One of the most vibrant commercial districts within the metro area surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul, 50th & France draws a steady stream of shoppers, families, and foodies all year round. It really comes alive during the spring and summer though — the months where eager Minnesotans and enamored visitors spill onto Edina’s patios and parks in droves.

Edina Art Fair 2017. Photos by Emily J. Davis.

“50th & France was recently described to me as a European-style village,” says the neighborhood’s director, Rebecca Bell Sorensen. “I love that. We are not a strip mall. You can park or bike or stroll into the district, explore it at a more leisurely, relaxed pace, and really take it all in.”

Sorensen makes sure to mention parking because the area has more than 1,000 free spaces to encourage widespread access to its many locally owned businesses. This comes in handy especially during 50th & France’s packed special events, including a Friday night concert series, Saturday morning Storytime on the Plaza book readings, and a Vintage Village that pops up on weekends throughout the year.

And then there’s the peerless Edina Art Fair. Now in its 57th year, and running between May 31 and June 2, it’s recognized as one of the country’s leading gatherings of local and national artists. We’re talking 250 dreamers and doers, representing nearly every medium imaginable under the loose theme of “Metamorphosis” — change as a spark for spastic creativity like the dynamic illustrations of featured artist John Vogl.

“My work is a mix of traditional and digital approaches, with a focus on evocative detail and a graphic sensibility,” explains Vogl. “Using limited yet striking palettes, I focus on the sublime and subtle emotions I can achieve through welcoming imagery, but ultimately aim to have the viewer linger and converse with my work with growing uncertainty. The subjects are meant to be anyone and no one.”

Now based in Minneapolis after a robust freelance run in Denver under the name The Bungaloo, Vogl has worked on a wide range of imaginative projects for such clients as Vinyl Me Please, AARP, The Avett Brothers, Great Divide Brewing Co., and Austin City Limits TV. He’s part of a packed weekend program that also features two beer gardens, a live stage curated by singer-songwriter John Swardson, various food trucks and vendors, an entire zone dedicated to entertaining kids, and a couple marketplaces focused on emerging visual and culinary artists.

“It’s going to be an amazing summer of fun at 50th and France!” says Sorensen. “We want to be the place you go with your friends for a girls’ night out; where your kids can feel safe biking and meeting up with friends at D’Amicos; and a gathering place on the plaza all year long with family seasonal events. We are so grateful to have a downtown with character that encourages community.”

Here are some other new and noteworthy developments within the 50th & France district worth seeking out this spring, summer and beyond….

Extract Juicery’s first Minnesota location is now open near Coconut Thai, offering clean eats like cold-pressed juice, organic acai bowls, overnight oats, and toast that’s been topped with everything from mashed avocado, watermelon radish and microgreens to almond butter, strawberries, banana, pecans, and raw honey.

East West Girl taps into the oft-overlooked tween market with trendy clothing, accessories, makeup, stationery, and home décor handpicked by the local mother of three young girls (Monica Hintz). Parents can also find fresh summer knits in quality fabrics and colors for boating season at Margaret O’Leary.

Cooks | Bellecour continues to build upon its dream team foundation — Cooks of Crocus Hill colliding with award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen (Spoon & Stable, Demi) — with classes on everything from croissants to sushi to Iranian, West African, Vietnamese, Italian and Moroccan cuisine. Anyone looking for a fast track to a phenomenal meal can also buy into crop shares of locally foraged and farmed ramps, morels, fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, duck eggs and more.

Mr. Paul’s Supper Club isn’t just offering prime patio seating like its Nolan Mains neighbor The Lynhall; its casual Po’ Boys & Jams lunch counter also turns into Back Door Burger Bar on select Thursday-Saturday nights. To give you an idea of how mischievous its menu gets, one recent weekend offered an ode to the hit animated show “Bob’s Burgers,” with specials like Hit Me with Your Best Shallot (a double smash burger with hot sauce-and-honey-whipped chèvre, arugula, pickles, caramelized shallots, sage and rosemary).

If you’d like to find a welcome balance between food and art, Raag Indian Cuisine has begun to host wine-tinged workshops that revolve around stained glass mosaics, pottery decorating, and painting. All led by Katie Ross, the owner of The Arts Creative school that is based in nearby Bloomington.

As for where you might find Sorensen, she says, “It’s really hard to pick a favorite; from the fresh olive oil at Coccinella to the luxury beauty products at Cos Bar, I love it all!”