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Destination Guide

  Minneapolis

 
 
Whether its by land or by sea, there are many different ways to see the Twin Cities. Fast or slow, private or group, tours are a great way to orient yourself. Take one of the many tours pointed out here, and you are sure to find out about some hidden spot that you could not have discovered otherwise.

By Sea

River Cruises
Mississippi River
If its a riverboat ride that soothes you, try the Padelford Packet Boat Company. In St. Paul, the cruises start at Harriet Island. In Minneapolis, head to Boom Island, across the river from downtown. Take a ride on the Betsey Northrup or Jonathan Padelford. These narrated tours are a great way to learn some of the history of the area, both human and geological. The Minneapolis tour includes locking through the Number One lock on the Mississippi River. Both locations offer dinner cruises and Sunday brunch cruises, as well as other special themes and music events.

St. Croix River
The St. Croix River is the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, just a half-hour east of St. Paul. It is a nationally designated Scenic Waterway, and the shore is dotted with historic river towns offering drinking, dining, and shopping. Just north and east of the Twin Cities is Taylors Falls, where you can board the Taylors Falls Princess or Taylors Falls Queen for a short cruise to admire the scenic beauty and fantastic rock formations. There are also dinner cruises available. Or rent a canoe if you want to do it yourself. Directly east, in Stillwater, the Andiamo is moored, offering buffet lunch cruises and more aboard the 1890s riverboat. South and east is Afton and the historic Afton House Inn. Their cruise ship line offers Sunday brunch and dinner cruises aboard three modern cruise ships of various sizes.

Lake Cruises and Water Transport
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the lakes is on them. If you didn't happen to bring your own boat, try one of the tours offered. Lake Minnetonka offers many different types of on-lake excursions. Float along gracefully on the Minnehaha, the Lady of the Lake, or the Queen of Excelsior. If you prefer to go a little faster, try Mahogany Bay Vintage Cruise to rent a classic speedboat. On many of the area lakes, its mostly self-serve. Go ahead and rent a bike or canoe. Windsurfing, jet skis, kayaks, paddleboats, and sailboats are also to be found.

By Land

Motor Tours
Metro Connections
This is the grand motorcoach tour that lets you ride in style. Narrated by a standing guide, tours take you throughout the Twin Cities and to the Mall of America. Bilingual tours and airport greeting are available.

If you would like a more intimate experience, try TwinCitiesTours. These tours don't use the typical mammoth tour bus; you will ride in comfort in a luxury sedan or van. This enables the tour to go into many quiet neighborhoods where a bus wouldn't be welcome. Each is narrated individually, not using a script. They offer several standard tours, including holiday lights, but encourage customizing to take you to what you want to see.

Get a little closer to the scenery in one of the many trolley cars that motor around the cities. Both downtowns offer trolley service to make it easier to orient yourself downtown. Or just for fun, try a trolley on tracks around Lake Calhoun or Lake Harriet. Minneapolis RiverCity Trolley and the Minnesota Transportation Museum are two of the operators of this type of transportation.

Arts Tours
Express Buses
The Metro Transit system will do the driving for you. Hop on an Arts & Eats Express or Sites & Bites Express and ride the bus to restaurants, shops, and attractions in downtown Minneapolis and the surrounding area. The difference is whether you want arts or sight-seeing to be the focus. Both stop at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and great restaurants. The ride is only $1.50; if you want to get off to explore and then continue, ask the driver for a transfer and you will have 2 hours to use it. Arts & Eats stops at most downtown hotels every hour; the Sites bus stops at most of them every two hours. See www.metrotransit.org for maps and more.

Arts and Museum Pass
While not strictly a tour, it is a heckuva deal for museum enthusiasts. The Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association offers a ten-day ticket to many of the most popular cultural destinations. If you clamor for knowledge, this is your ticket. Only $15 for adults and $11.50 for children and seniors, its half the cost of buying tickets for each individual venue. The pass is available through the Minneapolis Visitors Information Center, the Explore Minnesota Store and the Walker Art Center. This includes hot spots throughout the metro area, such as the Science Museum of Minnesota, American Swedish Institute, and Minnesota Childrens Museum.

Walking Tours
Summit Avenue
Enjoy the history behind some of these fabulous architectural jewels. Summit Avenue is considered the longest intact example of a Victorian neighborhood in the country. This beautiful sweeping parkway is where F. Scott Fitgerald lived and wrote. Tours are organized by the Minnesota Historical Society and are offered every year on Saturdays in the summer. If you can't make it then, at least drive the stretch. The James J. Hill House, home of the entrepreneurial railroad tycoon, is open year-round.

Gangster Tours
Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul offers tours by costumed guides portraying the likes of Ma Barker, John Dillinger, and Alvin 'Creepy? Karpis detailing their experiences. Free on the last Sunday of each month at 1:00 pm. Reservations required. Many gangsters flocked to St. Paul during the 1930s, and holed up in the Wabasha Street Caves before ending up at the courthouse. Tours of these caves are also offered.

St. Anthony Falls Heritage Zone
Take a walking tour down the Mississippi Mile, near downtown Minneapolis. This is a nationally designated historic site. Discover the roots of the mill town and marvel at the Stone Arch Bridge. These self-guided tours take you along the Grand River, right past St. Anthony Falls. If you get tired of walking, take a horse-drawn carriage ride on Nicollet Island. Nicollet Island Pavilion and Amphitheater hosts a variety of events each summer.

Bicycling
If you want to put a little more activity into your tour, rent a bike and take the path! There are many designated routes for biking, walking, jogging, and in-line skating throughout the Twin Cities. Many of them are old railroad beds that have been repurposed for recreational benefit. The Gateway Trail is a blacktop path that covers 19 miles from St. Paul to Stillwater. Grand Rounds is 45 miles of paths that connect the lakes in Minneapolis. On the West end of town, the Luce Line State Trail is even longer ' 63 miles that offer great sight-seeing. These are ideal for nature-lovers.

L. A. Smith