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We Went There: How to not get lost in the world's largest continuous skyway system

It's the largest continuous skyway system in the world.

If you're trying to get around Minneapolis, you have a lot of options. You can drive, hop on the light rail, walk the streets, or – if you want to avoid the cold and not deal with parking – take the skyways. 

The skyways are a pretty incredible tool if you want to get around the city when the weather is less than pleasant. They connect about 90 different buildings and cover nine miles of downtown.

But if you're not familiar with them, you might find yourself at a dead end on the opposite side of the city. 

That's why we took some time to chat with Steve Cramer, the President and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, and spent a few hours getting familiar with the second-story paths. 

The history of Minneapolis skyways

The first skyways opened in the 1960s, Cramer says, around the time when highways and enclosed malls were being built, drawing more people to the suburbs. 

Skyways were seen as a way to keep people downtown and give them some of that indoor mall experience. 

"It's just grown all these decades later into this incredible, intricate system that connects so much of our downtown," Cramer said. 

Now it's the world's largest continuous skyway system. Calgary in Alberta, Canada, technically has more miles of skyway – but those aren't all connected. 

Tips for not getting (super) lost

Realistically, you probably should plan on getting a little lost. It happens. Give yourself some extra time so you don't get too frazzled.

Luckily there are blue maps throughout the skyways. Use them. If you look at them often, you shouldn't get too off track. There are also some signs that drop down from the ceiling pointing you in the direction of major buildings.

But if reading maps isn't your forte, I've found skywaymyway.com to be very helpful. Just go to the directions tab, type in your starting point and destination and go.

There's a map with a highlighted route for those of you who are more visual, as well as a list of directions. 

Most buildings are labeled with big signs so you can figure out where you're at. Otherwise you can just ask someone who looks like they know what they're doing (it's Minnesota, people are really nice).

There are some more tips here.

Cramer says the downtown council is about to release a more interactive app. The plan is to have it out before the Super Bowl to help visitors.

It's going to work kind of like other navigation apps on your phone, so you'll have step-by-step directions starting with some major routes (headed to U.S. Bank Stadium, of course) and a few other places.

Other routes will be added later, Cramer says.

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