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Wunderman Thompson’s City Guide to Inspiration in Nature: Minneapolis Edition

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Kansas City, USA
Wilderness canoeing, hooting owls and some of the best cycling in the US? Where to find inspiration in nature in Minneapolis and surrounding areas, according to Brett Knutson, group creative director at Wunderman Thompson Minneapolis

As the world’s leading researcher on inspiration, Wunderman Thompson knows a thing or two about the psychological link between people’s value systems and their sources of inspiration to predict how humanity will be inspired. In Wunderman Thompson’s Inspire InFocus report, being outdoors in nature ranked number one as the top of source of inspiration globally. Even though life is starting to “get back to normal”, many of our new habits formed during the pandemic, such as taking walks during work breaks or exploring nature in our own backyard, have endured.

As we yearn to move, connect, and get off a plane and stretch our legs, out of a conference hall into fresh air, leave the confines of a hotel room, or even take a walking meeting or lunch in a park versus a restaurant, here are some ideas for the next time you find yourself in some of the most inspirational cities around the world, for business or pleasure.


Name: Brett Knutson
Title: Group Creative Director, WT Minneapolis
City: Minneapolis, Minnesota

The United States often gets divided up into East, West, South and Midwest. We take exception to that in the North. This is a land where nature and creativity are inseparable. We do things a little different up here, and we usually don’t care to have to explain ourselves to the coasters. We put our nose down and we get things done. Sure, we’re home to Prince and Dylan and Lizzo (for a minute), but we are also home to a whole lot of folks you haven’t heard about and, dontcha know, that suits us just fine.

Q> When do you find you crave inspiration in nature and where do you find it?


Brett> Minneapolis is called the ‘city of lakes’ and it’s in a state with over 10,000 lakes. Many of these lakes are connected by bike paths and walking trails. But there are also lots of rivers and creeks. Minnehaha Creek is right by my house, and it flows into the Mississippi. I’ll often walk down to the creek and watch the ducks and kayakers float by. It’s a good way to ‘reboot’ from the day. A friend once taught me to pick up a leaf, infuse it with something that has been bothering me, place it into the water and watch it drift away. I don’t know if that qualifies as ‘inspiration’, but it certainly opens space in the brain to turn my attention to more inspiring things.


Q> Where is the best place to people watch in Minneapolis?


Brett> Minneapolis parks offer a ton of people watching opportunities as they pick up the vibes of their local neighbourhoods. So, it’s hard to choose, but I’ll say Powderhorn Park during the May Day celebration. It’s steampunk meets paganism meets politicians meets performance art. Also food trucks. So good.


Q> Where is your favourite hike or walk? 


Brett> Just behind the Mall of America, there is a little trail down that goes down by the Minnesota River. There are some small lakes back there too. The trail goes for miles and is great for hiking or mountain biking. I like to take a book and find a spot on the banks of the river.


Q> What are some interesting natural attractions near your city that are worth checking out?


Brett> OK. If you haven’t been to the Boundary Waters, good. Let’s keep it that way. But really - you should go. It is currently the world’s largest Dark Sky Sanctuary site at over 1 million acres. No cell reception. And so many lakes you literally just pick up your canoe and carry it from lake to lake for days at a time. So beautiful. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.


Q> Which season inspires you the most in your part of the world and why?


Brett> In Minnesota we get a healthy dose of all four seasons. My favourite is fall, and not because of all the pretty colours, which there are, and not because I’m a sucker for November Rain by G&R, which I am, but because when the trees lose their leaves and the grass turns brown I am reminded that we can’t always be in a season of growth. There is time for introspection, for taking a break, for enduring until spring. We all need moments to regroup.


Q> What kind of weather do you get that’s unique to your area and when does it inspire you?


Brett> Winter isn’t unique to our area, but -40 temps are hard to come by in other places. West Coast, East Coast, don’t sleep on the North. Each year we make it through six months of bone chilling winter. When we’re not shovelling, we’ve got a lot of time to sit around and think about things. All that pent up creativity is going to find its way out.


Q> What’s your favourite park/botanical garden/body of water and why?


Brett> Minnesota has more shoreline than any other state. More than California, Hawaii and Florida combined. Look it up. But my favourite place to be is on the north shore of Lake Superior – cliffs on one side, endless water on the other, and the Superior Hiking Trail stretching from Duluth to Canada. It’s pretty magical.


Q> Anything else to add that might involve wildlife, especially critters or birds or a specific example of when you were inspired by nature?

Brett> Up north, moose and bears and wolves are pretty common. We even have occasional mountain lion sightings near the Twin Cities. But I’m all about the owls. Nothing sends chill vibes like the sound of a late-night hoot when you’re stoking the backyard fire in the fall.


Q> Best place for a run/swim or other form of exercise outside?


Brett> Wired magazine rated Minnesota as the second-best biking state in the nation. There are trails everywhere. And they go for miles and miles, stretching out from Minneapolis up to lake country and beyond. If you’re not riding, you’re probably from Iowa.

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