Downtown Minneapolis isn't the shopping mecca that many big cities are - our largest concentration of retail stores are at malls in the suburbs. Gaviidae (Gah-veh-day) Common is one grouping of shops that while somewhat limited, still offers downtown visitors a nice place to kill some time. The stores include Talbots, Neiman Marcus, Saks Off 5th (discount designer clothing), Cole Haan, a couple of salons, a handful of other small shops and a food court. The best reason for a walk-through is to admire the soaring, multi-storied corridor between Nieman Marcus and Saks. Beautiful - especially at Christmastime when it's decorated with festive trees and huge floating ornaments. The common can be reached via skyway and there's a Caribou Coffee shop for grabbing a nice cuppa joe, a newspaper and a bench or table for admiring the view.
Gaviidae was designed in 1989 by Argentinian architect César Pelli, who also designed the adjacent Wells Fargo Building (1988) and the Minneapolis Public Library (2006). Other projects of note in his extensive portfolio include the Canary Wharf Tower in London, World Financial Center in NYC and Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A downloadable map of the Minneapolis skyway system can be found here:
This is one of the greenways in the city. The Loring Greenway begins at the Nicollet Mall near the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the Nicolett Mall and extends to Grant St. It includes with trees, seats, tables, fountains and covered areas and is lined with apartment towers and townhomes.
Its called the Magical History Tour, and it has nothing to do with the Beatles. However by going on the tour you can learn a great deal about how Minneapolis came into existence and also ride a Segway.
(Segways look like pogo sticks with two big wheels and a platform. When they were launched a few years ago, they were called "IT's")
Everyone I know who has gone on this tour of Minneapolis has LOVED it.
So if you are in town only for a few days, want to enjoy the lovely Minnesotan summer and learn a little history, this is the activity for you!
*this is a seasonal activity. They are closed in the late fall thru the early spring)
I've chosen to list Downtown Minneapolis in a few tips because it's very different things to different people.
Friday and Saturday nights are actually pretty crazy downtown. There are a number of bars/clubs/restaurants on a couple of strips that get quite crazy on the weekend. Strangely they are quiet during the week. Don't expect anyone out from Sunday night through Thursday in this town...however we apparently overcome this repression on the weekend.
1) Under 30 crowd: 1st Avenue strip is for you. There are a number of meatmarkets for the young folks here. How to find it? Just find your way to the Target Center (where the Timberwolves play) and go from there toward to the river. You will see legions of people.
2) 30's and 40's (my age): Nicollet Ave Strip is for you. This is a little older crowd. Brits, Dakota Bar and Jazz Club, the News Room, etc.... are for you. There are a number of nice restaurants here as well.
Little 'slices of life'. People seem to ignore this little fact. When it's colder than a witch's tit in a brass brassiere outside, STAY IN! The Minneapolis Skyways are a study in fact. You can literally travel (foot-wise) 5 miles, and only cover three blocks (city-wise). It seems that all roads lead to Marshal Fields (department store - dropped a LOAD of saw-bucks there), but getting there is half the fun.
Architecturally, this is amazing. Every block has eye or ear candy of it's own. On the street, music or architecture is visually and audiologicaly immense. (Sheesh! That is a sentence to be diagramed). From the skyways, it's another story. Each span of Skyway has it's own influence, depending on the buldings they connect.
I'll try to jam a photo in here that explains part of it. (btw, the fountain you see here is spouting 'up', not down. We talked w/ Jay - the Engineer trying to fix it, and he was non-plussed getting it to work right. Never got a pic of it working right, dammit!)
Minneapolis has a delightful park right on the Mississippi River. You can spend hours exploring it. Here is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
We normally think of the mighty Mississippi River as a huge "father of the waters". Its headwaters are in northern Minnesota. Where it flows down past the Twin Cities, the river is fairly narrow. It starts to get really big as it nears St. Louis, and even bigger below Memphis. Here, visitors are sometimes surprised at how small it is.
This area is on the right after you cross over Hennepin Ave Bridge from downtown. It's a cobblestone street catering to a variety of tastes on one side: an upscale restaurant with live jazz; a quiet, dark pub; a cafe that features local artists; and a bar with live bands that attracts a younger crowd. In between all of this is a small movie theater that's almost never crowded; and then on the other side of the street you get a wonderful view of the river with the Minneapolis skyline looming above it.
In the summertime they occasionally close off the street and have art or car shows for pedestrians only. On July 4th they put on a huge fireworks show over the water. Get there early though, otherwise you'll be stuck watching from the bridge (although that can be nice too).
As a bonus: DIRECTLY across from the movie theater is the underside of a bridge crossing the river. Climb over a short fence, walk across some mud (ladies take your heels off and go barefoot), then run up a cement slope until you're under the bridge. There's a little graffiti up there, but the magnificent, private views of the city are well worth it.
I was born in MN in a small town which I fled from immediately after HS. I joined the US Navy.
After my hitch I returned to Mpls to go to college.
I spent many hours in downtown Mpls. It still evokes a confounding amount of emotions in me.
It's a beautiful city but I hate - wind, sleet, snow, blizzards and summers that last 2 months and are 95 degrees F and humid.
Lots of visitors think people in Minneapolis are nice and friendly. I guess if you are a visitor this may be true. But I found people to be stoic and difficult to be social with.
But it really is beautiful - the lakes and trees, the parks, Minnehaha Falls, late spring, early fall when the weather is acually tolerable for a few rare days.
It's a nice place to vist...I'm never moving back though.
Foshay Tower  is a Minneapolis landmark -- even as taller, larger buildings have dwarfed it since the IDS and its Crystal Court were built in1971. It was designed after the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.
The Foshay Tower has the city's only observation deck, since the IDS closed a while back.
The old city hall is a magnificent building, but you don't want to be hauled in to the subterranean holding cells against your will. I've never had the pleasure, but one time in college I did have to make a trip to this building in the dead of night to bail out some friends that had gotten a little unruly at the season opener for the Minnesota Twins.
The city hall also is reputed to be haunted by the spirits of criminals who were hanged in this building before that bloody practice was abolished in our state.
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