Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway

Minneapolis, MN

Submitted by: Jan Fiola

A 50-mile urban scenic byway that stretches alongside lakes, the Mississippi River, the Minnehaha Creek, parks, wetlands, and gardens.

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Why It Works

It is large in size - 50.1 miles, with at least eight lakes and multiple possibilities for routes and loops which provide direct lakeshore access. The trails are managed and maintained for different uses - biking, walking, and roller blading have divided trails. One can easily canoe or walk from one lake to another. A huge diversity of activities are available: canoe rentals, sailboarding, picnic areas, volleyball courts, public music concerts, a formal garden, and cross-country skiing in winter and even at night by street light!! There are wonderful older mansions, geese (although many have been donated to other states), and areas of wetlands restoration. It is the site of festivities for the Minneapolis Aquatennial each July, including the highly competitive Milk Carton Boat Races, sand sculpture contests and sailboat races. The Minneapolis Park System has won awards for their parks. It is designated a national scenic byway, and is connected to city and regional history of riverboats and barges, flourmills, and Native Americans. It is the reason why Minneapolis is called City of Lakes.

What Makes Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway a Great Place?

The Chain of lakes and parkways are spread out and touch many neighborhoods. Many people can walk out their door and within a few blocks can be rollerblading or walking. Others park their cars within the park or nearby. Maps are available online, at state tourism offices, and city and state maps are sold commercially. Maps are also posted on brown signs within the park system. Bus routes also provide access. There are curb cuts for those using wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes. Park areas are generally well maintained. The trails are busy on weekends.

The system makes a very good impression if one likes the outdoors. There are some spots of algae in August. Occasional rip-rap to maintain shore line.

The system is very well used, especially in the warm months. There is also ice skating, sledding and cross-country skiing in winter. There are many young adults there, but also babies and seniors. All classes and races mix on the trails. People mix in volleyball games. Couples and multigenerational families are also present. There is a memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King. Also, the golf course, sculpture garden, and the old farmstead draw visitors.

People regularly meet others there. Because the area is large, places to meet are often the restrooms, the canoe rental, ice cream stand, or the bandshell.

History & Background

Also contains Minnehaha Falls, made famous in the words of Longfellow upon seeing a photo of the falls, "Song of Hiawatha." "By the big sea shining waters.... Lakes are named Hiawatha, Nokomis and the parkway is Minnehaha.

Contact Info:

Minneaplolis Parks and Recreation Board: 612-661-4800

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