In honor of the Southwest Journal’s 25th anniversary, community organizers and entrepreneur Matt Perry compiled a list of 25 things that make Southwest special.
1. Our lakes and Minnehaha Creek
They define Southwest Minneapolis in so many ways. Having water-based activities in our backyard makes each season a treasure, from the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival in the winter to sailing, swimming, wind surfing, paddle boarding, fishing and kayaking in the summer. A special nod to Grass Lake in the fall. On my bucket list is a kayak ride the length of Minnehaha Creek.
2. Off-street trails
Easy access to plentiful biking, walking and running trails keeps us fit and connected with friends and fauna. Biking on our off street trails is my number one cure for whatever ails me. I don’t think I’m alone! My two favorite routes are around the lakes (summer) and the Kenilworth Trail (fall).
3. Food! Food! And more food!
When I first moved here, the go-to restaurants were Lufranos, Curran’s and Rainbow Chinese Restaurant. Today, the variety and quality of options means you can eat out every night without ever leaving Southwest. Saying which is best would be like picking a favorite child.
4. Local businesses
Southwest Minneapolis is the home to hundreds of businesses offering every thing you need from before you are born to the end of life. Not only that, but most of what you need is within walking or biking distance.
5. The Bakken Museum
We’re home to a museum of electricity and magnetism. Very cool.
There are easily more than a couple of thousand storefronts in Southwest Minneapolis. Research shows there are as many if not more home-based businesses. Our entrepreneurs bring their creativity and passion to work every day, even when that workplace is their home.
7. Neighborhood parks
Our neighborhood parks and recreation centers are a huge part of what binds us together as a community. They are the brick and mortar of National Night Out but every day and for all ages and walks of life. The Lyndale Farmstead Park is what got me connected to my neighborhood organization and community organizing.
8. Neighborhood groups
Our neighborhood groups not only provide the bedrock of traditions through things like summer festivals, but they are also the incubators for citywide initiatives. Think organics recycling!
Southwest residents are committed to giving back through volunteering for activities and causes. Walking school buses, history study groups, environmental stewardship and crime prevention are a small sample of the hundreds of ways our residents give of themselves.
Southwest is a hotbed of activism. What I love about our brand of activism is it passionate but pragmatic — things get done. The Minneapolis Fair Skies Coalition is the only group in the nation to stop the FAA from implementing changes that would have increased departure plane noise in our neighborhoods.
11. Gorgeous homes
Like so many other things in Southwest Minneapolis, architectural variety is the norm. From Arts & Crafts style to Tudor Revivals to Cape Cods (to name just a few), we cover the spectrum. Each home is unique, and it is very clear from how the homes present themselves we have a “pride of place.”
12. Our boulevards and yards
Speaking of “pride of place,” each year people try to outdo themselves in making their front yards and boulevards more than just a summer grass cutting chore. There is so much energy and creativity put into making evening walks of others more pleasurable. Water gardens, blooming boulevards and front yard water features inspire on every block!
13. The Power of Near
Unique to Southwest Minneapolis is the ability to walk or bike to commercial destinations. Our neighborhood business nodes are nestled in among the residential homes in such a natural way that they make our businesses just like another good neighbor.
14. Winter Kite Festival
As a transplant that after 25 years still cringes at the thought of winter, it might come as a surprise this is my favorite festival. When else can you see thousands of people flying kites amongst those half the size of a house on a lake!
15. This view
Every time I ride the Cedar Lake Trail past the north end of Cedar Lake, I feel like I have been transported Up North. This view never fails to bring a sense of serenity. The sunrise view that Thom the Elf has on the south side of Lake Harriet is pretty awesome too!
16. Lakewood Cemetery
The home of the final resting place of many of the individuals who influenced the course of our area history. And they have hands down the most moving Memorial Day event.
17. National Night Out Block Parties
This is our hyper local version of the Great Summer Get Together and we do it up right. Visiting different NNO events as I do each year always leads me to be welcomed by big smiles and plates of food. We do so love our neighbors.
Southwest Minneapolis is home to some of the best schools in the city and even the state. From our community schools, to magnet schools, preschools and others, volunteerism from committed and engaged parents plays a big part.
19. Community education programs
Southwest Community Education covers it all. It was my first connection with the community. Tom Neiman continues to be the maestro who makes it all work along with hundreds of community members who happily share their knowledge with others. My latest class was Ballroom Dance!
20. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The home to some of our most iconic artwork is remaking itself to make the art and the space it creates even more accessible and connected to people and its surroundings. I can’t wait for the reopening in 2017.
21. Open Streets
Southwest now has more than one Open Streets but we were the home to the first on Lyndale Avenue that paved the way for the others. A big thanks to Southwest resident, Colin Harris, who led the effort to make the first Lyndale Avenue Open Streets reality.
22. Lake Harriet Bandshell concerts
San Diego might have their year round outdoor piano but we have our almost nightly concerts at the bandshell from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And they are free!
23. Farmers Markets
Sure, the downtown Minneapolis Farmers Market is bigger, but I love our neighborhood farmers markets. They are people-scaled, I can bike to them, they offer a closer connection with what is in season locally and are a great way to catch up with neighbors while listening to some old time-y acoustical music.
24. Peace Bridge
Located in the Lyndale Peace Garden, it is calming place of reflection built partly out of granite peace stones from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan found near Ground Zero in the rubble of the 1945 atomic bomb blast. Out of horrific tragedy, good things can come.
25. Minneapolis Institute of Arts
As they say “from a mummy to Monet.” While art is for all seasons, this is one of my places I reenergize during our light-deprived winters. Happy 100th birthday Mia!
Matt is a community organizer and entrepreneur who has lived in Southwest Minneapolis for 23 years. He has his own computer consulting business and serves as a volunteer on City of Minneapolis boards and commissions. Matt is also the founder and president of the Southwest Business Association.