JuLY 22, 2022

Travel Diary:

Roaming the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Yes, it gets cold sometimes - and that’s only part of the fun. The ultimate checklist of what to do in Minnesota. 

When you move somewhere new, you have the chance to see it with fresh eyes. Everything is new and exciting. That is part of the joy of roaming; life is most exciting when you’re discovering and experiencing things for the first time.

This has been our impression since we moved to Minnesota. Before we packed the cars and moved our family of three (plus a rambunctious dog) from Colorado, all that we knew about Minnesota was that it had trillions of lakes, babies are born with hockey sticks in their hands, and its state bird is the mosquito. Oh, and winters are so cold that the snowmen migrate south.

Now two years into our Minnesota adventure, we’ve learned that there’s so much more to see and do in the Land of 10,000 Lakes beyond the skeeters, pucks and October icicles.

Here’s my family’s recommended top things to do and see when roaming the Twin Cities:

Salute Prince at Paisley Park

Minneapolis was home to legendary rock artist and visionary Prince, and Paisley Park, located in the western ‘burb of Chanhassen, was both his home and studio. Today, people from all corners of the globe make pilgrimages here to take tours, attend concerts, party like it’s 1999, leave notes and generally pay homage to one of the all-time greats. Paisley Park is an experience and inspiration to live life to the strum of your own guitar. 

The Author and his son roam thru the Minneapolis downtown after dining at French Meadow Bakery, an organic and vegetarian-friendly eatery.

Keep the Rubber Side Down

Minnesota is regularly recognized as one of the most bike-friendly states in the country. The bike trails (more than 200 miles of on-street bike lanes and off-street trails in the city of Minneapolis alone!) are central to the healthy and active lifestyle found here. Whether it’s sub-zero or pushing triple digits, there are always Minnesotans on the paved paths, packed snow, frozen lakes or flowy singletrack. Rent a bike, or bring your own, and roam around. You’ll find the routes tend to connect and loop back and are superbly marked. You can also check out Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

Get Artsy

Minnesota has an artistic vibe, from Duluth to the Twin Cities, and its heartbeat emanates from the Walker Art Museum in downtown Minneapolis. Walker regularly attracts the country’s most sought-after exhibits. If you’d rather be outside or do something for free, saunter around the city’s 11-acre sculpture garden just steps from the museum. It’s a menagerie of innovative sculptures that will delight and expand your mind. Be sure to take the obligatory photo in front of the signature Spoonbridge & Cherry sculpture, a Twin Cities landmark that should not be missed. 

During the annual Loppet Winter Festival, an entire lake is adorned with lanterns, ice sculptures and luminarias. 

Campfires beside the lake (in this case, Lake Superior) are a Minnesota past-time. 

Hot or Cold, Head to the Lake

Minnesota life flows, literally and spiritually, from the lakes and rivers. “Minnesota”, after all, means “sky-tinted water” in the language of the original locals, the Dakota tribe. Summer or winter, the lakes are the hub for nearly everything. In the summer, there’s fishing, kayaking, SUP-ing (Stand Up Paddle-boarding), and swimming. One Minneapolis rite of passage is to do a lazy summer float or kayak down the 22-mile Minnehaha Creek from Lake Minnetonka to Minnehaha Falls. In the winter, the frozen lakes are speckled with ice-fishing huts, hockey rinks and cross-country ski trails. In one of the Twin Cities’ annual celebrations of winter, the City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival, thousands of puffy-coated souls venture out to Lake of the Isles to marvel at glowing ice sculptures and head bop to live music, right on the impenetrable ice. 

Don’t Miss the Mississippi

How appropriate that Minnesota, the land of lakes and rivers, is the starting point for the most legendary of our country’s rivers, the Mississippi. The “Great Muddy”, as it’s called down south, begins as a trickle flowing out of Lake Itasca in the northern part of the state and gains lots of water weight from there. This is the beginning of its 2,350-mile long journey, which makes an early urban curve through Minneapolis. This may be the best place in Minnesota to appreciate this queen of the North American waterways. Some folks simply sit on the shores and watch it flow by. Others enjoy the miles and miles of bike paths that follow these early swaths of the Mississippi’s majesty. The postcard-worthy pitstop for pausing to watch the flow is the famed Stone Arch Bridge. An architectural wonder in its own rite, the Stone Arch Bridge is a 2,100-foot granite and limestone behemoth that consists of 23 arches waving their way across the river in downtown Minneapolis. It was constructed in 1883 and is the only stone arch bridge to have ever traversed the Mississippi. It’s worthy of a stop and many photos. Oh, and there’s yet another way to marvel at this river: from water level. Kayak and canoe rental opportunities are plentiful. Just don’t fall asleep as you’re paddling; the sanguine pace of the river may be soothing, but you’d hate to get swept all the way down to Iowa! Check out St. Paul Magazine: Where to rent kayaks and canoes near the Twin Cities

Quench Your Thirst

At last count, Minnesota has more than 183 micro-breweries. On any given evening, Monday thru Sunday, imbibers will be belly-up reveling in sudsy socialization. This is especially the case as the pandemic fades a little bit into our rearview mirrors and we’re getting out more. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, the more popular watering holes are Surly, Fulton Street (around the corner from Target Field, home of the Twins baseball team) and Finnegan’s (entirely non-profit in support of the local community). That said, it seems nearly every town with more than two people has their own locally-owned tap house. My personal favorites are Unmapped Brewing in the western hamlet of Minnetonka and Luce Line Brewing, located in a northwestern ‘burb called Plymouth and smack dab on the 63-mile-long Luce Line bike path. One must stay hydrated on those long bike rides, right?

The Author quenches his thirst at Luce Line Brewing, one of more than 183 tasting rooms in Minnesota.

By: Garett Graubins

Garett is Director of Marketing at Sportiqe. He has been senior editor of TrailRunner Magazine and continues to write for various publications when he’s not on the clock at Sportiqe or roaming the Twin Cities with his wife and son.