How I spent my summer vacation

The magic of the Magic Kingdom (aka Disney World) can be attributed in large part to the way you get there.
After you park your car, they make you get on a riverboat to travel across a lake to the entrance, or if you’re of a more futuristic bent, you can take a monorail. The magic results because you’re taken out of your normal routine of driving to the parking lot and walking through the gate.

No, I didn’t spend my four days off last week at Disney World. In an attempt to save some money, we spent our summer vacation in the Magic Kingdom of Minneapolis.
What lent some magic to our trip were the modes of transportation we chose. After leaving our car in Elk River, we took the train to Target Field and spent the next four days biking, walking and bussing our way around the City of Lakes.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Minneapolis over the years, starting as a boy of 13, when I would take the bus from Maplewood Mall to downtown St. Paul, then transfer to the 16, which took me down University to Hennepin Avenue.
Once I got my license, most of my Minneapolis experiences came via car — driving to old movies at the Uptown and Varsity, or games at the Dome or Target Center, or concerts at the Coffeehouse Extempore, the State, the 400 and First Avenue.
This time we saw the city in a whole new way — riding the smooth and speedy North Star through the city’s backyard, jogging over the Washington Avenue Bridge, and biking down Nicollet Mall on Thursday morning, with the sidewalks lined with farmers market vendors.
We also rode the old number 16 to the Orpheum for “Wicked” and the free bus down Nicollet to the Guthrie for “Streetcar Named Desire.”
We saw a movie at Block E (a spruced up version of the old Skyway Theaters) and ate at the Hard Rock (the kids’ choice), Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown, Joe’s Garage and Annie’s Parlor.
We biked to the Walker and the Weisman and the Swedish Institute, an amazing early-20th-century mansion, then took the Midtown Greenway back to our hotel.
We brought two bikes with us on the train, and for the other two, we rented from the new “Nice Ride” kiosks set up all around the city.
“Nice Ride” is a non-profit started by Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation.
At 60 kiosks around the city, you can check out a bike and pedal around for a half hour. It costs $5 for 24 hours of unlimited half-hour rides. If you keep a bike for more than a half hour, you get charged extra — which prevents people from locking up a bike outside their workplace, home or hotel room for most of the day.
If you ever want to take the North Star to the Cities, you can grab a Nice Ride bike near the station and pedal down to the lakes or the Sculpture Garden or over to the paved trails along the river.
The kiosks are strategically placed to get you close to most of the museums, theaters and other attractions, but it’s a good idea to check the map before you leave so you know exactly where to bring the bike. We got lost a couple times and ended up spending more than we’d planned.
But that’s to be expected at the Magic Kingdom.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

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