Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Minnehaha Park

  Way back in July my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting my dear blogging friend Karen and her  husband from "She Thought She Could So She Did" in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I did a blog post about that wonderful visit HERE, but I always meant to do a travel post about the park once I finished all my full vacation posts...and the day has finally arrived!

We decided to meet in Minnehaha park because we wanted a place where we could have some lunch and walk around and talk.  I had read about this park from another blog and thought it was exactly what we were looking for because it had a restaurant in the park.  Even though I've lived only two hours away from Minneapolis for the past twenty years, I have never heard of this park before.  You can only imagine my surprise in finding out that there is a park in city limits with a gorgeous waterfall!

I wish I had done my research and learned more about this park before suggesting it to Karen, because we ended up having two major challenges:   parking and lack of directions.

I don't know if this park is always this crowded, but we went on a Saturday on a beautiful summer day,  and it was so crowded we couldn't find a parking space.  And worse yet, you had to pay to park your car inside this park.  I have never in my life been to a public park where you had to pay to park your car.  We were totally surprised and unprepared for this.  When we finally found an empty spot, we made the mistake of paying for a full day ($12.00, I think)  because we weren't sure how long we would be there.  I think we ultimately ended up only spending three or four hours there because we got so frustrated with not being able to find the gardens.  More on that later.


Our second frustration was lack of directions.  When we first drove into the park, we had no idea where to go.  There weren't any signs pointing in directions of key park features, so we just drove around hoping to spot a Visitor's Center or the restaurant where we were to meet Karen and her hubby. We couldn't find the Visitor's Center, but we did see the restaurant.  Once we spotted the restaurant we decided to hunt for a empty parking space nearest the restaurant.  When we got out of our car and started walking towards the restaurant we saw a map of the park near a play area but we really wish there was a map we could carry.  I would have loved to have gone to the Visitor Center to get more information but we couldn't find it.  There was one sign, but the way it was placed was so odd, that we never found the Visitor Center until we were leaving the park.  There was also an app you could download, but my phone battery was so low I couldn't use it.  So, getting around the large park was very frustrating.  You can't just drive, because it's so busy and parking is so limited.  You have to grab a parking spot the second you see one or you may not get another chance.  From there, you have to walk.  But the park is huge,  if your not sure where you are going, you could walk miles in the wrong direction.

 I had read that the park had three gardens:  Longfellow Gardens, Minnehaha Falls Pergola Gardens, and Song of Hiawatha Gardens.  We walked forever searching for these gardens, and I'm not sure I found them. I KNOW I never found Longfellow Gardens based on the pictures on this website HERE.   I saw Pergolas, and a few rows of flowers here and there, but I didn't find anything I would describe as a garden. I'm thinking those were the other two gardens.   I really wish I had a map.  Those Longfellow Gardens look so pretty on the web page;  I would have loved to have seen them.

 But, we did find the feature this park is known for:  Minnehaha Falls.  It was kind of hard to miss as it was right next to the restaurant.

This waterfall is really amazing, especially when you consider your in the middle of a large metropolitan city.  The falls are 53 feet tall;   just look at the size of the people standing next to the falls in the picture above.  There are beautiful views and scenic lookouts surrounding the falls from all four sides, above and below the waterfall.

There are also gorgeous gravel path trails that lead you along pretty streams.  I could not believe I could take a scenic woodland walk in the middle of a city;   it was unbelievable!

This is the view from standing above the waterfall looking down at the river below and the scenic bridge.

 After we scoped out the waterfall for a bit Karen texted that they arrived at the park and were at the restaurant, so we walked over there to meet them.

The restaurant, Sea Salt Eatery, served seafood, which all four of us found extremely odd since we were in the northern part of the Midwest.  We also found it strange that they didn't offer french fries even though almost all their dishes were fried.  Whoever heard of fish without the chips?

But other than only serving one type of food and no fries, the food was pretty good.  It has indoor and outdoor seating, but the indoor seating is not a nice restaurant seating, but is very rustic...basically just a pavilion to protect you from the elements if needed.  Most people chose to eat outside.

The restaurant doesn't take reservations, there are no waiters, hostesses or anything like it.  You just stand in a very long line (the line that day wrapped around the end of the building) and place and pay for your order when you get to the register.  Then you find an empty table and wait till they bring your food out to you.  We had to wait quite a bit the day we were there;  it's a good thing we had so much to talk about!

This is the long line of people waiting to order outside the restaurant.

The long line did move very quickly and we did not have any difficulty in finding a table outdoors;  except for the fact that we couldn't get the umbrella up because the pin was missing.  Apparently people steal the pins, according to an employee.  I don't know why anyone would do that, but we had to endure the sun a bit because of it.

The food really was very good and we all really felt we got our money's worth.  Karen got this yummy shrimp plate (I wish I would have ordered this, I love shrimp).

I got fish tacos.  I liked them, but they weren't the best fish tacos I've had.  The problem with fish tacos is that everyone makes them differently.  You never know what your going to get when you order them.  The best fish tacos I ever had were at a little shack of a restaurant in Pensacola Beach, Florida!  Yummy, those were good!  We're hoping to get back to Pensacola this spring, and I am going straight back to that restaurant for more fish tacos!

The boys both ordered fish sandwiches...I think they got the best meal of all.  The fish was so big and flaky and the portions were huge!  If only they would have come with french fries!

My husband found this tiny little fried octopus inside his sandwich.  He wouldn't eat it.  I wanted to try it, but I didn't have the heart.  He's so cute!  I felt so sorry for him!

After lunch we were all ready to walk so we headed back toward the waterfall.  After taking a few pictures, we headed down the staircase to the walking path.

Isn't this stone staircase just beautiful?  Karen and her hubby are in the background.  Karen is wearing an orange dress and her husband is on the right.  I have no idea who that strange woman in green is or why she is staring at me. :)

 After walking a bit, Karen's husband wanted to rest on a bench in the shade.  I decided it was the perfect time to see how warm the water is so Karen and I took off our sandals and enjoyed dipping our feet in this little swimming hole.  How fun that these city kids can enjoy swimming in a real river in the middle of the city.  My kids were fortunate enough to grow up  with a waterhole in their backyard, so they know what it is like to enjoy natural waters.  But city kids usually only get to enjoy public swimming pools, so it's nice that this swimming alternative is available to them.

Karen and her husband had to leave after a few hours to get to their next destination.  My husband and I decided to stay a bit longer to explore the park.  We tried to find the Visitor's Center again, but no such luck.  But we did find this building.  This is the John H. Stevens House.  We didn't go inside because it costs $3.00 to tour.  They charge you for everything in this park.  Another thing I didn't like about it.  I don't like to be nickled and dimed to death when I attend an attraction.  I know $3.00 doesn't seem like much, but when you times it by two or four or five depending on the size of your family and then add the cost of parking, food, and other attraction fees you can easily spend hundreds of dollars before you know it.

This home was the first wood framed house built by the early settler in 1849.  It was relocated to Minnehaha Park in 1896.  The house was moved by an estimated 10,000 children pulling on ropes in relay fashion.  Isn't that fascinating.  Too bad they didn't have YouTube back then...what a great video that would have made!

Well, because we didn't have a map we couldn't find Longfellow Gardens, so I suggested we just go back down the path we previously walked with Karen and her husband and explore a little further past the wading area.  It really was quite pretty with gorgeous, serene river bank views.

My husband loved all the large tree limbs and rock formations.

By now, we were just frustrated.  It was hot and because I was trying to be fashionable, I had the wrong footwear on for exploring.  I wish I had the foresight to bring along a pair of hiking shoes.  Because my feet hurt and I was hot and sweaty we decided to just leave.  I was very disappointed we never found the gardens and I was so frustrated with everything about this park at this point.  It seemed to have a lot to offer, but I couldn't find anything!  We even asked a lot of people walking into the park for directions, and even they didn't seem to know.

So we got back in our car and started to head out, and guess what we found....the Visitor's Center!  The sign was placed in such an odd position that it made it look like the Visitor's Center should have been down the sidewalk when it was actually down a road.  Well, too late now.  We just gave up our $12 parking lot and we were not going to pay again.  Maybe another time.

I feel this was a very negative review of this park;  I don't mean to discourage anyone from going there.   It really is quite a lovely park;  it has amazing playgrounds, hiking trails, gardens, and a children's wading pool.  They just need more signs when you first enter the park and more readable "You are Here" signs throughout the park.  The few we saw were very worn, faded, unreadable, and difficult to understand.  They also need more parking spaces! The Visitor's Center especially should have free thirty minute parking so you can stop and get your bearings and figure out the best place to park your car for what you want to see.

Maybe, hopefully, someday we will go back.  I mean, it's only two hours away.  But I'll tell you this much:  I won't go on a Saturday and I will be sure to download and print my own park map if I can find one! LOL!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE and Travel Tuesday!


  1. The waterfall in this park look amazing, and those fish tacos look so fresh and delicious! It's good to know that being prepared is a must for this park before going.
    xo, Whitney and Blaire
    Peaches In A Pod

    1. Thanks Blaire, yes, definitely be more prepared than we were if your visiting this park for the first time.

  2. Amy, looks like a magnificent place to visit and it's so close to you! We often take day trips to the mountains (Great Smoky Mountains or Blue Ridge Parkway) and when we can we do it on a week day. The weekends can be crazy! I hope you get to make a return visit. This time with good footwear and properly prepared to explore the area extensively. You're invited to come over to my place to linkup! Have a good week. ;)

    1. Thanks Cathy! I love the Blue Ridge Parkway, your so fortunate to live close enough to it to do day trips!

  3. It's a shame it was s o frustrating to explore the way you had planned. Sounds like the best part of the day was when we all were together! It was great time :)

    1. Meeting you and your husband was the best part of our day. We should have just been more prepared to enjoy the park for the rest of the day, but I didn't think I had to research that much for a city's not like visiting a National Park! Although, by comparison, those visits were a breeze compared to this one! LOL!

  4. Looks like a fun park to visit, sorry you ran into some issues. The food looks delicious, especially those grilled shrimp, but I feel bad for the little octopus. I wouldn't have been able to eat him either.

    1. It was a fun park. We'll just have to go back another time and try again!

  5. How lovely! Definitely a place I'd love to visit, Amy...
    Thanks for linking up with the Travel Tuesday meme, hope to see you join me there again this week.


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