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Just Back: Summer Action in Minneapolis

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Am I really the last person to "discover" Minneapolis? Until recently, I probably knew more about the religious capital of Kandy, in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, than I knew about Minneapolis. Turns out that this bike-friendly metropolis has a lot to offer visitors beyond Grain Belt Beer, long winters, and Mary Tyler Moore reruns. Here are just a few of the activities I tried during my recent visit.

Fun on Two Wheels In May the League of American Bicyclists gave Minneapolis one of its highest rankings for being a bike-friendly city. And no wonder. With 84 miles of off-street bike trails and 46 miles of dedicated bike lanes on city streets, Minneapolis makes it easy to venture out on a velocipede. If you're just visiting, you can join the locals on two-wheels by renting one of 700 bikes at any of Nice Ride Minnesota's 95 locations.

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Kayaking Above the Falls The prospect of being sucked over St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River and getting trapped in the boiling foam at its base is bound to cross your mind as you step gingerly into your kayak less than a half-mile upstream of the churning cataract. But the current is so mild that you'll always be in control. Paddling downstream, you enter a lock that drops you 50 feet to the lower side of the falls. You may spy fox, beaver, or a great blue heron on this paddle trip, all the while within sight of the city's dramatic skyline. Above the Falls Sports has a range of tours for all abilities in kayaks, canoes, and rowing shells.

Coolest Neighborhood If you like your neighborhoods young, hip, and full of shops and restaurants, you could hardly choose better than Northeast Minneapolis. Affectionately called "Nordeast," the area boasts million-dollar condos in 19th-century stone buildings, a brick-lined Main Street, outdoor cafes, and Nye's Polonaise, the city's most beloved dive, with a piano bar and 1950s-style Naugahyde booths on the "new" side and a nonstop, hard-drinking polka party on the "old" side, where hipsters hang out with elderly accordionists into the wee hours. Also be sure to stop by Kramarczuk's, an Eastern European butcher/bakery/restaurant since 1954 whose brats, vatrushka, and sour headcheese will leave you longing for the old country.

Waterfront by Segway Take a Magical History Tour of Minneapolis by Segway with owner Bill Neuenschwander and company over the 1883 Stone Arch Bridge, to the Mill City Museum, past the state-of-the-art Guthrie Theater, and around the leafy lanes of Nicollet Island in the middle of the Mississippi River. You'll hear a little city history and meet lots of locals on the way, but mostly you'll just have fun going up hills, inching along footbridges, and racing along a parkway at speeds up to 12 mph (faster than it sounds!). I fell off. You won't.

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Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.

Photos courtesy of Meet Minneapolis.

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