Monday, November 24, 2008


Two things about Minnesota:

1. Minnesota Public Radio has a feature where you can be the judge on various challenged ballots in the Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.
2. The American Planning Association's national conference next year (last week of April) will be in Minneapolis. I have never visited Minneapolis, or actually anywhere in the Upper Midwest. So this sounds like a prime opportunity to visit for the conference and then take a few days to drive around the area, seeing scenery and visiting states and counties I'd never been in before. I am thinking maybe of going up into the North Woods area and/or going along the Mississippi River.

So, does anybody have any tips on what to see around Minneapolis besides the Mall of America (which I do plan to visit)? I really don't have much of an idea about what there is there.

Also, any favorite places around Minnesota or nearby states? Tips on where to go driving, see scenery, and/or visit interesting small towns? Have any of you been to Voyageurs National Park?


At Saturday, November 29, 2008 at 7:05:00 PM PST, Blogger Richard Mason said...

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is decent.

At Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 7:22:00 AM PST, Blogger Aaron of Minneapolis said...

Kind of a long comment, I know, but it was hard to narrow things down. :-)

In the Twin Cities

Well, there's Minneapolis's extensive park system, including the connecting parkways (surface streets that are landscaped as parks) -- especially the ones around the lakes (Harriet, Calhoun, Lake of the Isles), along Minnehaha Creek, and along the Mississippi River (particularly the gorge below St. Anthony Falls).

Some areas around downtown Minneapolis include the Warehouse District, Nicollet Island, SE Main St., and the new 35W bridge. Also, the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices used to be on SE Main (and was a favorite attraction of mine), but in 2002 it moved to the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul.

St. Paul has some particularly nice historic areas, like Summit Ave. (more than 4 miles of great old mansions on a park-like street -- Live Maps route, Google Maps route) and Irvine Park (Live Maps bird's-eye, Google Maps), among others. In downtown St. Paul, there's Rice Park (Live Maps bird's-eye, Google Maps) -- flanked by Landmark Center, the St. Paul Central Library, and the St. Paul Hotel -- Mickey's Diner (best place in town for a late-night burger and shake), and a few interesting old buildings like the Pioneer Building. The views from Dayton's Bluff, Indian Mounds Park, and Cherokee Heights (across the Smith Ave. High Bridge) are hard to beat, and Highway 13 from St. Paul to Mendota has some scenic stretches as well.

The Twin Cities also has some nice bridges across the rivers, including the Stone Arch Bridge and one of the best collections of concrete arch bridges around (including my favorite, the Mendota Bridge) -- see John Weeks's site for more on those.

Metro fringes and nearby outstate

I'd recommend the river valleys, especially the St. Croix and the Mississippi below it (both quite scenic, though I don't know if the leaves will be more than just green buds in late April). My favorite nearby small towns -- Red Wing (Live Maps, Google Maps), Stillwater (Live Maps bird's-eye, Google Maps), and Taylors Falls (Live Maps, Google Maps) -- are found there, and if you're on the St. Croix, you might want to stop at the Marine General Store in Marine on St. Croix, and the Angel Hill area in Taylors Falls (best group of 1850s houses in Minnesota, although the historic Folsom House is closed from October to Memorial Day Weekend). The Minnesota River Valley is quite beautiful too (though not nearly as scenic), with some nice towns like Henderson, St. Peter (best main street on any 4-lane highway, if you ask me), and New Ulm.

Farther off the major rivers, Northfield is a pleasant little college town (St. Olaf, Carleton) with a historic downtown and an interesting episode in its history which is still celebrated today. Owatonna has another nice downtown, with a town square park and a Louis Sullivan-designed bank.

Farther outstate -- northern Minnesota

If you have time, you might want to head up to Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior. (On the way up, there's a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gas station in Cloquet. :-) ) Duluth itself has a great natural setting, with the lake and the St. Louis River in front and steep bluffs behind (there are parks and a scenic drive, Skyline Parkway, up on the bluff). Farther up the shore, Split Rock Lighthouse sits on a cliff above Lake Superior. Even farther up are the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage. (Note: Parts of Lake Superior may still be frozen in late April. It was still frozen when I was up there in May 1995, anyway.)

In a different direction north, there's the source of the Mississippi at Lake Itaska. If you want to go all the way north, there's the Northwest Angle, although it's a 8- or 10-hour drive from the Twin Cities (Live Maps, Google Maps), and you have to go through Canada to get there.

One area I'm more familiar with is the Brainerd lakes area. My family has had a cabin about 30 miles north of Brainerd, and we always drive by Lake Mille Lacs on the way up there. You might go by there if you head to Itasca, depending on how (or if) you follow the river.

Farther outstate -- southern Minnesota

Rochester doesn't have all that much to recommend it except the Mayo Clinic, which has more skyscrapers than any hospital I've ever seen. (Practically all of the tall buildings on Rochester's skyline are either Mayo Clinic or hotels.)

Pipestone and the Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwestern Minnesota are also areas of interest, although they're a ways out from the Cities.

I might post more later. Otherwise, you might want to look around Wikitravel and other sites a little.

At Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 7:28:00 AM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Wow, thanks!

At Friday, December 5, 2008 at 3:10:00 PM PST, Blogger Aaron of Minneapolis said...

No problem!

Oh, I almost forgot: US 212 has been rerouted onto a new freeway from Eden Prairie to Carver since July, but the map sites still show 212 on its old alignment on Flying Cloud Dr. Mapquest and Google show the freeway (as MN 312, its old temporary number) completed only as far west as MN 41 (which was true from Dec. 2007 - July 2008), while Live Maps shows it (as MN 312 again) only as far as Eden Prairie Rd. (which was true from 2001 - Dec. 2006).

For other MN road info, try Mn/DOT's projects list and 511.


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