Kati," I say, "how about a weekend in Minnesota, just the two of us?" Kati, my 14-year-old, just shrugs. "C'mon Kati, we'll stay in a hotel, eat out, it'll be fun." No response. I pull out my trump card. "We can go to the Mall of America." "OK," she says. "Let's go."
Quick, what do you think of when you hear the word Minnesota? Here's what I think of: snow, cold, ice fishing, hockey-and cousins. We have relatives in Minneapolis whom we visit, but when the Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association invited us to spend a few days there last summer, I thought it would be a great opportunity to play tourist in a city I have visited but never really seen. Besides, chances were slim it would snow in August.
Kati and I stayed in downtown Minneapolis for only four days. As I write this and try to think of how to describe everything we did, I am amazed we were able to pack in so much.
One of the highlights was the Mill City Museum. It was built within the ruins of the Washburn "A" Mill. The architecture is fascinating; some of the building is original and some new. We learned that Minnesota was once the flour-milling capital of the world, and we toured the sections of the old factory that are still intact. In the museum we saw a giant wooden Pillsbury recipe box just like the one I remember seeing on my grandmother's kitchen counter; we laughed at the old advertisements proclaiming Bisquick as a timesaver for housewives; and we learned about the many stages of the flour-milling process through stories narrated by people who once worked there.
Another interesting building is the Old Milwaukee Road Depot. This historical landmark used to be the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Station. It is now restored and transformed into a family friendly hotel and convention center with an indoor ice rink and water park.
Younger kids will love the Minnesota Children's Museum. We pretended to be beavers in our own lodge, climbed into a giant doghouse with Clifford the Bid Red Dog, played with bubbles and enjoyed the rooftop view and art center.
Then we went to the Science Museum of Minnesota, where we found fun for all ages. Kati and I spent a big chunk of our time making music by running up and down the musical stairway on which each stair is a note. We learned about tornados and hurricanes; we studied color and light; we even went outside for a quick round of mini-golf where the water hazards are actually a lesson in how water gets from the mountains to the oceans.
The Walker Art Center is closed for remodeling, but the outdoor sculpture garden is open and quite lovely. The sculptures are huge and interactive; touching, running and jumping on them are part of the attraction. The garden is beautiful.
We also visited the Children's Theatre Company. We were in town on an off weekend; taking in a show would have been nice. We walked down Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis-blocks and blocks of stores, restaurants and, lucky for us, a farmer's market. We found ourselves very envious of the above-ground skyway system that connects all the stores and restaurants-a real plus during the bitter Minnesota winters. We played many games at GameWorks, including interactive bowling and pretended to be Indy 500 race car drivers. We toured around the city on a trolley, where the driver (and narrator) entertained us with his stories and generously gave out suggestions of things to do and places to see.
And yes, we went to the Mall of America. We had some serious shopping to do. Those of you looking for non-shopping action will also find plenty of entertainment. First of all, there is Camp Snoopy, the nation's largest indoor theme park, with more than 30 rides. Then check out the Lego store, which is four stories high. Also, there is a bowling alley, an aquarium full of sharks and a NASCAR motor speedway. Minneapolis has a new Metro Transit system that whisks travelers directly from the airport, through downtown Minneapolis and on to the Mall of America. Kati suggests we find some cheap flights and make a day of it. No rental car necessary.
Minneapolis is a delightful combination of art, theater, museums, music, food and shopping. We even managed to squeeze in a visit with the cousins. Our trip gave me a new respect for a city where I can now envision fun that does not involve cold, snow and hockey.
Sandi Pedersen, the mother of four children, is the Web editor for Chicago Parent and the five newspapers published by Wednesday Journal Inc., our parent company.
Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but it actually has 11,482.
Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline-more than Florida, Hawaii and California combined.
Minneapolis has more live theater seats per capita than any other U.S. city except New York.
The Children's Theatre Company won the 2003 Tony Award for best regional theater.
From 1880 to 1930, Minneapolis led the world in flour milling and earned the nickname "Mill City." During that time period, more than 12 million loaves of bread were made daily from the wheat milled at the Washburn "A" Mill.
The above-ground Skyway System is a glass-enclosed walkway connecting 72 city blocks-almost seven miles of downtown Minneapolis.
Bisquick pancake mix, Cheerios, Cream of Wheat, Scotch Tape and Post-it Notes were all invented in Minnesota.
The Mall of America has more than 500 stores.
Minnesota has no sales tax on clothing.
See more of Sandi's stories here.