While football was our main reason for a trip to the Twin Cities, we had plenty of time to check out some holiday attractions, as well as play construction worker and try the famous Jucy Lucy, among a few other activities.
Rosedale Center welcomed Santa Claus to a new seasonal home at the Winter Castle. The 31-foot tall castle has about 30,000 LED bulbs that change colors. Children were lining up to visit the jolly old elf during our visit.
Three large displays are located around the mall, a short drive from the Home2 Suites where we stayed. A large star can be spotted in front of Macy’s. The display, good for photo opportunities, uses more than 12,000 LED bulbs to illuminate. We loved an LED-lit ornament, which can be used for photos. It was also popular with mall visitors. A third photo site resembles a postcard with fir trees on each side and snow in the foreground.
Another must-visit in Roseville is the OVALumination at the John Rose Oval. The outdoor ice sheet is divided into four hockey rinks, while the outside track is used for ice skating. Bordering the ice is a row of trees decorated with holiday lights. The trees provide a beautiful backdrop to the fun that families, friends and couples have on the ice.
We stopped by earlier in the day to check out the oval. We watched a speed skating competition. It was a chilly, but fun experience. Inside, young children were practicing hockey.
Toys for kids of all ages
Aside from some of the Twin Cities’ holiday festivities, we enjoyed visiting the area. While touring Rosedale Center, we watched some kids playing on motorized animals, such as an elephant and pig, at Amusing Rides. They enjoyed themselves.
Since the kids were having fun, we thought we should, too. Well, a short jaunt from there was Extreme Sandbox Mini, an indoor construction zone. Visitors can buy time to play on small excavators, moving mulch and trying to knock balls off orange cones. Extreme Sandbox Mini challenges your skills. You must be at least 10 years old to play on the equipment. We visited on their first weekend, so we were among the first to play with the toys.
Extreme Sandbox Mini includes simulators for practicing working on heavy equipment. They even have a sandbox for youngsters too young to ride the big toys to play in with toy vehicles.
Extreme Sandbox Mini is an expansion of the outdoor playground in Hastings, Minnesota. The outdoor location offers packages where people can work full-sized vehicles, including an excavator and bulldozer. The Hastings location is open seasonally.
Enjoying a Jucy Lucy
We are on a mission to taste the best Jucy Lucy in the Twin Cities. The burger consists of cheese cooked inside the meat. We figured it was best to kick off the food challenge at Matt’s Bar. Located in a neighborhood along Cedar Avenue, you’d guess Matt’s was a dive bar. Known as the birthplace of the Jucy Lucy, we met friends Tom and Kris from Travel Past 50. We were fortunate the couple were in town, as they are known to travel the world.
Our timing was perfect for lunch. Parties will not be seated until everyone is there. We stood in line for about 10 minutes. We each ordered a Jucy Lucy (Tom passed on the burger). The table shared an order of fries. A basket of fries feeds 4-5 people easily.
Burgers served, we were reminded to let the burgers cool because the cheese will burst out of the burger with your first bite. As you take that first bite, the cheese blasts into your mouth. You’ll want to quickly put the burger down or face cheese oozing down your hand. The Jucy Lucy was good. I think part of the experience is eating it at the iconic bar. The burger has been served at Matt’s since 1954.
Following lunch, Tom and Kris invited us to check out a Cuban art showing at the Squirrel Haus Arts, about a five-minute drive from Matt’s. Shown in the United States for the first time, the art was impressive.
St. Paul Cathedral
Our weekend was one of checking things off our Cities bucket list. We’ve long wanted to visit the Cathedral of St. Paul. The first cornerstone for the cathedral was laid in 1907. The first mass was conducted in 1915. The cathedral seats 3,000 people.
The cathedral offers visitors a look at saints from around the world in its Shrines of Nations. About a half-dozen saints are honored, each representing an area of the worlds, such as Italy, Germany and Ireland. The 12 Stations of the Cross are displayed on plaques throughout the church. Historical figures in the St. Paul church are also displayed.
Later in the day, we took a stroll along Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall. A 12-block stretch of the street is now a pedestrian-only mall, featuring sculptures, a public library, coffee shop, stores and restaurants. Dunn Bros. coffee is outstanding, by the way. It was the perfect stop on a chilly day.
Ever heard of a two-floor Target? We’ve visited it before, but we always get a kick out of stopping there. As you shop, you can load your shopping cart on an escalator of its own to move between floors. It’s fun just to ride the escalators and watch the carts move.
The IDS Center has a beautiful Christmas tree exhibit in its lobby.
Looking for Lou Grant at dinner
We found a restaurant to visit during our walk along Nicollet Mall. The News Room offers an upscale American menu featuring items such as barbecue duck wings, Kobe beef lasagna and a meatloaf sampler. The sampler featured squares of Kobe beef, lamb and chicken. Each menu item we tried was delicious.
The décor of the News Room appeals to anyone interested in the print media and history. Rooms feature newspaper wall paper bearing headlines of key historical stories, including Nixon’s resignation, the end of Prohibition and the United States hockey team upsetting the Soviets at the 1980 Winter Olympics. I half expected to see Lou Grant and Ted Baxter enjoying a drink at the bar with Murray and Mary.
The primary reason for our trip was to attend the Minnesota Vikings-Los Angeles Rams game at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings prevailed 24-7. We loved attending our first game at US Bank Stadium and wrote this piece on the experience.
We enjoyed staying at the Home2 Suites in Roseville, courtesy of the Roseville visitors bureau. The extended stay hotel offers guests a nice-sized suite for a reasonable price. The living room area can be separated from the bedroom with a curtain.
The suite features an amazing work desk. You may recall that I am a work desk junkie. I need room to use my laptop and place my camera while working. The Home2 Suites has a two-tiered desk. The bottom can be pulled out for more work space. The hotel also has more than enough outlets to charge batteries, phones, Fitbits and portable chargers.
Guests can cook their own food, as utensils and dishware are available. Or, you can grab breakfast in the dining room near the lobby. The menu includes oatmeal, waffles, boiled eggs, bagels and toast, as well cereal and microwavable sandwiches.
We ate at the hotel, but also visited our favorite breakfast eatery in Roseville – the Original Pancake House. Based in Oregon, the restaurant has operated in Roseville for the past few years. Portions are huge, so either have a big appetite or maybe share a meal. The restaurant is known for its Apple Pancake (a plate-sized pancake topped with sautéed granny smith apples and cinnamon sugar) and a giant cinnamon roll (plate-sized). We watched them being served to people around us. They looked tempting, but all I could think of were the calories and carbs.
As we headed south on Interstate 35 for home, I again pledged my love for Minnesota and the Twin Cities. I cannot wait to get back there and soak in some more Norse land love. If you had any doubts, we strongly recommend visiting the area. We also encourage you to use Roseville as your base of operations, because the city is only minutes from both Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as some of the other suburbs.
For more information on the area, please visit www.visitroseville.com.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Visit Roseville for the complimentary hotel stay and gift card for dining. However, all opinions and views are ours.