Aquatennial is the official civic celebration of the city of Minneapolis. Spanning four jam-packed days on July 24th through July 27th, the mpls downtown council has made experiencing everything that the wingding has to offer a walkable and bikeable experience for all ages to enjoy. They’ve done this while keeping all of the Aquatennial’s most popular events intact — headlined by their flagship events the CenterPoint Energy Torchlight Parade and the Target Fireworks. Simply put, there’s always something great going on downtown during Aquatennial.

The 80th year of the celebration kicks off with the Life Time Torchlight 5k, a friendly footrace starting in the city’s core and wrapping up at the Mississippi riverfront. Whether you are an aspiring Steve Prefontaine or haven’t used your sneakers for anything more athletic than evening strolls to the ice cream parlor, you’re certain to enjoy the city sights that the winding little course will treat you to. It ends at Life Time Fitness’ post-race party with live music and complimentary refreshments, as well as the beer that any recovery from jogging demands, and a shuttle service is available to return runners to the starting line.

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After the race, the CenterPoint Energy Torchlight Parade begins. It’s the biggest nighttime parade in Minnesota, an enormous affair that celebrates every town, company, and organization that makes our home state as great as it is. (Which is to say very.) Each year the title of grand marshal is awarded to some hero of Minnesotadom, with the honor having recently been to given to coach P.J. Fleck, sports anchor Mark Rosen, and Stillwater’s own X Games skateboarder Nicole Hause. High school bands and the men and women of our Minneapolis Police Department march, and they’re joined by ambassadors from throughout the state. You can see the whirling performers of the CAAM Chinese Dance Theater, the curious little taxis of Tuk Tuk WooHoo, the silly clowns of the Aqua Jesters, and dozens of other fine organizations at the parade.

The Twin Cities River Rats are returning to Aquatennial this year to put on a big water skiing show up and down the Mississippi along West River Road between Broadway and Plymouth Avenue. Alchemy 365 will hold free yoga class outside, and you can watch skateboarders defy gravity (and probably their mothers’ best wishes) at the Aqua Jam, complete with ramps and obstacles provided in collaboration by Fulton Brewing and Familia Skateshop. Because the boat is requisite for any celebration of L’Étoile du Nord, free canoe rides will be offered at the Loring Park Family Fun Night.

Everything crescendoes on the final night with the Target Fireworks. It is one of the largest fireworks displays in the country, with up to 25 minutes of dizzying pyrotechnic spectacle. We owe such fun to Zambelli Fireworks, who have perfected their art to the point where every zis, boom, and bah is synchronized to music. They have poured up to four hours of planning into every minute of fireworks that they put on! It’s an amazing show that around one quarter million people will gather by the waterfront to watch, and one that is simply unmissable. Go and see, funnel cake in hand, and be proud that you too are Minnesotan.

The Aquatennial’s attractions are too many to list in so finite an amount of space. For up to date information on everything that the celebration will have to offer, please visit


By David Scheller