Uptown Lakes Walking & Bike Tour:
Location: Uptown Lakes, Minneapolis
Tour Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Attraction Fees Listed Below)
Start: Linden Hills Restaurants
End: Uptown Shops, Restaurants, & Rooftop Bars
Bike Rental Option: $20-30 for a half day (Details Below)
Total Distance By Bike: 7.9 Miles from stop 4 through 12 and back to 4 (+2.7 miles for if you want to bike around Lake of the Isles).
Time: 1 Hour of Bike Riding (6 hours with all 14 stops).
Fun Scale: 9.5 out of 10
Overview Of Uptown:
Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, so getting on or near the water is a must while visiting Minneapolis. One of the best ways to do this is to hit up the great urban lakes the dominate the Uptown neighborhood. While the lakes are best experienced by bike, even a short stroll through the area with leave you feeling refreshed through a great combination of relaxation and hip vibes.
From first-hand experience in Uptown, we have come up a ton of unique sights that will keep you occupied the entire day. Unlike our standard walking tours, this area of the Twin Cities is spread out and best seen if you can bike ride or drive between the numerous pockets of sights. Below we will give you a suggested route to hit up all of the best things to do, but feel free to mix and match as you wish.
Start with brunch in Linden Hills (#1) then drive over the parking lot next to the Bandshell for stops #2-4. After renting your bike, head out pedaling between the stops through #13 then back to where you started at (#4). Your bike rental will come with a lock to chain your bike up as you stop at different sights. We usually save the Uptown Bars & Restaurants (#14) until after we’ve returned out bike rental.
Distance between sights: Stops #4-6 (2.3 miles), #6-7 (1 mile), #7-9 (1 mile), #9-11 (1.2 miles), #11-12 (0.4 miles), #12 back to #4 (2 miles) for a total of 7.9 miles. The total goes up to 10.6 if you also go around Lake of the Isles.
Around Lake Harriett: 2.8 Miles. Around Lake Calhoun: 3 Miles. Around Lake of the Isles: 2.7 Miles.
1. Linden Hills:
About Linden Hills: Linden Hills is probably the most overlooked neighborhood in Minneapolis, but it has some of the best food and is a great place to fuel up for this Uptown Lakes walking tour. The Linden Hills area is often heralded by TV personalities such as foodie Andrew Zimmerman and after visiting you’ll see why. The main area of Linden Hills centers on West 43rd & Upton Streets and feel more like small-town America than a big city. Don’t let the single-story buildings fool you, as the handful of businesses offer some of our favorite shops and places to eat.
By far the best place to eat is the restaurant Tilia (website) which manages to feel retro and trendy at the same time. They have an extremely affordable high-end menu and one of our favorite selections of beer & wine. Among the unique shops in Linden Hills is Coffee & Tea Limited with carries fresh coffee and tea from over 40 different countries. Their bean and flavor selections can be very creative. Make sure to finish up your Linden Hills visit with some amazing homemade ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s (website)!
2. Excelsior Streetcar Museum Ride (2330 W 42nd Street):
About The Excelsior Streetcar: Did you know that by the late 1800s the entire Twin Cities was covered in tons of crisscrossing electric streetcar lines? The lines covered not only Minneapolis and St Paul but went out into the suburbs as far out as Lake Minnetonka by the early 1900s. A major expansions happened when then the lines switched from steam to electric in 1889 and even more after the Minneapolis and St Paul companies merged in 1892, which was the same year Lake Harriet got connected to Downtown Minneapolis.
In the mid-1900s an investor bought up the streetcar lines and had them converted into bus lines by 1954. The entire conversion was very controversial as the streetcars were beloved by the public, and the investors were later jailed for illegally profiting from the switch to buses. Luckily, with the help of hard work and grants, two small sections of the streetcar lines were able to be preserved. One of the lines is a small strip near Lake Minnetonka and the other is right here at Lake Harriet which is the old No. 1300 Line that went to Downtown Minneapolis.
Today you can still ride on the No. 1300 on a stretch going from Liden Hills up to Lake Calhoun. Trips leave the old Linden Hills Depot just West of the Harriet Bandshell every 20 minutes, stopping at the Cottage City Depot next to William Berry Parkway, and continues to the North End Depot on the Southeast side of Lake Calhoun. On the return trip the Streetcar goes past the Linden Hills Depot, turns around at the old car barn 2 blocks south before returning. We suggest staying on for a full loop. From Linden Hills to Lake Calhoun it is about 7 minutes where you have a couple minute layover to hear about the history and ask questions. Returning to Linden Hills Depot from Lake Calhoun only takes about 7 minutes including turning around at the Car Barn. You can get on and pay for your ride at any of the 3 Depots and during normal business hours it passes each every 20 minutes.
Hours: Tuesdays Late-May through September 2-5pm; Saturdays May-September 1-4pm with 10am-4pm extended hours in Summer; Sundays Late-May through September 1-4pm. Website: Here.
3. Lake Harriet Bandshell (4135 W Lake Harriet Parkway):
About The Lake Harriet Bandshell: The 1st music Bandshell on Lake Harriet was built in 1888 by Thomas Lowry. Lowry became mega rich after working his way up in the Minneapolis Street Railway, quickly expanding Minneapolis’ street car lines, and merging it with the lines in St Paul. Lowry’s bandshell only lasted 3 years before burning down and was replaces by numerous other bandshells which also had ill fates before the current castle-like shell was built in 1985. Today the Bandshell serves as a community gathering point with over 100 free Summer Concerts and Outdoor Movies.
Free Concerts: Music and movies run Memorial Day-Labor Day Monday-Saturday 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm & 5:30p. Website: Here.
4. Wheel Fun Bike Rentals (4135 E Lake Harriet Pkwy):
About Wheel Fun Bike Rentals: The best way to take in the rest of the sights around the Lakes is by bike and a couple handy rental stands make it easy. The best things about renting from these stands aren’t just that they are the best deal, but they also come with a free bike chain for locking up when you check out the sights which not all rental places provide.
Lake Harriet Hours: Memorial Day-Labor Day Daily 9am-7:30pm; Labor Day-October Saturday & Sundays 11am-6pm. Lake Calhoun Hours: May Weekdays 3pm-8pm, Weekends 10am-8pm; Memorial Day-Labor Day Daily 9am-7pm; Labor Day-October 21st Saturday & Sundays 11am-5pm; September Weekdays 2-6pm. Alternative Rentals: If you show up outside of normal Wheel Fun hours the city has a number of Nice Ride rental racks. The racks have about a dozen bright green bikes each which cost $6 for 30 minutes, $16.50 for 2 hours, and $6 for each extra 30 minutes. They aren’t as good of a deal but are better than nothing. Website: Here.
5. Lake Harriet Mansions (4600 West-4800 East Lake Harriet Pkwy):
About Oktoberfest: As you ride around Lake Harriet it is clear that the area has attracted a lot of money by the numerous impressive Lake Harriet Mansions. Benjamin Walling House (4850 W Lake Harriet Pkwy), Frank Grove House (4885 W Lake Harriet Pkwy). As your ride around the lake, it is interesting to note how it got its name. The lake was named for Harriet Lovejoy, wife of Henry Leavenworth, who was the Colonel that founded Fort Snelling in 1819. We will cover the best addresses to make note of soon.
6. Mister Little Guy Elf Door (4820 West Lake Harriet Pkwy):
About The Mister Little Guy Elf Door: really cool elf door where children get their notes answered. Elf Door since 1994. This is a 6-inch tall door at the bottom of a tree at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. People of all ages leave around 1500 notes behind the door every year, and every single one of them is answered. Each reply ends with, “I believe in you.” No one has seen the elf, but he’s known as “Mr. Little Guy”.
7. Lake Harriet South Beach (4612 E Lake Harriet Pkwy):
About Lake Harriet South Beach: Great place to relax on the Southside of the lake and have a grill out.
8. Lyndale Rose Garden (4124 Roseway Road):
About The Lyndale Rose Garden: S12 minutes into your bike ride around the lake
The Lyndale Rose Garden is not only one of the biggest in the country but is also the 2nd oldest public rose garden in the United States (1907). This beautiful garden has 62 central beds which hold over 100 different kinds of roses for a grand total of over 3,000 rose plants. Make sure the enjoy the multi-tiered Heffelfinger Fountain in the middle of the Garden.
While the flowers are amazing we like the Peace Rock Garden across the road just as must as the Rose Garden. The Rock Garden has a series of trails that wind between peaceful sculptures and vast amounts of wildflowers. The prairie-like wildflowers come in huge bunches and tons of different colors making a short walk very calming.
Hours: Daily 7:30am-10pm. Best Time For Rose Garden Blooms: Mid-June and until early October; September is the peak. Best Time For Rock Garden Blooms: Mid-April through May.
9. Lakewood Cemetery (3600 Hennepin Avenue):
About Lakewood Cemetery: *A 7 minute ride will bring you to one of the most beautiful church interiors in the Twin Cities stop by the…
Among the famous people buried in the Lakewood Cemetery include John Pillsbury who started Pillsbury Company and was a Minnesota Governor, Hubert H Humphrey who was Vice President of the United States, Franklin Mars who created the Milky Way candy bar, and Dr Reuben Youndahl who grew Mt Olivet into the Largest Lutheran congregation in the country with over 10,000 members. Chapel Location: 3600 Hennepin Ave; Parking available. Riding down Dupont is only about a 1 mile ride from the Rose Garden and even though there isn’t a dedicated bike lane the car traffic is slow. If you need a dedicated bike lane follow the street car line to Lake Calhoun and cut over on 36th Street which takes 5 minutes longer.
General Cemetery Hours: Summer 8am-8pm, Late Fall-Spring 8am-5pm. Getting Inside the Chapel: You will need to stop by or call the Cemetery Office located at the North entrance and ask them if they are able to open the Chapel for you. Cemetery Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm, Saturday 8am-Noon.
10. Lakewood Cemetery Memorial Chapel (3600 Hennepin Avenue):
About Lakewood Cemetery Memorial Chapel: The Byzantine-inspired Memorial Chapel in Lakewood Cemetery is one of the best hidden gems in all of the Twin Cities. The architect Harry Jones modeled the Chapel after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul which really helped feel ancient even though it was built in 1910. The Chapel is absolutely stunning from the outside with its Old World exteriors and even overlooks a long reflecting pool. Maybe even more impressive than the outside is the details of the mosaics on the inside of the Chapel’s 65 foot tall dome. The mosaics were done by artist Charles Lamb who modeled the interior after St Marks Basilica in Venice Italy.
To us the interior feels far more like the historic Chora Church in Istanbul, but either way Lamb and his team and an amazing job. The Memorial Chapel is probably the best example of Byzantine architecture in the United States and feels like visiting Turkey or Greece. Our favorite thing inside the Chapel is maybe a little more secret involving its stained glass windows. The windows create a ring around the Chapel that actually forms a sundial which tells not only the time of day but also the season.
Chapel Location: 3600 Hennepin Ave; Parking available. Riding down Dupont is only about a 1 mile ride from the Rose Garden and even though there isn’t a dedicated bike lane the car traffic is slow. If you need a dedicated bike lane follow the street car line to Lake Calhoun and cut over on 36th Street which takes 5 minutes longer. General Cemetery Hours: Summer 8am-8pm, Late Fall-Spring 8am-5pm. Getting Inside the Chapel: You will need to stop by or call the Cemetery Office located at the North entrance and ask them if they are able to open the Chapel for you. Cemetery Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm, Saturday 8am-Noon. Website: Here.
11. Lake Calhoun Mansions (2400-3600 West Calhoun Pkwy):
About The Lake Calhoun Mansions: Unlike Lake Harriet, many of Calhoun’s large mansions have been replaced by apartment complexes over the years, but a few impressive ones still remain. We will be covering the best addresses to make note of shortly.
12. Lake Calhoun South Beach (3750 West Calhoun Pkwy):
About Lake Calhoun South Beach: The area around the South Beach at Lake Calhoun is always very lively with sun tanners, people grilling, playing frisbee, and taking advantage of the volleyball courts. Many of the iconic views of the lake with the Minneapolis skyline behind it (like the header on this page) are taken from Calhoun’s South Beach.
The lake was named for John Caldwell Calhoun, U.S. Senator, vice president of the United States, and Secretary of War under James Monroe. As Secretary of War, Calhoun ordered Colonel Leavenworth to establish a fort in the region, which became Fort Snelling in 1819.
13. Bakken Museum (3537 Zenith Avenue South):
About The Bakken Museum: Housed in the old West Winds Mansion, the Bakken is one of the Twin Cities most unique museums covering the history and nature of both electricity and magnetism. The West Minds Mansion was built in 1928 for the wealthy dry goods company owner William Goodfellow who built it to impress a girl he liked. 50 years later the stately Mansion was obtained by Earl Bakken who was famous for starting the medical device company Medtronic in 1949. Bakken was obsessed with electricity since reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein as a youth. This passion has shined through with his museum that highlights everything from how Magnetism effects the human body to exhibits of Electricity in the 1700s. Many of the exhibits are hands on and our favorite one is a display that seems almost right out of the laboratory of Doctor Frankenstein himself. A pleasant surprise as you check out the museum is the mansion itself which originally has been expanded over 25,000 square feet and still have most of its original carved woodwork.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, open until 8pm on Wednesdays, Closed Sunday & Mondays. Website: Here.
14. Calhoun North Beach (2710 W Lake Street):
About Calhoun North Beach: Lake Calhoun’s North Beach is probably the most popular beach in the Twin Cities. It doesn’t have the most finite sand in the World, but has really good for early and mid day sun plus it’s usually busy for people watching. Our favorite beach is about a 1 miles ride North on Cedar Lake called Hidden Beach which we will highlight toward the bottom of this page since it is a little out of the way.
14. Wheel Fun Boat Rentals & Dock (3000 East Calhoun Pkwy):
About Wheel Fun Boat Rentals & Dock: For only about $20 you can rent either a canoe, double paddle boat or stand up paddle board to cruise around the lake. We absolutely love taking a canoe out as once you get in the middle of the lake you can really take in the beauty of this urban gem with the Minneapolis skyline in the background. If you are really looking for a peaceful ride head North through the boat tunnel and take a spin around the islands of the Lake of the Isles. We like rowing around Lake of the Isles the best out of any of the Uptown lakes. Even if you don’t have time or the extra $20 to take a boat ride, still stroll out onto the boat docks near the neighboring Tin Fish Restaurant. The docks gives you a taste of what it is like out on the water and the Tin Fish’s patio is a great lakeside place to grab a drink or food.
Lake Calhoun Hours: May Weekdays 3pm-8pm, Weekends 10am-8pm; Memorial Day-Labor Day Daily 9am-7pm; Labor Day-October 21st Saturday & Sundays 11am-5pm; September Weekdays 2-6pm. Lake Harriet Hours: Memorial Day-Labor Day Daily 9am-7:30pm; Labor Day-October Saturday & Sundays 11am-6pm.
15. Lake of the Isles (2500 Lake of the Isles Pkwy East):
About The Lake of the Isles: Lake of the Isles
16. Uptown Restaurants & Bars (2900-1300 West Lake Street):
About The Uptown Restaurants & Bars: cap the day or night off by hitting up the numerous rooftop bar and restaurants in
Other Nearby Sights:
17. East Cedar Lake Hidden Beach (2000 South Upton Avenue):
About East Cedar Lake Hidden Beach: Hidden on the East side of Cedar Lake if maybe the best beach out of all of the Uptown lake beaches. Back in the 60s and 70s it was a nudist hotspot and attracted many extrinsic guests. Ever since the beach has been considered more of an alternative beach overlooked even by many locals, but it is great. The beach has a great mix of sun, trees, and even has its very own mud pit! While the mud pit isn’t a designated “swimming” area people sneak in all day long and it even has its own diving board.
Hours: 6am-10pm, lifeguards on duty in Summer. Parking: Street parking is available on South Uptown off West 21st street, get there early in Summer as it gets packed. Website: Here.
18. Loring Park Walking Tour:
19. Washburn-Fair Oaks Mansions:
20. Downtown Minneapolis Walking Tour:
21. Pavek Museum of Broadcasting (3517 Raleigh Avenue):
About The Pavek Museum of Broadcasting: This museum preserves and presents the history of electronic communication and provides a learning environment for those interested in the science of electromagnetism and sound.
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Cost: Adults $8; Students $6. Website: Here.