Loring Park Area Walking Tour:
Location: Loring Park, Minneapolis
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Optional costs below)
Start: Basilica of St Mary
End: Scottish Rite Temple
Walking Distance: 1.1 miles of walking from 1-5 plus two short drives for stops 6-7 (Walking the whole from stops 1-7 and back is 3 miles)
Time Required: About 3 hours with all the stops
Worst Time To Go: Avoid Mondays as many things are closed.
Fun Scale: 9 out of 10
Overview Of Loring Park:
The Loring Park area of Minneapolis has been a cultural hub of the city since the late 1800s and it is still going strong today. While the neighborhood has changed a lot over the decades, a revival of festivals and the arts have made Loring Park as fun to visit as ever. You’ll be blessed with perfect skyline views, hip interactive sculptures, overpowering homes, and even the Nation’s 1st Basilica. When you toss in elements like Minneapolis’ famous Spoonbridge and Cherry Sculpture, the Loring Park Area needs to be on your must-do list while visiting the Twin Cities.
The Walking Tour Sights:
1. Basilica of St Mary (88 17th Street North):
About The Basilica of St Mary: In the early days of Minneapolis, the grounds of today’s Basilica of St Mary served as a quaint 3-acre farm. In 1886 success fish monger Robert Fremont “Fish” Jones bought the farm and turned it into a zoo made from his private exotic animal collection. As the zoo grew and became noisy Fish sold his land and moved the zoo next to Minnehaha Falls in 1906 paving the way for a grand church.
Considered Minneapolis’ most beautiful church, St Mary’s was built from 1907-1915 with its 1st mass during construction in 1914. Saint Mary’s was the 1st Basilica dedicated by the Vatican in the United States when Pope Pius XI honored it in 1926. Since its Papal dedication, St Marys has continued to add many beautiful facets to the Basilica. One of these facets is the Wick’s Organ, installed in 1950, which you can get a great view of by peeking down into the beautiful Choir Apse. Father Michael O’Connell is credited for saving the deteriorating Basilica in the 1990s.
Every year since 1995, top artists in the music industry have been teaming up with St Mary to throw a huge music festival called the Basilica Block Party (website). The festival is held the second weekend of July, draws over 25,000 music fans a year, and the proceeds go toward church restoration. Even if you can’t make the Block Party you need to find a couple of minutes to pop into the Basilica.
Free Guided Tours: Sunday tours are available after the 9:30am and 11:30am Masses and begin at the front of the Basilica beneath the pulpit. Group tours are available 7 days a week by calling ahead. Church Website: (HERE).
*Sitting straight South of the Church, past some hip restaurants is the beautiful…
2. Loring Park: Complete with a large lake, tons of open space, and great bike trails, Loring Park is often a center of urban energy. The park is named after Charles Loring who served as Minneapolis’ first park board president in the 1880s. Over 30 years of work, Loring acquired tons of land for public use through the early 1900s including Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles, and a 45-acre patch of land called the Parade that the current Loring Park was ultimately part of. Because of his efforts securing so much green space for the City, the area of the Parade that now called Loring Park had was changed from Central Park to bear his name. Charles Loring is still considered the “Father of Minneapolis Parks”.
Today the park is best known for its community events, concert, festivals, and parties. Among the Summer events, Loring features Monday Movies in the Park and shows a number of full-length films on a drive-in movie screen. People usually gather early for the films as a live band entertains moviegoers until nightfall. On the last Friday of every month, hundreds of cyclists meet for Critical Mass which is a gathering and bike ride done in 300 cities nationwide to promote attention to biking. In June the annual Twin Cities GLBT Pride Festival (website) has been going on since 1972 and is the biggest two-day community events in the upper Midwest. This festival goes way beyond just the Gay and Lesbian community and is an event where the entire community comes together to share crafts, great live music, and really good food. In total there is are three food courts, over 370 vendors, five music stages, and a large beer tent making it one of Minneapolis’s biggest events each year.
*On the West side of Loring park follow the large pedestrian footbridge over Hwy 94 right to the…
3. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: Don’t miss this park, it is the most must-see park in the metro area and has been a garden since 1913. While it is not as big as the neighboring Loring Park, the Sculpture holds an unreal charm. Upon entering the park from the footbridge, it is impossible to miss the large Spoonbridge & Cherry with its fountain-like stem spanning the park’s pond. The spoon leads to great photo ops as this part of the park has a great view of the downtown skyscrapers as a backdrop. The north side of the park has a few other interesting sculptures and an extensive vine-covered lattice tunnel that is magical to walk through after dark. Before leaving the park make sure to check out the south side which holds a neat maze-like outdoor collection of sculptures. Neighboring the Outdoor Gallery a large all-glass building, known as the Cowles Conservatory holds a very cool garden.
The Irene Hixon Whitney Footbridge you crossed to get here was actually the first piece of work you’ll see added by local artist Siah Armajani in 1988. When you look at it from the side you’ll notice it mimics grand suspension bridges like Golden Gate with the curved lines serving as its cable wires. The bridge finally gave pedestrians a good route to navigate the highway between the two parks the city bought in 1904.
The centerpiece of the entire Garden is the 1988 Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg which sits over a central pond. Oldenburg is well known for making gigantic pieces of art out of everyday items. When creating the work he said he was inspired by a novelty item he bought in 1962 that was a spoon resting on a piece of chocolate. The bridge is a big sculpture with its 5,800-pound spoon and 1,200-pound cherry whose stem doubles as a fountain.
On the north side is a lovely vine-covered arbor that forms a long tunnel with a flower garden. The garden is called the Alene Grossman Memorial Arbor and Flower Garden and was a gift from the N. Bud Grossman family in honor of Alene who loved Nature and spent her life working on projects for the public good. We really like Judith Shea’s sculpture called Without Words (Shown Above) which sits toward the NE corner of the large Garden. We’re not really sure what the 1988 work is supposed to mean, but it has a random collection of a modern raincoat, a 1950s dress figure, and the mouth from an Egyptian statue. Maybe it’s the randomness that leaves you without words.
22-foot-tall sculpture in the Conservatory Green House‘s lily pond entitled Standing Glass Fish was done in 1986 by Frank Gehry. It is surrounded by Mexican palm trees and Frank had to hand-place each one of the glass scales making it look like a crystal. As you exit the park to the South make sure to take in the works hidden through the make-shift hedge maze. Sculpture Garden Hours: Daily 6am-Midnight. Conservatory Green House Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-8pm; Sunday 10am-5pm; Closed Mondays. Cost: Free. Free Guided Tours: Thursday-Sunday at 2pm. Garden Website: (HERE).
*Heading South from the Sculpture Garden it’s easy to spot the large modern-looking silver building called the…
4. Walker Art Center: You know that from the second you see Walker’s modern exterior that it’s going to be a great art center, and it doesn’t disappoint. Even if you only came here for the art, you have to stop by Wolfgang Puck’s Restaurant (website). It may be a little heavy on the wallet but there is no better food in the area than at this restaurant. Wolfgang’s Skyline Room has breathtaking views of the Minneapolis skyline, especially at night. If you’re not up for food just get a drink and stroll onto the outdoor patio.
Every few months, Walker is home to the “Hippest Happy Hour” in town call After Hours (website). At these $35 a person events, you get to preview touring exhibits before the general public, you get complimentary Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvres, access to a great cash bar, live DJ’d music, and a free professional group photo with a club-style backdrop. Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm; Thursday 10am-9pm; Closed Mondays. Gallery Cost: Adults $10; Teens $6; Under 12 Free. Free Admission Days: Every Thursday from 5-9pm & every 1st Saturday of the Month from 10am-5pm. Free Guided Tours: Thursday-Sunday 2pm, must pay regular gallery admission. Special Events: There are always a number of events from plays to concerts so check out their schedule for current times and costs here. Center Website: (HERE).
*With its large spire as a beacon, you’ll be drawn to the unique…
5. Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church (511 Groveland Ave): By 1911 the large congregation of the church had outgrown the Fowler Methodist Church built in 1894. Bishop Fowler was also the Grand Commandery for the Knights Templar of Minnesota. Fowler’s congregation merged with the Hennepin Ave Church and needed a much large space which they found when they got the current lot from Thomas B. Walker in 1911. Church Website: (HERE).
*After a short drive up to the area known as Mt Curve, you’ll quickly be among the remarkable..
6. Mount Curve Mansions: All along the ridgeline near Mount Curve Road you will find one of the most consecrated areas of the large, modern mansions in the Twin Cities. When Minneapolis first acquired this strip of land in the late 1800s it was meant to serve as a scenic park connecting Loring Park to the Uptown Lakes, but it was quickly sold off to the cities wealthy for homes. With their close proximity to Downtown Minneapolis, these new mansions became some of the first so-called urban estates built in the United States. Our favorite houses are the Charles Martin House (1300 Mt Curve Road) sitting behind a curved driveway and the Winton House (1324 Mt Curve Road).
*Whenever you’re done mansion peaking, drive down to the corner of Franklin and Dupont and the…
7. Scottish Rite Temple: Originally built in 1906 as the Fowler Methodist Episcopal Church, the red-brick Scottish Rite Temple makes an interesting architectural statement. Although the Scottish Rite had been in St Paul for years before it wasn’t in 1869 that they formed a chapter in Minneapolis when some members from the East coast moved to town. Because Bishop Fowler was also a member of the Knights Templar he let the group acquire the former church for their offices in 1913 when the Church moved near Loring Park. Even if you miss the Temple’s open hours, there are a few popular shops located around the Temple including Patina Boutique & Gifts (website) next door. Temple Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-4:30pm. Temple Website: (HERE).
Other Sights Near Loring Park:
8. Washburn-Fair Oaks Mansion District: Coming soon
9. Downtown Minneapolis: Coming soon
10. Uptown & The Lakes: Hidden Beach, Calhoun, Harriet, Bakken
11. Riverfront & Mill District: more details here https://www.bigboytravel.com/minnesota/minneapolis/riverfront-walking-tour