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Spectacular Sights and Hip Hangouts: The Minneapolis Riverfront District


By Megan Torrini

Whether you are just stopping by for a visit or you are a longtime resident, the Minneapolis Riverfront District has lots to offer- from beautiful historical sites to trendy, hip hangouts. Known as the birthplace of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis River District boasts a collection of historic buildings and landmarks, scenic park and trail areas, cultural venues, and a variety of eclectic shopping, dining and lodging areas.

St. Anthony Falls and the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail
The only waterfall on the Mississippi, the Dakota Indians originally called St. Anthony Falls "Curling Waters". In later years, Father Louis Hennepin renamed the falls after his patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua. This unique historic site made Minneapolis the flour milling capital of the world from the 1880's and into the 20th century. Today the St. Anthony Falls area is surrounded by a thriving neighborhood and a bustling business community, full of quaint shops and popular, one of a kind restaurants and watering holes. Traveling along the Mississippi River, the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail is a beautiful, self-guided trail full of historic information and artifacts.

Mill Ruins Park and the Mill City Museum

Located on the west side of St, Anthony Falls, visit the ruins of several abandoned flour mills and read about the history of flour milling in Minneapolis. The old Washburn "A" Mill was the second-largest flourmill in Minneapolis. The original mill was built in 1874 by Cadwallader C. Washburn, destroyed by an explosion in 1878, and later rebuilt. For nearly 50 years the Washburn "A" Mill was the most technologically advance and the largest mill in the world. Now known as the Mill City Museum, the Minnesota Historical Society now operates within the structure and features exhibits and tours of the history of milling.

Stone Arch Bridge
Famous for its graceful arches and breathtaking views, the Stone Arch Bridge is the only stone arch bridge constructed over the Mississippi River. Built by James J. Hill in 1883 to allow for increased movement of people and goods over the Mississippi, it served as a working railroad bridge until 1965. Made of native granite and limestone, not only is the Stone Arch Bridge a must-see, it also accommodates the River City Trolley along with pedestrians and bicyclists.

Boom Island Park
Not only was historic Minneapolis known for its flourmills, it was also a hub for lumber. This 25-acre riverfront park was once a holding place for logs on their way to the sawmill. The park was named after the Mississippi and Rum River Boom Company, which operated floating booms during the sawmill days. Today, Boom Island Park is a beautiful area with facilities that include a playground, picnic areas, a boat launch and dock, walking and biking paths, and the Anson Northrup excursion boat landing.

Nicollet Island
Located in the heart of Minneapolis, Nicollet Island is the only inhabited island on the Mississippi River. Not only are there acres and acres of park land and trails for jogging, walking and biking, the Island is also home to the Nicollet Island Inn, the Nicollet Island Pavilion, De La Salle High School and 22 historic Victorian era homes. Nicollet Island is also the home of The Bell of Two Friends, a gift given to the City of Minneapolis in 2001 by its sister city, Ibaraki, Japan. The Bell was given to Minneapolis to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Minneapolis and Ibaraki as "sister cities" and is actually a replica of a two thousand year old terra cotta mold for an ancient bronze bell.

Horse Drawn Carriages and RiverCity Trolley

The Hitching Company operates horse drawn carriages along the tree-lined parkways of the Minneapolis Riverfront District. The carriage rides are a perfect way to celebrate an engagement, anniversary or a romantic ride along the Mississippi River, complete with a spectacular view of the city skyline. For tours of the Riverfront District, take a ride on the trolley. The Minneapolis RiverCity Trolley offers 60 minute narrated tours in turn-of-the-century reproduction trolley cars. The tours run from the Minneapolis Convention Center through downtown, to the Mississippi Mile riverfront, and then back through the warehouse district.

Pracna on Main
Located on Main Street, Pracna on Main is the oldest restaurant on the oldest street in Minneapolis. Originally built as a saloon for the Minneapolis Brewing Company in 1890, the new Pracna on Main restaurant opened in 1973, introducing a new generation to the Riverfront. Cozy and quaint, it features an American menu of steaks, pasta, fish and specialty sandwiches with twenty distinctive beers on draft, and has summer sidewalk seating in the summer.

Megan Torrini has a range of education and experience-from Resource Management and Forestry to Information Technology. She also enjoys freelance writing and is currently developing her own online business. Megan lives in Inver Grove Heights with her husband Tony, daughter Isabel, son John, and two beautiful but very naughty Siberian Huskies, Mika and Timber.

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