CarFree Journey to Minneapolis, Minnesota


The Chain of Lakes

The Chain of Lakes

AMTRAK:From the Amtrak Rail Station (730 Transfer Road, St. Paul, MN 55114), walk to Transfer Road and University. Cross University. From Metro Transit’s Route 16 stop at University Avenue and Transfer Road, it’s about a 15-minute ride to the Target Field Blue Line light rail station.

Note: By the end of 2013, AMTRAK will move to the Union Depot: located at 214 East 4th Street in the Lowertown neighborhood of downtown St. Paul. Metro Transit’s new light rail line: The METRO Green Line will stop here, beginning some time in 2014. In the meantime, two of Metro Transit’s high frequency bus routes–#21 and #54—already stop at Union Depot.

Greyhound Bus Station(950 Hawthorne Ave., Minneapolis 55403). Jefferson Lines ( intercity buses also stop at this terminal.From here, it’s a short walk to 9th and Hennepin. From here, several local bus routes take you downtown in under 5 minutes, for just $.50.

Megabus (Chicago Ave. between South 3rd St. and South Washington Ave.): Megabus provides inexpensive direct bus service to and from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison and Madison/University of Wisconsin. From the Megabus station, it’s a short walk (0.2 miles) to the Blue Line’s Metrodome Station. From there, it’s a five-minute light rail ride to Nicollet Mall Station, downtown.

Where to Stay

Meet Minneapolis, and local residents recommend three areas for visitors who don’t want to drive: Downtown Minneapolis, Uptown, and the area near Mall of America in nearby Bloomington (near the airport).

Getting Around by Public Transit

Metro Transit provides local and regional transit in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding communities.

For more information about fares, routes and schedules for local buses and the METRO Blue Line, visit, or call (612) 373-3333. Telephone customer service is available from 6:30 a.m. -9:00 p.m. Weekdays, and 8:00 a.m. -6:00 p.m. weekends. (All times are Central Time.)

Here are a few useful websites to help you use transit

This site lists several bus routes that operate at 15-minute or more frequent intervals.

This site gives information about free bus service on Nicollet Mall, in downtown Minneapolis.

This site describes the special reduced $.50 fare on buses, when you ride only in downtown.

Ideas for Enjoying Your Visit

Before planning your visit, visit and click on the Visitors tab. There is a lot of helpful information. If possible, ask to receive a copy of the Visitors Guide by mail. Then, take time to read the Visitors Guide online at You can also call the Visitor Center toll-free at (888)676-MPLS.

A Stroll around the Chain of Lakes

From downtown Minneapolis, purchase a 24 hour bus pass at the Nicollet Mall Blue Line light rail station (located at 5th Street and Nicollet). Use this pass for unlimited travel on Metro Transit buses or Blue Line trains for 24 hours after you first use it.

Then, walk to Nicollet Mall and 7th Street. From here take any #17 bus south on Nicollet to Lake Street and Thomas Ave. This will take you directly to the second most popular travel destination in Minneapolis: the famed “Chain of Lakes.” The bus stop is near the northwest corner of Lake Calhoun. From here, walking paths connect to Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet.

Although five lakes comprise the Chain of Lakes, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet are the three that are most often visited.And while all three are connected by walking and biking paths, each lake has its own unique flavor and feel.

Lake of the Isles (2.6 miles)

The northern most of the three lakes, Lake of the Isles is surrounded by some of Minneapolis’ most expensive homes. There are no swimming beaches here. Visitors will see canoes, kayaks, and an occasional angler or two. For the most part, Lake of the Isles is serene, stately and calm. A walking path and small canal connect Lake of the Isles to Lake Calhoun.

Lake Calhoun (3.1 miles)

If Lake of the Isles is the calm older sibling, then Lake Calhoun is its hip younger sister. This lake has two swimming beaches, playgrounds, two fishing piers, a public boat launch, sailboats, beach volleyball courts, boat rental vendor and a popular restaurant. You may see rollerbladers, runners, walkers, stand-up paddle boarders, windsurfers, or families on the beach. A walking path connects Calhoun with the southern-most lake in the chain: Lake Harriet.

For more information about Minneapolis Parks, visit On the bottom of the homepage, visit the following link for more information about walking and biking trails: One of the links will tell you the distance of each trail for both walking and bicycling.

Click here for Grand Rounds Scenic Byway: Every link on that page includes a map of walking and bicycle trails, and a brief description of what is special about each one.

If you have more questions about walking and bicycle trails in Minneapolis parks, call Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Customer Service at (612) 230-6400 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday (central time).

Bicycle Rentals

Minneapolis is one of the most bike friendly cities in America, as rated by Bike Score and other bicycling organizations (

There are over 92 miles of dedicated bike lanes along Minneapolis streets and an additional 85 miles of off-street bikeways. The city also boasts “America’s first bike freeway,” a 4.35-mile Cedar Lake Regional Trail. Two one-way bike lanes and a pedestrian lane run from the Mississippi River downtown underneath the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field and into the western suburbs

Nice Ride is a bike sharing program dedicated to building community around a convenient, easy-to-use transportation option that gives residents and visitors a healthy, fun, different way to get around, and more than 170 rental stations throughout the Twin Cities. For more information, visit You can find a map of locations at https://secure/niceridemn.orgmap. To use Nice Ride, you must first purchase a subscription. The cost to use the system is the combination of your subscription plus trip fees for any rides lasting more than 30 minutes. You can take as many trips as you want during your subscription. A trip starts when you take a bike and ends when you return it to any station. There is no charge for the first 30 minutes of every trip. After 30 minutes, trip fees can add up fast. To avoid trip fees, simply return your bike to a station within 30 minutes, and check out another one.

Your cost is the subscription + trip fee.

Subscriptions Trip Fees
24-hr $6.00 + 0-30 min No additional fee
1 Year $65.00 up to 60 min $1.50
Student 1 Year $55.00 up to 90 min $4.50
Each additional half hour +$6.00

For more information about Nice Ride, visit

Local Bike Rental Shops

This is your best choice if you want to rent a bike for a longer period than simply short rides from one place to another. For more information, visit rental shops/

Bike Trails

The best choice is the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway: a 55-mile loop within Minneapolis showcasing the Chain of Lakes, the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Creek as well as neighborhoods and downtown sites. The route offers great scenery, historic sites and access to great activities.

For more information about neighborhoods and individual bike trails on the Byway, visit Each link on that page includes a map of walking and bicycle trails, and a brief description of what is special about each one.

Here are a few of the many activities and destinations along the Scenic Byway:

Mill City Farmers Market: 704 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401, Millcityfarmersmarket.orgSaturdays, now through October 26, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.Founded in June 2006, its mission is to inspire and nurture a healthy community by building a local, sustainable and organic food economy in a vibrant, educational marketplace. Located between the Guthrie Theater and Spoonriver restaurant and in the historic train shed of the Mill City Museum. Enjoy a beautiful outdoor shopping experience enhanced by local, sustainable and organic farmers and artisans.


MIMMI is a large, iconic inflatable balloon suspended from a slender structure located at the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza. Cloud-like in concept, the balloon hovers 30 feet above the ground, gathering emotive information online from Minneapolis residents and visitors to the plaza. MIMMI analyzes this information in real-time, creating abstracted light displays and triggering misting in response to this input, creating light shows at nighttime and cooling microclimates during the daytime. Whether the city is elated following a Minnesota Twins win or frustrated from the afternoon commute, MIMMI responds, changing behavior throughout the day and night.

Just off Nicollet Mall, The Minneapolis Interactive Macro-Mood Installation can be viewed at the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza, (1301 2nd Ave South) through October 13, 2013.

Guthrie’s Endless Bridge:

The200-foot-long Endless Bridge is the longest cantilevered bridge in the world. It juts out from the main building over the Mississippi River Parkway, with indoor and outdoor views of the Mississippi’s St. Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge and Gold Medal Park. The Guthrie facility is open to the public daily – you do not need a ticket to a theatre event to catch the spectacular views and architecture of this iconic building.

Mill City Museum: Highlights include:

·An architecturally stunning National Historic Landmark,

·A Flour Tower eight-story elevator show – so amazing it defies description,

·Hands-on Baking & Water Labs

·the “Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat” film by Minneapolis artist Kevin Kling – a must-see for any visitor to Minneapolis

·Rooftop views of the Mississippi River, St. Anthony Falls & Stone Arch Bridge

If you visit in October, plan to watch The Minneapolis Horror: Tales from the Night Shift play.

Mississippi River gorge:

Located between the Ford Dam and St. Anthony Falls, this is the only “gorge” geological formation on the Mississippi. Above the Falls Sports ( provides guided kayak tours on the river.

Segway Magical History Tours (

This 5-7 mile tour (lasting about 3 hours) allows you to enjoy the Minneapolis Riverfront area without breaking a sweat. The tour stops at 12 historical sites, including St. Anthony Main, Saw Mill District, Mill Ruins Park, and the Upper Lock and Dam.

Frequently, the people who know most about visiting without driving are local residents who use public transportation frequently both for commuting and recreation. Car Free Journey talked with Kate Shropshire: a local resident who uses Metro Transit both for commuting to work, and for recreation and daily living after work. Here are Kate’s answers to several questions we asked (in this column, we only include information about resources in Minneapolis):

1) What tips and cautions would you offer a visitor who wants to visit the Twin Cities without driving (especially Minneapolis)

Minneapolis is easy to get around. Visitors and residents don’t need to depend on a car. With public transportation, all corners of the city can be accessed. I use my bus pass to take the bus to work every day, I take the light rail to the airport, and I walk in the skyways to get lunch downtown. My advice would be to utilize the cheap transportation and save your money on parking and gas to spend money on all the other amazing things in Minneapolis.

One thing that helped me maneuver the city is my Google Maps iPhone app. You simply type in your starting point and destination with when you want to arrive or depart, and the app tells you every bus line you can take and what time they will come. Once it gets late, some of the buses don’t run past a certain time. So make sure you have money for a cab, too!

2) Where are the best neighborhoods (including, but not limited to downtown Minneapolis) for out-of-town visitors without cars to stay? Why?

Downtown and Uptown are the best places to stay if you aren’t planning on using a car. There is a Midtown Greenway bike path that stretches between both areas of Minneapolis. Here, people can rent Nice Ride bikes and enjoy the views of the city. There are also buses that go between the two areas.

A huge variety of restaurants, hotels, sports, and attractions including the Mississippi River are downtown.

In Uptown, there is so much to explore with the Lake of the Isles, shopping, great food, and theater. Staying in one or the other gives visitors access to both without limiting their Minneapolis experience.

3) What are some of your favorite places to eat, parks, and other highlights that you can enjoy using public transportation or walking?

Some of my favorite places to eat are in Northeast Minneapolis which is easy to get to from downtown. Just across the river, there are some great places to enjoy indoor or patio dining. The Bulldog N.E., Masu Sushi & Robata, and Kramarczuk’s Sausage Co. all have incredible food.

Another must-see area is St. Anthony Main. Down in this area is Vic’s Restaurant on the Mississippi River, along with a movie theater, restaurants and the Stone Arch Bridge. This beautiful bridge goes across the Mississippi River giving visitors the chance to walk downtown towards the Mill City Museum after enjoying a riverfront meal.

Downtown, there is Brit’s Pub which has lawn bowling and a huge rooftop patio on Nicollet Mall.

Brit’s has great drink and food happy hour specials, and the lawn bowling is a unique, must-try experience. Nicollet Mall has a free bus that is perfect for someone trying to save money. All along Nicollet you’ll be able to find shopping, great food, and a fun nightlife scene.

In Uptown, Stella’s and Chino Latino are both Minneapolis favorites. In Uptown, you can walk, bike, or run around Lake Calhoun and enjoy the great view of the skyline. There are paddle boards, sailboats, and volleyball all around the lake for visitors to enjoy.

4) Do you have any special tips about good ways to enjoy a weekend here without a car?

My advice would be to buy a weekend Metro Transit pass ($6 per 24 hour period—purchase it at a Blue Line rail station) so you don’t have to worry about having money every time you want to take the bus. If you do plan to take the bus without a pass, try to have small bills and exact change because they don’t give you change when paying on the bus.

5) Some visitors just love to walk. Can you suggest a few (preferably free) neighborhoods, parks, trails, or any other ideas for enjoying a walk

Great places to walk include the Midtown Greenway from Downtown to Uptown, the Chain of Lakes, and along the Mississippi River.

6) Can you suggest a few ideas for visitor with special interests:

a)Parks and other Natural Attractions: With the number one Park Score in the United States, Minneapolis has over 197 parks in the city. For information about Minneapolis parks, visit, or call (612) 230-6400 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (central time) Monday through Friday.

Above the Falls Sports offers kayaking tours on the Mississippi River. (http://www; or call (612) 825-8983 for details.

b)Museums, and other cultural attractions

Mill City Museum, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts are worth a visit. The iconic Sculpture Garden ( at the Walker Art Center features the Spoonbridge and Cherry: a classic piece of Minneapolis.


·See a play at the Children’s Theatre Company (

·Spend a morning at the Minneapolis Farmers Market (

·Nickelodeon Universe: Take the Blue Line to the Mall of America station and visit the world’s largest indoor theme park (

·Segway Magical History Tour ( and

·River and lake cruises of the Mississippi River and Lake Minnetonka (

d)Evening entertainmentIdeas easy to reach by public transportation

There are theatres, bars, and music venues all along Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Avenue downtown. Buses and taxis bring you right into the heart of Minneapolis nightlife.

7) If someone falls in love with Minneapolis and wants to move here, are there neighborhoods or communities where they could realistically live without needing to depend on a car?

Neighborhoods to live without a car would also be Downtown, Uptown, Dinkytown, or in Northeast. All areas are easily reached by buses, taxis and the METRO Blue Line (part of the Minneapolis light rail system). I fell in love with Minneapolis after attending the University of Minnesota, so I can understand why someone would want to stay!

For More Information

For information about what to see and do in Minneapolis, visit and click on the Visitors tab. You can also call the Visitor Center toll-free at (888)676-MPLS.For information about local public transit, visit, or call (612) 373-3333. from 6:30 a.m. -9:00 p.m. Weekdays, and 8:00 a.m. -6:00 p.m. weekends. (All times are Central Time.

Steve Atlas enjoys hearing from readers. To contact Steve, share feedback about this or other “Car Free Journey” columns, or suggest destination for future columns, e-mail









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