Our Time with the Twins

Minnesota is often defined by its Twin Cities. Minneapolis was a former Mississippi River hot spot for traders and trappers and later industrialists. And while Minneapolis is quite a bit larger than its little sister (suburb) St. Paul, St. Paul is the state capital… So it’s got that going for it. But both have interesting histories and are quite well manicured. Of course we are writing this in summer and some have told us it’s much harder to enjoy these cities once the harsh winter winds come barreling into town.

We rolled into Minnesota late on Monday and were determined to catch a few sites before the sun set.

Mall of America
First on our list was Mall of America. This behemoth is a monument to capitalism and the 80s. As other malls were dying, Mall of America continued to prosper with its key gimmick – the indoor amusement park. Now a Nickelodeon theme, the park features three smallish coasters and other attractions primarily designed with kids in mind. Other than this, it’s just like any other mall with its Forever 21, Foot Locker, and food court.

If Victoria would have had $500 in her pocket to throw away on a few new outfits, and I would have found the Orange Julius sooner we both would have enjoyed this experience more.

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Calhoun
After our visit to the mall, we made our first attempt to visit the tomb of Tiny Tim to no avail (more on this later). Luckily, exiting the Lakewood Cemetery, we ran smack dab into Lake Calhoun (down a one way road the wrong way). Lake Calhoun is one of the most beautiful of Minneapolis’s downtown lakes. It features exercise trails, a long, narrow fishing pier, sand beaches and plenty of space to chill and watch a sunset (which is what we did).


Mystic Lake Casino

Minnesota’s very first and largest Indian casino has to be seen at night. Not just for the people watching, but because Mystic Lake Casino designed a teepee made of lights to honor its Native American heritage. The light was so bright when it first opened that God asked them to tone it down because he was having trouble getting to sleep. In actuality, it was the FAA who requested they lower the wattage because planes were mistaking the beams for runway lights over 1,000 miles away. Seriously.

 

Walker Art Park
We’re really getting good at this “art in the park” thing. You walk around, soaking up sunrays while enjoying, and trying to understand the tortured spirits of the intense sculptors. It appeared however, that we had not done enough training, because we were quickly wiped out by the 108 degree heat index in this wonderful park.

Since it wasn’t even 10 am, we couldn’t escape the oppressive heat inside the Walker Center because it wouldn’t open for another hour. Pity too, since cult film hero John Waters had curated an exhibit titled “Absentee Landlord” that I was dying to see. Oh well, click on the spoon to see some of the outdoor highlights.

 

Downtown Minneapolis
Next we popped downtown to see what the city would bring. In no mood to walk around in the heat, especially with torrential downpours expected at any moment, we parked outside their “city center” mall. Just like downtown malls in other Midwestern cities, this mall is yet another physical reminder of the pretty suburbs and the creeping beginnings of urban decline.

However, we were pleased to see something quite new in Minneapolis… Open public wi-fi which allowed us to research a few things to see, find correct addresses and orient ourselves to the area. Very exciting, we can’t wait until every city has open connectivity.

On Seventh Street we snapped a quick picture of the girl who can turn the world on with a smile – Mary Richards. Immortalized by Mary Tyler Moore on the show of the same name, Mary Richards famously throws her hat in the opening credits of the show, in the approximate spot where this statue now stands. Bronze, and very artistic, it was placed here by TV Land to promote late night reruns of the show.

We meandered like tourists until rain really started threatening and quickly snapped a picture of the famous Grain Belt Beer sign across the river as we escaped the city and headed to St. Paul.

Mary Richards

Famous Grain Bell Beer sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oldest Dairy Queen in Minnesota
I know it doesn’t seem all that cool, and it probably wouldn’t have made our list normally. But, we stopped at the oldest DQ in the land of 10,000 lakes because we had time to kill, and ice cream is always a great way to pass minutes… A great way.

 

 

 

Cathedral of St. Paul

Even driving up the road to the cathedral is breathtaking. Through the mist of the noon rain, we could see the imposing shadow of the cathedral’s immense copper dome atop the tallest hill in the entire city of St. Paul.

Guided public tours are offered for free each weekday at 1:00, though they are happy to receive “free will” donations. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and ours was led by historian Celeste, a former professor who, now retired, leads tours.

Celeste began the tour with the Shrines of Nations, a tribute to the six immigrant groups who settled Minnesota, though sadly no tribute to the heathens on whose land this glorious landmark is built – i think it’s because they weren’t Catholic.

The Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul, took nine years to complete the exterior of the building, and another 40 years to complete the interior, though renovation is constant with any Cathedral.

The thing that kept eating at me was imagining all the poor, the children and the elderly who may have been helped by the millions and millions that were poured into the building. Sometimes religion and government baffle me.

The Cathedral is absolutely beautiful, a palace so opulent as to detract a bit from the message at its center. For our photos, click on the cathedral below.

The Cathedral of St. Paul.

Izzys ice cream
Being handed the title of Best Ice Cream by the Food Network automatically places you on our list. Honestly, the criteria for “making our list” is actually pretty small, but, the Food Network, c’mon, that’s a no brainer!

They have dozens of flavors, interesting ones like graham cracker, cream cheese (which includes a full pound of cream cheese in each mix) as well as the more traditional butter pecan, superman, etc.

But, what sets Izzy’s apart is its “Izzy Scoop.” This tiny scoop that is placed on top of your regular order is a sample scoop of any other flavor. “Oooooohhhh…..,” I can here you saying. Yes. Awesome, and the ice cream is delicious.

Tiny Tim’s Tomb
For those who don’t have an interest in all things kooky, you may not recognize the name Tiny Tim, but you’ve surely recognize this musician’s distinctive falsetto and ukelele on his one hit – “Tiptoe through the Tulips.” While in Minnesota, for some reason, I felt the need to visit his tomb in Lakewood Cemetery.  I was not disappointed as, even 15 years after his death, someone had recently brought him Tulips. You can learn more about him here.

Minnehaha State Park
We were told we couldn’t miss the hiking trails at Minnehaha State Park and specifically the Minnehaha Waterfall… We were not disappointed.

 

Minnehaha Waterfall