Knowing that this is America’s most bike friendly city (true! It was chosen by Bicycling Magazine and designated a gold level “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Cyclists), I was excited to learn that the W Minneapolis – The Foshay and the Le Meridien Chambers Hotels offer free bikes to their guest and exclusive bike tours. I signed up immediately.
I arrived in Minneapolis in late May, spring had sprung, with lots of constructions downtown. Minneapolis was happening. With all transformations occurring, I headed directly to the building that probably best represents the mix of tradition and contemporaneity in town: The Foshay Tower – today the hip W Minneapolis.
The Foshay Tower: Our departure point
The Foshay Tower was completed in 1929 and for more than 40 years it was the tallest building in Minneapolis. Now named the W hotel, its vibrant atmosphere preserves some charming characteristics of the old office building, like the original mail box and the elevator doors.
I arrived on a Friday, and after a relaxing afternoon observing downtown Minneapolis from the comfort of my room I met Starwood Minneapolis General Manager David Cronin for some drinks. He gave me a tour of the historical building too. David, a young and passionate cyclist who bikes up to 100 miles in a day regardless of the weather, would also be our guide the next morning.
From the observation deck in the top floor you have the best 360 view of Minneapolis.
Today you see a mix of skyscrapers, parks and the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s amazing to compare with what the scenario used to be a few decades ago (you can see this picture downstairs).
One story below they have a small museum showcasing collectibles, historical items and photographs which transport you back to the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Hotel guests have free entrance, but for $8 anyone can have the same experience.
It was amazing to see how green the city is. So beautiful! And from the sky view I had a glimpse of the trail that awaited me the next morning.
We closed the night at the Prohibition Bar in the hotel’s 27th floor. Wow! What a journey back! This place was originally intended to be Wilbur Foshay’s (the builder of the Foshay Tower) private retreat with gorgeous views. His plans never materialized and he ended up in jail for bad business practices.
Bicycling with an Expert
For the whole week leading up to my tour, the forecast was for heavy rain. But luckily we had the best possible weather: a mixed day in the low 70s – perfect for exercising outdoors. As David manages both the W Foshay and the Le Meridien Chambers in Minneapolis, he organized bikes from both hotels departing from the W. Stylish, comfortable and lightweight pink bikes with an encouraging message:
We headed towards Loring Park, one of the largest parks in Central Minneapolis which lends its name to the surrounding neighborhood. I couldn’t believe my eyes! What a gorgeous and peaceful place! If that’s all you can see while bicycling in Minneapolis, trust me, your time is well spent.
But we were in for more. From bike trail to bike trail we made our way to Lake Calhoun, the largest in town. A complete tour around the lake gave us a really good understanding about the community (a great place to live or visit, full of nice restaurants) and how popular the area is for outdoor activities like jogging, fishing or kayaking. There are even beaches. In David’s words, this is the Riviera of Minneapolis.
Lake Calhoun: the highlight of the tour
When you first arrive at Lake Calhoun you think it may take 2-3 hours just to complete one full circle on a set of wheels. But what you think is one single lake is actually part of the city’s Chain of Lakes, where Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet are also located. You can pedal from one to the next or choose just one, as we did.
Throughout the morning, David’s passion was evident. He told us stories about the neighborhoods we were crossing and even about his adventures cycling on top of a totally frozen Lake Calhoun during winter. The ice is so thick that it’s possible to drive over it! Every now and then he added some breaks to make sure the group was together, to share new information and admire the view. This friendly atmosphere allowed for a memorable time. (David is the tallest cyclist in the picture below)
In the USA, the Twin Cities have the highest percentage of people who commute to work via bicycle – approximately 4,500 people. As our tour was on the weekend most of the folks we saw were simply having fun. Also, Minneapolis is home to more than 197 parks and 20 lakes, so there are many other options for multiple trail rides.
In total it took us 2 hours to go about 10 miles, stops and all. What I liked most was that David knows Minneapolis so well that there’s no guess work from our side. We were on bike friendly streets, used bike lanes, etc. We didn’t simply sit back and relax but certainly enjoyed the ride! 🙂
Recovering some calories
On the way back we left some of the bikes at the artsy boutique hotel Le Meridien Chambers, which is just 3 blocks away from the W, in the Arts & Entertainment District. Honoring the location and its surroundings, it caught my attention that all art pieces at the hotel are for sale. More than 300 items!
Arriving back to our hotel starving, we experienced a perfect closing to the morning: a lunch at Manny’s Stakehouse. If you’re ever looking for a restaurant in Minneapolis for a special celebration or to simply indulge, this is the place to come. Among locals Manny’s is the number one choice for the perfect steak.
Wow, what a meal! And what service! The maître showed us their top cuts, which can cost over $100! Now they are even offering an 85-day aged bone-in ribeye! I simply chose steak with potatoes, which was very reasonably priced at under $20. Again, David’s local expertise helped with suggesting delectable options like their unique hash browns and prime bacon. I normally avoid bacon but this is a must try.
— Renata Pereira (@renatapereiraTV) May 28, 2016
Dessert requires a whole new paragraph. Actually, only pictures can best describe the experience.
After a morning of hard work, the reward was very well deserved! 🙂
General Service Information
As long as you stay at the W Minneapolis – The Foshay or the Le Meridien Chambers on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, you can book a bike tour with David Cronin. This is a new experience just launched by both hotels and it’s part of the W Tour de Fuel and Tour de Minneapolis packages. Rates for both start at $249/night and include a $60 breakfast credit. Available from late spring to early fall.
For the rest of the week, bikes can be reserved at each hotel’s Welcome Desk and are available on a first come, first serve basis. The staff can also help you with path ideas. Even if you don’t have the luxury of a personal guide like David, it is very worth it to explore Minneapolis bicycling. It is easy to get around, there are lots of bike trails and drivers respect bikers.
The weekend was just starting and I had several other places to visit in addition to meeting other travel bloggers ahead of the conference. But I was one of the few who already had several stories to tell.
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P.S.: I was invited by W Minneapolis The Foshay to join this tour with David Cronin and they also offered me a night at the hotel so that I’d experience the full package. Absolutely loved! And as always all opinions here are my own.
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I really enjoyed my stay at the W Minneapolis. If you love the vibe at W hotels, this one has it all: great atmosphere, lounge-like feel & comfortable rooms. It’s also nice that certain characteristics of the Foshay Tower are very well preserved.
– Great location downtown Minneapolis, connected to the Skyway System (pedestrian footbridges interconnecting several buildings in 69 blocks over 11 miles (18 km), climate-controlled year-round)
– 24-hour gym
– Starwood guests have free wi-fi
– Free entrance at the Observation deck
– Pets are welcome! You can bring cats and dogs weighting less than 40 lb (18 kg) to your room. There are extra costs, but the hotel provides pet bed, food and water bowls, and the concierge can organize dog-walking services, vets, grooming, etc.
– W Hotels provide free water
– Free bikes in the Welcome Desk between May 30 and September 30
– And of course: the chance to join a bike tour guided by David Cronin, Starwood Minneapolis General Manager and cyclist during his spare time!