The Midtown Greenway
By Karen Asp
uffice to say that cycling in the snow has never crossed my radar. I'm a fair-weather cyclist who hangs up her bike when the mercury starts dipping. Until, that is, I arrive in Minneapolis in January. The day I ride the city's famed 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway, snow is pouring from the sky and a wicked wind is blowing it sideways.
I shouldn't be surprised. After all, I am in a city where January temperatures hover around 13 degrees, and average seasonal snowfall totals about 50 inches. Here's the catch, though: I'm visiting during the Winter That Never Was, Minneapolis racking up just over 20 inches of snow.
Ironically, while the snow catches me off guard, that's not the real surprise. Instead, it's the number of other people on the rail-trail. I count at least 20 in my 90-minute trek on the Midtown Greenway, most of them sporting ski goggles and riding bikes with chunky snow tires ...
Read the rest of Karen Asp's feature from the Winter 2013 issue of Rails to Trails magazine. Feel like checking out the Midtown Greenway yourself? Here's the scoop on where to stay, eat and play in Minneapolis.
Where to Stay
If you want to be within walking distance of the trail, check into the Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown Hotel (612.821.7600). If you prefer to stay downtown (you can drive or take a cab to the trail), consider The Grand Hotel (866.THE.GRAND), a Kimpton boutique hotel that offers such perks as a complimentary wine hour every evening and free access to the Minneapolis Life Time Athletic Club. Another bonus? Pets of all sizes stay for free and even get bowls, bed and pick-up bags.
Where to Eat
Don't miss the Midtown Global Market (612.872.4041). Along with specialty shops, you'll find more than a dozen restaurants where you can sample eclectic fare. In the downtown area, try Barrio (612.333.9953) for Mexican tapas; The Local (612.904.1000), a hopping Irish bar; Hell's Kitchen (612.332.4700), revered for its breakfast (try the Mahnomin porridge and homemade peanut butter); or Keys at the Foshay (612.339.6399) for delicious breakfasts (and free cookie samples at the front door). Stop in at Ike's Food & Cocktails (612.746.4537) for a cocktail at the bar (it's rumored to have tasty hamburgers). Grab incredible pizza (or a salad, hoagie or pasta dish, with numerous options for vegetarians and vegans) at Pizza Luce (612.333.7359), where the beer menu is as impressive as the pizza.
What to Do
No trip to Minneapolis would be complete without a visit to the Mall of America (952.883.8800), where you'll enjoy no sales tax on clothing or shoes, and a two-mile walk should you make it around the whole mall. Although the mall actually is located in Bloomington, you can easily get there by light rail; the ride from downtown will take about 30 minutes and cost only a few bucks. Back in Minneapolis, visit Mill City (612.341.7555), a museum that details the city's flour history. (Minneapolis, after all, was the world's flour capital from 1880 to 1930.) Even if you're not a museum-goer, this one's worth the trip; make sure you take the Flour Tower tour, where a history lesson will be doled out via an eight-story elevator ride, and see the "Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat" movie. For some pampering, visit the LifeSpa and Salon at the Grand Hotel, or the Ivy Spa Club (612.343.3131) for a more extensive spa menu. By the way, you can connect to many of these places without having to step outside, thanks to the city's eight-plus miles of skyways.
Where to Rent Bicycles
Pick up a bike at Freewheel Midtown Bike Center (612.238.4447). If you're visiting April through November, you can also rent a bike at any of the dozen-plus Nice Ride bicycle stations (877.551.6423) for a maximum of 24 hours; when you're done, return the bike to any Nice Ride station.
For More Information
For more information about the Midtown Greenway, contact the Midtown Greenway Coalition (612.879.0103). You can also explore an interactive map, user reviews and photos, and loads of other trip-planning information for the Greenway at www.TrailLink.com, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's free trail-finder website.