Twin Cities visit opens our eyes to so many opportunities

Twin Cities
Minneapolis skyline

Editor’s Note: Prairie Dogs is no longer open (as of Jan. 1, 2017). The restaurant owners plan to do pop-up stands and catering.

I always thought I knew the Twin Cities. After all, we used to go there a few times a year. Of course, most of those trips consisted of hanging out at the Mall of America and catching a Vikings or Twins game. Then, heading back to unwind at the hotel. We also “explored” downtown. Or at least, what we considered downtown – usually a six-block radius of the hotel we stayed at. We’d see the Mary Tyler Moore statue, downtown stores and restaurants.

A couple of years ago, we visited the Minnesota Zoo. Wow! Something new to check out. Truthfully, I’d been to the zoo before, but that was like 20+ years ago.

We never realized what we were missing by hanging out in our little cocoon. Our recent trip to the Twin Cities opened our eyes to so many new adventures. Of course, we did make the obligatory trip to the Mall of America, but with a twist. In the end, the Twin Cities had us ready to plan another get away for more adventures.

Our first adventure was eating dinner in a new district of Minneapolis. We were encouraged to try Prairie Dogs in the Lynlake (Uptown) District. It’s an eclectic looking neighborhood. Several different personality styles – bikers, bicyclists, LGBT, families…Just a diverse area. Everyone seemed to get along and just “do their thing.”

Twin Cities
Dinner at Prairie Dogs – hot dogs

 

Prairie Dogs offers a variety of hot dogs (and other items). We each tried a variation of a hot dog. Lisa’s hot dog included an egg cooked sunny side up. It looked good. I went with the namesake dog. The Prairie Dog is similar to a Chicago dawg. We added a side order of chili cheese fries to share. We weren’t disappointed. The chili was excellent. The hot dogs were great. Service was outstanding!

Twin Cities
Dinner at Prairie Dogs

 

Our hotel was fantastic! Renaissance at The Depot is a converted Milwaukee Railroad depot. Marriott did an outstanding job in renovating the building. Inside, the hotel is alike a mini railroad museum with statues of historical people and posters and memorabilia located throughout the building.

Twin Cities
Newsie statue at Renaissance hotel

 

We fell in love with the Stone Arch Bridge. The bridge was built in 1883 for the railroad industry. It operated until 1965. In 1980, the city of Minneapolis started to rehabilitate the bridge. It opened as a walking, jogging and bicycle path in 1994.

Twin Cities
Stone Arch Bridge at Mill Ruins Park

 

The 2,100-foot long bridge is part of the Mill Ruins Park, along the Mississippi River.

Twin Cities
Pedestrian path on Stone Arch Bridge

 

The park is a few feet downstream from St. Anthony’s Falls. The Falls are the largest on the river. Minneapolis was actually founded along St. Anthony’s Falls, because of the power the water generated.

Twin Cities
St. Anthony’s Falls

 

The park is located across from the old mill district. Gold Medal Flour was manufactured in this part of Minneapolis for several decades. The mill building suffered multiple fires through the years, due to accidents and arson. The last fire in 1999 – likely caused by arson – fueled the need to do something with the building’s remains. The Mill City Museum was born from that situation.

Twin Cities
Mill City Museum

 

The museum explores the history of flour mills and their products. Visitors can see items on display such as the Pillsbury Dough man, a giant Bisquick box, a Wheaties box featuring the World Champion Minnesota Twins, as well as other products.

Twin Cities
Pillsbury Dough Man at Mill City Museum

 

The museum does an outstanding job in presenting its history. Visitors get a beautiful view of the Mississippi River and part of the Cities on the 9th floor observation deck.

Twin Cities
View from Mill City Museum’s observation deck

 

Next door, visitors can take a look at Minneapolis’ outstanding professional theater. The Guthrie Theatre opened its doors along the river a few years ago. Previously, it was situated near the Walker Art Center, about a 15-minute drive from its current location. The move was necessitated by the theater’s growth.

Twin Cities
Guthrie Theater, near the Mississippi River

 

Though, visitors aren’t allowed to take photos inside the two main theaters, the Guthrie offers a beautiful view. The walls and ceilings have what appear to be murals. They are actually made of wall paper. The art depicts characters in plays presented there.

Twin Cities
One of the neat onion-screen “murals” at Guthrie Theater

 

Gold Medal Park is next door. It offers another outstanding view of the Mississippi River and its surroundings.

Twin Cities
Nice park near our hotel

 

Being Minnesota Vikings fans, we had to check out the construction of the new stadium. Set to open in 2016, US Bank Stadium will give the Vikings one of the most modern-looking stadiums in the 32-team National Football League. The stadium’s design resembles a ship, reminiscent of Viking explorers.

Twin Cities
Vikings’ new stadium is coming along well


It wouldn’t be fair to check on the Vikings without a visit to the baseball Twins stadium. We took a fan tour of Target Field. It’s one of the newer baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball and is only six years old. But, it still looks brand new.

Twin Cities
Target Field – home of the Minnesota Twins

 

The two-hour tour took the dozen or so of us behind the scenes. We visited the Champions Club, where special season ticket holders can dine on some great food or just baseball food and watch the game indoors when they want a break.

The Delta Club gives season ticket holders an opportunity to dine above the field. People can watch the game from a lounge while enjoying a nice meal or beverage. The décor is outstanding on this level with artwork featuring late Twins greats Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett, among the many players posters adorning the walls.

Twin Cities
Kirby Puckett honored

 

The opportunity to sit in the Twins dugout and stand inches from the grass field was pretty exciting to this guy.

Twin Cities
Tim sitting in the Twins’ dugout

 

We spent about nine hours at the Mall of America one day. But, you know, the hours flew by. When it was time to head home for the night, I thought of places we didn’t check out or things we didn’t get to do.

Twin Cities
Mall of America shoppers

 

Lisa took her first run on a zipline. She was a little nervous, but ended up having a blast. I even faced my “concern” of heights and went on the Dora the Explorer Ferris Wheel.

Twin Cities
Lisa knocking off a zipline ride from her bucket list

 

Nickelodeon Universe is a fun place for families and kids of all ages to spend the day.

Twin Cities
Nickelodeon Universe

 

We had the opportunity to check out a couple of attractions, and they were enjoyable.

The “Star Trek” exhibit runs through the end of the year on the mall’s third floor. “Star Trek: The Exhibit” can be visited in a special exhibit center, along with “CSI: The Experience” and a Barbie experience. All three have special admission prices and can be purchased online or at the mall.

Twin Cities
Star Trek exhibit’s bridge

 

Sea Life was an interesting visit. We’ve visited the Sea Life location in Kansas City, but the two were very different from each other. That was nice, as you get some variety.

Twin Cities
Caiman at Sea Life Minnesota

 

The mall’s Sea Life has a cool jellyfish exhibit. They use mirrors, which give the illusion that there are several tanks in the area. The jellyfish were cool to watch as they changed colors.

Twin Cities
Sea Life jelly fish

 

We visited a couple of “our” favorite stores – The College Shop (where I left with a great new North Dakota hockey sweatshirt. Thanks to my four-legged kids – Tucker and Gus – for the Father’s Day gift) – and the Vikings Locker Room, where I browsed for potential gift ideas.

Twin Cities
Tim’s favorite store at Mall of America

 

We did check out a new store – Fjall Raven. It’s a Scandinavian outdoor equipment store. You can get clothing, boots and equipment there.

Twin Cities
Scandinavian outfitters stoe

 

Lisa was very tempted to make her own minion at Build-a-Bear Workshop. But, then she decided spending $75 for a stuffed toy seems a bit excessive. LOL. We’ll see. She has a special date coming up in September.

Twin Cities
Minions at Build-a-Bear

 

We normally look for local restaurants to dine at when traveling. But, at the Mall of America, we always HAVE to eat at Bubba Gump’s. It’s a guilty pleasure. The food and service were great, as usual.

Twin Cities
Dinner at Bubba Gump

 

Speaking of local dining, we drove to St. Paul to have breakfast Mickey’s Diner. It’s an old dining car built in the 1930s. We grabbed some of the fluffiest omelets we’ve ever had. The food is super filling…and delicious.

Twin Cities
Mickey’s Diner in St. Paul

 

Mickey’s has been featured on both the big and little screens – in each of “The Mighty Ducks” movies and on cooking shows starring Rachel Ray and Alton Brown. Celebrities have dined there, too, including Emilio Estevez and Garrison Keillor.

We sought out some culture during our visit. The Walker Art Center is one of the region’s leaders in offering progressive takes on artwork. Its current Pop Art exhibit takes a look art from various perspectives. Artists featured include Andy Warhol, with a look at 16 images of former first lady Jackie Kennedy.

Twin Cities
Andy Warhol piece at Walker Art Center

The center offers a variety of art presentations.

Located on the outdoor campus is the Sculpture Garden. The featured piece of work is the spoon with a cherry. The centerpiece gives viewers a view of Minneapolis in the background.

Twin Cities
Spoonbridge ad cherry statue at Walker Center’s sculpture garden

A short distance from the art center is the first basilica in the United States. Pope Pius XI named the Minneapolis cathedral as the first American basilica in 1926. Visitors to the basilica can expect high arches and beautiful stained glass.

Twin Cities
First Basilica in the United States

Our final new adventure of the Twin Cities was a visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The arboretum is a joint effort between the University of Minnesota’s horticultural center and the Men’s Club. The arboretum was recently named one of the top college arboretums in the country.

Twin Cities
Minnesota arboretum

The park’s 1,100+ acres include woods, trails, prairies and flower gardens. You can walk several trails. The sounds of nature are strong here – birds singing, and the rustling of leaves by the wind. You can easily forget you’re about 30 minutes from downtown Minneapolis.

Twin Cities
Trail at the arboretum

As we ended our trip to the Twin Cities, our thoughts have already turned to a return trip – checking out the state capitol, Swedish museum, Minneapolis City Hall building, Minnesota History Building, Minnehaha Falls State Park, as well as the science center.

The Twin Cities and their suburbs have so much offer. It’s all worth checking out. Grab your slice of the Cities and enjoy!

For more information on the Twin Cities area, please visit www.minneapolis.org.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Meet Minneapolis (Convention and Visitors Bureau) for organizing and arranging complimentary admission to: Star Trek: The Exhibit, Sea Life, Nickelodeon Universe, Twins Stadium tour, Mill City Museum and Minnesota Arboretum. Thanks also to Renaissance at The Depot for the media rate during our stay. However, all opinions and views are ours.