If you’re going to Minneapolis and think everything worth doing requires you to spend all your time indoors with the occasional cityscape stroll, you’re wrong. Sure, it’s a city known by many for its beautiful architecture, great shopping, and the famous “Skyway System” — a series of interconnected, enclosed climate-controlled walkways across the downtown area (spanning over 10 miles!). But it’s also an ideal city for almost anyone who loves being outdoors and in nature.

Most visitors would probably be surprised to learn that in Minneapolis you’re never more than six blocks away from a park. You’re also never too far from a lake, river, or another body of water either! In fact, the state of Minnesota has more shoreline than California, so its capital has a pretty sizable amount of waterside scenery.

Here’s a look at some of the best outdoor things to do in Minneapolis with an emphasis on hiking and long walks, cycling, and, of course, making a splash!

Minnehaha Falls Regional Park

The 53-foot Minnehaha Falls is indeed a site to see, as are this park’s limestone bluffs and views over the Mississippi River. Despite it being one of the city’s most popular outdoor treasures and the backdrop for poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, Minnehaha Falls Regional Park has plenty of room to roam. Hardly a mile north of the airport, the Falls could make a smart last stop before dropping off your rental and heading home.

Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway

Up for leisurely stroll, relaxing bike ride, or a bit of mellow motoring? Keep the leafy Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway in mind for any meanders around Minneapolis. This 50-mile loop around town and along most of the city’s Mississippi shoreline hits some of the city’s best parks, trails, and lakes with plenty of great places to eat, drink and shop along the way, including Mississippi River Boulevard and the Downtown Riverfront.

Fort Snelling State Park

A National Historic Landmark and a “national treasure” according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Fort Snelling is an excellent outdoor destination for discovering Minnesotan heritage and American history. Set atop a bluff where the Mississippi and Minnesota River converge, it’s a lovely swath of Twin City green between Minneapolis and St. Paul. If you’re coming from the airport, the park is reached easily from Highway 494.

St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center and Lock and Dam

Just northeast of downtown Minneapolis, the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam is the location of the original settlement of this city. If you’re looking for even more things to do in Minneapolis, this urban waterfall and the surrounding area, has everything from amazing panoramic views across the city to a trail loop that offers a great historical perspective of the area. The falls make a good starting point for walking tours around town.

Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge

Pedestrianized with bike lanes and located in the downtown area (between the Central Avenue Bridge and I-35 West Saint Anthony Falls Bridge), the Stone Arch Bridge is a former railroad bridge dates from 1883. A stroll or pedal along it yields breathtaking views of the St. Anthony Falls, city skyline and plenty of other significant landmarks. Odds are good that a visit here during the summer will coincide with a festival, live music, or fireworks display.

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Situated on the western edge of town, Chain of Lakes Regional Park feature more than 15 miles of cycling trails and footpaths pass along the shorelines of some of Minneapolis’ most picturesque lakes, including Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bda Make Ska and Lake Harriet. Whether you’re heading out for a picnic, the string of stately lakeside homes or hope to mingle with dog walkers and local pooches at play, this giant gem of a park is the place to be on any day with great weather!

Midtown Greenway

Image via Flickr CC.20Michael Hicks

The Midtown Greenway is a former railway corridor that’s been converted with bicycle lanes and walking paths. It spans about five miles along the Mississippi River on the southern edge of Minneapolis and is open day and night. The Greenway also connects with the Chain of Lakes Park and other popular trails.


Love experiencing the great outdoors while still having access to big city amenities? We’d love to hear about your favorite urban green spaces in the comments below!

About The Author

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.