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Minnehaha Falls: What to do at Minnehaha Regional Park

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What are the best activities to do while visiting Minnehaha Falls? If your next destination is in Minneapolis, here is a guide to the best fun things to do and places to visit in Minnehaha Regional Park.

Which fun activities can you do while in Minneapolis? What landscapes and sites is Minneapolis known for? Well, if you are visiting or planning to visit our great city, you can rest assured that fun is an integral part of Minneapolis. First, locals here are known to be quite welcoming to visitors, a trait that earns the city its “Minnesota Nice” name.

Also, being Minnesota’s largest and most populous city, Minneapolis will offer you more than you bargained for. Right from numerous museums, lively nightlife, beautiful parks, and rivers, you can never run short of things to do in Minneapolis.

One site that has gained immense popularity among people visiting the city is Minnehaha Falls. With over 850,000 visitors annually, these falls are a place you must visit while in the city.

Located in Minnehaha Regional Park, the falls are an incredible site, surrounded by various gardens, hiking and biking trails, historical landmarks, and a disc golf course.

What is Minnehaha Falls?

Aerial View of Minnehaha Falls
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

This is a magnificent 53-foot-long waterfall, river overlooks, and limestone cliffs in the Minnehaha Regional Park. The falls make this park one of the most visited sites in Minneapolis, with over 850,000 visitors each year. Minnehaha Falls is also one of the most photographed sites in the entire state of Minnesota.

If you are looking for places to visit when you come to Minneapolis, these falls are an incredible place to start with. The falls represent one of the best city waterfalls found in the US. This means you don’t need to go too far from the city to enjoy nature.

The park, rich with oak, silver maple, elm, hackberry, basswood, cotton trees, and other native trees, offers just the best setting for recreation activities.

But where is Minnehaha Falls located? How do you access the falls? The falls lie on Minnehaha Creek, where the creek converges with the Mississippi River, and near Fort Snelling.

And in terms of access, Minnehaha Falls is relatively easy to access. You can access the area from the Mall of America via light rail, Downtown Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Don’t let your visit to our great Minneapolis city end without a visit to these beautiful waterfalls.

Minnehaha Park History

Minnehaha Falls in Summer
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Minnehaha Falls is rich in history that goes way back to the early 1800s. These falls are part of the Minnehaha Park found in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Minnehaha Park, officially known as Minnehaha Regional Park, is home to the Minnehaha Creek and spreads from the Mississippi National River to the Recreation Area.

The park is also a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board system member. The Minneapolis Park Board bought Minnehaha Falls in 1889, making it the second state park in the US.

By then, only New York owned a state park in the country. By the following summer, after the purchase, the Park Board had already started to renovate the garden, furnishing it with lavatories, seats, and tables.

In addition to the pavilion, which was completed in 1893, the board approved the construction of two rustic bridges. One bridge was built below the falls, while the other was above them.

In 1905, a cafeteria was constructed in the park, meant to serve clean and wholesome refreshments to the falls’ visitors at a low cost.

More renovations were made after the park was chosen as the center for winter sports in 1926. A ski jump was one of these constructions, with the board also purchasing toboggans for rental.

Also, retaining walls, stairs, and bridges were added by the federal WPA (Works Progress Administration) staff between 1936 and 1942.

Minnehaha Falls, the focus feature of Minnehaha Park, was also one of the favorite subjects of pioneer photographers like Alexander Hesler.

Even Poets like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow played a significant role in spreading the waterfall’s fame, even without visiting it. This was through his famous poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.”

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Minneapolis?

Things to Do at Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis

Are you looking for activities? Here are our favorite things to see and do at (or near) Minnehaha Falls.

Minnehaha Falls Walking Tour

This free walking tour helps visitors enjoy and view the various features and activities within Minnehaha Park. The time will include visiting the iconic John Stevens House, the Minnehaha Garden, and the vast number of trails within Minnehaha Regional Park.

Take in the Breathtaking View of Minnehaha Falls

Wide Angle View of Minnehaha Falls
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

This is the first place to visit while in Minnehaha Regional Park. This 53-foot-high waterfall is among the best and most iconic waterfalls in the entire country.

And before you can decide to explore more areas in the park, this will be your first attraction. Minnehaha is a Dakota word meaning waterfall. The term originated from the Dakota tribe, who lived on the islands surrounding the falls.

Minnehaha Falls started its famous journey in 1853. This was after Henry Longfellow, the legendary New England poet, used the waterfalls setting in his Song of Hiawatha poem. During winter, these falls freeze to form a fantastic ice cave that reflects a beautiful spectrum of colors on the interior. You can’t miss this view.

Minnehaha Regional Park is open for visitors all year round. This means you can plan your outdoor activities here whenever you are in Minneapolis. If you are visiting the place during summer, you’ll also be able to enjoy the free Minnehaha Falls bandstand offered in the park.

See Related: Cascade River State Park

Get a Taste of Minneapolis History at John Stevens House

John Stevens House Scenery
wolterke / Adobe Stock

In the history of Minneapolis, John Stevens is seen as one of the city’s original settlers (non-native). Before he came to the Minnesota region in 1849, John Stevens was a soldier in the era of the Mexican War. He came to Minnesota as a historian and a farmer and built his home near the Mississippi River on its west side in 1850.

John’s house was the first authorized house to be built on the west side of Mississippi in the Minnesota territory. The house was initially built near the Hennepin Avenue Bridge on the Minneapolis Riverfront, although it has since been moved.

The most exciting thing about this house is that it became the birthplace of Minneapolis. This is because the decisions to establish Minneapolis and Hennepin County took place inside this house in 1857.

Who wouldn’t want to see the place where the establishment of this magnificent city of Minneapolis took place? If you love history, this place offers an unaltered sense of the city’s history.

The relocation of the house to its current location occurred in 1896, around four years before John’s death. After his death, the house stayed vacant up until the 1980s. Some of the things you’ll see here include:

  • The elementary school exams dating back to 1872
  • Various photos of prominent Native Americans and early pioneers
  • Steven’s bronze statue
  • The tables and stools where the city’s planning took place

Visits to the house are allowed between May and September, on Sundays or holidays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. There are also exclusive tours, which are possible at any time of the year, with a 2-week notice for reservation. Adults pay a $3 entrance fee, while kids pay $1.

See Related: Tettegouche State Park

Tour the Pergola Garden

Pergola Garden
Source: TripAdvisor

When you think you have it all and are moving away from John’s house, another great site draws your attention. The Pergola Garden! This is an incredible pergola, built-in 1995, and that is all covered with beautiful vines.

The fantastic scene of beautiful tunnels and rows of flowers beneath the structure is just the perfect place for photography. Also, due to the blooming flowers, this area is full of gorgeous butterflies between June and September.

While still here, you can see the statue of Gunnar Wennerberg, the famous Swedish poet. Also, although relatively snubbed, the Mask of Chief Little Crow, who served between 1810 and 1863, is visible.

He was a Dakota chief who saw the establishment of a peace treaty in 1851. When the US government broke the treaty, the director faced and fought the government.

The Dakota tribe regards this place as sacred to them. The visiting hours to the Minnehaha’s Pergola Gardens are flexible as you can visit any day from morning to evening.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Hastings, Minnesota

Visit the Old Minnehaha Depot

Old Minnehaha Depot
mnhs.org

The Old Minnehaha Depot is another landmark you can afford to miss during this tour. The depot was built in the 1870s to cater to the trains between Minneapolis and Mendota.

This station building was quite stunning, such that the employees used to call it “the princess.” Its gingerbread design is evocative of the Victorian era. The era represents a time when men in high collars and ladies in bustles largely plied through rail transport.

The popularity of the Minnehaha Falls enabled the construction of this station. By 1910, rail transport had expanded, with trains making three round trips from Minneapolis to Milwaukee.

The route’s traffic peaked during the First and Second World Wars. This was due to the high number of troops moving from Fort Snelling and back. In 1963, however, Milwaukee Road closed Minnehaha Depot’s doors. The building later became a property of the City Parks Department.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Mankato

Tour the Minnehaha Garden

River in Minnehaha Garden
studiodr / Adobe Stock

Although you can never have enough of the Minnehaha Falls, the site becomes even better from a different angle. Minnehaha Garden offers just the right point to enjoy the most refreshing scenes of these waterfalls.

The garden itself also offers a serene and peaceful place to relax. It includes a central pedestrian roundabout filled with charming flowers, providing the best feeling of nature. A Tuscan-style epergne water fountain was installed in 1994, adding to the whole garden’s beauty.

But that’s not all with the Minnehaha Garden. A plaque in the garden gives a complete overview of how Minnehaha Falls has evolved over the past 10,000 years.

You can also see Lower Glen (dry grassy valley) from the garden, the river’s original path before it changed course. The dry section where the former waterfall used to be is also visible.

And to crown it all, a stone ring inscribed with words from Henry Longfellow’s poem “The Song of Hiawatha” surrounds the whole garden.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Red Wing, Minnesota

Enjoy a Nice Meal or Beer at the Sea Salt Eatery

Sea Salt Eatery at Minnehaha Falls
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Sea Salt Eatery is a comfy beer garden right beside the Minnehaha Falls – if you want to refresh at the park, the eatery will be a great joint to do just that. And if you are a fan of seafood, the place is famous for its wide variety of the same and many other light foods.

The garden offers the best place in the park for kids to relax and have a cold beer or even ice cream. It is the closest thing to a European beer garden that Minneapolis can offer. So, if you are looking for the best Minnehaha Falls restaurant, Sea Salt Eatery is your spot.

If you have extra time, you can hire a bike from the “For Wheel Fun Bike Rental stand” just next to the eatery. Whenever I visit the Sea Salt Eatery, biking is always something I do next. They even have cart bikes, covered with a canopy, for hiking with kids.

For hiking enthusiasts like me, the over 12 miles of biking trails offer more than enough area to explore. This is ideal for those who want to explore more than what the walking tour can offer. Visiting hours are from:

  • April-Memorial Day, 11 am to 8 pm.
  • Memorial Day-Labor Day, 11 am to 9 pm
  • Labor Day-October, 11 am to 8 pm

The eatery is closed during the winter.

See Related: Best Takeout Restaurants in Minneapolis

See the Famous Longfellow House

Longfellow House Minnehaha
flickr.com

This is another incredible place to visit during the walk. Robert Fremont built the house in the early 20th century. He named it Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of his most adored American authors.

Robert, on the other hand, came to Minneapolis in 1876, where he set up a large fish market along Hennepin Avenue. The place is currently in the center of Minneapolis.

Robert became incredibly wealthy from his fish importation business, as he imported oysters to Minnesota. He was typically known as the “Oyster King of Minneapolis.”

His love for the author of The Song of Hiawatha’s poem drove him to build a replica of the author’s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The house remains to be a key attraction for people visiting Minnehaha Park.

See Related: Best Restaurants on Lake Street Minneapolis

Hiawatha 18-Hole Golf Course

Hiawatha 18-Hole Golf Course

Besides viewing the site and enjoying the rich history of Minneapolis, Minnehaha Parks offers even better stuff. Hiawatha Golf Course provides an ideal spot for golf lovers. Located near Lake Hiawatha, south Minneapolis, this 18-hole course is a place you should visit. The course consists of the following:

  • Two fairways
  • Four tees
  • 12 ponds
  • 30 sand traps

So, this is a perfect place to have fun, even if you are not a golf enthusiast.

See Related: Day Trips from Minneapolis

Minnehaha Park Map

Let’s look at a map of the Minnehaha Regional Park and Falls.

Minnehaha Regional Park Map

Don’t fail to visit some of these beautiful sites when you land in Minneapolis. You will indeed carry back home some of the most incredible memories.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where is Minnehaha Falls located?

Minnehaha Falls is located at Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The park is located off Highway 55 or Hiawatha Avenue on Minnehaha Drive.

How to Get to Minnehaha Falls?

Accessing Minnehaha Falls is relatively easy. You must access Minnehaha Park by car or biking off Highway 55 or Hiawatha Avenue.

Where to park at Minnehaha Falls?

A parking lot is located at the cross-section of Godfrey Parkway and Minnehaha Drive. In addition, street parking is available along both streets surrounding the park.

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