Walking the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis: Part Two

Continued from last week’s Walking the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis: Part One

Refreshed and recharged after lunch at the Sea Salt, it’s time to resume our walk.

This is our third excursion along the Grand Rounds. It’s become a ritual undertaking of our more recent Minneapolis pilgrimages. Our route is always the same. We seem to arrive at the Sea Salt for lunch – and happily so. But we know there is a great deal of walking ahead before we return downtown to the Normandy Inn.

By that time, we will have walked 37 kilometres. That is a long day’s walk, even by our long distance walking standards. And it’s worth noting that the Grand Rounds offers about 80 kilometres of walking paths.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for undertaking manageable portions of the Grand Rounds. For example, the Metro Blue Line LRT running from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America has a stop near Minnehaha Falls. A walker with limited time could do the 15 kilometre Mississippi River portion from downtown to Minnehaha Falls in the morning, have a delightful lunch at the Sea Salt and return on the LRT. Walkers looking for a slightly longer walk could start at Minnehaha Falls Park and continue 22 kilometres west on the Grand Rounds circuit.

That is what Gail and I need to walk this afternoon. Those final 22 kilometres. 

From Minnehaha Falls, the Grand Rounds leads us west, away from the Mississippi River. But waterways still define our path. We will be following Minnehaha Creek upstream, the same creek that violently pours over Minnehaha Falls before emptying into the Mississippi River.

The trail winds its way along the creek, following well-developed pedestrian and bike trails, crossing the creek from time to time, taking us along its wooded banks. The creek links several lakes along its length and it’s not long before we pass between two of the smaller ones, Lake Hiawatha and Lake Nokomis.

The path is busier here, perhaps because the territory is more residential. Or maybe it’s with the realization that this is turning into a fine fall day, a good excuse for an afternoon promenade.

Our creekside walk continues for some time before running into Lake Harriet. We follow the shoreline to the 1986 Arts-and-Crafts style bandshell, the latest in a long line of bandshells dating from 1888.

A short distance north takes us to Lake Calhoun, the largest of the chain of lakes we will encounter. A good diversion is to detour east at the lakeside concession pavilion, following West Lake Street to the upscale Uptown neighbourhood. There are many good shops and restaurants to explore. Like Magers and Quinns Booksellers and Penzeys Spices. Or restaurants such as Lucia’s and Amore Uptown. All places we like to visit.

From Lake Calhoun, the Grand Rounds continues along the banks of Lake of the Isles. Grand houses line the lake. Every architectural style is represented here, in the well-heeled Lowry Hill neighbourhood.  At the north tip of the lake, we head back into town, following the Kenilworth Trail as it skirts alongside the tall barrier wall separating us – with limited success – from the harried traffic of I-394.

We began today’s walk in a haze of construction. Outside our hotel, a new high rise cage of steel is in the process of replacing whatever poor building might have once occupied the site. And now, at the end of our day’s walk, at the threshold of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, more construction chaos. The ground is torn apart. The iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen sits lost and forlorn in a construction battlefield. Even this, a quiet garden of art, is not exempt from Minneapolis’ insatiable need to do more than stand still. We will need to return next year to see the park’s next iteration.

In fact, the entire area surrounding the garden and nearby Walker Art Gallery is a madhouse of construction. Our escape is by way of the one piece of public art still intact, Siah Armajani’s Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. It crosses the I-94, connecting the Walker and the sculpture garden to Loring Park and, beyond that, downtown Minneapolis.

Today, more so than the many other times we have passed through Loring Park, it is is an oasis of calm. We wind our way across little bridges, around marshy ponds and past Berger Fountain – a spectacular water sculpture that’s been here since 1975 but is now boxed for the harsh winter to come. The Loring Greenway, a small passageway, leads up to Nicollet Mall. Although thousand of locals use it every day, we consider the greenway one of our favourite “hidden” places. Designed by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, it’s a tranquil treed alley lined with row housing and red-bricked apartments. Along the way, there are places to play, to plant flowers, to sit. Water features dull the noise of traffic and refresh the spirit. It’s a cozy place to be in.

Alas, the Greenway empties onto a Nicollet Mall currently being torn up and reinvented. Something else to look forward to, when we visit again.

Our trip ends not far past the mall, at the Normandy Inn. It’s been a long walk to be sure, but worthy of ritual status. A ritual we plan to repeat next year.

If you plan to walk the Grand Round, here are some useful links:


Minneapolis Parks Board: https://www.minneapolisparks.org/parks__destinations/trails__parkways/grand_rounds_scenic_byway_system/

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Rounds_Scenic_Byway




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