If you can’t decide between an outdoor adventure and doing a little urban exploring, The Greenway is the perfect solution. You can be busy outdoors all day, yet still be steps away from boutique shopping, art galleries and restaurants in downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
The Greenway is the gorgeous, green heart of these sister cities, 2,200 acres of outdoor space along the banks of the Red and Red Lake Rivers. Start your trip on the 20 miles of mixed use trails. Those trails lead to parks, pools, golf (and disc golf!) courses in both cities. Most of the trails are paved, but there are a few unpaved trails that runners and hikers like.
If you don’t bring your own bike, you can rent all-weather fat bikes from The Ski and Bike Shop or a complete bike package (including helmet and lock) from The Outpost at the University of North Dakota Wellness Center at 701-777-6526. Both also offer cross country skis and snowshoe rentals for winter exploring.
You can also see The Greenway from the water. I canoed the Red River with Ground Up Adventures a few years ago and it was an easy paddle and a memorable trip. They do several guided paddling trips and offer stand up paddle boards and kayaks too. The Outpost at the UND wellness center also rents canoes and kayaks.
Seeing the cities from the water is a very cool experience, one that I’d recommend trying in your own city as well. Our trip mainly went through Grand Forks, but we saw a lot: fisherman on the banks, urban art, pretty parks and even some wildlife. If you have your own watercraft (non-motorized only, please) you can put on the river on the new floating dock in downtown Grand Forks. It’s located just north of Demers Avenue on River Road.
On my last trip, I went with my parents and all their grandkids. Finding something to occupy four kids under 10 is basically a full time job, so we were all kind of shocked when they loved The Greenway at first sight. They immediately took off running down the trails and we stayed out until dark.
That evening we took them to Mike’s Pizza and Pub (the pizza, fries and board game shelf drew rave reviews) then walked to Cabela’s (a sporting goods and hunting outfitter) to look at the fish swimming in the aquariums and the (stuffed — as in taxidermied) animals on display and then just turned them loose on the trails. It cost basically nothing and they had a great time.
Mike’s Pizza and Pub is just one of the restaurants along the river in East Grand Forks. This area is my pick for the best outdoor dining spot in the region, hands down. If you want to dine al fresco, I also like The Blue Moose, a beer lover’s heaven with 40 beers on tap.
Next time we’ll make a day of it. We’ll start in the shops and galleries in downtown Grand Forks, picnic in Town Square and then walk over the Red on The Sorlie Memorial Bridge on the way to Sherlock Forest Playground in East Grand Forks.
The playground is very close to the Red River State Recreation Area, an urban campground in East Grand Forks that’s perfectly positioned to take advantage of everything the both downtowns and The Greenway offer. My parents have stayed there and they both enjoyed it. They loved that they could just park the camper and walk or ride their bikes anywhere they wanted to go.
The Red River State Recreation Area and The Greenway itself are smart urban renewal projects that came about after the flood and fire of 1997 that devastated these cities. The water hit 54.35 feet and prompted a mass evacuation that was, up until that point, the largest evacuation of a city since the Civil War. The recreation area stands in the footprint of an established East Grand Forks neighborhood wiped out by flood waters and The Greenway itself occupies the space between the river and permanent flood protection structures.
My nephew, the oldest of the grandkids, likes history as much as I do. As we walked along the river, he read all the interpretive signs. He asked questions about the buildings and bridges and kept pointing at things and saying, “Auntie, history happened right here!”
He was right, of course. The Greenway is an urban oasis, a place to be active and to be outside in nature. It’s something we should enjoy and use. But The Greenway was also a way for these communities to make something beautiful and useful out of devastation. And that’s something to honor.
What about you? What do you like to do on The Greenway?
What should I do the next time I’m in town? What’s your favorite spot to explore nature? (It can be along The Greenway or anywhere!) What are your favorite outdoor activities?
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