Flying over Minneapolis, it’s easy to see how the city earned its moniker: Of the 10,000 lakes scattered across the state, 22 dot the city. But, lately, it’s the green scene that’s making a splash. There’s a park within six blocks of every residence and 43 miles of bike paths (the city boasts the most bike commuters in the U.S.). Minneapolitans are also enjoying a cultural renaissance as eco-friendly is being writ large on restaurant menus, retail tags and public works. Flyover city? Hardly. See what else the Mini Apple has to offer. 


Birch Clothing at 50th and Penn offers chic pieces from the likes of Ecoganik and Loomstate. Linden Hills Natural Home has everything from luxe organic cotton sheets to Burt’s Bee’s baby clothes line. ReGifts, in the Standish neighborhood, sells purses made of license plates and other rad recycled wares. Even the (in)famous Mall of America employs seriously earth-friendly practices. The building relies solely on natural light plus the body heat from its 40 million annual shoppers for heating (!), and the park is kept pest-free by ladybugs instead of chemicals.

Getting around

A long-awaited light rail transit system debuted three years ago, and now runs from the airport to downtown; the line currently has 17 stops. City buses connect to LRT stations and are timed for efficient transfer. Visitors can hop on the city’s extensive bike path system by renting a bike from Calhoun Cycle for $15 a half day.


The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway is a 50-mile loop that includes lakes, waterfalls and riverfront; the parks department has mapped it out. Highlights include hiking trails along the Mississippi River and the landmark Stone Arch Bridge, a pedestrian and bike crossing with a view of St. Anthony Falls. On the architecture front, the stunning Cesar Pelli–designed Central Library has a green roof composed of prairie plants. At the Bell Museum, you can see a rainforest canopy from an aerial walkway.


Downtown, Brenda Langton’s eponymous Café Brenda has been a sustainable standby since 1986 with homey fare like fresh walleye and the vegetarian Brenda burger. Langton’s newer eatery, Spoonriver, is on the higher end in price and style, with creations like tomato-watermelon salad with vanilla vinaigrette. Uptown, the farmers’ market-inspired menu at Lucia’s Restaurant changes weekly. A few blocks away, Galactic Pizza serves “pizza with a conscience,” and the delivery guys and gals don superhero costumes and drive electric cars that look like space pods. The Birchwood Café in the Longfellow neighborhood is the organic answer to the greasy spoon, serving free-range eggs and fair-trade java from local distributor Peace Coffee. 

Health and beauty

The botanical-based Aveda empire was born in Minneapolis. Book an appointment at the flagship Aveda Institute to have a budding stylist give you a simple cut for just $14. Fusion Lifespa, a half-hour west of the city, is a chemical-free shop where you can get a pedicure with phthalate-free polish or a facial with pomegranate and cranberry.

A green future

With the Central Library as a model, the city is greening more rooftops: One at City Hall is underway, and there’s talk of greening the roof of the Target Center. And Gold Medal Park, a 7.5-acre site in the historic Mill District, was unveiled in May; its goal is to be the first LEED-certified Major League Baseball stadium.

Story by Megan Kaplan. This article originally appeared in Plenty in August 2007. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2007

Going Places: Minneapolis
Jump into the City of Lakes.