MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer, a time to pack up a meal and head outside for a picnic. There are a lot of options in Minnesota, whether it’s a park, at a lake or just in your own backyard. But we wanted to find the Best of Minnesota.
Your votes sent Natalie Nyhus to a location that draws two million visitors each year: Minnehaha Park.READ MORE: Aromatherapy Spray From India Blamed For Illness That Sickened Minnesotan
A park is the way people connect to nature and each other. Your pick for best of Minnesota offers 167 acres to do so. Minnehaha Park is in the middle of Minneapolis, but you’d hardly know it if not for the passing airplane.
You can get lost in the shade of a tower oak tree, or hypnotized by rushing water, meander on the miles of paths or stop for a beer after a bike ride. It’s a park rich with history, spanning over 100 years.
“We purchased this park in 1889 for the state of Minnesota. At the time, it was named Minnehaha State Park,” Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) Superintendent Jayne Miller said.
Just a few years later, the MPRB changed the park’s name to Minnehaha Park and put up its first building.
“In 1892 we built our first shelter and put electric lights in here,” Miller said. “Part of it was done because Minneapolis was hosting the Republican National Convention. It was the first national convention held in the west, and Minneapolis was really proud of that.”
And that’s not the only political event that’s happened here.
“In 2014 we hosted President Obama,” Miller said. “And almost 50 years to the date that Lyndon Johnson, when he was president, came to see the falls. There are Lyndon Johnson’s footprints over by the falls.”
There’s a wild side to the park, too. In the early 1900s, it was home to moose, elk, an alligator and even a bear.
“There used to be a zoo here. It was here for about 30 years,” Miller said.READ MORE: Ex-Teacher Gets 12 Years For Secretly Videotaping Undressed Students On Field Trips
From playgrounds to a pool, the falls to fried fish, there’s no shortage of reasons two million people visit the park every year.
“The park is large enough that you can be where there’s a lot of people here in this area — which is very crowded on evenings and weekends — or you can go to another part of the park and be the only person,” Miller said.
And of course, there’s the parks most obvious and notable attraction.
“People come to watch the falls here,” Miller said.
Minnehaha Falls a point of pride and a tourist stop, whether you’re a visitor or not.
“Families have been coming here for generations,” Miller said. “I talk to so many of my staff or friends. They say they come here as a kid, and I want to bring my kids and grandkids here.”
Minnehaha Park is one of the treasures of Minneapolis, and the state of Minnesota.
“On a larger scale, this park is symbolic of the parks in Minneapolis and how people treasure and value them,” Miller said. “Whether it’s going on a walk, or contemplating if you’re in a bad spot, going to a park and getting recharged emotionally, seeing your friends, having a great dinner. This is what makes Minneapolis so great.”
The Longfellow House, which is on site, opens this weekend with kids activities. Sea Salt Eatery, the restaurant on site is open and features bands on the weekends.MORE NEWS: Gov. Walz: State To Begin Administering Moderna, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Booster Shots
Your other favorite picnic spots are at Paul Miller Park in Perham and Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center in Hastings.