing days and the potential of warm spring days when it is delightful to be outside. The snow has usually melted by the end of April.

Finally, it feels like spring.

But not for long. The beginning of May is usually cool, but the temperature warms throughout May to see real summer weather and heat by mid-May. So much for spring.

What feels like true summer weather usually starts sometime in May in Minnesota, well before the official first day of summer in mid-June.

Then summer can hit hard, depending on where you are located in the state. Up north, summer highs tend to hover in the high 70s F, with the mid-80s F predominating in the south. Temperatures can spike as high as 114 degrees during a heat wave in that region of the state. 

The official start of summer in Minnesota is on the summer solstice, either June 20th or June 21st, as it is in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere

What to Pack

As the temp during the summer is very temperate, bring along light clothing like shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers. Swimsuits will be utilized considering the multiple of water options, including pools, rivers and amusement parks across the state.

Don't forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for the long hours you are likely to spend in the outdoors. For those inevitable storms, bring along a travel umbrella and light long sleeve shirts. Pants or jeans that aren't made from heavy material are best for nighttime activities like going to a concert or out to eat.

Annual Summer Events in Minnesota

If you're visiting Minnesota over the summer, here are few highlights of annual events worth checking out. 

  • Minnesota Fringe Festival: Held Aug. 1 to 11, 2019, this event features hundreds of performances in locations throughout the state. See live music, theater, and dance performed as part of this artistic celebration. 
  • Loring Park Art Festival: Head to Loring Park in Minneapolis on July 27 and 28, 2019, for this annual fine arts festival.
  • Uptown Metris Art Fair is widely considered one of the most esteemed juried fine arts festivals in Minnesota and beyond. It's known throughout the Midwest and is said to be one of the finest art festivals in the United States. It's happening on Aug. 2 to 4, 2019, in Minneapolis.
  • Powderhorn Festival of Arts: The Powderhorn event in Minneapolis focuses on local and regional artists every year in the first week of August. It's on Aug. 3rd and 4th, 2019.

Unofficial Markers of Summer in Minnesota

Regardless of the date on the calendar, you can tell it's summer in Minnesota when you:

  • Get your first mosquito bite
  • Get your first sunburn
  • Take your first swim in a lake
  • See the first small car with a large canoe strapped to the top of it on the road
  • Notice that the giant pile of snow in the downtown St. Paul Sears parking lot has finally melted
  • Hear people who whine about snow switch to whining about the humidity
  • Get stuck in your first road construction traffic snarl, described by the adage "Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road construction"
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