Best Urban Hike - 2012
Downtown St. Paul
An outdoor walk does not have to take place in a nature preserve to be considered a hike. And in fact, one of our two downtown areas contains a key feature in its terrain that is not often found in the Twin Cities, even in park areas: major hills. It's not hard to get in a real workout on these not-so-mean streets. Downtown St. Paul is of course filled with distractions, so plan ahead and incorporate some stops into the walk so you won't feel guilty. If you need to park a car, Lowertown is a great starting point for your hike. Go ahead and fortify yourself with a meal at one of the neighborhood's eating establishments, especially if you're planning to make a day of it. From there, it's all uphill until you loop back. You can hike up to Seventh Street and take that main drag for a while; take a detour to get an up-close view of one of St. Paul's great architectural landmarks, the Capitol building, which also offers some outdoor sculpture and statues for your viewing pleasure, to the northwest (uphill); or the Cathedral to the southwest (really uphill). If you make it all the way south of downtown, stop for a repast in the lovely and relaxing Irvine Park. From there you can walk Shepherd Road most of the way back to Lowertown, taking in views of the mighty Mississippi along your way and perhaps pausing to play a game of mini golf in the Science Museum's back yard. Upon your return to Lowertown, treat yourself to a drink; you've earned it. For the time being, you'll have to dodge some construction areas during parts of your hike, as work on the new light rail track is in full swing. But don't worry; that should only add to the urbanity of your experience.