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8 Ways to Spend Your Time in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Minneapolis Travel
by Valerie Ng Aug 25, 2009
There’s more to Minneapolis and St. Paul than a supersized mall.

If the Mall of America — a place that brags of 20,000 parking spots and a dedicated drop-off/pick-up area for motor coaches — doesn’t turn your crank, here are 8 different ways to spend your time.

1. Head to the lakes

Why go to an indoor water park when you’re in the city of lakes? Take your pick of several among the Chain of Lakes.

The largest is Lake Calhoun, a favorite of young people looking to lay on the beaches, bike, roller blade, or jog along the trails that encircle it. Get on the water for some canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing.

2. Go for a bike ride

Biking is easy in this relatively flat city, and many streets have designated cycling lanes. The most scenic routes will take you over and along the Mississippi River.

Ride down Minnehaha Avenue to get to Minnehaha Falls Park, home of the waterfall that inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.”

3. Stroll along Summit Avenue

Garrison Keillor once remarked:

The difference between Minneapolis and St. Paul is the difference between pumpernickel and Wonder Bread.

St. Paul — the state capital — may not have the cultural venues of its more cosmopolitan neighbor, but perhaps Keillor missed the grand stately houses that line Summit Ave. Three residences of note are the Governor’s mansion, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthplace, and the James J. Hill House.

4. Go to the theater

The Twin Cities’ theater scene may not compare with Broadway, but Minneapolis’s landmark Guthrie Theater puts on high-quality classic and original productions. If you’re in town this fall, a national engagement of Little House on the Prairie will begin at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, with Melissa Gilbert playing Ma.

5. Eat

The Twin Cities aren’t strictly meat-and-potatoes territory and, these days, ethnic food isn’t limited to lutefisk. Although an overwhelmingly white metropolis less than 20 years ago, recent immigration from Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America has added an international array of cuisines to the city’s food scene.

A global smorgasboard of eating options is available at the Midtown Global Market and along Eat Street, between Grant and 29th Streets.

For more upscale dining and nightlife, head to the Warehouse District near downtown, where your options include a number of sushi joints, an organic cafe, and Pizza Luce, considered to have the best pizza in town. Dessert lovers shouldn’t miss the decadent cakes at Cafe Latte on Grand Ave. in St. Paul.

6. Shop on Grand Avenue

OK, so you will probably break down and need your shopping fix. Grand Ave. in St. Paul is home to numerous independent shops and boutiques, as well as some chain stores.

7. Visit an art gallery or museum

Minneapolis is home to several impressive art collections.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts features one of the most extensive collections of world art in the Midwest, while the Walker Art Center is considered one of the top modern art museums in the country. Across the street from the latter is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, where you will find Claes Oldenburg’s Spoonbridge and Cherry.

If history is more your thing, the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul is home to changing exhibits about the state’s past. Science geeks will enjoy the Science Museum of Minnesota, which overlooks the Mississippi River and has an exhibit dedicated to it.

8. Attend a fair

State and county fairs are a Minnesota tradition. Each summer, Minnesota’s counties hold their own fairs. The main event is the Minnesota State Fair, which is running from August 27 to September 7 this year.

Known as the “Minnesota State Get-Together,” it’s the event where Minnesotans gather to celebrate their agricultural heritage and show off livestock, like a scene straight out of Charlotte’s Web. Disregard any healthy eating habits you may be following — standard Minnesotan fair food is deep fried and comes on a stick.

Community Connection

If you’re looking to combine a trip to the Minnesota State Fair with a visit to another Midwest city, make sure to check out Chicago on a Budget.

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