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
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
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
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
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
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.
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