Lakes Calhoun, Harriet, Cedar and Lake of the Isles make up the Chain of Lakes District: part of the larger Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. These four urban lakes are connected by waterways and paths and are a favorite with locals and visitors alike. There are 13 miles of paths for biking, walking, rollerblading and, depending on the individual lake, you'll also find watercraft rentals, playgrounds and beaches. Picnicking, lounging and napping are encouraged - you'll be in good company as these are very popular places when the weather's nice.
Lake Harriet has a large bandshell where free concerts are performed during the summer months. Lake of the Isles is surrounded by large, lovely homes - many beautifully landscaped - that make for an interesting walk. Calhoun is a sailing lake and it's fun to watch the boats.
The St. Anthony's Falls Heritage Walk is a self-guided two mile walk along the Mississippi River. It is a perfect sunny day activity.
We entered the trail at Hennepin Avenue Bridge (just past the Minneapolis Post Office). The trail is marked with signs describing the history of the area or just identifying a particular sight/site. The trail takes you along the River, to the St. Anthony Falls, across the Stone Arch Bridge, across Nicollet Island, and back across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.
In addition to the falls and bridges, other places to explore along the trail include Ard Godfrey House (oldest house in Minneapolis) and Our Lady of Lourdes Church (oldest contiuously used church). Very near to the trail are the Mills Ruins Park and Mill City Museum as well.
There are places to eat and shop along the way. For a map of the route check here: http://www.minneapolis-riverfront.com/gettingaround/riverfront_map.asp
You can do all or part of the walk; it was educational, interesting, and fun!
Named after the Catholic saint Anthony of Padua, St. Anthony's Falls is the only true waterfall on the entire length of the Mississippi River - all 2,350 miles of it. It is also considered the birthplace of Minneapolis.
It had been a sacred spot for the Dakota Indians and it was here in the mid-1800s where the industrial core of the region started - where waterpower, river transportation, and railroads came together.
Flour mills and saw mills opened. People came to settle and work, and eventually build the city of Minneapolis. By 1880 Minneapolis was the flour-milling capital of the U.S. The falls would power the city and the region.
For several decades more the falls were the upper limit of commercial navigation on the Mississippi River. Between 1948 and 1963 the United States Army Corps of Engineers built 2 dams and a series of locks to make commercial navigation above Minneapolis possible.
You can get good views of the falls from many spots in the area including the Stone Arch Bridge and the Observation Deck of the Mill City Museum.
If you're interested in taking a Dam tour contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at http://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/navigation/default.asp?pageid=145&subpageid=144.
Like I mentioned earlier with my Lake Calhoun tip, there is a chain of lakes that are all full of great running and biking paths as well as canoeing and other boating opportunities. In fact, you can connect to Lake Calhoun from Lake of the Isles. If you come in the summertime, you'll see tons of locals out enjoying the warm weather (it doesn't last long!) and if you're here in the winter, you'll see that there is an ice rink on the frozen surface.
Go to any of the lakes in Minneapolis during the summer. It is the best way to get out and enjoy the weather and meet people. Common activities are swimming, sailing, volleyball, rollerblading, biking, and jogging. Lake Calhoun is probably most active, with Lake Harriett and Lake of the Isles next. Lake Nokomis is quieter but scenic and Cedar Lake is quiet residential.
The one in the photo is Lake Harriett and of course it has a waling/bike/roller blade path. During the Summer months, the bandshell has concerts, Shakspeare in the Park, and Sunday morning service.
Lake Harriet in the winter (yes that's a frozen lake!), makes a great photo. In the summer, free concerts are held at the Bandshell throughout June, July, August and September.