My hands down favorite place to go for a walk in Minneapolis is the Stone Arch Bridge and Saint Anthony Main area. This is the oldest area in the city and I just love walking through all that history. The bridge was built by the railroad and has been converted into a walking/biking bridge and it sees a lot of use by joggers, bike commuters, and tourists looking for a view of the Saint Anthony Falls. The summer after my junior year I biked across the bridge every day to get to my internship. What a fantastic way to wake up each morning!
Minneapolis was once home to the booming flour milling industry. The falls themselves were the major draw for industrial entrepreneurs who wanted to harness the hydropower for use in the mills. Over the 19th century the falls were continually changed and adapted in attempts to produce more energy. All of the changes severely altered the natural look of the falls, and posed some serious safety hazards. From what I’ve been able to learn from Google, the current look of the falls was engineered in the 60’s. The falls do still generate about 12 MW of electricity at the Hennepin Island Hydroelectric Plant. It’s a shame that the natural falls weren’t preserved, but if history were different, Minneapolis might not even exist!
The bridge also gives a great view of the bright blue Guthrie Theater. I never got to a show there, but the Mill City Farmers Market sets up shop on the plaza to the right and I biked over there several times to get some fresh produce and delicious local honey.
As I mentioned, the area surrounding the falls housed many flour mills back in the day. In 1878 the Washburn A Mill, the largest flour mill in the country, exploded violently in a ball of flame that destroyed several other mills nearby. The ruins are still standing, and have been turned into the Mill City Museum. When you walk into the center of the half-destroyed walls you can see the twisted steel beams that were warped by the heat of the fire. It’s crazy to think how powerful that explosion must have been. If you want to learn more about the whole ordeal, I recommend you read this article from MinnPost.
Below the museum is Mill Ruins Park where you can see more of the destruction from the Washburn Mill explosion along with some of the canals that were tunneled into the bedrock to bring river water under the mill for power. Every time I’ve walked down there it’s been pretty quiet and empty. Maybe most people don’t notice it nestled down at the bottom of the bluff…
Once on the downtown side of the river I usually walk along the Heritage Trail to the Hennepin Avenue bridge, then cross the river again and walk back on Main Street. On the way I get a good view of another Minneapolis landmark, the Grain Belt Beer sign. I always smile when I think about Grain Belt’s slogan of being “The Friendly Beer”. But what do you expect when we’re all so Minnesota Nice?
Main Street is just the cutest little strip of stores and restaurants. I love the cobblestone street and the brick buildings. I’ve seen a good handful of movies at the theater where they offer discounts with a student ID. Both Wilde Roast Cafe and Aster Cafe have delicious weekend brunches, and Pracna claims to be the oldest restaurant in Minneapolis. It also helps to have such a gorgeous view of downtown as you dine outside.
Tuggs Tavern is also on Main Street and their patio is perfect for summer evenings of beer drinking. I was here last night with a bunch of friends in an attempt to hang out with and say goodbye to all the people I love before I move *insert emotional sniff here*. We had beer rockets (a giant tube of beer with a little tap on the bottom) because we’re classy people in our 20’s.
I’ll really miss this area of town in particular. I’ve lived within a ten minute walk of Main Street my last three years in Minneapolis and I never get sick of taking a stroll around this historic spot.
Where are your favorite places to walk where you live?