The Scene: Minneapolis
By Lindsay Connor
February 2, 2009
Minneapolis and St. Paul may be divided by the Mississippi River, but their public parks, artsy culture and urban eats conjoin these Twin Cities. With major sports teams, a booming college population and a horde of “world’s largest” facilities, these Twins have plenty to offer both visitors and locals.
And Minnesota’s irresistible metropolis makes it no wonder that major Fortune 500 companies Target, General Mills and Best Buy call it home.
Sights & Scenery
The world’s largest indoor mall, the Mall of America, is located near the international airport. Convenience is king here—you can catch a $2 shuttle from the airport to the mall while you wait for your layover. No ordinary shopping complex, the mega-mall holds 520 stores and 50 restaurants, though you’re bound to see a few repeats (several Caribou Coffees, two American Eagle, three Mall of America gift shops). Within the complex, Underwater Adventures is the world’s largest underground aquarium with more than 100 sharks and 4,500 assorted sea creatures. You won’t be able to miss the mall’s amusement park—a Nickelodeon-themed roller coaster and log flume ride cut through the shopping hub.
When you’re in the land of 10,000 lakes, a visit to the city’s public parks is a must. Lake Calhoun and Minehaha Falls and Park provide stunning views, especially during the state’s picturesque summers. When the weather’s not so cooperative, city planners have prepared for those bitter-cold winter winds. University of Minnesota students can get around without having to trudge through snow, thanks to tunnels and skyways connecting campus buildings. Worth checking out at the U of M is the Weisman Museum of Art, a quirky edifice designed by Frank Gehry. What looks like a typical brick building from one angle is a geometric funhouse of steel from the other. Not surprisingly, the museum houses modern art, which you can browse for free.Icy winters make indoor attractions a wise move in Minneapolis. Indoor go-carting at Thunder Alley, ice skating at The Depot and rock-climbing at Vertical Endeavors are all smart options when it’s too cold outside to do much else. Otherwise, the city’s affluent sports scene may pique your interest. The Timberwolves (NBA), Twins (MLB), Wild (NHL) and Vikings (NFL) are on the roster at particular times of the year. If you’re in for a different kind of competition, check out ComedySportz, an improv club with comedians battling a la Whose Line is it Anyway? Located in Uptown, a trendy, arts district with lots to offer, ComedySportz holds shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, even offering seasonal improv classes for aspiring funny guys (and gals).
th alumni from Bob Dylan and Soul Asylum to Sara Groves and someone else, the Minneapolis music scene still prospers today. Prince got his start here, and popularized local club First Avenue & 7th Street Entry with his 1984 film Purple Rain. Today at First Avenue, national acts like R.E.M. and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs join local musicians onstage. Minneapolis’s stately Orpheum Theatre hosts acts like The Swell Season, Flight of the Conchords and Death Cab for Cutie, while the likes of Alicia Keys, Kanye West and Tom Petty grace the stage at Target Center. He is Legend, The Afters, John Reuben and Leeland frequent Club 3 Degrees, a sleek and immaculately hip venue for Christian artists. For a more relaxed feel, Artists’ Quarter is St. Paul’s unassuming stop for nightly jazz fusion and poetry readings.
Near the U of M campus, Loring Pasta Bar serves elegant entrees over a romantic ambience, with dancing almost every night under its 3-story cathedral ceiling. Though upscale, this Italian eatery is college-friendly and offers guests 30 percent off with a student ID. On a completely smaller scale, Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown (yes, that’s a legit region of the city) is a straight-up greasy spoon that’s popular for eggs and pancakes. If you can’t find a seat at one of the (very) few tables, pull up to the griddle-side bar and yak with a local.
A DJ spins every night at St. Paul’s Wild Onion, a Chicago-style eatery known for steaks, burgers and other pub fare. A worthy appetizer, the Sears Tower Onion Rings aren’t to be missed. Just down Grand Avenue is Caffé Latte, a progressive coffee shop serving wood-fired pizzas, fresh-baked breads, deli sandwiches and sinfully sweet desserts. Business professionals and the college crowd both appreciate the sleek, bi-level café with plenty of tables to sip fresh-roasted brews; the café doubles as an art gallery and wine bar. For international cuisine, Sawatdee is famous around town for its spicy Pad Thai, curries and other Thai specialties. With multiple locations around the Twin Cities, Sawatdee is known for its 5-pepper hotness scale (from mild to volcanic) and distinctly Asian décor.