It’s time to #GopherSummer

A graphic with Goldy Gopher and the text #GopherSummer

While the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is a hive of activity and enlightenment from September through May, it takes on a different vibe during the summer.

Traffic dwindles, parking spots are more plentiful, and the campus becomes a hot spot for fun and relaxation. From farmers markets and free music to museums and relaxing plazas, here’s a quick sampling of places and things to explore. And #GopherSummer is the operative hashtag.

Summer concerts at Northrop. A tradition since the 1950s, Northrop’s popular summer concert series returns to campus in June with a mix of new bands and returning favorites spanning a variety of styles. Concerts run from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, from June 12 to early August, on Northrop plaza. Bring a lunch, find a seat, and groove to the sounds of local musicians. #dancelikenooneiswatching

Farmers Market. A newer but equally popular attraction, the farmers market has become a Wednesday staple on campus. In Minneapolis, it’s found a perfect home on the Gateway Plaza outside McNamara Alumni Center, where dozens of vendors offer fresh veggies, flowers, and other sundries. On the St. Paul campus, the student group Cornercopia provides the delectable goods.

Ice cream and cheeses and meats, oh my! From 2 to 5 p.m. each Wednesday, the Dairy and Meat Salesroom in St. Paul is open to the public and filled with products made in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition’s Pilot Plant. You’ll find gouda, aged cheddar, and Nuworld (a white “blue” cheese invented here), among many other cheeses. Also choose from a variety of ice creams and frozen yogurt, perfect for a warm Minnesota afternoon. Due to construction, the store has relocated to the Food Science and Nutrition Building, 1334 Eckles Ave.

Self-guided tree tour. When you’re in St. Paul, you can’t help but notice the volume and variety of trees. Two years ago, two U of M grad students created the Campus Trees Project, labeling about 80 different species of trees and providing QR codes that take visitors to a website with detailed information about the species. 

Bell and Weisman Museums. From modern art to ancient natural history, museum buffs have great options. The Weisman is the modern classic overlooking the river. And the Bell Museum has found a new and popular home at the corner of Larpenteur and Cleveland Avenues in St. Paul.

The river runs through it. Quite possibly the biggest “hidden” gem on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis is the Mississippi River, bisecting and framing the west and east banks. Sure, you drive, walk, and bike over it on the Washington Avenue Bridge, but how often do you get to its banks and ponder the gem at our doorstep? From Coffman, it’s an easy descent past Yudof Hall and across East River Road. If you’re near the medical complex, cross East River Road from Harvard and descend the 12 flights and 186 stairs to find the trail along the river. Fun going down, peaceful along its paths, and great exercise on the way back up.

Well, I’ll be … The third Thursday of each month is “Free Faculty/Staff Day” at RecWell, so explore the massive spaces and arrays of equipment, sample a class, or try out the climbing wall.

Grab a lunch and enjoy the views. All around campus, there are great plazas, courtyards, and nooks in which to relax in the shade or sun and enjoy the summertime pace. Here are a few favorites:

The sunken courtyard between the Carlson School and Humphrey School – West Bank. Almost hidden from above with shady trees, this serene space is a gem.

The plaza north and east of the Social Sciences Building and Blegen Hall – West Bank. Tree-lined and as shady as it gets, a perfect place to watch the world go by on sidewalks and bike paths.

The plaza between the Mayo Building, Diehl Hall, and the hospital – East Bank. No secret to anyone who wears scrubs, this plaza features a cupola, swing, and plenty of spaces to sit with a lunch.

The historic Knoll. Bordering University Avenue, the Knoll is a busy hammock city for students in the spring, but it becomes a quiet oasis in summer.

More fun and games ... and enrichment. Be sure to watch for pop-up lawn games, both on the East Bank and in St. Paul throughout the summer. And since it's the height of summer camp season, you may notice a good number of kids around. Learn more about our vast array of educational—and fun!—programming at Youth Central.

Photo Op. Don’t forget to capture your summer memories with a photo. On the East Bank there’s the gigantic Adirondack chair in the middle of the mall, while the Goldy Gopher statue outside Coffman Union has been snapped by tens of thousands. And that toothy smile is contagious!
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities