MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Like many places that endure long, difficult winters, Minnesota comes alive when the weather warms up. So many people from the Twin Cities — as Minneapolis and St. Paul are known — head to lakes in northern parts of the state that the city's attractions truly open up to out-of-towners. And as in any urban area, some of the best are free.
STONE ARCH BRIDGE AND MISSISSIPPI RIVER OVERLOOK
Minneapolis traces its roots to lumber and grain milling. History buffs can get a feel for those early days with an amble across the Stone Arch Bridge just north of downtown. The mighty St. Anthony Falls powered mills that helped build the city, and the Falls still roar today, misting pedestrians and cyclists as they read plaques about the history. Look south toward downtown to see the few remaining grain elevators, topped by the iconic GOLD MEDAL FLOUR sign first erected more than a century ago. Nearby Mill Ruins Park offers a tumbledown cross-section of old millworks. If that's not enough, the Mill City Museum (not free) has more on the city's flour past, with hands-on activities for kids and adults. A block away, get another fine view of Minneapolis' revitalized riverfront from the Guthrie Theater, where Jean Nouvel's "Endless Bridge" juts toward the river on one of the longest occupied cantilevers in the world. The ninth floor offers visitors a fun test of courage if they're willing to step onto a glass floor, though it's sadly distorted by the yellow glass enclosure.
MINNEAPOLIS INSTITUTE OF ARTS
The Walker Art Center is known for modern art but the place to see more traditional treasures is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Its 87,000 objects include Van Gogh's "Olive Trees," Rembrandt's "Lucretia," a nearly 2,000-year-old bronze horse from the Han dynasty, and a late 1700s Charleston drawing room, once part of a wealthy merchant's home. Two blocks away is "Eat Street," a cavalcade of ethnic restaurants along three blocks of Nicollet Avenue.
A popular summer spot is Minnehaha Park, a sprawling green space in the city's southeast quadrant that's hosted family picnics and outdoor concerts for generations. The star attraction is the falls, named in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem "Song of Hiawatha" and at their roaring best in June when water volume is typically high. The Minnehaha Creek tumbles 53 feet (16 meters) over jagged limestone into a basin beneath a sort of half-cave before it continues into the Mississippi River. Visitors can get a view from above the falls or take stairs to creek level to see them from below. There's a casual seafood-themed joint in the park pavilion; enjoy a fish taco (not free) on the patio watching families figuring out quad bike rentals.
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