Do you ever get tired of taking out-of-state visitors to “The Mall”?

Truthfully, I’m fully in favor of any building holding both the United States’ Strategic Lego Reserve, as well as a flume ride that prompts a lifetime of demonic Paul Bunyan nightmares.

But for once, instead of spending an afternoon at the Mall of America in Bloomington with house guests, why not try something new. Take them to the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

“WHAT!” you say. “There’s no Wahlberger’s at the Stone Arch Bridge!”

Let me make my five-point argument:

1. MYSTERIOUS RUINS

The word “history” might prompt yawns. But how about “ruins”?

The shoreline along the Stone Arch Bridge is packed with ruins. Ponder all the ruins and gated tunnels that dot the landscape. What are they? Well, they were once structures integral to the mill district and the creation of flour. (But just tell your nephews and nieces, “That’s where trolls live.”)

2. EXPLOSIONS FOR KIDS

Speaking of ruins, the Mill City Museum is actually nestled in the remains of the Washburn “A” Mill. Inside the Minnesota Historical Society site, kids will find all sorts of fun stuff to do – sample food at the test kitchen, take the Flour Tower ride (which includes a simulated explosion), and the “Water Lab,” where kids learn how water power works by getting their hands wet. They’ll also learn some history along the way.

3. INSTAGRAMABLE

There are some beautiful vistas in the area. It’s not a coincidence that on any nice weekend, you’ll spot a handful of professional photographers taking portraits of wedding parties on the bridge or among the ruins. (I spotted five once during a short walk.) The 1883 bridge itself is gorgeous. And the views of a roaring St. Anthony Falls are breathtaking — especially from Water Power Park on the north side of the river. And, if you’re from Chaska, you can annoy everyone by constantly pointing to all the historic buildings made with cream-colored brick and telling your guests that it came from the Chaska brickyards.

4. PEOPLE WATCHING

The area is a great place to absorb the city of Minneapolis, with artists and musicians touting their trades along the bridge. Support one of the hard-working buskers with a few bucks. You can watch (or participate in) a Segway tour that frequently works its way through the area. And take a minute to congratulate one of the brides or grooms having their photos taken.

5. FOOD AND DRINK

Reward your walk across the bridge with a stop at one of the bars or restaurants off of Main Street. The patios overlook a tree-lined cobblestone street. It’s a relaxing atmosphere on a warm summer day. There’s also a cafe in the Mill City Museum (or dozens of places to eat along the nearby Washington Avenue).

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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