The Mississippi River, the mills and the metropolis of Minneapolis

Lake Itasca, in northern Minnesota, is where the headwaters of the Mississippi River begin. A few hours drive south lies the city of Minneapolis, home to the St Anthony Falls, the only natural waterfalls on the Mississippi River. There are many parks, lakes, bike paths and fun things to do. We started with a walk around Lake Harriet and continued exploring neighborhoods on the way past the Minnehaha Creek to the Minnehaha Falls Regional Park. Closer to downtown, we enjoyed walking through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Wurtele Upper GardenThe Walker Art Center is also a great way to spend many hours viewing wonderful art.

Crossing the Mississippi River is amazingly easy here. There are many bridges including The Stone Arch Bridge, which once was a railroad bridge. It is now strictly a bike and pedestrian crossing. The views of downtown, the St Anthony Falls, and the locks are outstanding. The locks are no longer in use. A combination of less industry and an invasive Asian carp problem have closed the locks to all. We sat near the river and I ate a delicious strawberry and quinoa salad. The St Anthony Waterfalls are the only natural falls on the Mississippi River. Around the same time the lock system was added, a concrete apron to regulate the falls was also added. The power of the water combined with the terrific location provided a home for multiple flour and logging companies.

The late 1890s brought new industry to Minneapolis. There was an improved way to make milled white flour available for the masses. Soon the river was flanked with multiple flour mills including Gold Medal and Pillsbury. Minneapolis was nicknamed the Mill City. The Mill City Museum, located at the former Gold Medal-Washburn A Mill, provides a great overview of the history of Minneapolis and the mills. There is a film, a ride, and multiple exhibits. Not far from this museum is the Guthrie Theater. This is a Jean Nouvel building along the banks of the Mississippi. It is home to three theaters, several restaurants and incredible city views. The building is blue with many yellow tinted windows. The blue is for the river, the yellow for the Gold Medal flour mill.We walked past the new U.S. Bank Stadium which is home to the NFL’s Vikings. It does resemble a modern day Viking ship with a little imagination. We found a cute bakery, Lucky Oven, which serves delicious treats and coffee. My favorite part was the wall of Easy- Bake Ovens.The University of Minnesota has a sprawling campus that spans both sides of the river. We spent a little time in the Weisman Art Museum. It is a Frank Gehry design and has a nice collection of paintings and sculpture. There was also a temporary exhibit about Prince. We took a drive over to St Paul, a short eight miles south. Summit Avenue is a beautiful street lined with magnificent mansions. This led us to the cathedral and then the Capitol building. We returned to Minneapolis and dined at Betty Danger’s Country Club, a super kooky and funky restaurant. It was fun and we finished the evening on a Ferris wheel.There are so many places to explore in Minneapolis, we have barely scratched the surface and will delve deeper when we return.

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