Photograph by Melissa Rowley
Melissa Rowley's Urban Childhood Photo Project
Like many a mom, Minneapolitan and professional photographer Melissa Rowley has snapped a digital treasure trove of family photos. But after long documenting the daily life and adventures of her two sons, Alex and Ben, she felt compelled to also showcase the fine city in which they’ve grown, and to cast off perceptions that city kids live in a uniformly perilous and unfriendly landscape. The result is Urban Childhood, a photo project in which Rowley tags along on the boys’ local adventures to spots she describes as “undeniably Minneapolis.”
“I think that sometimes people feel they need to abandon living in an urban setting once they start a family, and that just hasn’t resonated with me,” she says. “We are so fortunate that Minneapolis was built up around amazing parks and green space—there is no limit to what my kids can explore. I am that mom who lets her kids run and jump and climb, unless there are signs posted that warn against it.”
Rowley always believed Minneapolis would be the perfect spot to raise her family, and her boys have proven her right, taking full advantage of the thousands of climbing trees, bike trails, and gurgling creeks. Their neighbors and surrounding community have continually confirmed her choice. Now that Rowley is trying to give her boys, now 13 and 10, more freedom to head out on their own, there’s comfort in knowing they are looking out for each other, and that other parents are looking out for them, too (like the time Alex fell off his bike and another mother helped get him back on his feet).
“What I love most about raising my boys in the city is that they are exposed to so many different cultures and communities, yet we're all humans and have more in common than we might think,” she says.
Trying to decide where to take your children next? Take a peek at our February cover story, and then make plans to frequent Rowley’s favorite summer spots:
Minnehaha Falls: Whether you’re looking to ogle the waterfall, climb some trees, or play around on the nearby rock formation, there’s more than enough for a day of exploring.
The Dowling Studio at the Guthrie: Rain or shine, the iconic yellow box isn’t only a great family photo op; it also offers unparalleled views of the Mississippi River and riverfront area (and the vantage point necessary to find even more hidden spots to play).
Lake Harriet: After a cone of Sebastian Joe’s, while away a summer afternoon with a stroll or a bike ride around the lake (For extra credit, jump in after you make a lap around.) Cap it off with an outdoor concert or movie at the band shell.
Anywhere the bike trails lead you: With Hennepin County’s 83 miles of off-street trails, day trips to neighboring cities, parks, and lakes abound. Pack a picnic and you’re off.