People 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.