Mother of the Mississippi, Minnesota is the get-away-from-it-all state. With dense forests, vast grain fields, rich pastures and wilderness parks, not to mention over 12,000 lakes formed by retreating glaciers during the Ice Age, this Midwestern state that borders Canada and lies 1,000 miles away from either ocean offers endless adventure options for outdoor lovers. And for those who prefer city life to wilderness, Minnesota’s twin cities will provide for all your nightlife, shopping, and sight-seeing needs.
Twin Cities: St. Paul and Minneapolis
They may be called Minnesota’s Twin Cities, but state capital St. Paul and booming city Minneapolis are far from identical. Located beside each other on the banks of America’s pulmonary artery, the Mississippi River, Minneapolis stands as the bigger brother with big city bustle to St. Paul’s charm and history. And like siblings, the two cities since their establishments in the 1800s have developed a friendly rivalry. As state capital, St. Paul developed into a political and financial center while Minneapolis boomed from trade and industry along the Mississippi. Minneapolis is a prime destination for those seeking a more cosmopolitan visit. There you’ll find a world-class theater district, pulsing nightlife in the Warehouse District, and narrow streets lined with coffee shops and boutiques in it’s more bohemian Uptown. For those seeking a quieter, hometown feel, St. Paul is the twin of choice. You can visit St. Paul Cathedral, after which the city was named in 1841, or stroll through the postcard-perfect and historically preserved Victorian neighborhoods. You might even spot the home of American author F. Scott FitzGerald, famous for his novel The Great Gatsby. If peace and quiet is what you seek, escape city life with a day trip to one of the countless lakes surrounding the Twin Cities. A 20-minute car ride west will lead you to Lake Minnetonka, one of the largest of these lakes, where you can browse waterfront shops, sail on the smooth water and admire the shoreline decorated with breathtaking mansions.
The Mississippi River
The Ojibway Indians in northern Minnesota called it “Messipi” or “Big River.” Other tribes referred to it as the “Mee-zee-see-bee” or the “Father of Waters.” Escaped slave Jim and his young friend Huck Finn drifted on its currents in search of a better life in Mark Twain’s Adventures in Huckleberry Finn. The Mississippi River, located in the heart of North America begins as a tiny brook in northern Minnesota and 2,350 miles later, empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Throughout American history, the Mighty Mississippi has acted as the pulmonary artery of the nation, spurring trade and transportation. The nation’s first steamboats made their way against its current from town to town. Cities blossomed along its banks. Over 600 water-oriented parks, biking, fishing and other recreation sites have drawn millions of visitors annually to witness the river’s beauty, history and life which surges along its strong current. While in the Minneapolis don’t miss St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the entire river.
Mall of America
With an infrastructure that houses more than 500 stores, 70 restaurants, 14 movie screens, an underwater adventures aquarium, a wedding chapel, and a seven-acre amusement park all under one roof, the Mall of America has definitely earned its prominent title. After all, with its mind-boggling dimensions, this entertainment complex located just south of downtown Minneapolis is the nation’s fifth most-visited attraction. Camp Snoopy, the mall’s amusement park, houses more than 30 rides while the underwater aquarium, with over 1.2 million gallons of water, features a 300-foot long curved tunnel, complete with a moving walkway that simulates a scuba diving adventure without getting wet. Just a brief car ride away, the Mall of America has enough attractions and distractions
Named for its shape by the Ojibwe Indians of northern Minnesota, Star Island located in the middle of Cass Lake might be better known for its own lake. Within this 1,163-acre island is a 195-acre lake, Lake Windigo, which was featured on the television show Believe it or not as the “lake in the island in the lake.” Accessible only by boat, Star Island, the largest of the four islands in Cass Lake, contains the only freshwater lake in an island in a freshwater lake in the Northern Hemisphere. Visitors can hike along the islands six miles of trails that wind through the deep woods and camp on the island’s campground located on its southwest shore. In addition to its famous Lake Windigo, Star Island is one of the ten unique areas of Chippewa National Forest, designated for its prehistoric and historic Indian occupations.