While waiting for the traffic light to turn green, I looked to my right and watched as the police officer pried the bottle of booze from the drunkards hands. He laid there on the curb with his feet dangling into the street while the cop walked over and placed the evidence into a bag. I opened my car window and heard the drunk attempting to yell words, but all that came out was alcohol fueled gibberish. The cop came back and tried to pull him further from the traffic, but it was no use, he would surely be calling for backup…
Visiting Minneapolis First
When I was younger I thought a state with such a name had to be weird, I mean… A “mini soda”? What is that? But, I was young, very very young. Minnesota never interested me all that much, but I had been wanting to checkout the Mall Of America for a long time. I’m no consumerist by a long shot, much more a minimalist and have been for a long time, but I love malls. So I came to Minnesota for three days and figured I would do the mall in maybe half a day, but instead I was there for 12 hours straight and still didn’t see everything, so I did an article on the mall alone. This is about all the unplanned things that happened during the other two days around Minneapolis.
Random Fact: The Minneapolis Skyway, spanning 69 downtown blocks, is the longest continuous skyway system in the world.
“What are you here for? Work?” asked the receptionist at the surprisingly nice hotel in Eden Prarie after getting my info.
“Nope” I said with enthusiasm “I came to check out the Mall and the Twin Cities!”
“Oh yeah, everyone has to see the Mall. Most natives aren’t too fond of it though, so you certainly won’t be the only visitor there” he said.
“That’s what I’ve heard” I replied.
You don’t need to say “Mall of America” when you’re around Minneapolis and you also shouldn’t use the term “Twin Cities”, as the natives of each city like to declare their independence from each other. And even though St. Paul peeps won’t admit it, they’re aware that Minneapolis is the favored child in the state of Minnesota, but that’s not to say that St. Paul isn’t worth checking out. After I left the “Mall” and drove back towards Eden Prarie to my hotel I saw Minneapolis to the north and decided to take a quick drive through the city. Not only is this city a bigger deal than I thought, but it’s beautiful when lit up at night. It doesn’t have any skyscrapers like Chicago or New York, and it doesn’t have the diversity of Toronto or Las Vegas, but it does have a very strong charm that’s hard to describe. After my quick cruise I started to head back south towards the hotel to give my legs a rest, 12 hours of walking almost non-stop, needless to say, when I hit the bed I instantly fell asleep and slept through the entire night.
Random Fact: Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline,
more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined.
I woke up without an alarm as I always do on a trip (honestly, who sets an alarm while on vacation?) and showered. When in Minneapolis you should take a break from Starbucks and checkout Caribou. Caribou Coffees have been closing all over the US which is sad as I enjoyed the variety of both coffee shops, but you’ll always find a Caribou in Minneapolis as it was founded here originally! After my obvious stop at Caribou I ventured further into the city and checked out the downtown area during the day and ended up finding my way to a sculpture garden. I remember noticing a pamphlet at the hotel mentioning the “Famous Minneapolis Sculpture Garden” and I noticed the famous “Spoonbridge and Cherry” as well, so I decided this would be a good first stop.
The day was still warming up and there was still some muddy areas, but it didn’t stop me from checking out all the outside sculptures. I also went inside the garden area and viewed a lot, but nothing caught my attention as much as the outdoor displays. I then started heading towards a rather stylish yellow/blue bridge that led back towards the city. I considered going back for my car and finding a spot on the other side of the interstate that the bridge passed over, but my legs had recovered well and figured that when I go overseas without a vehicle, I’ll need to do a lot of walking anyways. The view from the bridge gave way to another site, the Basilica of Saint Mary. This place is big enough to have its own city block and after just coming from the biggest sculpture garden in the country and the biggest mall the day before I guess it’s true what they say; “everything’s bigger in Minnesota!”…. oh wait, that’s Texas isn’t it? Anyways, after crossing the bridge I came to a park that I strolled through before checking out the cathedral. I didn’t go in, I saw a few people standing outside the front doors dressed pretty formal, so I assumed there was a family event happening inside. I snapped some shots and continued on my way.
I alternated my way back by going past some stores and restaurants that hadn’t opened yet. Minneapolis has a safe feeling to it, it’s not really known for high crime rates, I’m sure it has its bad neighborhoods like every city, but I never did find them. I headed back across the pedestrian bridge to the sculpture garden and back to my car. I was getting hungry and lunch was approaching, so where did I go for lunch?….. Caribou of course!
I ended up walking around the downtown area a bit more and stopped at a couple other coffee shops, nothing really stood out exceptionally special though, so I ended up driving over to the University of Minnesota. Just a few blocks shy of the bridge that takes you across the Mississippi River (quick geography reminder: the Mississippi passes right through Minneapolis) over to the University I noticed something happening on the side of the street. A man was being pulled off the street by a cop and a bottle of what looked to be beer was being pulled from his clutches which the officer placed into a bag. I snapped a quick shot of the incident before continuing on.
The university is really nice, but once you enter the streets of it you can get turned around very easily and not know which way you’re going. There’s also some artwork scattered around, but nothing like the sculpture garden. The sun was starting to set and the city was starting to light up, so I headed back into downtown for dinner. This time I went to a place called Crave which also has a restaurant in the Mall, but this one was much nicer, it also had a rooftop bar which was unfortunately closed. I had a flatbread which was alright, nothing special, and watched the Minnesota Wild play on the Television nearby. I took a quick detour around the city before heading back to the parking garage where I had stashed my car. If you want a street with a lot of nightlife, you’ll want to take a walk down Hennepin Ave. This street has it all when it comes to the night scene in Minneapolis, bars, nightclubs, nice restaurants, a random place called “The Gay 90’s”, theaters, and a cool bridge at the end that’s lit up green (or at least it was green during my visit).
And Now To St.
The following day I made my way back into Minneapolis, stopped at Caribou, and then headed over to St. Paul. A slightly late start to the day as I was up walking Hennepin Ave. until around 2:30 the night before. I had also learned this morning that I had a missed a concert by Echosmith, I had only heard one song by them, but it would’ve been fun as admission was super cheap.
Random Fact: St. Paul has more city shoreline along the Mississippi River than any other American city.
And that’s significant when you consider that the river passes through many major metropolitan areas as it goes from upstate Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
The drive between the two cities is roughly 15 minutes, which means that once I started to see St. Paul, I could still see Minneapolis in my rearview mirror. This was a little surreal and very cool to experience. St. Paul is slightly smaller, but very different from Minneapolis, it has its own unique feel to it, you feel like you can breathe a bit easier, more laid back. I didn’t waste much time driving around, I found a spot to park and started walking. The buildings look a bit older, but certainly not dilapidated, they’ve been kept very well. After walking around for a bit, hunger began to creep in and I stumbled upon Great Waters Brewing Company which has a very nice restaurant. I walked in and someone instantly sat me down, while the outside had a 1920’s look, the interior was a bit more professional modern looking. I glanced over the menu rather quickly and since I usually have the “when in Rome” attitude, I of course had to order the Saint Paul Burger. This thing comes topped with Canadian bacon, sautéed mushrooms and bleu cheese. And while I’m not a fan of normal bacon, I enjoyed the Canadian bacon on this burger, it was more like sweet glazed-lightly fried ham.
Next up was the Minnesota State Capitol building, which was under construction during my visit. However, during my wandering of this area I discovered that there is also a park here with sculptures. I’m learning that art is very popular with these two cities. I walked around the park for a bit and checked out what there was to see. One thing I thought was interesting was the “Spiral For Justice” which is a Roy Wilkins memorial where its walls represents the barriers created by racial segregation and other efforts to impede the progress toward achieving equality. You’ll see that the spiral rises above the walls around it.
Finally I headed over to a structure that had caught my attention which turned out to be the Cathedral of Saint Paul. This place is REALLY impressive! Unfortunately I only did a quick peek inside as I wasn’t sure what the rule is with cameras and cathedrals/churches. I’d honestly have to place this very high up on my list as one of the most amazing structures I’ve ever seen architecturally! This alone is probably worth stopping by St. Paul for! I had spent a good amount of time driving around downtown St. Paul and it was getting late in the day, I would be driving back to Ohio the next day, so I decided to start heading back to my hotel in Eden Prairie and relax.
The following morning I realized that there was one thing I remember seeing previously which I had forgotten about until this moment. There was an amazing bridge I saw and wanted to grab a photo of, long story short here; I never found the bridge, but did find a very scenic drive called the Minnehaha Parkway. A joke could be made here, in fact I attempted many in my head while driving along the Minnehaha Parkway, but gave up. I stopped by yet another Caribou Coffee shortly before I discovered the location of the Minnehaha Falls. This would be my last sight to see, after this I hopped on the interstate, grabbed one more mug full of Caribou Coffee and left the great cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I still have a strong urge to return here as this was an absolutely amazing trip. While I didn’t see anything groundbreaking, I did have a lot of fun and didn’t restrict myself to any kind of schedule at all. This was also my first ever solo trip, so my decisions were my own and this certainly adds a certain perspective to traveling that you will never get when traveling with someone else.
Please note that I took this trip a while ago and is the trip that inspired my “traveling without plans” attitude. It was done on a whim to see the Mall Of America and while that was the only aspect that was planned, the rest was entirely “in the moment” decisions. And if you’ve ever been to the “Mall”, you’ll know that choosing to go there without a plan is like choosing to go to any random city without a plan.
“When you’re (traveling) with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.” ― Shauna Niequist