First-time visitors to downtown Minneapolis are often perplexed as to why the sidewalks often seem so empty. There is always lots of car and bike traffic on the streets, yet the sidewalks are comparatively bare of humans. Where did all the missing people go?
Look upwards, and you’ll find your answer: They’re in the skyways.
The Minneapolis Skyway System, like its twin in Saint Paul, was created starting in 1962 because, to paraphrase Garrison Keillor, from December through February Mother Nature tries to kill us. It provides a quick, climate-controlled, stoplight-free way, summer or winter, to walk from Point A to Point B downtown. As this handy PDF map shows, almost any building you can name in the central core of Minneapolis is either connected to a skyway or within a block of one. Yes, that includes the Convention Center where the Netrootsers will be convocating, and it may even hook up to your hotel, depending on where you’re staying.
The skyways are rather like paved footpaths that burrow into the hearts of buildings, opening them up to the public gaze — and for public commerce, filling them with all manner of places for the busy downtown worker to have a quick cheap bite for lunch or to get a new pair of glasses or whatever. All of the various skyway shops, cafés and other establishments have nominal ground-level street addresses, but these are typically ignored in everyday usage. If one wants to get to, say, the wonderful and tiny Zen Box Japanese takeout place in the skyway system, one doesn’t think of it at its official address, which is 601 Marquette Avenue # 204; one instead thinks of it as “the really cool tiny Japanese place near MyBurger in the Quebec Six building across from Wells Fargo”.
Want to get around downtown the way the locals do? Go up, my friends, go up.