Prospect Park Water Tower's observation deck

The problem with most urban picnics is effort—or more precisely, the lack thereof. Here's the usual routine: Get out of car, walk to table, unpack, eat, return to car, go home. Maybe you grill. Big deal. No work, no glory, no sense of accomplishment—just another succession of mundane details, totally lacking in any sense of the epic. That's where the Prospect Park Water Tower's observation deck is different. Sure, you can join the other lazyboneses at the bottom of the hill and enjoy a perfectly adequate outdoor dining experience. But the real fun lies at the base of this tower popularly known as the "Witch's Hat." By the time you've ascended the steep green hill that leads to one of Minneapolis's highest natural points, you'll have earned your appetite to the extent that whatever victuals you've lugged along will go down like a repast fit for Olympians. Best to keep it simple, as tables are nonexistent and seating is limited to a few benches. What does it matter? The panoramic view of downtown Minneapolis is worth countless inconveniences. Legend has it that Bob Dylan wrote "All Along the Watchtower" here, and it's not impossible to believe. Such lofty environs lend themselves to contemplation, especially given the dearth of human traffic. Unless you're at the Witch's Hat on the one day each year when the historic landmark is open to the public, you stand a decent chance of not having to share the deck with anyone beyond the few hardy kids who value it as a weed-smoking getaway. If they offer you some, accept: The buzz will make your downhill climb all the more enjoyable—and certainly enhance the challenge of figuring out where you parked.


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