I had been wanting to visit Minneapolis for a while and was excited to check the city out before and after running the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth. Well if you read my post on my weekend in Duluth, you know I encountered a flight delay on the way to Minnesota. I had originally planned to spend a good four hours in Minneapolis before heading to Duluth, but when I was delayed coming in, it turned into just an hour.
After my weekend in Duluth, I had planned to spend half a day on Sunday and then most of the day on Monday in Minneapolis as the original flight I booked wasn’t leaving until 6:30pm. Well, JetBlue updated their schedule and got rid of that flight and put me on a flight that left at 5pm. Not too bad, it still gave me most of the day, but that flight involved a connection in JFK instead of being the direct flight I originally booked.
Well when my outbound flight got so delayed, I got nervous I would be delayed on the return and miss my connection at JFK. Being that I had just started a new job a week before this trip, I just couldn’t risk not getting home on Monday night, so I changed my flight to the only direct flight to Boston on JetBlue which left at 11am, leaving me no time to see anything on Monday.
So in total I think I had less than 24 hours in Minneapolis, but I definitely made the most of it and saw most of the top things I wanted to see.
After sitting in the airport and plane for longer than planned and knowing I had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of me, I definitely needed to head somewhere where I could stretch my legs for a bit in the fresh air. So I headed to Minnehaha Park for some exploring before I headed north for the weekend in Duluth.
Purchased by the city of Minneapolis for the state of Minnesota in 1889, Minnehaha State Park (which it was originally called) was one of the first stated parks in the United States. At just over a 167 acres, Minnehaha Park has everything you are looking for to escape the city life of Minneapolis. At the park, you can enjoy walking and biking paths, gardens, historical sights, wading pool, playground, picnic area and a seafood restaurant, but the big draw to the park is definitely Minnehaha Falls.
The 53 foot tall Minnehaha Falls is probably one of the first things that came to mind when thinking about what I wanted to see in Minneapolis. I love waterfalls and being able to see one so close to the city is just great. You definitely feel further from the city than you are when visiting Minnehaha Falls. I took a short walk to the top and the bottom of Minnehaha Falls to be able to see the falls from different angles. I always really love the view from the top, there is something empowering about being above the raging waterfall.
After walking around and seeing Minnehaha Falls from different angles, I took a walk along one of the park paths for a little while and then it was time to drive up to Duluth, but I would be back in a couple of days to see how much more I could see in Minneapolis.
Mall of America
When I arrived back in Minneapolis a couple of days later in the late afternoon, I knew I had to see as much as possible, so I had a plan. My hotel was not far from the Mall of America, so I checked in to the hotel to drop my stuff off and then headed straight to the mall. As someone who grew up in a town that is known for it’s mall, I spent my high school years, wandering the mall on Friday nights with my friends. I had dreamed of visiting the Mall of America ever since it first opened in 1992, which just so happened to be the year I graduated high school, so in the height of my Friday nights at the mall!
Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, the Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States at 5.6 million square feet and it even has it’s own zip code! To put that amount of space in perspective, this is how many of each worldwide attraction can fit inside of it:
- 18 Coliseums
- 10 Great Pyramids
- 24 Sydney Opera Houses
- 53 Eifel Towers
- 174 Taj Mahals
- 347 Statues of Liberty
The Mall of America has over 500 retail stores with some stores having multiple locations throughout the mall since if you were to walk just one of the 4 levels of the mall, it would be over a mile walk! All that walking, you will definitely build up an appetite and can choose to grab something to eat at one of the 50 restaurants at the mall.
Bringing kids with you who aren’t interested in shopping? Well there is plenty to keep them busy! The largest indoor theme park in the US is located in the center of the mall. Nickelodeon Universe has over 28 rides and attractions to enjoy. There are also many Lego models located near the Lego store including a 34 foot tall robot which is comprised of 2.8 million Lego pieces and is the largest Lego model in the world!
Also located in the mall is the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium which includes a 1.3 million gallon aquarium. The Crayola Experience features 60,000 square feet of 25 hands on attractions.
I only spent an hour in the mall just looking around, but you could probably spend all day there, it’s definitely a destination in itself. There are 2 hotels attached to the mall and over 50 hotels nearby that offer shuttle service to the mall. I definitely need to go back and devote an entire day just for the mall!
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a must see. Who doesn’t love being able to see art while out in the fresh air? It’s located at the Walker Art Center and is free to the public. It features 60 sculptures and you can find a great self guided tour of the sculptures on their website.
Probably one of the most popular of sculptures in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is Spoonbridge and Cherry.
Spoonbridge and Cherry was made by Claes Oldenburg, who is known for his extra large sculptures of every day objects, and his wife Coosje van Bruggen. The sculpture is located on a pond in the sculpture garden and the reflection of the sculpture in the water just adds to the majesty of this piece.
Another sculpture based on something simple from our every day lives is Hahn (Cock).
Katharina Fritsch created this sculpture. By taking a simple thing like a rooster and making it 20 feet tall and blue, she created a sculpture that more unique than the animal it is depicting.
As seen in many cities around the world, such as Philadelphia, New York and London, the Love sculpture is always a favorite to see.
While you can see this sculpture in other cities, the sculptor, Robert Indiana, tends to paint each one a bit differently. The one in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is made of a type of steel that makes it look rusty. This way the sculpture does not need new paint, making it easier for it to survive the harsh Minnesota winters.
Nearby the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the Basilica of Saint Mary. The outside of the building looked just stunning, I would have loved to have gone inside. They do over both docent-led and self-guided tours. I recommend walking over and taking a tour of this beautiful church after visiting the sculpture garden.
Mill Ruins Park
Next I headed to downtown Minneapolis. The main thing I wanted to see while downtown was Mill Ruins Park.
Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, this area is known as the historic West Side Milling District. Minneapolis became an international leader in the production of flour with such companies as Pillsbury and General Mills getting their start right here in the West Side Milling District of Minneapolis.
The land that the park is on was acquired in 1985. It took quite a few years, but the park finally opened in 2001. The park includes a walking path along the river as well as ruins from the old mills. The ruins give you a glimpse into the history of the mills that once stood on this site. I was there on a Sunday evening and it was very quiet and felt somewhat eerie looking at the mill ruins, almost as if I was looking at somewhere haunted.
After exploring the ruins, make sure to take a walk along the river on the elevated walkway. You will see great views of the Minneapolis skyline and the Mississippi River.
Also from this walkway, you will be able to see the Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony’s Falls. The Stone Arch Bridge was built in 1883 as a railroad bridge to transport goods across the Mississippi River. It remained a railroad bridge until 1978 and then it was eventually repurposed to a pedestrian and cyclist bridge. While I was visiting the bridge was in the midst of a rehabilitation project. I wish that hadn’t been the case, because from the Stone Arch Bridge, you can get the best view of St. Anthony’s Falls.
St. Anthony’s Falls played a role in Minneapolis’ milling industry. Dating back to the 1800s, damns were built along the falls to help support the milling industry. Today, they are a beautiful site to see while visiting downtown Minneapolis.
Downtown Minneapolis was pretty quiet on a Sunday evening, it almost felt like a ghost town, but it was nice to have it all to myself. I then grabbed something quick to eat and headed back to the hotel before my flight the next morning.
With such little time in Minneapolis, I still feel that I saw most of what I wanted to see. My only regret is that I had a ticket for the next morning to tour Prince’s estate, Paisley Park. Not only was I disappointed that I didn’t get to go, but I also wasn’t able to get a refund for the ticket which was disappointing. Guess I’m just going to have to head back to Minneapolis another time.
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