The appeal of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul may get lost in the crush of politicians and delegates this week, but the region has everything one could want in a major urban area, and a lot more. I’m biased, of course, because I grew up there and visit every summer and feel I know the place well. But former Minneapolis Star Tribune Travel Editor Catherine Watson knows it better than I do. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times she presents a menu of best options for a quick visit. If you have more time, get on a bicycle and cycle along the Mississippi River, or around the Chain of Lakes and along Minnehaha Creek to Minnehaha Falls. Or, compare some of the cities’ fine parks, as I did in an essay from a visit a few years ago, “A Tale of Two Parks.”
And if you’re a rail buff, take the time to ride the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line at Minneapolis’s Lake Harriet. Operating restored streetcars dating to 1908, the line runs only one mile these days, but before the advent of buses and America’s misguided abandonment of streetcar systems, the network connected the downtown districts of both cities and well beyond, even linking up with ferry boats on the outlying lakes. And how’s this for a statistic: in 1947 the Twin Cities’ streetcar system carried 280 million passengers; today the metropolitan area’s entire transit system carries only 80 million passengers, and the population has tripled in those years.
If you hurry (that is, get there before October) you’ll be able to partake of a time-honored tradition: go jump in the lake. While the weather’s still warm there’s nothing better than a dip in Lake Harriet followed by ice cream at the bandshell.