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36 Hours with the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities

August 16, 2016Patrick NunnallyUncategorizedComments Off on 36 Hours with the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities

A friend of mine pointed me last week to the New York Times’ most recent “36 Hours” travel feature, on Minneapolis.  It’s a nice story, and of course I appreciate that it leads with a Mississippi River mention.  Others have commented on concepts such as the absence of St. Paul, etc.  These columns  typically address people who have a lot more money than I do and are focused on eating, drinking, and shopping.

We could do a lot of alternative itineraries for 36 hours in the Twin Cities; I’ll offer one that is river-centered and somewhat aspirational.  In other words, I’ll list things to do on this itinerary as if they could all be scheduled exactly to fit.   I’m listing programs that are currently available, and utilizing some creative license and assumptions about hours of access etc. to make this all fit together.

Note: Web links are correct as of mid-August 2016.  Some adjustments may need to be made if you are accessing these venues and events after that point.


3:00       Fresh off the plane, start at Fort Snelling State Park, which has important materials about the Dakota history of  this place in the visitor center and out in the park itself.  The Twin Cities is original Dakota homeland, and that                  perspective should be your starting point.  Dakota voices and perspectives can be found on the Bdote Memory Map (“Bdote” is a Dakota term for places where waters join, which have special significance in Dakota culture).

5:00       Walk the Minneapolis Central Riverfront Mill District and have dinner at any of several restaurants that have emerged in this center of historic preservation and interpretation.  Be sure to walk across the Stone Arch Bridge for views up and down the river and of St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall along the Mississippi’s 2,500 miles.

9:00       Go to the Guthrie Theater’s “Endless Bridge” for dusk/evening view and a drink at one of the bars in the building.


9:00       Embark on a canoe paddle in the Mississippi River Gorge with Wilderness Inquiry, leaving from East River Flats, just below the campus of the University of Minnesota.

11:00     Join Friends of the Mississippi River  and its Gorge Stewards group for a habitat restoration event.

1:00       Take a Nice Ride bike to Sea Salt restaurant in Minnehaha Park.  While the restaurant is not technically right on the Mississippi, a short after lunch hike down Minnehaha Creek takes you to the river.

4:00       You are probably tired by now!  Take a narrated tour with Padelford Riverboats from Harriet Island in St. Paul.

7:00       The Mississippi River corridor in the Twin Cities has been designated as the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.  Check out NPS Mississippi River Visitor Center in the Science Museum of Minnesota  to plan for the next day.

8:00       Downtown St. Paul has undergone a substantial revitalization in the past two decades, owing largely to the city’s embracing its relation to the Mississippi.  Any number of restaurant guides can direct you to something that fits your taste and is close to the river.


9:00       One of the hottest redeveloped neighborhoods in St. Paul is Lowertown, the warehouse district at the historic head of navigation on the Mississippi.  The Lowertown Farmers Market is a good place for breakfast, as is the historic Latino community across the river on the West Side, now known as District del Sol.

11:00     You can’t really call your visit to the Twin Cities Mississippi River complete without taking at least one Park Service tour.  We recommend Bike with a Ranger.

So, what did I miss?  What essential experience needs to be added (and what would you take out)?  It’s harder than it would seem to be, putting this plan together! I would love to hear your comments, additions, revisions, either about this particular proposal or a whole other direction for a river-centered tour.  What about the lakes, which after all, are connected to the river? A water tour?


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