Visiting the Twins- Minneapolis and St. Paul

To be honest, Minneapolis wasn’t high on my travel list until I came across a Spirit Airlines promotion that seemed to good to be true. From Houston, the round trip fare was $46. I can’t even get an Uber to the airport for that. I tweeted the deal and asked my friends and followers if there was anything worthwhile to do there. The response was fast and positive. Within moments, I had 10 things to see that sounded pretty interesting. First on the list was Prince’s Paisley Park. I always visit famous graves and I was delighted to find that I could add Tiny Tim and Hubert Humphrey to my kicked-the-bucket list while I was visiting.

Minneapolis is a great town to walk around. At the moment, the city is in the midst of a giant face lift, so a lot of streets are under construction and new buildings are popping up. The city is kicking up it’s game at an accelerated rate. Because the weather can be turn wet and freezing for a disproportionate part of the year, the architects connected many of the buildings together with skyways. There’s miles of passageways linked  together so that you can get around almost the entire town without going outside. The moral of the story: If you don’t like cold, go to Minneapolis in the summer.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was filmed in Minneapolis, so Mary has a statue in the heart of the city. It’s probably the second most recognizable statue in the area. It’s not easy to beat out the giant spoon in Sculpture Park. The mammoth-sized piece of cutlery with a cherry perched on top  has become an unofficial icon for the city.  Downtown also is home to a free Wells Fargo museum  that you’re likely to run into if you’re in the skyway. You may not think that a bank museum would be that fun, but there’s a real 19th century stagecoach in the lobby that just begs to be photographed. You can  send a telegraph to another branch using their Morse code setup, and you can get an eyeful or real gold. There’s lots of cool bars and restaurants downtown as well, but the most picturesque area is right on the Mississippi River. On the waterfront, it’s obvious where the city got one of it’s nicknames, Mill City. Flour mills historically made Minneapolis what it is today. It’s strategic position on the Mississippi helped create the largest producer of flour in the world. Right in the heart of the remaining factories and preserved factory ruins is the Mill Museum. This little gem of a museum makes the city’s love affair with “white gold” come to life. Even if you aren’t really interested in learning about flour, you’ll love the giant photo props and the free samples. Where else can you find a 20 foot tall box of Bisquick? The elevator ride is an unusual approach to learning the history of the area. You sit in a giant freight elevator that bounces from floor to floor with film clips, sets and recorded dialogue on each floor to get an idea of what the mill was like in it’s heyday. At one time the production of flour was so great that the dust from the mill created dough islands in the river. The only waterfall on the Mississippi River is  St. Anthony Falls and it is the end of the line if you are heading upstream. The Stone Arch Bridge overlooking the falls and crossing the river is one of the most popular scenic areas in town.

Twenty minutes southeast of Minneapolis is the Mall of the America. It’s not the biggest mall in the world by any means, but it is the largest  in the US and is a tourist destination in itself. It was built on the site of the former Metropolitan Stadium and even has a plaque where home plate was located in the middle of the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park. This giant park is the largest indoor one in the US and it’s buzzing with roller coasters and other attractions that you don’t usually expect to find in a mall. The Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium and Crayola World are also housed by this giant shopping center as well as 530 retail stores. There are several hotels attached as well, so you really don’t ever have to leave if you’re really into shopping. Every store you’ve ever heard of seems to have staked it’s claim in the mall, including the Hard Rock Cafe.

In addition to being the City of Flour, Minneapolis is the home of “Land O’ Lakes” dairy products. The brand name is inspired by the amount of lakes in the area and there are quite a few. There’s thirteen large lakes in Minneapolis, many of them connected together and you won’t have a problem finding something to do involving water. The word Minnehaha may literally sound like a “little joke”, but it’s a beautiful area with a pretty waterfall and a nice natural area for walking or a picnic. Everything is so green it’s hard to believe that the same area can become miserably cold as soon as summer starts to fade. Minneapolis really is a nature lover’s paradise.

Saint Paul doesn’t get quite as many visitors as it’s twin, but it  has several great museums, historic Fort Snelling and it’s infamous Wabash Street Caves. These man-made caverns have a long history from their humble beginnings as a mushroom farm to a prohibition era speak-easy. Their gangster tour is one of their most popular options. To make things even more interesting, visitors have reportedly seen ghosts inside the dark tunnels. The venue hosts a Thursday night swing night where visitors can reminisce about the old days when gangsters ran Saint Paul and terrorized Minneapolis.

Minneapolis/ St. Paul isn’t famous for it’s cuisine but you can thank them for almost anything made with flour including Cheerios, Bisquick and it’s reinvention of the cheeseburger into the “Juicy Lucy” where the cheese is inside the meat. Never heard of it? Don’t worry, someone there will be happy to explain it to you. If that doesn’t impress you, there’s always Spam which was created in Minnesota as well.

In short, there’s lots of fun things to do in the Minneapolis/St. Paul if you go at the right time of year. The history is fascinating and most people you meet fortunately don’t sound like they were in the “Fargo” movie even though parts were filmed there. If you’re a Prince fan, you won’t want to miss a tour at his former home, Paisley Park. Keep an eye out for cheap airfare deals from