Since the mid-19th century, Minnetonka has evolved from heavily wooded wilderness through extensive farming and thriving industrialization to its present primarily residential suburban character. The Dakota and Ojibwe Indians were the first people to settle in the area. They believed the land around Lake Minnetonka (minne meaning water and tonka meaning big) was the legendary home of an extinct race. The first recorded exploration of the area by European settlers was in 1822, when a group from newly constructed Fort Snelling made its way up Minnehaha Creek (then known as Brown's Creek or Falls Creek) to the lake. In 1851, the Dakota sold the area including Minnetonka to the United States with the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. The first census, the Territorial Census of 1857, lists 41 households. Twenty-nine of the heads of households are listed as farmers. The occupations of the remaining twelve are associated with the operations of Minnetonka Mill and a nearby hotel.
Between 1883 and 1956, the area within the original 36-square-mile township grew smaller as Wayzata, Hopkins, Deephaven, Woodland and Saint Louis Park incorporated or annexed portions of then- Minnetonka Township. Excellent transportation facilities to Hopkins and Minneapolis began to transform the township's economy. Train service to Minneapolis had been available since the 1880s, and in 1905 streetcar service began. The attraction to become a city wage earner was great and rapid transit made it possible. In 1956, as a maneuver to prevent neighboring villages from continuing to annex portions of then-Minnetonka Township, residents in 1956 voted to establish a village out of the remaining 28 square miles, and the area was incorporated as Minnetonka Village. However, Minnetonka Village lasted only thirteen years. The complexities and the heavy demands of administering a rapidly developing community required professional management and larger representation. In 1969, a city charter was approved to serve the 35,000 residents. Ridgedale Center is located in Minnetonka.
As of the census of 2010, there were 49,734 people, 21,901 households, and 13,619 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,846.8 inhabitants per square mile. There were 23,294 housing units at an average density of 865.0 per square mile. The racial makeup of the city was 90.0% White, 3.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 3.1% Asian, 0.7% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.4% of the population. There were 21,901 households of which 25.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.1% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.8% were non-families. 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.85. The median age in the city was 45 years. 20.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.2% were from 25 to 44; 33.3% were from 45 to 64; and 16.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.5% male and 52.5% female.