Twin Cities

  • A jolly holiday in Minneapolis

    Christmas festivities draw tourists and locals alike into the lively heart of the city.

    During the holidays, there's no place like home. In fact, it's the perfect getaway. Every year, I go to downtown for the festivities. I go to a holiday show at the Dakota nightclub and Handel's "Messiah" at Orchestra Hall. I stop by the Holidazzle holiday village in Loring Park. I don't stay overnight. I live here, after all.

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  • Sightseeing in St. Paul

    In downtown St. Paul, a cluster of family attractions make the city's origins a distant memory.

    It's ironic, considering its past, that St. Paul is such a wholesome destination. Liquor brought the first white resident to Minnesota's capital; he was Pierre Parrant, a swinish, one-eyed former voyageur named Pig's Eye. He set up his first tavern near Fort Snelling, but was rousted in 1837 by officers who were tired of the trouble it caused.

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  • On the river in Minneapolis

    The energy first created by a waterfall has returned to this Mill City district.

    The Falls of St. Anthony wasn't a very tall waterfall. But it was broad and thundering, and the only major drop on the Mississippi. Description de la Louisiane and Jonathan Carver's 1778 "Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America," both of which exaggerated its height.

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  • Street of dreams

    On St. Paul's Summit Avenue, imposing mansions are remnants of the Gilded Age.

    Even tourists from the great European capitals are impressed by Summit Avenue. It's not just one mansion, but one after another, all the way from the Mississippi River to the massive Cathedral of St. Paul, overlooking downtown and the state Capitol.

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  • Biking in Minneapolis

    On a breathtaking national byway, bicyclists soak up the scenery along lakes, parkways and the Mississippi River.

    For more than a century, people have marveled at the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis. It's not so much the beauty of the lakes, though they're glorious. It's more the fact that ordinary folk can walk, bike, swim and play around them — all of them. It almost wasn't so. Back in 1882, landscape architect Horace Cleveland had to argue his case for putting aside land on the city's lakes, creeks and river.

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  • Bicycling through the Minneapolis suburbs

    An expanding web of trails takes bicyclists from the city into the lake-filled countryside.

    For decades, the scenic bicycle trails around Minneapolis' Chain of Lakes have drawn people from the suburbs into the city. Now, it's the city folks' turn to visit. Hundreds of people daily ride the Dakota Rail Trail, which takes bicyclists past a chain of ponds, wetlands and bays on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka, through some of its toniest villages.

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  • Riding the Dakota Rail Trail

    On the west edge of the Twin Cities, bicyclists breeze along the bays of Lake Minnetonka.

    It's easy to see why the Dakota Rail Trail is the most popular bicycle trail in Minnesota. This 25½-mile trail between the Minneapolis suburb of Wayazata and rural Mayer winds through the labyrinthine bays and isthmuses of Lake Minnetonka better than any car can. It's shady, scenic and paved, so it's beloved by in-line skaters as well as bicyclists.

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  • Twin Cities history ride

    On a history-rich loop from Minnehaha Park to downtown St. Paul, bicyclists see how it all started.

    had to come here. Today, one of the easiest ways to travel this route is by bicycle, and paved trails line both sides of the Mississippi from Minnehaha Park in south Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul.

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  • Bicycling in St. Paul and beyond

    Minnesota's capital city has its own set of marquee trails on rivers and lakes.

    Minneapolis, having once been named Bicycling magazine's No. 1 best city for bicycling, is better known for bicycling than St. Paul. As usual, St. Paul is overshadowed by its larger twin. But you'd never guess it from the throngs of bicyclists on the popular Gateway State Trail, on Summit Avenue through town and on the St. Paul Classic tour, started 12 years before the Minneapolis Bike Tour and the state's largest bike tour. Like Minneapolis, the capital city has paved trails around lakes, past historic landmarks and along the Mississippi.

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  • 5 great hikes in Minneapolis

    See the best of this beautiful city on five short but sweet walks.

    want to get "off the beaten path.'' We visited Portland for the first time one Labor Day, and all we knew is that it's an outdoorsy town. So we were looking for a nice hike in Forest Park, one of the nation's largest municipal forests with 80 miles of hiking trails. Wow! Except we only needed four or five of those miles. Surely, we thought, there's a "best hike'' that all the locals know about. Nope — our guidebook, maps and the local hikers forum were useless.

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  • Cruising around Excelsior

    On the fringe of the Twin Cities, a historic lake-resort town still draws day-trippers.

    On the western fringes of the Twin Cities, the wealthy have staked out Lake Minnetonka. But on the southeast corner of the sprawling lake, one town retains vestiges of the Victorian age, when steamboats ferried vacationers around the lake and day-trippers arrived on electric streetcars.

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  • Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis

    The lakes, river and creeks that ring this metropolis are a magnet for biking, running, skating and swimming.

    Every big city has skyscrapers. Every big city has museums and monuments. But no other city has as many beautiful lakes and parks Minneapolis does. Today, the most expensive homes in the city face the lakes, but the public — in-line skaters, bicyclists, dog-walkers - owns the shorelines.

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  • Snowshoeing on Minnehaha Creek

    In winter, a famous creek through Minneapolis becomes a snowshoe trail.

    If you're a paddler, you're done for the winter. But when one door closes, another opens. I've been meaning to paddle Minnehaha Creek through the heart of Minneapolis for years, but the water won't stand still — sometimes it's too high, sometimes too low. This 22-mile creek, named for a romantic character in an 1855 hit poem, connects everything that makes Minneapolis famous: the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Falls, the Chain of Lakes, Lake Minnetonka.

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  • True brew in the Twin Cities

    Craft breweries are popping up all over the Twin Cities, offering tours, tap rooms and live music.

    It used to be that rebellious young men started garage bands. Now, they start garage breweries. Bud, Coors and Miller may rule the beer world, but craft brewers are its rock stars. At first, they made their own, getting supplies from St. Paul's Northern Brewer ("good beer is your right''). Then, they started real breweries with names like Surly ("the anger fueled by the inability to find good beers'') and Flat Earth ("join the movement against the reign of watered-down domestics'').

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  • Shopping at the Megamall

    The Twin Cities' megamall is huge, but take your time and you'll find its heart.

    Twin Citians can boast all they want about their quality of life, their lakes and their urban civility. But the only thing most people in other states and countries really want to know about is the Mall of America, and the very interesting fact that there's no tax on clothing and shoes in Minnesota. Opened in 1992, the megamall was an instant hit, attracting eager shoppers from all over the world, most arriving with empty suitcases they can stuff with deals.

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  • Camping in the Twin Cities

    For many, a lake vacation is a hop, skip and jump from home.

    Not all of the beach camping in the Upper Midwest is in a state park or even in the countryside. They're a great deal for visitors and also for locals who want to save gas money and travel time.

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