The Twin Cities are regularly rated among the most literary cities in the country
(check out Flavorwire‘s pairing of top cities and books set in them) and Minneapolis has been voted the best biking city in America for the last two years. So it makes sense to put the two together for a two-wheel tour of some of Minneapolis’ outstanding independent bookstores as well as its famous Chain of Lakes. FYI, for anyone not familiar with this area of Minneapolis, we’re talking flat, paved bikes-only paths, great for kids and anyone who may not be Tour-de-France-fit.
Start out in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, home of some of Minneapolis’ most fun bars and restaurants, as proven by the continual discussion of noise regulations for the area at city council meetings. It’s also the home of Magers and Quinn on Hennepin Avenue, the city’s largest independent bookseller which bills itself as “A bounty of the world’s best books assembled by biblioholic booksellers.” This is a place that will make even the most dedicated e-book reader stow the tech and stock up on print. It has that cozy independent bookstore feel and stacks you could wander for hours. They have everything, new, used (deals!), beautiful antique volumes and first editions…so bring your backpack. And, if they don’t have a book you’re looking for, they’ll track it down and order it for you. It’s also a good idea to get on their mailing list for author appearances and reading ideas.
If you haven’t come equipped, trot around the corner to Calhoun Bike Rentals on Lake Street and rent a bike for the rest of your journey. They also offer bike tours of some of the most interesting areas of Minneapolis.
The Tin Fish restaurant in the Lake Calhoun Boat Pavillion makes a great place to stoke up for lunch. Then start pedaling. The Chain of Lakes is part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Head south along the east side of Lake Calhoun and on down to Lake Harriet.
A short side trip from Lake Harriett is Wild Rumpus Books a fantastic children’s bookstore that features, in addition to books, live animals and a tiny front door for children to enter through.
Head back to Lake Harriet and north again to Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and on to Birchbark Books and Native Arts in the lovely, leafy Kenwood neighborhood. It’s one of my favorite bookstores (see my previous post) with a special emphasis on Native American literature. The staff and owner, novelist Louise Erdrich, carefully choose the books here and handwritten notes offer insight into books for browsers. Books aside, any store with a confessional and dogs on the premises is good for the soul. You’ll need a little nosh to sustain you as you retrace your path back to Uptown. Stop next door at the Kenwood Café.
Many bibliophiles make a point of hitting independent bookstores such as these whenever they travel. To that end, IndieBound has an Indie Store finder that helps readers find indie booksellers just about anywhere. For more on bookstore tourism, take a look at GalleyCat and Bookstore Tourism.