Green Spaces in the Twin Cities

Spring has sprung; here’s where to explore

By: Sylvia Rani


It’s that time of the year again. Temperatures are rising, ice is melting, and sunlight is no longer a limited-time offer. Minnesotans can finally awaken our biophilia, the natural human condition of our love of connection with nature and all that is alive. Luckily, the Twin Cities boasts an abundance of parks and conservatories in which to relax and experience the healing powers of green spaces.


Close to campus: East River Flats Park

East River Flats Park, a short hike off East River Parkway and nestled on a bank of the Mississippi River, is a great spot for chilling and watching ferries, canoers, and—my personal favorite—dead branches float down the river. The park also has a couple biking and walking trails, as well as a 200-step set of stairs leading up to East River Road.


Good for picnics: Minnehaha Park

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Minnehaha Park is home to Minnehaha Falls, one of the most photographed sites in Minnesota. This park is easily accessible by the metro blue line off the 50th Street/Minnehaha Park stop. The park is quite large and has a long, bikeable trail that follows the river downstream. A popular spot for families, Minnehaha park has many picnic and barbecue spots and for the history devotee, many carefully preserved historical sites. Among these is the John Harrington Stevens House, the first wood-frame dwelling built west of the Mississippi.


For rainy days: Como Zoo Park and Conservatory

Not far from the St. Paul campus is Como Zoo Park and Conservatory, a free (donations accepted) zoo and conservatory that offers indoor green spaces. The Sunken Garden is a good spot to relax and enjoy the fragrance of blooming tulips, roses, and geraniums as multicolored koi fish glide through a peaceful pond. Regal palms and flowering bromeliads fill a 64-foot tall crystal dome in the Palm Dome, and the Tropical Encounters exhibit is an immersive rainforest experience complete with high humidity and a sly tree sloth.


If you have a dog or enjoy watching dogs: Franklin Terrace Off-Leash Dog Park

Fairly close to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is the Franklin Terrace Off-Leash Dog Park, a lovely location for pups and their owners to socialize. If you like watching dogs, this is a good spot to walk by, as it is bordered by Riverside Park. Most of the dogs that frequent this park are big dogs, but there is the occasional small boy as well.


People-watching haven: Gold Medal Park

A stroll down the 10th Avenue bridge and West River Parkway will land you in Gold Medal Park, downtown Minneapolis’ famed spiral-pathway and greenspace with a gorgeous river view. This is perhaps one of the best spots for people watching because this area of downtown always has so much going on. High-class Guthrie-goers are always in proximity, businesspeople from downtown west can be spotted grabbing a quick lunch, and the line at Izzy’s Ice Cream is consistently out the door, abuzz with ice cream lovers and their friends.


Worth the wait: Tower Hill Park

Most people don’t know about this park but should. Just a stone’s throw down University Avenue in Prospect Park, Tower Hill Park contains the Witch’s Hat Tower, a water tower placed on the highest natural land area in Minneapolis. While the observatory deck is only open one day of the year (usually the weekend after Memorial Day,) the park offers an unparalleled view of the skyline of Minneapolis. Get there before sunset for epic instagrammable golden hour pics.

Wake Mag