MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL, Minnesota/ Troy Media/ - Minneapolis - St Paul is just a 6.5 hour drive south of Thunder Bay, Ontario. There is a small restaurant-bar right in the middle of downtown Minneapolis called The Keys at the Foshay. The pies are to die for. Breakfast is a feast. And after a ball game at Target Field or a basketball game at Target Center, there is no better place for a late night snack.
The Keys is one of a handful or bar/restaurants in downtown Minneapolis near the theatre district, the baseball stadium and the basketball arena that make an evening in the heart of the Twin Cities something special.
Of course, when you stop and think about everything Minneapolis-St. Paul and the surrounding communities provides for a Canadian visitor, it’s difficult to make a weekend work. It’s just not long enough. Like Chicago, once you get into it, you never want to leave.
Especially in the summer.
From the spectacular Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, right in downtown Minneapolis to Como Park in St. Paul to Claes Oldenburg’s magnificent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (featuring the breathtaking Minnesota icon, Spoonbridge and Cherry), the Twin Cities have everything. In fact, it’s impossible not to find something you enjoy doing, even if that something is just shopping.
We have so much fun shopping in the Twin Cities that Mall of America is a destination. From the Galleria in Edina to the Outlet Stores in Albertville to the Target Store on the Nicollet Mall, there are so many places to shop, wander and mingle that you can kill a day doing nothing more than looking into store windows.
But, of course, there is more to the Twin Cities than designer labels and multi-national chains. This is, after all, a metropolitan region with 17 individual farmers markets.
Our favourite is the Mill City Farmers Market, open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from May through October. It focuses on Minnesota’s cultural and culinary traditions and is known as one of the city’s best. It’s located in the heart of the old mill district along the Mississippi River and after a visit to the market I’d recommend walking across the Old Stone Arch Bridge to St. Anthony Main, particularly 117 Main St. E. That’s where you’ll find Pracna on Main, the oldest restaurant located on the oldest street in Minneapolis. It’s another tremendous eating and meeting place with a rockin’ cobblestone patio that is a can’t-miss downtown destination during the summer.
You might not know this, but the state of Minnesota has more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii. Combined! Meanwhile, Minneapolis is called “The City of Lakes” and that’s something that’s impossible to deny. There are 22 lakes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region so if you decide to visit the Twin Cities in the summer, bring your swim trunks.
Of course, when we go to Minneapolis, we generally go to watch sports. And there is no shortage of sports.
Major League Baseball’s Twins have a wonderful (still) new home amidst the bars, entertainment complexes and new hotels in the northern part of downtown Minneapolis. The NFL’s Vikings will soon have a brand new state-of-the-art NFL stadium (this year they’ll play once again at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium) at the southern end of downtown while the NHL’s Minnesota Wild are housed at the beautiful Xcel Energy Centre in St. Paul and the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves are right across the street from the ball park at the Target Centre.
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And for those who love that old time baseball feeling, you can always attend a St. Paul Saints game at the Saints brand new $60 million CHS Field in downtown St. Paul. It’s inexpensive, plenty of fun and if you get tired of watching baseball, you can always go out into the parking lot and party with the tailgaters.
National Geographic wrote the following about the Twin Cities: “A pedestrian-and-pedal-friendly downtown and welcoming Midwestern vibe make it easy for first-time visitors to quickly feel at home in Minneapolis. Snow can fall here from October to April, so the arrival of warm weather launches a full throttle, June-August celebration of arts, music, and cultural festivals, farmers markets and fan-friendly Minnesota Twins baseball, played downtown at Target Field – ranked the top sports stadium in North America by ESPN The Magazine.”
It’s true. There is no better ballpark in North America, but make sure you bring your wallet. It’s not cheap.
When it comes to hitting the Twin Towns, we’re generally weekenders, but Minneapolis-St. Paul and the entire Minnesota capital region has so much going for it a first timer might want to spend a few extra days. I mean, if you’re just interested in gambling there is a great casino and an even better race track. And if all you want to do is ride a few rides, Valleyfair Theme Park has some great attractions.
However, if you decide you want to stay longer, try going at the end of August. That way you can combine a weekend enjoying the arts and entertainment of the Twin Cities, plus a few extra days with the crowds and the craziness of the Minnesota State Fair.
Located on the 320-acre State Fairgrounds site in St. Paul, the State Fair, “Showcases Minnesota’s finest agriculture, art and industry.” Its slogan is “The Great Minnesota Get-Together,” and it boasts the largest daily attendance of any state fair in the entire United States.
It’s great fun and the food is amazing. My personal favorites are Walleye-on-a-Stick, Chocolate Covered Bacon (known as Pig Lickers) and the quarter-pound bacon sandwich. This year, the new foods at the State Fair are Sweet Corn Ice Cream, Deep Fried Cookie Dough Ice Cream, Teriyaki Chicken on a Stick, Crab Fritters and Chocolate Covered Jalapeno Peppers. Not sure about that last one.
There is so much to do at the Fair that if you really want to take it all in, give yourself a couple of days. With all the displays, the agricultural competitions, the amazing food and the Grandstand Shows, it’s a wonderful way to wrap up your summer.
The point of this exercise is pretty clear. If you choose to get away to Minneapolis-St. Paul, you will not be disappointed. It’s a capital region with four major sports franchises, a terrific race track (Canterbury Downs), a wonderful theme park (Valleyfair), a great casino (Mystic Lake), 17 farmers’ markets, a rockin’ state fair, 22 inter-city lakes, enough shopping to wear out your credit card and more restaurants than you can possibly enjoy.
But if you’re only going for a weekend, you won’t have enough time to take it all in.
By Scott and Sally Taylor
By Scott Taylor