If this website has taught me anything, it’s that it’s totally possible to become blind to the people and places you see every day.
“I had no idea that was there” is maybe the most common comment I receive, followed by “How long has that been there?” This makes sense when you consider that the Upper Midwest is a pretty big place and it’s totally normal not to have visited every corner of every state. We’re all busy, with places to go and things to do. I get it.
Have you ever walked by this mural? I’m guessing that, unless you work in an office in downtown Fargo, you probably haven’t.
But what really surprises me is how often people overlook spots in their own cities and towns – and sometimes even their own neighborhoods.
I’m not immune. In fact, that kind of experience prompted me to start Prairie Style File in the first place, as a way to be more engaged in the places I live and travel and to find new ways to really see and experience them.
Exploring places I usually overlook or take for granted sometimes give me an entirely new and unexpected perspective on this place I call home. So here’s a (super sporadic) series I’m calling Hidden Fargo-Moorhead, which offers a slightly off kilter look at Fargo-Moorhead, thoughts and perspectives that don’t really fit my usual post topics, but that I think are odd and interesting anyway.
The first place I set out to explore was the six block skyway system in downtown Fargo. It’s kind of a weird choice, since it’s not really hidden in a traditional sense. But I’d never done it and most of the people I talked to hadn’t either.
So last spring (wow, it’s been awhile!) I took E to burn off some of his endless toddler energy (a daily activity I sometimes call “The Running of the Baby”) and see what we’d find. I wasn’t expecting anything at all, honestly, just a quiet, climate controlled place for a brisk walk.
It was surprisingly busy. Clearly, downtown office employees like being able to grab lunch without throwing on a jacket and there were a handful of power walkers getting a few steps in. E did his best to keep up with them. In fact, he ran the entire skyway system several times (with just a few breaks where I carried him — it was an impromptu arm day for mom) which is probably much the equivalent of a marathon for his tiny legs.
The skyway runs from The Black Building on Broadway and 2nd Avenue North, up to 3rd Avenue North and ends at the Civic center at the corner of 4th street and 2nd Avenue North, where you enter on the second floor. It zigs and zags, so you can enter through several well known downtown buildings, including The Radisson Hotel (3rd floor — look for the Skyway door), next to the old Metro Drug at 123 1/2 Broadway and US Bank on 2nd Avenue North, between 5th and 6th Street.
It was interesting to get a new look at a familiar neighborhood. I’ve walked Broadway a thousand times, but I’ve never stood above it and waved to the pedestrians on the sidewalks below. I wonder if anyone’s ever waved at me. I’ve been inside most of the buildings listed above, but never even noticed they had a skyway exit. It was like finding a secret door in a storybook.
I was glad to see public art on the walls of the skyway and in City Hall. (And if anyone has a plan to create or install more, I definitely want to help.)
There were other quiet surprises too. We stood in the middle of 4th Street (well, above it, of course) and watched an oil train chug along 7th Avenue to the north. We stumbled upon the Prairie Public Radio studios and watched an interview in progress.
Then we sat down at a little skyway cafe (it’s under the Sanford umbrella) where I drank coffee and Eli ate slices of cantaloupe and honeydew melons and we looked out at downtown. I couldn’t get over how weird it is that I’d never noticed this cafe was here. It made me wonder what else I’d missed.
I felt weirdly present in that little skyway cafe. It renewed my commitment to look around me and really take in my surroundings, even if I think I know what I’ll see.
And holy cow, did the two of us crash out at nap time. I looked up our steps on my phone and realized we’d walked over 3 miles that morning. Bonus.
Have you ever walked the skyway in Fargo? Construction has already changed the landscape since these photos were taken, so I’d love to see your more recent shots. Have you used a skyway anywhere else in the world?
The Downtown Fargo Skyway:
Monday-Saturday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. and during events at the Fargo Civic Center
Closed Sundays and Holidays
Bus: Routes 11, 14, 17, 18 and the free LinkFM
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