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Spotlight: Minneapolis

Outdoor recreation mingles with colorful culture on the Mississippi

It served as a major fur trading center and lumber shipping hub during the 1700s and 1800s. In the 1970s, Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on with her smile as she wandered the city’s landscapes in the opening credits of her primetime TV show every week. Musical acts from Hüsker Dü to Prince forged their careers in the city, and today it remains a vital industrial, cultural and business hub.

Rich in history but always forward thinking, Minneapolis is one of the most fascinating cities in the Midwest. Sitting on the mighty Mississippi River, the city welcomes visitors with towering skyscrapers and cozy cafes alike. Set aside lots of time to explore both the sophisticated metropolitan districts and its rustic outlying areas.

Where to Start

Minnehaha Falls Regional Park is one of the city’s treasured natural spaces. The 53-foot falls were made legendary in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Song of Hiawatha.” Travel the paved trail around the park, and visit the Longfellow House Hospitality Center, housed in a two-thirds scale replica of the poet’s home in Massachusetts. Minnehaha Falls is part of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a 50-mile recreation loop that encompasses Minneapolis.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nearby, Nicollet Island is the only inhabited island on the Mississippi River, where historic homes beckon visitors to see Victorian architecture from the seat of a horse-drawn carriage. Visit Nicollet Island Inn for a cool cocktail at the 150-year-old bar.

Mississippi isn’t the region’s only major waterway. To the east is the St. Croix River, and here you’ll find Taylors Falls, a historic village community that can be explored through an audiovisual walking tour as well as stops at one of the town’s municipal parks. Wild Mountain/Taylors Falls Recreation is a year-round destination for families seeking fun of all kinds. Wild Mountain offers scenic boat tours, kayak and canoe rentals, alpine slides and wintertime skiing and snow tubing.

For a glimpse of nature, check out the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, one of the last free zoos in the United States. This attraction is highlighted by a variety of gardens—from sunken to tropical—under a sprawling, ornate greenhouse.

City O’ Lakes

Minneapolis lakes are city treasures and popular destinations for recreation. Rent a paddleboat at Lake Harriet or drop a line to hook some muskies. The band shell on the north shore of the lake hosts numerous live music events during the summer. Lake Calhoun, the city’s largest lake, offers a fishing pier and a boat dock as well as sandy beaches for soaking up the sun and cooling off in the water. Lake of the Isles lets small, four-legged visitors run free at an off-leash dog park.

Golfers enjoy the greens at Hiawatha Golf Club next to Lake Hiawatha. The 140-acre course features a par 73 and is dotted with mature trees, 12 ponds and 30 sand traps. A nine-hole golf course at Fort Snelling offers varied holes and a signature seventh hole—a par four that’s just 228 yards, but bounded by water hazards.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a premier destination for fans of bold and creative outdoor art, such as the Spoonbridge and Cherry. The adjacent Cowles Conservatory hosts seasonal displays of tropical plants and orchids.

Follow the locals to Calhoun Square for shopping and dining, Minneapolis-style. Friday afternoons welcome local vendors to showcase their wares, from artwork to jewelry to gourmet treats. Live music is played on Saturday evenings, and local eateries host trivia nights and karaoke throughout the week.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Museums and More

The Walter Library houses the University of Minnesota’s science and engineering collection, but it’s also an architectural treasure. The library was first built in 1923 and was renovated from 1999-2002. Be sure to check out the astrolabe chandelier that hangs in the center of the lobby, and see if you can spot all 225 owls that are perched throughout the building.

Each of the three stages at Guthrie Theater hosts world-class performances from Shakespeare to Sondheim and beckons patrons with a full-service restaurant and stunning views of St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge. Productions are staged year-round, ensuring visitors can catch a great show at any time.

Walk through history on a visit to Fort Snelling, built at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers in 1825 on a bluff overlooking the confluence. More than 120 years of military service have been recorded at the site, which today hosts educational programs and celebrations honoring the men and women who fought in U.S. conflicts from the Civil War to World War II.

Mill City Museum preserves the remains of what was once the world’s largest flour mill while teaching visitors about the industry and its impact on the growth and progress of Minneapolis. Explore the Baking Lab and take an eight-story elevator ride, and then watch a model mill explode as you learn how flour dust can turn a mill into rubble.

Across the river sits the Bell Museum of Natural History, which is part of the University of Minnesota. In addition to permanent installations that detail the geologic and zoologic history of the region, the museum hosts activities for kids and happy-hour forums for adults. Group tours are available to ensure guests get the most out of their visit.

Rain or shine, the treasures at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts invite visitors to explore the creative genius of world-renowned painters, sculptors and photographers. In addition to permanent collections, visiting exhibits rotate frequently, so there’s always something new to see. The Institute also invites guests to take classes and enjoy concerts throughout the year.

Just outside of Minneapolis is the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting, where visitors learn about the history of sharing news and entertainment over the airwaves. Collections include antique radios, televisions and broadcasting equipment. Television viewers who remember the 1970s should make a pilgrimage to the Mary Tyler Moore House, the TV star’s fictional residence. Take another trip down memory lane at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, where guests enjoy 15-minute streetcar rides on the antique trolleys that once traversed the city.

For More Information

Meet Minneapolis
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