Tag Archives: Minneapolis

Your Twin Cities adventure, by bike

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

mn 2People often forget how easy it is to traverse the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtown areas by bike. In fact, Bicycling.com rated Minneapolis the best American city for biking in 2015. To see why, make a day of traveling between the two cities on two wheels (which is guaranteed to save you big bucks on parking). Plus, you’ll get to see pretty stellar spots along the Great River Road. Plan to make several stops along the way — you won’t believe how much you’ll be able to pack into 25 miles of trail.

  1. Start your journey in St. Paul, the older and sleepier of the twins. Spend the morning touring the majestic basilica or exploring a new exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Hop on the path just behind the museum, on the other side of the river from Harriet Island.
  2. You’ll be able to see the historic base of Fort Snelling on the other side of the river as you bike under Highway 5. If you like military museums, this is a must-see; just take the pedestrian path adjacent to the highway. If not, continue to follow the path without crossing the river.
  3. Minnehaha Park is a fantastic stop on the West side of the river. Once in the park, check out the beautiful Minnehaha Falls and grab a bite to eat at Sea Salt, a cute little seafood cafe.
  4. If you continue on the east side of the river, check out the picturesque views at the lookout point where Summit Avenue intersects with the bike path.
  5. Hop onto the East River Parkway via the Lake Street bridge to bike through the University of Minnesota campus. The shiny deconstructionist building you’ll see is the Weisman Art Museum by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.
  6. Once you reach downtown Minneapolis via the West River Parkway, marvel at the Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theater, two cultural landmarks with very different architectural styles, before crossing the iconic Stone Arch Bridge into northeast Minneapolis. Stop and take a picture with the Minneapolis skyline as your backdrop!
  7. Once in Northeast, you’ll have your pick of breweries. Try Dangerous Man just a few blocks down from the river.

Once you’ve concluded your adventure, you can bike back or bring your bike with you on the light rail return trip to downtown St. Paul.

Top 5 birds to see on the Great River Road

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Photo: Tom Jerisha

Photo: Tom Jerisha

With warm spring temperatures come the flocks of migratory birds, flying north along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Flyway is the migration route followed by 40% of all waterfowl and shorebirds in North America. Wildlife refuges, state forests, federal forests and parks protect the crucial habitat and food sources for these birds.

Grab a pair of binoculars, because you won’t believe the variety of fowl that nests along the Mississippi. Here are a few of our favorites, and where you can find them:

  1. Bald eagle. Watch our nation’s bird soar over the pines and lakes along the Mississippi. Nearly every state from Arkansas to Minnesota boasts superb bald eagle viewing. The conditions of the Mississippi are simply plentiful. If you want to learn more about the majestic bird, the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota is a regional favorite for group visits. Climb into an eagle’s nest, meet the resident raptors, or join a guided field tour to see the birds the in wild. Further south, at the Mississippi River Visitor Center in Rock Island, Illinois, you’ll find a bald eagle hot spot. This location is best in late winter and very early spring, when the eagles gather near the open water to feed.
  2. White pelican. These shy white birds start migrating north in early March. They’re frequently spotted near locks and dams near state parks, like the Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge near Bellevue, Iowa.
  3. Prothonotary Warbler. This small vibrantly yellow songbird is conspicuous all along the lower Mississippi River states, like Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. When the weather warms, you’re sure to spot it migrating north from its summer near the West Indies. It forges for food in hardwood swamps and nests in natural and artificial cavities like woodpecker holes.
  4. Great blue heron. Watch this majestic bird stalk its prey in shallow wetlands before taking flight with a loud squawk and a loud thump from its 6 foot wingspan. Great blue herons nest in treetop colonies called rookeries. You can find rookeries along the islands in Minnesota, like the North Mississippi River Park in Minneapolis, or the wetlands of Tennessee.
  5. Ivory-billed woodpecker. If you happen to spot this quirky bird, consider yourself one of the few. Thought to be extinct, this bird was spotted flying over Arkansas in 2002. The Dale Bumpers White River Widelife Refuge in Arkansas is home to 300 lakes and ponds, making the Bottomland Hardwood Forest and the White River an ideal home for migrating birds, and maybe, just maybe, the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Want more birding advice for your Great River Road experience? Be sure to check out our page devoted to bird-watching.

Things we’re thankful for along the Great River Road

Thursday, November 19, 2015

davenportIt’s Thanksgiving next week, so we’re thinking about all the reasons we’re giving thanks this season. Here are just a few things we’re thankful for along the Great River Road.

Beautiful scenery. We’re past peak color season, but traveling the Great River Road in spring, summer and fall offers awe-inspiring scenery. Scenic areas along the Mississippi River bluffs in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa provide spectacular views of the river and are especially picturesque in fall.

Delicious food. Farm-to-table delicacies. Mouth-watering barbecue. Fresh seafood. Whatever you have an appetite for, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it in your drive along the Great River Road. If you’re headed south on the Great River Road, be sure to visit New Orleans—one of the best food cities in the world.

Interesting attractions. Up and down the Great River Road, you’ll find scores of interesting attractions, from fish hatcheries to art museums to science centers. Stop by one of the more than 70 interpretive centers along the Great River Road to learn about the culture, heritage, history and ecology of the Mississippi River Region.

Hometown hospitality. From big cities like St. Louis, New Orleans and Minneapolis to small river towns across the northern and southern sections of the river, you’ll find friendly folks all along your drive. Spend some time exploring charming Main Streets or taking in the hustle and bustle of the big city (or give both a try).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Don’t miss these Minnesota destinations

Monday, March 10, 2014

Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park

Traveling along the Great River Road in Minnesota? Here are four destinations you shouldn’t miss.

  • The headwaters of the Mississippi River. When the Mississippi River starts out – way up in northern Minnesota at Itasca State Park – it’s only about knee deep and not much wider than a city street. Hop across the rocks to get to the other side or just take in the beautiful northwoods scenery along 49 miles of walking trails or 16 miles of paved bike trails. Learn more about Itasca State Park here.
  • Bemidji. Head north (yes, the Mississippi flows north briefly) from Itasca State Park to Bemidji, the first city on the Mississippi. Offering abundant recreation opportunities, family fun and postcard-worthy natural beauty, Bemidji is a great stop along the Great River Road. And, don’t miss the photo opportunity with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox outside the visitor center! Learn more about Bemidji here.
  • The Twin Cities. Minneapolis and Saint Paul boast and outstanding array of activities for any visitor, whether you’re looking for enlightening arts and culture, award-winning restaurants or the nation’s largest shopping center. Winter, spring, summer or fall – you’ll find four seasons worth of fun in the Twin Cities. Learn more about Minneapolis and Saint Paul here.
  • Red Wing. Heading south from the Twin Cities, you’ll encounter quaint river towns on the banks of the Mississippi River. One destination that should make your list is Red Wing, home to the famous shoemaker of the same name. Explore the shops, restaurants and hotels in the historic downtown and take advantage of some true Midwest hospitality. Red Wing is also a popular eagle-watching destination in the winter. Learn more about Red Wing here.

Want to know more about the Minnesota Great River Road? Find itineraries, attractions and more here.

Don’t-miss restaurants along the Great River Road

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

While journeying down the Great River Road, you’ll pass through ten different states, each with its own unique dining culture. Here are some restaurants located just off the GRR that you should definitely check out.

Minneapolis, MN: The Bachelor Farmer
Located in a newly restored building once built in 1881, The Bachelor Farmer captures the historic yet modern feel of the downtown Twin Cities. You’re guaranteed the freshest Nordic-style food, thanks to their use of local ingredients, including produce from their rooftop garden.

La Crosse, WI: The Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern
Dine on Waterfront Restaurant‘s contemporary versions of American classics, relax in the cushy lounge and enjoy the smooth sounds from the piano bar. And as the name hints, patrons can appreciate panoramic views of the Mississippi River, as the restaurant is situated along the waterfront.

Dubuque, IA: L. May Eatery
L. May Eatery takes pride in its use of local ingredients, serving a rotating seasonal menu of “gourmet comfort food.” Whether you’re craving a sophisticated pizza, delectable seafood or a refreshing cocktail, L. May guarantees delicious cuisine.

Quincy, IL: Tiramisu’
Order the unique homemade pasta when you visit Tiramisu’. This Italian restaurant also offers a fine selection of wine, pizzas and more. A great place to unwind.

St. Louis, MO: Bogart’s Smokehouse
Strap on your bibs for a BBQ excursion at Bogart’s Smokehouse. You’ll need an appetite for this one – as the smokehouse serves up mouthwatering meats like pulled pork, smoky brisket, apricot bruleed ribs, pastrami and prime rib.

Louisville, KY: Decca
Offering a simple yet incredibly sophisticated menu, Decca is one of Louisville’s best. Enjoy the warm ambiance of a historically renovated 1870’s building, accompanied by live entertainment by local artists and musicians.

Memphis, TN: Restaurant Iris
Specializing in French-Creole cuisine, Restaurant Iris has been named Memphis’ “Best Restaurant” for the past four years by a number of qualified reviews. Its charming atmosphere can be attributed to its presence inside a restored old home near the historic Overton Square.

Little Rock, AR: The Pantry
Serving up a variety of European, German and Czech dishes, The Pantry  promises a flavorful dining experience. And by the looks of their photo gallery, they promise a super cool atmosphere as well!

Jackson, Mississippi: Parlor Market
Indulge in rich Southern cuisine at the Parlor Market. Their menu, inspired by the cultures and ingredients of Mississippi, rotates seasonally to make use of fresh, regionally-sourced products. Parlor Market boasts a laundry-list of “Best of Jackson awards” and has been featured in numerous publications.

New Orleans, LA: Commander’s Palace
Last stop on this culinary food tour of the Mississippi… New Orleans! Commander’s Palace is the perfect place to experience New Orleans culture. Serving award-winning Creole dishes since 1880, the restaurant holds vibrant history, and vast experience has driven their success throughout the years.