During our stop at Dakota Meadows RV Resort, we signed up for a three-hour, private tour, of the Twin Cities.
Minneapolis – Saint Paul is centered around where the Mississippi, Minnesota rivers merge. Minneapolis sits mostly on the west side of the Mississippi, and St. Paul sits on the east side. They are the two largest cities in Minnesota, which makes them the economic, cultural and political center of the state.
We met our tour guide Doug and his driver at the Mall of America, more on that later but needless to say the place is huge.
Our first stop on the tour was where the Twin Cities got started, Fort Snelling. It was built on the bluffs overlooking the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers to protect United States territorial interests.
The fort served as a recruiting station for the Civil War, Spanish American War, and both World Wars before being decommissioned a second time in 1946. It then fell into a state of disrepair until the lower post was restored to its original appearance in 1965. At that time all that remained of the original lower post were the round and hexagon towers. Many of the important buildings of the upper post remain today with some still in disrepair.
Our next stop was the State Capitol building
The current State Capitol building is actually the third Capitol building. The territorial legislature first met in a temporary headquarters in the Central House Hotel. In 1851, work began to build the Capitol. despite efforts to make the Capitol fire-resistant, it was destroyed by fire on March 1, 1881. While legislators met in the evening, fire broke out in the dome of the Capitol and quickly spread. No lives were lost, but efforts to save the building failed. It was replaced on the same site in 1883 by the second Capitol building. Shortly after it opened, deficiencies of the new building were becoming clear. Overcrowding due to a lack of space, a lack of adequate fireproofing, and the discovery of dry rot made the building increasing unacceptable. Additionally, poor ventilation led in the push for a new Capitol building in 1893. Work began on the third capitol building in 1896, its corner-stone laid July 27, 1898, and construction was completed in 1905. The construction cost $4.5 million. It opened its doors to the public for the first time on January 2, 1905.
The Progress of the State Statue sits above the south portico, at the main entrance. It is gilded in 23 karat gold leaf and requires re-gilding approximately every 20 years.
The statue represents a prosperous Minnesota proceeding onward by means of the power of nature (horses) and civilization (the women). The four horses represent the elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Independently, the women represent industry and agriculture. Collectively, they represent civilization. In addition to personifying the state of Minnesota, the male charioteer holding a cornucopia (horn of plenty), a symbol of abundance and nourishment, represents prosperity.
After leaving the State Capitol, we drove over to the longest stretch of Victorian-era homes in the United States, Summit Avenue. Only 4.5 miles long, the historic street has 373 of the 440 original homes still standing. The most famous home was owned by James. J. Hill, a wildly successful railroad tycoon known appropriately as the “Empire Builder”, the 36,000-square-foot property spans three lots and touts arguably the most desirable view of downtown Saint Paul. Of the original homes, there is only one wood house—built by a lumberman. It was owned by A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor between 2008 and 2018. Other famous residents, include F. Scott Fitzgerald who once described the stretch as “a mausoleum of American architectural monstrosities”. Sinclair Lewis, the Nobel Prize-winning Minnesota writer, once lived on Summit Avenue as well.
Minneapolis is home to an elaborate park system spanning 6,809 acres, 180 parks with 55 miles of parkways, 102 miles of biking and walking paths, 22 lakes, 12 formal gardens, and seven golf courses. They seem to all connect to each other. We drove through the sculpture garden which is home to 60 sculptures., the most famous being Spoonbridge and Cherry. The spoon weighs 5,800 pounds and the cherry, another 1,200 pounds. The cherry’s stem also acts as a fountain which sprays into the bowl of the spoon and keeps the cherry shiny.
We drove throughout the city, which was the day of the Vikings home opener, so the streets were very crowded. We did see the Mary Tyler Moore statue at Nicollet and 7th Street. As well as the Skyway system, the largest contiguous system of enclosed second-level bridges ion the world. 9.5 miles of enclosed pathways connecting 80 city blocks.
One of our last stops was the Guthrie Theatre.
We made our way up the four story escalator to the observation deck and was able to see the Saint Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the Mississippi River. Along with the famous Stone Arch Bridge, and the Gold Medal Flour and Pillsbury Flour mills.
We were dropped back off at the Mall of America, so I made a quick dash inside to check it out. It has its own amusement park in the middle of the 500 stores! It’s built on the land that used to be the stadium for the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. Like I said, it’s huge.
We’re really happy we took the tour; it was one of the best tours we’ve taken since we started this adventure. If you’re ever in the Minneapolis area I highly recommend contacting Doug at Tours By Locals.
Until next time,