Nearly 70% of Minnesotans take part in some form of outdoor recreation each year—impressive figures for a state that sees an average annual snowfall of 70 inches and temps as low as -60 degrees F in winter. Minnesotans may be a hardy bunch, but they are well-rounded, too. With a vibrant art, music, dining, professional sports, and theatre scene, Minneapolis could rival any other city in the nation for best place to live. Just maybe not in February.
They don’t call it the City of Lakes for nothing. Minneapolis has 20 lakes and wetlands located inside city limits and many more in the surrounding areas. The Chain of Lakes district sits at the city’s southwestern edge—one of seven districts that make up the 50-mile Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and where locals flocks to play during the warmer months. More than 13 miles of trails encircle Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, and Brownie Lake, all ready for exploration by foot, bike, canoe, stand-up paddle, or even in-line skates. Visit the bird sanctuary and rose garden near Lake Harriet before throwing a blanket down on the lawn to enjoy some live music at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. On a hot day, be sure to wander over to Sebastian Joe’s for some homemade ice cream with flavors that change daily.
Minnehaha park, one of the city’s oldest and most popular parks, offers 193 wooded acres in which to stroll or bike, culminating with a visit to the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls. Watch as canoeists make a desperate last-chance grab at the chains to avoid plunging over. Grab some fresh fish tacos or some pickled herring at Sea Salt, the extremely popular concession stand with outdoor seating located right next to the falls.
For the artistically inclined, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is one of the crown jewels of the Minneapolis park system, uniting two of Minnesota’s most cherished resources—green space and cultural life. The 11-acre site showcases more than 40 works from the Walker Art Center’s renowned collection, including the oft-photographed Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture.
In a city filled with James Beard Award recipients and Michelin-starred restaurants, nothing says Minnesota like hotdish (a variety of casseroles). The reasonably priced North Loop restaurant Hautedish is best known for its creative takes on classic Minnesota fare such as tater tot “hautedish” and meatloaf in a can. On weekends, be sure to check out the innovative brunch for Pig in a Blanket alongside a Classic Bloody Mary.
Drop your bags at the Nicollet Island Inn—a small historic downtown hotel hidden on a quiet island in the middle of the Mississippi River. The building that now serves as the inn was first constructed as the Island Sash & Door Company in 1893. After becoming home to several entrepreneurial milling companies in the early 20th century, then a brief stint as a Salvation Army shelter, the building was finally sold to Minneapolis Park and Recreation District during the 1970s, where it saw its rebirth as the now-iconic hotel, bar, and restaurant. Heavy timber and beam construction accents the 23 luxury rooms. The old loading dock now serves as the glass-topped dining room, complete with views of the Mississippi River and its north bank.
A self-proclaimed pub for the people, Republic is a locally owned, independent craft beer and restaurant with two locations in Minneapolis. Here, the beer comes first. The tap list offers a constant rotation of the best craft brews from Minnesota, the region, and throughout the world. Prefer another tipple? The pub also offers generous pours from a simple and refined wine list, in addition to an imaginative selection of house cocktails and an impressive array of choice whiskeys.
Photos provided courtesy of Omar Dean.
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