- 52 miles (83 km)
- Three to four hours to enjoy this Byway.
- The only fees occur at the various attractions along the way.
Minneapolis. The city's name blends the Dakota word for water and the Greek for city. In the same way, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway blends the natural heritage and human history of Minneapolis. The Byway circles downtown Minneapolis, spotlighting native plants and waterfalls, archaeological sites, and innovative modern sculpture.
Minneapolis has taken efforts to conserve the beauty of the prairie alongside its metropolitan area, incorporating large nature preserves that offer more than a simple view of wildlife. Theodore Wirth Park offers a swimming beach, playground, and golf course alongside views of meadows, forests, and marshes. The Eloise Butler Wildflower Park preserves the natural flora of the city, with native species blooming throughout the year along quiet pathways.
The St. Anthony Falls Trail system connects several historic areas in the heart of the city, a vital and active area of the Mississippi River. From St. Anthony Falls, sacred to the Dakota Indians and valued by the mill industry, visitors can take the trail through Minneapolis, walk across the historic Stone Arch Bridge, or visit Our Lady of Lourdes Church, the oldest continually used church in Minneapolis. Mill Ruins Park, with its stone arches, canals, and tailraces, leaves traces of 19th century flourmills that helped make Minneapolis the leader in flour production.
After experiencing these and other historical sites of Minneapolis' east side river area, visitors can continue the loop past Minnehaha Park and the lakes to the west side of the city, and stroll through concepts of the future at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Open fields and streams are dotted with picture frames on legs, wire domed columns, mirrors mixed with living hedges, and the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry, a larger than life fountain statue of...a spoon and a cherry.
Through its variety of nature, history, and art, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway encompasses Minneapolis' past, present, and future.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Boom Island (MN)
A beautiful lakeside park located in downtown Minneapolis. Like Harriet Island in St. Paul, Boom Island isn't actually an island. It's just a nice Mississippi riverside city park.
Boom Island is located at the western terminus of the byway.
Chain of Lakes (MN)
The Chain of Lakes on the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway consist of Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, and Cedar Lake. This area is a popular section of the city for enjoying recreational activities like boating or canoeing. Many of the lakes are connected, allowing canoes to pass through channels that lead from lake to lake. On the lake shores, visitors will find sidewalks and trails designed to accomodate bicycle ride or a leisurely walk.
The southwest section of the byway that includes Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, and Brownie Lake.
Schoolteacher Eloise Butler feared the wild beauty of Minnesota would fall to the ax of city life as surely as her beloved Maine woods had, and she set about to save it. As a result, in 1907 the Minneapolis Park Board created a three-acre preserve for native flora, an immense wild garden that Butler tended all her life. Located in Theodore Wirth Park, the preserve (which has grown to nearly 15-acres) offers representative plantings of Minnesota's major habitats - deciduous forest, wetlands and upland prairie - and blooms spring to fall.
Located in Theodore Wirth Park on Glenwoood Ave.
Longfellow Home and Information Center (MN)
Begin your tour of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway bystopping at the Longfellow and Stevens Home where the bywayinformation center is located. Visitors will find information,pamphlets, and guides to the Byway at this historical house inMinnehaha Park.
Built in 1907, the house is actually a replica of HenryWadsworth Longfellow's Massachusettes home. An eccentric man by thename of Robert Jones built the home as centerpiece to his botanicalgardens and zoological park. Longfellow was his favorite poet.Moved, reconstructed, and renovated, this house now stands as apiece of the past with a place in the future of the MinneapolisParks.
The Longfellow House, Grand Rounds National Scenic BywayInterpretive Center and Trail Head for the Minneapolis Park andRecreation Board, opens the Grand Rounds National Scenic BywaysInterpretive Gallery. The gallery is an introduction to the sevenhistoric Byway districts. The gallery incorporates elements seen onthe landscape along the Byway tour including large-scale maps andphotographic images of historic sites and landmarks. The galleryalso includes an interactive video and information kiosk.
Located at Minnehaha Park on the Grand Rounds.
Mill Ruins Park (MN)
Mill Ruins Park is one of Minneapolis' most unique parks. Mill Ruins Park is an archaeological site complete with tunnels, trestles, and trailraces! Recent archaeological excavation uncovered flour mill foundations, hand riveted iron railroad girders, and the lower level of a waterpower network. The mills, railroads and waterpower system came together to create a flour milling district that made Minneapolis the country's #1 flour milling city for 50 years. The wooden plank road that once covered the waterpower canal has been recently recreated as phase 2 of Mill Ruins Park development.
Mill Ruins Park is open year-round with accessible walking paths as well as bike trails connected to the adjacent St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, Stone Arch Bridge and Grand Rounds Parkway System. Mill Ruins Park offers a variety of programs year round for visitors of all ages. Guided historic walking tours are offered weekends, June through October.
Additional programs include Simulated Archaeological Digs, Bike Tours, Nicollet Island Tours, a book group, lecture series and more.
Mills Ruins Park is located in downtown Minneapolis between West River Parkway and the Mississippi River at St. Anthony Falls. When traveling there, exit off I-94 at Riverside Avenue or Cedar and head east to West River Parkway.
Minneapolis combines a Dakota word with a Greek word to come upwith a name that means "Water City." A fitting name for one of thecentral cities in the state of 10,000 lakes.
Minneapolis began as a trading village called St. Anthony forthe 16 foot waterfall that powered the city's rapid growth. Between1848 and 1855 the town's population grew to 3,000 and it wascomplete with schools, churches, stores, and hotels. The originalMain Street is across the river from downtown Minneapolis. Visitorstouring the street will find specialty shops, restaurants, andcafes. Guided walking tours of the St. Anthony Falls HistoricDistrict are available to tourists on Wednesday through Sunday.
Settlers in Minneapolis on the west side of the river createdthe Minneapolis Mill Company in 1856 using the falls. With thebuilding of more mills, Minneapolis became the largest flourproducer in the country in the 1890's.
For scenic leisure in the city center, visitors will want toexplore the 170-acre park that surrounds Minnehaha Falls. The parkincludes shaded lawns, picnic facilities, and wooded paths.
Travelers who are really interested in seeing Minneapolis maywant to drive the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Otherwise,visitors can stop at places of interest using their own route orpass through the city while driving the Great River Road inMinnesota.
The Grand Rounds is located throughout Minneapolis.
Minnehaha Park and Falls (MN)
Spanning 171 acres, the Minnehaha Regional Park is best known for the enchanting Minnehaha Falls, created as Minnehaha Creek spills over a rock ledge into a white pool of fresh foam. It's a great stop during a bike ride, and there are well-marked paths for hiking and nature viewing - be sure to take a walk down to the gorge. Explore Minnehaha Park and view the statue of Hiawatha among the trees or the Minnehaha Plaza and Refectory.
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MN)
The land on either side of the Mississippi River is protected and celebrated as some of the most naturally, historically, and economically significant land in the country. With visitor centers and trails, visitors can enjoy the ecology and history of the area while learning about the significance of the land and river, including its role in trading, expansion, logging, and other important industries in our country's history.
Nicollet Island (MN)
Nicollet Island began as one of the rougher parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Grain mills and rail yards brought an industrial ambiance to this downtown river area. Now the remaining houses are historic and well-kept. Be sure to tour Merriam Street where you can catch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage.
The highlight of Nicollet Island is the Nicollet Island Inn. The Inn was originally the Island Door and Sash Company in 1893. When that company closed down, mill companies used the building for various purposes. In 1913, the Salvation Army renovated the building as a men's shelter, and it served as such for the next sixty years.
In the 1970s the shelter was converted to the Nicollet Island Inn. Now the Inn features 24 rooms of period decoration and furniture, a 150-year-old bar, and an award-winning menu.
On the Mississippi River in the St. Anthony Historic District of Minneapolis.
Everyone can enjoy a visit to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden,because, in addition to showcasing the biggest and sturdiest of theWalker's collection, it's a place for blooms and birds, naps andaimless reverie.
A joint effort of the Walker and the Minneapolis Park andRecreation Board, the garden proper is 11 acres, though it alsospans multiple lanes of traffic via the Irene Hixon Whitneybridge.
The southernmost portion of the garden is dominated by fourarborvitae-walled "galleries," housing permanent and temporaryworks. To the southeast, Jenny Holzer's oddly brilliantinstallation of 28 granite benches (1989), inscribed with inventedtruisms, amuses and provokes readers.
Even if you wanted to, you couldn't miss Spoonbridge andCherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, husbandand wife.