Did you read choose your own adventure novels when you were a kid? The books are set up to tell an adventure with twists and turns that give you the option to create your own path and story. You arrive at the end of each chapter with a decision to make between different activities. You get to pick: take a plane to the Grand Canyon for rafting or set sail on a catamaran to cruise the Na Pali Coast. Whatever the case, you guide your own story very much like traveling.
Over the last years, I’ve been taking my thirst for active adventure travel and adding a twist to it by trying multiple modes of transportation and various different speeds of travel to experience a city or region. I’ve found that by so doing, I gain great perception from the distinct vantage points created by the different modes and speed of adventure.
Recently, I visited Minneapolis, Minnesota, which to my fortune is bursting with options for a choose your own adventure trip. If you like kayaking, zip lining, biking, Segwaying, and other outdoor adventure activities, Minneapolis should be on your short-list for singles, couples, or family adventures.
Let me set the stage for your very own choose your own adventure in Minneapolis, the City by Nature.
You are visiting Minneapolis hungry to sightsee and actively experience the outdoors. You could:
A) Kayak the Mighty Mississippi
Winding through Minneapolis’ outskirts and its downtown is the Mighty Mississippi. If you truly want to step away from traditional sightseeing and slow down your travel, take a kayak adventure of Minneapolis.
One paddle stroke at a time, you will see dams, eagles and blue herons nesting, remnants of Minneapolis’ former logging and milling industries, bridges both old and new, as well as the skyline from the water.
For those that are skilled paddlers and with a car, truck, or SUV, you can rent kayaks and transport them to various put-in locations in Minneapolis, but it is wise the first time to any location to go with a tour company to get the lay of the land or in this case the river. In Minneapolis, I chose Above the Falls Sports that offers various tours from half-day floats of the Mississippi to night social kayaks excursions as well as rentals.
My experience paddling the Mississippi reminded me just how dependent the city’s industry was on the river at its beginning and its natural resources. It was delightful to see the bustling city with yet so much empty space preserved for enjoying this richness all within the same small radius. The solitude of the river with the skyline of grand Minneapolis over the treetops was welcoming and reassuring. All those deadlines and schedules that plague many of us can disappear or be subdued in nature one paddle at a time.
B) Pedal your way through Minneapolis on two wheels
Upon entering Minneapolis, you will notice that bikes are everywhere. There are bike lanes with bikers using them to get around downtown for work, to get exercise by looping the lakes, to run errands, and to take in many outdoor concerts and plays. Of course, if you live in Minneapolis, you could easily own one or more bikes, but there is another option available to residents and travelers alike, Nice Ride.
On my visit, I chose to enlist in a daily membership to Nice Ride, which is a bike share program. With 65 locations throughout the city both at all the major points of interest as well as out at the lakes, these handy bikes can be used by the hour or day allowing you to ride and view Minneapolis like a local.
It is no wonder that the city has been awarded many titles of being bike friendly; the sheer number of bike trails available is something to brag about. For a first timer to the Minneapolis area, I would suggest the Chain of Lakes Trail which is 13.3 miles and allows you to do a portion of the larger, Grand Rounds, which is a 50.1 mile loop. On my trip, I took the Cedar Lake Trail from downtown to Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, and Cedar Lake. It is a portion of the Chain of Lakes Trail.
At this leisurely pace, pedal-by-pedal, you will witness Minneapolis and its people on a much more familiar, eye-level than by car or bus. Additionally, you will have the flexibility to pull off the trails for pictures, picnics, rests, and wildlife spottings like whitetail deer and rabbits.
C) Soar through the woods of Minnesota for a bird’s eye view
Not for everyone, but certainly a thrill ride, zip lining is relatively new to the Minneapolis area. Take the control out of your feet, steering wheel, or paddle and let gravity take you for a soar above the Northwoods just outside of Minneapolis on the Minnesota River Byway. The only operator so far, Kerfoot Canopy Tours offers zip line tours all year round with nine lines and various suspension bridges to conquer. It’s a two and a half hour adventure not to be beat.
In fact, it’s an adventure to just get to the course. Once geared up, you are taken via ATVs by the staff on an off-road experience that gets the adrenaline pumping before you even start zip lining. Then, you go through zip line 101 emphasizing braking, speed, and other safety measures.
Then, it’s ready, set, and zip. I can attest, that after the first zip, there’s no looking back with each of the zips different than the next. The longest is over 1,100 feet long, giving you plenty of hang time to take the forest and the ravine below all in (shown as header image).
D) Roll on through Minneapolis via Segway
Segways have been around for over a decade with probably most early success with mall cops, but now we are witnessing Segways for fun and touring. Having taken my first virgin Segway ride in West Palm Beach, Florida, I was thrilled to see the opportunity in Minneapolis to repeat and hone my Segway skills on a tour with Human on a Stick.
With Minneapolis’ plethora of bike-friendly sidewalks, parks, and trails, the Segway tour was easy, absolutely informative, and yet another vantage point of the city. It is similar to the touring style of a bike with a get on and get off style, but while standing. I compare it to a fast stroll while viewing the Minneapolis sights from the height of a professional basketball player. It is interesting to note that a Segway isn’t necessarily completely intuitive. You must lean forward at a slant to move forward. Then you move to an upright position to stop. To move in reverse, you lean backward. So, with that added element of uneasiness or moving at a slant, you also see things in a different manner.
On the Magical Historical Tour, you’ll Segway through the Old Mill District, crossing the Stone Arch Bridge with stops at the Guthrie Theatre and the Old Mill Museum. You’ll continue on the various bike trails of downtown Minneapolis with the ability to weave in and out of traffic and pedestrians witnessing St. Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River. Plus, you’ll continue to Nicollet Island, a really cool residential area that is almost stuck in time with twenty-two quaint, old-style Victorian homes and very little traffic.
On my adventure travel through Minneapolis, I chose all of the above. However, when you choose your own adventure Minneapolis you can take some, leave some, and even add some. Please share your best outdoor adventure Midwest stories and/or tips. I love hearing from other adventurers like myself.
Here’s to more good times and good stories.