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BEST VIEW Minneapolis 2004 - downtown skyline from St. Anthony Parkway in northeast Minneapolis

Some of the most impressive views of the downtown skyline are marred by the presence of interstates 94, 35W, and 394. With their elevated exit and entrance ramps, smog, and constant traffic snarls, these highways are not merely obtrusive, they are a dreary reminder of how car culture has diminished the aesthetic qualities of the Mill City. Yes, there are a few unblemished vistas. The nighttime skyline is spellbinding when viewed from a boat on the Mississippi River, especially when the water is glassy and full of reflections. But for you landlubbers out there (which is to say, most people), for whom the river is not always an option, there is the view of the downtown skyline from St. Anthony Parkway in northeast Minneapolis. The best spot is atop the bridge at California Street, where the parkway crosses over a mammoth switching yard. As your eyes trace the multitude of parallel tracks receding into a pinpoint, it's hard not to indulge in a little chuck-it-all fantasy. Railroads may be dirty and noisy, but they are damn romantic. As long as there is the railroad, a penniless getaway always feels like a real option. If the rails don't provide enough eye candy for your liking, shift your gaze a few degrees to the west. You can see the downtown skyline in the distance. Rising from the flat prairie, it looks like Oz, except the field of poppies is a field of trains.

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