Hot intersections — Ford Parkway & Cleveland Avenue, St. Paul

This bustling intersection is always filled with pedestrians, bikers, buses, and cars. Credit: Photo by Linda Koutsky

The Percolator and I usually like to bike with a destination in mind, some pleasant spot to hang out at a sidewalk cafe or a store we don’t get to on our regular routines. Highland Park is one of our favorite places because the quaint commercial district is hopping with adventure. Simply take Minnehaha Parkway or River Road to Minnehaha Falls, cross the Mississippi at Ford Bridge, head up Ford Parkway and you’re there.

From downtown Minneapolis it’s about a 9-mile, one-way trip. It’s a leisurely ride there, then a nice ride home. Or if you’re feeling lazy you can always take light rail back downtown. Make a day of it and I’m sure you’ll have a good time.

Because of its concentrated commercial district, Highland Park is like a city within a city. Other than our two Downtowns, it’s the largest concentrated commercial district in the Twin Cities. Uptown is sprawling and geographically larger, but Highland Park centers around an intersection and is planned more like a small town than a big city business district. Within a few blocks are just about everything you need: a grocery story, coffee shops, bakeries, car wash, clothing boutiques, gift stores, a pharmacy, book store, frame shop, jewelers, meat market, bars and restaurants, shoe store, bike shop, Dairy Queen, and a 1939 movie theater. There’s even a cute dry cleaners with a retro sign!

Highland Park grew as a residential neighborhood in the 1920s when streetcar lines made the area more accessible. Several houses and buildings date from that period. Ford Motor Company built its assembly plant along the river in 1926 then the Ford Bridge was constructed a year later. (If you haven’t wandered into Lock and Dam No. 1 on the Minneapolis side of the river yet, it’s worth the trip. This lock will remain open after the one at St. Anthony Falls closes.)

The recently renovated and expanded Highland Park Community Center anchors the east end of the commercial district. Inside is a St. Paul branch library; fitness center; auditorium; and many activities for adults, teens, and tots. A fun event coming up is their third annual Maker Showcase on Saturday, June 20, from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Meet local makers and talk with artists, crafters, technologists, and tinkerers about their creations and creativity. You might learn a new hobby or find out you have a talent you didn’t know about!

After an afternoon of window shopping and real shopping, Perc and I decided to take our purchases to the popular frozen yogurt shop and figure out how to get them home.

SWEET BREAK: Try a totally different frozen yogurt experience at Menchie’s (750 Cleveland Avenue)