Located 10 mi north of St. Paul you’ll find the charming suburb of Little Canada. This community of around 10,000 residents was founded in 1844 by Canadian farmer, Benjamin Gervais.
Having had enough of flooding from the Red River, Gervais and his family headed south in search of a new location for a settlement. Gervais founded St. Paul but then headed a little way north to set up a new mill and family homestead in what’s now Little Canada.
Today it’s a quaint area worth exploring. Keep reading to discover some of the best things to do in Little Canada, Minnesota.
1. Canadian Days (late summer)
The Canadian Days festival was held for the first time in 1976 as part of the country’s Bicentennial events. It was such a success with residents that planners made the decision to make it an annual tradition.
Today, Canadian Days is a weekend-long “food and fun event” held each summer, celebrating the friendship between the communities of Little Canada and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Activities include a carnival, a 5k race, and a Grand Parade. The event is planned by volunteers each year.
2. The Farmers’ Market (July through mid-October)
There’s nothing like a farmers market for finding produce better than anything in large grocery store produce departments. Farmers markets are great for hunting down hard-to-find heirloom tomatoes, blueberries, or those amazing Minnesota apple varieties.
Located at 2920 Rice Street, the Farmers Market in Little Canada isn’t to be missed. During July through mid-October, stop by to shop for produce, flowers, breads, and other locally made goodies. There’s also a Winter Farmers Market event in January at the Little Canada Bingo Hall.
Visit the Little Canada Farmers Market events schedule on their Facebook page.
3. The Little Canada Historical Society
Started in 1977, the Little Canada Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the French-Canadian genealogy of Little Canada. It was created by residents to honor and preserve the history of their community and the people who lived there.
If you have family or friends from that area, you might find detailed records in the society’s genealogy database.
4. David Royce Glass Studio
If you haven’t heard of Minneapolis-born glass artist David Royce, you’re in for a treat. Royce began working with glass at the age of 15 and today his work is found in numerous national and international collections.
A visit to Royce’s Little Canada studio is by appointment only, but call ahead and carve out some time for this experience. Watching the art of glass-making in person is well worth scheduling it into your trip!
Parks & Wildlife Areas
Getting away from urban life and spending time outside enjoying nature is a great reason to spend a day in Little Canada. There are four outdoor destinations to put on your “must visit” list.
5. Pioneer Park
Pioneer Park: 33 acres of developed land with a small pond and small wooded area.
6. Spooner Park
Spooner Park: 25 acres of shaded land.
7. Gervais Mill Park
Gervais Mill Park: 18-acre nature area that includes the original site of the Gervais Grist Mill and Gervais family homestead.
8. Nadeau Wildlife Area
Thank three dads living in Bainbridge Island, WA whose kids were bored one summer for creating pickleball in 1965. Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Here’s a website of everything you need to know about this mish-mash sport you may never have heard of.
You can play pickleball in Little Canada at Pioneer Park and Spooner Park. For information on classes or accessing courts, visit this link.
10. Little Canada’s Trail System
There are beautiful trails for walking and biking all around Little Canada for taking in the scenery year-round. A map of the community’s trails is available here.
11. Ice Skating (mid-Dec through end of Feb)
During the winter, ice skating must be on your list of things to do in Little Canada. There are two ice skating rinks you can visit: Fire Barns Skating Rink and Demont Rink.
For fishing in Little Canada, there are a few options. Gervais Mill Park has a fishing dock, Gervais County Park has waterfront access to Gervais Lake, or you can take a boat onto Lake Gervais itself.
Keller Lake and Round Lake are two other fishing spots, each within three miles of Little Canada.
Whether you’re on a vacation or a day trip, you’ve got to eat. It may be small, but Little Canada offers some great places for food and drink.
By the looks of the online reviews, a trip to Little Canada is worthwhile just to have a meal at the Porterhouse! With steaks and seafood, there’s sure to be something mouthwatering to try on the menu.
Reservations are required, so plan ahead and reserve your spot for a memorable meal.
14. Taste of Scandinavia
Described by one reviewer as “a bakery turned cafe,” Taste of Scandinavia is a culinary treat to take advantage of in Little Canada. It’s a favorite destination for local residents – always a good sign about a restaurant (another reviewer talked about how lucky he is that TOS is in his neighborhood).
This is the place to go for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a take-home dinner.
15. Donut Hut
Big franchise donuts can’t compete with what comes from smaller donut shops and Little Canada has a “donut Mecca.” Like the other Little Canada food destinations in this article, Donut Hut gets lots of online review love from customers (one woman confessed she drives an hour to get these donuts). So if you’re in the area, don’t pass up the chance to find your new favorite donut here!
16. Gordie’s Place
The tin ceiling sets the mood for this small neighborhood bar. Again, if the reviews are any indication, you’ll have to stop by Gordie’s Place for a drink while you’re in Little Canada.
Near Little Canada
Next door to Little Canada you’ll find the community of Maplewood with a few places worth visiting as well.
17. Sustainable Safari
Located in the Maplewood Mall you’ll find Sustainable Safari, an interactive animal exhibit. Their mission statement is “…to educate the public on Planetary Sustainability through the use of live animals in a safe and up close manner.” With over 200 animals ranging from furry to winged, to scaly, there’s sure to be an animal you’ll love here.
You can keep up with what’s going on at Sustainable Safari by visiting their website or Facebook page.
18. Keller Golf Course
Golfers will enjoy visiting the Keller Golf Course, which has been around since 1929. This is a championship course that’s hosted PGA and LPGA tours, so you know it’ll be challenging! It’s also received accolades from Golf Inc and Tee Time on their “best” and “favorite” lists.
19. Myth Live
For live music, head on over to Myth Live to catch a performance. There’s a wide range of musical genres hosted here, so there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy. Visit their Events page for information about upcoming artists.
Wrapping Up Things to Do in Little Canada
Settled by Canadian farmers who thought it felt like “home,” Little Canada is worth a visit to take in one or more of the things on this list. If you’re a visitor to the Twin Cities, set aside time in your schedule to fit in a few hours in this little suburb. If you’re a resident, visit often for the different events held throughout the year.
Did we miss one? If you know of a fun activity or attraction in Little Canada, that we didn’t mention, please let us know in the comments section below.
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.