I am finally visiting a place I have wanted to see for a long time…and not just because my younger son now lives here. Coming from Wisconsin, Minneapolis doesn’t seem at all exotic, and it isn’t, but I will now add it to the ever-growing list of cities that have a vibrant scene, great scenery, and plenty of things to do!
We are staying downtown near the Nicollet Mall (pronounce that “nick-let” if you want to sound like a local”). We began by throwing back a cold one at Brits (a British themed pub) and then enjoyed dinner at Zelo. After a nightcap at Bank, in our hotel the Westin Minneapolis, we went to bed.
Saturday dawned sunny but very cool (can’t say cold yet or what adjective would you use in December or January? It was in the 40’s so very cool is ok, right?) First stop is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden across from the Walker Art Museum.
The place is undergoing renovations with the building of a new campus area for the museum. We did get to see the “famous” spoon with its cherry, but many other display spaces were empty. The renovations will terminate in 2017, so you”ll want to add it back to your bucket list in a year or two. Meanwhile, it does have other treats en situ: We got to see the artist-designed mini-golf, but not go in. That exhibit ended on September 7th. Great idea for raising funds for a museum though! There are also a few greenhouses, or conservatories, filled with plants and art.
We also walked across the street to visit the Walker Art Museum. They were preparing for an annual fundraiser, catchily named “Avant Garden.” As a result, several of the lower level galleries were closed as they set up for the event, and the museum was free! (Almost a theme for this summer!) The main exhibit that was open seemed to be well thought out for an exhibition running during a major fundraiser. It was about the history of the museum, its directors, mission and acquisition strategy. This exhibit dove-tailed beautifully with the other exhibit I recently reviewed, the Van Gogh to Pollock show at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Walker has had a policy of collecting modern art by young artists BEFORE they become famous, and in this exhibit the genius of the directors who recognized talent early on was well represented. Some of the same artists’ work is displayed in this show as in the Milwaukee show, but here the curator’s comments clearly link the works to the Walker Museum’s strategy and mission… I mentioned, right, that there was a major fundraising dinner planned?
After a morning of art, we had a delicious Thai lunch at Kindee Thai located in the Mill Ruins Park area. Following lunch we got to see a bit of the weekly farmers’ market as it shut down, located right between the Guthrie Theater and the Mill City Museum.
First we visited the Theater. At 1:00 pm on a Saturday, you might reasonably ask why we would be going to a theater. Good question, but simple answer! This is an unusual building with some very interesting vantage points for view the scenery around us, which includes the Mississippi River! The building has a feature called “the Endless Bridge,” a structure that sticks out the side and ends (despite the name) in a protruding terrace from which there are spectacular, if also dizzying, views.
Using reflective surfaces and oddly shaped spaces, the experiencing of this space is unique in my experience!
Next, for our afternoon entertainment, we headed to the nearby Mill City Museum, eager to learn something about the history of Minneapolis. Evocatively located in the ruins of a flour mill that exploded in 1887, we learned all about how enterprising settlers arrived in this area and immediately put the “waterfalls” to work powering flour mills. The dam improvements are still working, though the mills have long since ceased to function. Still the history was interesting and the museum well planned and executed. First we watched an entertaining film about the history of Minneapolis, and then a multimedia show that included our sitting in a freight elevator in a long defunct and burned milled to learn something about flour milling. Well done and enjoyable, it was also very informative. That Flour Tower Tour ended on the top floor of the ruins from where we had a beautiful view of the river and the mill ruins.
Flour dust caused the explosion of the mill in 1887, which obliterated the building and killed between 12 – 15 people. It was so huge, that it smoldered for more than a month, and the people in Stillwater, MN thought it was an earthquake. Another mill was built over the spot, but that one was eventually and uneventfully closed; became an unofficial refuge for the homeless; and eventually burned before being resurrected many years later as a museum.
Following our two visits to buildings along the river we actually walked along the river and took in firsthand the old ruins the still appear next to the river and the famous bridges, the lock and the apron that controls the falling water and prevents the erosion of the falls.
Our full day of touring was capped off by a round of beers at the Rock Bottom Brewery,and then to dinner at Union, up on their roof-top.
Sunday dawned cool and sunny again, but today we are prepared for the warming up predicted by local weather gurus. For the morning, our activity is a hike in the Minnehaha Park, part of an extensive system of parks run by the city of Minneapolis. The walk takes us to see a natural waterfall (contrasting to yesterday’s man-controlled falls) and a lovely winding, woodland walk along the bank of the Minnehaha Creek to the Mighty Mississippi. Close to the convergence with the larger river, the creek is bordered by sandstone rocks, carved by water erosion and human graffiti, revealing all kinds of shapely holes and lots of initials! Beautiful colors, too. Also at the confluence, you are struck by how Nature and humans change the environment, each in a peculiarly self-defining way!
The morning was beautiful and so was the walk, but we were wise to start out early because by the time we returned, the hoards had descended.
It was almost noon, so our lunch place decision rested on finding a place in which to eat AND watch the Green Bay Packers play arch rivals, the Chicago Bears. That place turned out to be The Crooked Pint, but we had to watch the game on a huge screen with the soundtrack of a different game. It was too much for me! Fortunately, we watched the second half at my son’s apartment and were able to revel in the correct soundtrack. And the Packers won the game.
Our hours in Minneapolis are winding down, but before we call it quits, we made a quick trip to the Mall of America (note: not The Mall of the Americas – helpful when you enter it in the GPS). This was a purely tourist trip to the mall and wow! We were not disappointed! Hundreds of shops (might not be an exaggeration…) an amusement park complete with roller coasters; an aquarium; of course, a food court…It is really a sight to see!
Our final dinner was at an excellent restaurant called Butcher & the Boar. It was expensive, yes, but the food was excellent (and my son took home enough for a couple of extra meals – and that without my having ordered a main course). The service was also way above average and as a result, we had a thoroughly enjoyable experience!
After dinner there was nothing left to do but say “goodbye” and “thank you for a wonderful weekend.” We were up early the next morning to drive back to southern Wisconsin.