Phone: 612-624-5551
24-hr number: 612-293-0831

Advanced Search

This is an archived story; this page is not actively maintained. Some or all of the links within or related to this story may no longer work.

For the latest University of Minnesota news, visit Discover.


Angela Shoop eats lunch behind Diehl Hall.

On the first full day of summer, Angela Shoop brown-bags it under a tree behind Diehl Hall.

Is that patch of grass taken?

A guide to grassy, shady, or otherwise tempting lunchtime spots on the Twin Cities campus

By Rick Moore and Pauline Oo

Published on June 23, 2005

Summer has sprung, finally--and we hope without further regress. For those of us who work on the Twin Cities campus, this means that the range of places to lunch is as bountiful as the day is long. Of greater temptation now than any other time of year is the option of grabbing a quick bite--from a local eatery, a brown bag, or your little insulated cooler--and heading to a patch of campus green space for some sunshine or shade, and some reading or reverie. (Naps fit nicely, too.)

We have compiled a list of some of our favorite outdoor lunchtime hangouts on the Twin Cities campus. If your favorite didn't make the list, that's not a bad thing; it's all the more space to yourself. Relax and enjoy.

Minneapolis, East and West Banks

The Knoll One of the few expanses of green left in the heart of campus, the Knoll area--off of Pleasant Street and University Avenue--is as bucolic as it is historic. Large trees provide a shady canopy for a handful of benches that offer some of the best people-watching around (including the backside of the century-old John Sargent Pillsbury statue). And it's within a stone's throw of a dozen or so take-out food options in Dinkytown.

Northrop Mall Toward the end of spring semester, this can be a difficult place to find some space, let alone avoid errant baseballs and footballs. Come June, it's another story. Throw in the food cart and the Summer at Northrop concert series (25 bands will perform on the Northrop plaza from noon to 1 p.m. through August 4), and it becomes a can't-miss option.

The quadrangle behind Nolte Center and Bell Museum of Natural History With ivy-covered walls, no trees, and only one picnic table, this is a great open space for playing bocce ball or croquet or throwing a flying disc.

Behind Lind Hall Tucked into the L-shape behind Lind Hall is another quadrangle, this one guarded on one end by the shiny Platonic Figure.

The Civil Engineering plaza Near the entrance of Civil Engineering are four pie-shaped swaths of thick, green grass; stretching toward Rapson Hall are a couple of large grassy berms--great for pondering the benefits of underground buildings

Gateway Plaza New picnic tables add a park-like sense to the Gateway Plaza outside the McNamara Alumni Center. And just as on the Knoll, no less than a dozen eateries are within smelling distance--all in Stadium Village.

Between Weaver-Densford Hall and Grace University Lutheran Church This area, which contains a small patch of grass and a mini amphitheater with a few tables, is relatively quiet and has lots of noontime shade, perfect for those hot days.

Near the Powell Hall cupola behind Diehl Hall A mixture of perchable ledges and tucked-away tables and chairs, this relatively quiet space is a refuge for Academic Health Center staff, as well as hospital patients and visitors.

Ferguson Hall outdoor amphitheatre Located between Ferguson and Anderson halls on the West Bank, this 20-year-old circular recess can be fashioned into your very own dining spot or nap space. And if you're lucky, you just might catch a music student or two practicing or performing out there. (Ferguson Hall is home to the School of Music.)

West end of Riverbend Commons A slightly elevated but fairly hidden, grassy area south of Comstock Hall that lies at the tail end of the new Riverbank Commons residence hall. This picnic-and-blanket spot overlooks the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River flats At the south end of Harvard Street, 12 switchback staircases (186 total stairs) take you down to the banks of the Mississippi and a calmer, gentler world. To the right is about a third of a mile of open green space, a half-dozen picnic tables, and countless entry points to the riverfront. To the left, a trail takes you down under Franklin Avenue and beyond. It's a great nature walk or run just blocks from the bustle of campus, despite the trek back up to street level.

St. Paul

On the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul, there's no end to open green spaces. Pick from shady spots with benches or hot spots on the grass. Here are some of our favorites.

By the bulls You can sit or lean against one of the three bronze bull beauties in front of Haecker Hall or spread out a blanket close by. We promise they won't steal your lunch, but they'll make you smile. Between Hodson and Alderman halls If you like the sound of running water, try this little shady nook below the skywalk that separates the southwest entrances of Hodson and Alderman halls. The rather large but unnoticeable (unless you look up) air vent near the top of Alderman Hall emanates a sound not unlike that of a bubbling brook or gushing waterfall. There are two benches, one on the grass and another on the wood-chipped area.

Hot spot by the library If you're looking for tables and chairs, try the rotunda between Magrath Library and the Classroom Office Building. Or plop yourself down on the charming flight of steps leading up to this area from the southeast (behind the Gortner Avenue Ramp). But remember to wear sunscreen--there are no shade trees, and depending on the time, you may not even get the protection of a building's shadow.

Hill across the corner of Cleveland and Hendon avenues If you position your blanket just right, you won't see the buildings, athletic field, or parking lot beyond the hill. All you'll take in is grass, trees, a quaint-looking greenhouse, and the heart-warming M on the Watersphere. This perfect picnic spot (there are also two benches nearby) is located between the Natural Resources Science Building and the northwest end of Bailey Hall. (There's currently some construction going on by the natural resources building, but if you time it right, you could enjoy this sweet spot when the workers are on their lunch break, too.)