In the land of 10,000 lakes, everyone has a favorite spot to fish, swim, hike, canoe or spend the day relaxing. In the Twin Cities metro, there is no shortage of lake life one can experience without leaving the city. Lake Phalen, is one of the many that are accessible within the city limits, but it is often overlooked in favor of the famous chain of lakes in Minneapolis or Lake Minnetonka.
Part of Phalen Regional Park, Lake Phalen is located on the east side of Saint Paul, in an area that was historically Dakota land. High up top of the bluffs this lake is part of the Phalen-Washington waterway and flows through the east metro where it ultimately connects into the Mississippi River.
East Saint Paul is a diverse working-class diverse neighborhood that has the largest Hmong population of any other city in the U.S. An ethnic group from southern China, the first Hmong refugees arrived in Minnesota in 1977. This garden promotes Minnesota’s understanding of the cultural and ancestral connection between Hmong people in Saint Paul and Hmong people in their sister city of Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.
This garden was first proposed in 2000, by University of Minnesota professor C.C. Hsiao and Linda Mealey-Lohmann. After several years of planning, the China Garden Society worked with the city to find a site for the garden in Phalen Park. The garden was approved in 2011, construction began in 2016, and it was opened to the public in July 2019.
Inside the garden, you’ll find Xiang Jiang Pavilion, a three-story replica of the Aiwan Pavilion in China, as well as an arch, a bridge, and the Hmong Cultural Plaza. Don’t be surprised to find young folk practicing martial arts or rapping under the shelter. It has become are an integral part of the area and community.
Know Before You Go
Turn into Phalen Regional Park and drive all the way to the end and park in the Phalen Channel lot. The road dead-ends right after. A sign will be posted for the garden and a few hundred feet away you will see the entrance gate.
The area allows for barbecue, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, volleyball, golf, or just a nice walk (3.25 miles around) so plan an entire day and make this a part of your destination.