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Sunday
Apr072019

Human On a Stick Segway Tours of the Twin Cities

Article by Michael Rainville, Jr.

The snow has melted, the birds are chirping, the mighty Mississippi is roaring. Spring is here, fingers crossed. The Minneapolis riverfront is alive and well, and I cannot think of a better way to enjoy it than going on a Segway tour. If you frequent the riverfront, you’ve seen us cruising around, but have you ever thought about being a tourist in your own backyard? Mobile Entertainment LLC offers not only Segway tours of the Minneapolis riverfront, but also of the Sculpture Garden and downtown, Summit Avenue and Capitol Hill in St. Paul, walking tours of the Minneapolis riverfront, and ghost tours of one of the oldest buildings in the heart of the old milling district along St. Anthony Main.

Michael (left, yellow shirt) provides local history during one of his tours while stopped on the Stone Arch Bridge with the Pillsbury A-Mill in the background.

Around the turn of the century Segways were supposed to be the next big thing, a way to commute short distances and just make life easier in general. However, like a lot of ambitious ideas, Segways were not selling like hotcakes as expected, but Bill Neuenschwander, a technology entrepreneur from Bloomington, saw an opportunity to bring Segways into the mainstream. In 2003 he bought 21 Segways and his new company, Mobile Entertainment LLC, got its first taste of success at the Minnesota State Fair where they had a booth. If you’re wondering how he came up with the “Human On a Stick” name, now you know. Everything is on a stick at the State Fair! Families and organizations were calling to see if they could have Segways at their events, and soon after Bill realized giving tours on Segways was going to create a fun and exciting experience for his customers. Once he found a storefront along St. Anthony Main, he became the first person to give Segway tours in the United States, and second in the world. It’s not ridiculous to think that he jumpstarted the Segway tour business that can now be found in every major city across the globe.

While it's not recommended to go hands free on a Segway, as a seasoned guide Micheal can fearlessly flex his muscles.130+ Segways and over 100,000 riders later, Mobile Entertainment LLC has the largest fleet of Segways outside of Segway itself, and is a staple of the Minneapolis riverfront and beyond. From the collapse of the 35W Bridge and the closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, to the successful growth of the riverfront that has seen the Mill City Museum, Guthrie Theater, and DeLaSalle’s athletic field become fixtures of the area, Segway tours have seen and helped the area transform into one of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in the state.

As for myself, this will be my 7th year with the company, and I too have been fortunate enough to witness the growth of the riverfront. Starting as a shy and quiet helper guide on Segway tours, Bill, the managers, and my many colleagues have helped me open up more and become very enthusiastic about the place I will always call home. Good luck getting me to shut up now! There’s no way I’d be where I am today, in graduate school, writing for the Mill City Times, if it wasn’t for Bill and Mobile Entertainment LLC. I absolutely love introducing tourists from around the country and world to Minneapolis and its history. Even locals who, like me, think they know everything about the riverfront learn something new on our tours.

The tours last roughly 3 hours, which includes extensive training, a snack and refreshment at our halfway stop at the Mill City Museum, a free pass to that museum, discounts for restaurants along the riverfront, and your very own Segway drivers license. Once customers feel confident on the Segway, we take them to the Pillsbury A-Mill, Stone Arch Bridge, Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theater, Hennepin Avenue Bridge, Boom Island, and Nicollet Island. Each stop lasts about 10-15 minutes, and the lead guides provide the history of the immediate area. However, fair warning, we love corny jokes.

So, if you ever find yourself with nothing to do on a beautiful day in the cities, come on down and experience the Mill City on a Segway. Tell them Michael sent you. 

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About Michael Rainville, Jr.

A 6th generation Minneapolitan, Michael Rainville Jr. received his B.A. in History from the University of St. Thomas, and is currently enrolled in their M.A. in Art History and Certificate in Museum Studies programs.

Michael is also a lead guide at Mobile Entertainment LLC, giving Segway tours of the Minneapolis riverfront for 6+ years.

He can be reached at mrainvillejr@comcast.net.

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