Minneapolis Introduction Walking Tour, Minneapolis

Minneapolis Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a major city in Minnesota, straddling the Mississippi River. Together with neighboring Saint Paul, the state capital of Minnesota, it forms the metropolitan area collectively known as the "Twin Cities."

Before European settlement, the site of Minneapolis was inhabited by Dakota people. The settlement was founded along Saint Anthony Falls — the only natural waterfall on the Mississippi River — on land north of Fort Snelling.

The name "Minneapolis" derived from the Dakota word "Mni" meaning water and the Greek word "polis" which means city; thus Minneapolis quite literally translates to the "City of Waters." This or the other moniker, the "City of Lakes," is a fitting tribute to its abundant water resources (thirteen lakes, wetlands, creeks, and waterfalls), which have played a pivotal role in the city's growth providing power for its industrial activity.

Minneapolis's roots are intertwined with the Mississippi River, and the iconic Stone Arch Bridge is a testament to this connection. Originally built as a railroad bridge in the late 19th century, it now serves as a picturesque pedestrian overpass offering breathtaking views of the river and the city's skyline.

A visit to Minneapolis would be incomplete without a stop at the Mill City Museum, a site that pays homage to the city's milling heritage. Housed in the ruins of a historic flour mill, this museum offers a glimpse into the flour industry that once made Minneapolis the "Mill City."

Minneapolis City Hall is another architectural gem worth exploring, with its stunning Richardsonian Romanesque design and a clock tower that rises majestically over the landscape. A few blocks away, the Foshay Tower, reminiscent of the Empire State Building, offers panoramic views of Minneapolis from its observation deck.

For those seeking spiritual solace, the Basilica of Saint Mary is an awe-inspiring place of worship with its monumental architecture and serene ambiance.

Art enthusiasts will find their haven in Minneapolis, with the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The former houses a remarkable collection of contemporary art, while the latter features iconic sculptures like the famous "Spoonbridge and Cherry."

If you have a taste for arts and architecture, you will find plenty of both in Minneapolis to please your senses. So, don't miss the opportunity to explore this remarkable city and create your own memories. Visit Minneapolis and immerse yourself in its charm and vibrancy on this self-guided walking tour.
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Minneapolis Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Minneapolis Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Minneapolis (See other walking tours in Minneapolis)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Author: ChristineS
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Stone Arch Bridge
  • Mill City Museum
  • Minneapolis City Hall
  • Foshay Tower
  • Nicollet Mall
  • Orpheum Theatre
  • Basilica of St. Mary
  • Walker Art Center
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Stone Arch Bridge

1) Stone Arch Bridge (must see)

The Stone Arch Bridge is a former railroad bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Saint Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis. It is the only arched bridge made of stone on the entire Mississippi River. It is the second oldest bridge on the river next to Eads Bridge.

The Stone Arch Bridge was built in 1883 by railroad tycoon James J. Hill for his Great Northern Railway, and accessed the former passenger station located about a mile to the west, on the west bank of the river. For a time, the bridge was dubbed "Hill's Folly" until the value of Hill's new bridge as a passenger rail link became evident.

The Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis is a former railroad bridge and the only arched bridge made of stone on the entire Mississippi River. The bridge was built between 1882 and 1883 to a design by Charles C Smith. It was commissioned by railroad tycoon James J. Hill with an aim to connect his Great Northern Railway system to the new Union Depot. For a time, the bridge was dubbed "Hill's Folly" until the value of Hill's new bridge as a passenger rail link became evident.

Hill originally intended to build an iron bridge spanning the Mississippi at Nicollet Island, but Smith discovered that pursuing that design would be detrimental to St Anthony Falls’ eroding sandstone. Smith's design was pioneering and the signature arches were designed to account for the falls and the surrounding topography. The stone used in construction was locally sourced, including granite from Sauk Rapids for the piers and magnesium limestone from Mankato and Iowa for the upper portion.

In the 130 years of its existence, the bridge has undergone a number of upgrades and repairs. In 1925 it was widened to make room for larger railcars. Ultimately, in 1994, it was converted to a pedestrian walkway.

The structure is now fully reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. In 1971, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a part of the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District. The bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1974. The bike and walking trails across the Stone Arch Bridge are integrated into the city's park and trail system, and form part of the St Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. The most recent renovations—including indirect lighting—were completed in late 2005.

During the summer months, the Stone Arch Bridge is a focus of numerous festivals. The Stone Arch Festival of the Arts occurs on Father's Day weekend and features many local artists. Fireworks displays on the Fourth of July and during the Minneapolis Aquatennial in late July also bring crowds. The bridge offers views of the Minneapolis skyline, Pillsbury "A" Mill, the Mill City Museum, and many other places in the district, and is near both the restaurants of Main St SE and the Guthrie Theater.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Mill City Museum

2) Mill City Museum (must see)

Mill City Museum is a Minnesota Historical Society museum opened in 2003, built in the ruins of the Washburn "A" Mill next to Mill Ruins Park on the banks of the Mississippi River. It focuses on the founding and growth of Minneapolis, especially flour milling and the other industries which used water power from Saint Anthony Falls.

The mill complex, dating from the 1870s, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District and within the National Park Service's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The museum features exhibits about the history of Minneapolis, flour milling machinery, a water lab and a baking lab.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is the multi-story Flour Tower, in which visitors sit in the cab of a freight elevator and are taken to different floors of the building, each designed to look like a floor in a working flour mill. Voices of people who worked in the Washburn A Mill are heard throughout the show. Visitors exit on the 8th floor, where extant equipment is interpreted by staff, and are then lead to the ninth floor observation deck to view St. Anthony Falls. The work of local artists is featured throughout the building.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Minneapolis City Hall

3) Minneapolis City Hall

Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Courthouse, or Municipal Building, designed by Long and Kees in 1888, is the main building used by the city government of Minneapolis, as well as by Hennepin County. The structure has served many different purposes since it was built, although today the building is 60 percent occupied by the city and 40 percent occupied by the County. The City Hall and Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The building replaced an earlier City Hall that existed from 1873 until 1912 near the old intersection between Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Avenue. That structure eventually was razed to make way for Gateway Park, which continues to occupy part of the old City Hall site. The building also replaced an earlier courthouse and also the earlier Hennepin County Jail.

City Hall is built of Ortonville granite, with many stones greater than 20 tons in weight. nside, on the 4th Street side, there is a large five-story rotunda including a large sculpture, "Father of Waters," by American sculptor Larkin Goldsmith Mead. Originally, the building had a red terra cotta roof, but it began leaking so a copper roof was installed. At 180,000 pounds, it was said to be the largest in the country.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Foshay Tower

4) Foshay Tower

The Foshay Tower, now the W Minneapolis – The Foshay hotel, is a skyscraper in Minneapolis. Modeled after the Washington Monument, the building was completed in 1929, months before the stock market crash in October of that year. Its observation desk on the 30th floor has a stunning view of the Minneapolis downtown.

The building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is an example of Art Deco architecture. As the building was designed to echo the Washington Monument, the sides of the building slope slightly inward, and each floor of the Foshay Tower is slightly smaller than the one below it. Internally the building uses steel and reinforced concrete. The exterior is faced with Indiana limestone, while the interior features African Mahogany, Italian marble, terrazzo, gold-plated doorknobs, a silver and gold plated ceiling, ornamental bronze, hand wrought iron and three commissioned busts of George Washington.

Foshay Tower was the lifelong dream and namesake of Wilbur Foshay, an art student turned businessman who amassed his fortune by building up three utility company empires.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Nicollet Mall

5) Nicollet Mall

Nicollet Mall is a twelve-block portion of Nicollet Avenue running through downtown Minneapolis. It is the shopping and dining district of the city, and also a pedestrian and transit mall. Along with Hennepin Avenue to the west, Nicollet Mall forms a cultural and commercial center of Minneapolis.

Several notable Minneapolis buildings line the Mall, notably the IDS Center, the former Dayton's flagship store, Orchestra Hall, and the Hennepin County Library. On Thursdays during the summer, the Nicollet Mall hosts a farmers' market while in the winter the Holidazzle Parade, now entitled "Holidazzle Village", are hosted in the Mall. The parades were held from the day after Thanksgiving until a couple days before Christmas. The event started in the early 1990s to increase business for downtown stores.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Orpheum Theatre

6) Orpheum Theatre

The Historic Orpheum Theatre is one of four restored theaters on Hennepin Avenue, along with the Pantages Theatre, the State Theatre and the Shubert Theatre (now Goodale Theater). The building opened on October 16, 1921, originally named the Hennepin Theater. The theater actually consists of two separate structures: a long, fingerlike lobby that extends back from a narrow facade along Hennepin Avenue, and the auditorium, which is set back and parallels Hawthorne Avenue. The restored lobby includes six terra cotta bas relief sculptures. The auditorium is intricately plastered, with a number of garlands, swags, medallions, and other decorations. The ceiling has a dome with 30,000 squares of aluminum leaf.

The building seats 1500 on the main floor and 1100 on the three level balcony. This theatre has also been the tryout place for the musicals, Victor/Victoria and The Lion King. Both were successful and eventually moved to Broadway.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Basilica of St. Mary

7) Basilica of St. Mary (must see)

The Basilica of Saint Mary is a Roman Catholic minor basilica located on its own city block along Hennepin Avenue between 16th & 17th Streets in downtown Minneapolis. It was the first basilica established in the United States. The Basilica of Saint Mary is the Co-cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and is one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the country.

The Basilica of Saint Mary replaced a previous church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Its significance is due to three reasons: its excellent architecture and engineering design, as an expression of Baroque influence in church architecture; an example of the history of religious movements in Minnesota; and its place as the first basilica in the United States.

The foundation of the church is of Rockville granite. The walls are built of white Vermont granite, with a height of 70 feet from the floor to the eave-line. The main entrance is a colonnaded portico with two 116-foot spires on each side. The nave is lighted by five large arched stained glass windows. The nave has a barrel vault of 82 feet, exceeding that of the Saint Peter's Basilica by two feet. The sanctuary, at the north end of the nave, is topped with a grand dome measuring 40 feet square at the base and rising 138 feet above the floor.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Walker Art Center

8) Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center is a multidisciplinary contemporary art center in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis. The Walker is one of the most-visited modern and contemporary art museums in the United States and, together with the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Cowles Conservatory, it has an annual attendance of around 700,000 visitors. The museum's permanent collection includes over 13,000 modern and contemporary art pieces including books, costumes, drawings, media works, paintings, photography, prints, and sculpture.

The Walker Art Center began in 1879 as a personal art gallery in the home of lumber baron Thomas Barlow Walker. Walker formally established his collection as the Walker Art Gallery in 1927. With the support of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, the Walker Art Gallery became the Walker Art Center in January 1940.

The Walker's new building, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes and opened in May 1971, saw a major expansion in 2005. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron's addition included an additional gallery space, a theater, restaurant, shop, and special events space.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

9) Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (must see)

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an 11 acre (45,000 m²) park, located near the Walker Art Center, which operates it in coordination with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. It is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the country, with 40 permanent art installations and several other temporary pieces that are moved in and out periodically.

The land was first purchased by the park board at the turn of the century, when it was known as "The Parade" because it had been used for military drills. It became known as the Armory Gardens after park superintendent Theodore Wirth created a formal design that included a U.S. National Guard armory (Kenwood Armory) for Spanish War Volunteers. In 1988, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden opened, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes and landscape architects Quinnel and Rothschild. In 1992, the Garden was expanded, adding 3½ acres. Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, Inc. designed the northward extension to complement the original space with a more open area that features a walkway and the 300-foot-long Alene Grossman Memorial Arbor.

The centerpiece of the garden is the Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988) water sculpture designed by husband and wife Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The grounds also include the Cowles Conservatory, which has more flora and sculpture inside, such as Frank Gehry's Standing Glass Fish. A pedestrian bridge, the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge (1987), designed by Siah Armajani now crosses I-94, once again connecting the sculpture garden to Loring Park.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Create Your Own Walk in Minneapolis

Create Your Own Walk in Minneapolis

Creating your own self-guided walk in Minneapolis is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Saint Paul Introduction Walking Tour

Saint Paul Introduction Walking Tour

Saint Paul is a fantastic example of a city that has grown through a diverse range of cultures. The location near the Mississippi River helped make what would later become the city a significant center of local trade. The Dakota Sioux tribe were among the earliest residents, and European settlement that included French-Canadian fur traders and Catholic missionaries occurred during the 1830s to...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
University of Minnesota - Minneapolis Campus Walking Tour

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis Campus Walking Tour

Founded in 1851, seven years before Minnesota became a state, the University of Minnesota is one of the largest educational institutions in the United States. The university campus in the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, spread along the bank of the Mississippi River, is a sprawling hub renowned for its rich academic environment and vibrant life.

One of the central gathering...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Historical Churches

Historical Churches

The "City of Lakes”, Minneapolis, doesn't pride itself solely on the lakes. In fact, you will be amazed by how many churches, cathedrals, and other places of worship are found throughout the city. These sacred structures have played a significant role in the development of Minneapolis and continue to serve as pillars of faith and community. Let's take a look at some of the most...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles