On the Line: Exploring By Light Rail

After spending last weekend in Washington, D.C. and depending on their expansive Metro rail system to get around, I have a deeper appreciation of our own growing public transportation system. Metro Transit‘s Hiawatha Light Rail Line opened in 2004 and serves 19 stations between Minneapolis and Bloomington. The addition of the six-stop North Star Commuter Rail Line in 2009 expanded our rail system’s reach from Minneapolis to Big Lake and in just two short years the Central Corridor Light Rail Line will connect downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. The proposed Southwest Light Rail Line would add another connection, to the southwest suburbs as far out as Eden Prairie. In the future, it looks like may be calling our system the Metro too and the Hiawatha line will be the “blue line”–new branding was just approved by the Metropolitan Council.

This week, we got a reminder of how much we depend on the rail system, when cables broke on the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge over the tracks. While they sort out safety issues, the Hiawatha Light Rail line is closed from 26th to Lake Street (buses are making up for the closure). When the line is back up and running we’ve got a few tips for you.

Metro Transit, Hiawatha Light Rail   Hiawatha Light Rail, Mall of America Station

Photos by Todd Buchanan

Do you know all the great places you can access from the Hiawatha Light Rail/Blue Line here? Whether you are a visitor or a resident, the Light Rail is worth exploring. Here are a few destinations accessible from light rail stations:

Target Field Station: Heading to a sporting event or concert? Stop here to get to Target Field (home of the Twins) and Target Center (concert venue and home of the Lynx and Timberwolves).

Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Mall Stations: Here, you can enjoy access to plenty of dining, shopping and entertainment in downtown Minneapolis. Just walk down Hennepin to the theater district and the excitement of the Warehouse District or stroll pedestrian-friend Nicollet Mall to Gaviidae Common and City Center shopping.

Downtown East/Metrodome Station: The Vikings’ current Metrodome home is right at this stop, but if you walk a few blocks, you can also find the Guthrie Theater, Mill City Museum and the Mississippi River.

Lake Street/Midtown Station: Just down Lake Street, you can enjoy lots of ethnic eats inside Midtown Global Market.

50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station: Take a short walk to Minnehaha Falls park to see the falls and wander the park.

Fort Snelling Station: Open Memorial Day-Labor Day (and Saturdays in May), Fort Snelling is a historic former military post on the bluffs at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers.

MSP Airport Stations: Catch your plane from either Terminal 1-Lindbergh or Terminal 2-Humphrey—you can travel between these two stations free of charge.

Mall of America Station: Shop, dine or play at Mall of America, which features more than 520 stores, about 50 restaurants, a seven-acre amusement park and much more.

So, what are your favorite destinations along the Light Rail? For a more official tour via Light Rail, try MSP Tours, which we wrote about in November.

Tip: Trains run about every 10 minutes. You can purchase tickets and passes at each station ($1.75-$2.25 for tickets or $3.50-$4 for a six-hour pass).