I always knew that Minneapolis was going to be very different than the rest of the cities on my #GlobalTravelerSherry itinerary. It would be different because I used to live in Minneapolis from 1996 to 2000 and I still have family and many friends still in the area. It was also different because I actually had less than 48 hours in Minneapolis as my 2nd stop so I knew I had to really had to use my time wisely.
How did I use my time wisely – I used a time machine. Ok – maybe not an actual time machine, but it sure seemed like my time in Minneapolis was about time travel. I traveled backward to the old and catapulted forward to the future experiencing a bit of both worlds.
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Lodging of the Future
Modern and futuristic was my first impression of the Radisson Blu Mall of America. It is one of the newest Blu properties. From the moment I walked in I was excited by the playful design and futuristic feel. The designer, Jim Hamilton, had a goal to create a modern look with a local flavor. From the rug in the lobby that was made from an aerial photograph of the area to the bar and restaurant made from reclaimed Minnesota barn wood, to the windows cutout to represent twinkling Minnesota fireflies, Jim had done an exceptional job of creating a modern design with a ‘Minnesota Nice’ feel. One unusual thing about the hotel is that it had two lobbies – one at the ground level and one on the 2nd floor that led directly into the Mall of America – creating two fun open spaces to gather.
The 2nd floor lobby area was a chair playground. It was filled with contemporary chairs in various designs – some strange, some playful, and some perplexing. They were made of wood, metal, fabric, and even a plaster mold. Not to mention the unique tear-drop chairs in the lower lobby (pictured above). The walls were filled with colorful modern art from a variety of local artists that perfectly complemented the chairs. I think the part that I loved the most about the design and the space was that it was meant to be used, touched, and interacted with. Most of the time modern art is something we have to see from a distance, furrow our brow, challenge our minds, and try to make sense of. Yet this art was begging you to interact with it.
In addition to the great lobby spaces in the hotel, the rooms were also sleek and modern. They had clean lines, a bright yet soothing color palette in white, aqua, and orange, modern cutting-edge lighting (I was obsessed with every lighting fixture throughout the hotel), and the latest technology (iPod docking and super fast internet). But let’s face it – the best room feature was my Nespresso coffee machine – heavenly. I was upgraded to a Business Class room that provided me with some additional perks. Business Class meant I had a little sitting area in my room, and access to the business lounge with complimentary happy hour drinks and snacks as well as a scrumptious breakfast spread.
Even though I could have been very happy spending 48 hours in the hotel, I did get out. After all, I had old friends I needed to see and my favorite old places to revisit!
What can you do in (less than) 48 Hours in Minneapolis?
I was blessed with a gorgeous fall day in Minneapolis. I went out with my sister and my friend Lynn for a beautiful Sunday outdoors. It was actually really fun since my sister who lives and works on the St. Paul side of the Twin Cities doesn’t normally come into downtown Minneapolis, so it was sort of like she was a tourist in her own city.
Walker Art Museum
One of my favorite places in Minneapolis is the Walker Art Center which includes the museum and sculpture garden. On a nice day, you can’t get any better views of the city than at the iconic sculpture, Spoonbridge and Cherry, with downtown Minneapolis in the background. The Walker Museum holds a special place in my heart as when I lived in Minneapolis in my 20’s it was my first exposure to modern art. I didn’t really have much of an appreciation for any art back then – but that first exposure is always memorable. I might not ever understand modern art – but I love what it does to my mind – it turns it to high alert – thinking about why, who, and how. It pushes the normal logical limits of my brain and for that, I’m forever grateful. So of course I loved the chance to go back and visit one of my favorite museums in the world.
There were a couple of special exhibits such as the big Claes Oldenburg exhibit – the creator of Spoonbridge and Cherry as well as one of Pop’s most widely admired artists. The work was definitely out there on the futuristic and odd side – but it made me think, question, and set my imagination in motion. We also went to the exhibit At Home in the City which was a big welcoming room complete with knitting, fresh veggies, and crafts. It examines ways gardens are harvested and brought into the home. The centerpiece was a beautifully colored woven rug. The 30-foot crocheted rug was made out of discarded clothes and it seemed to draw you into the exhibit. It was fun to take off your shoes and walk around on it. You could even hang out and knit, draw, or just sit and have tea on the rug.
Nice Ride Bikes
Grab Minneapolis by the handlebars – at least that’s what Nice Ride biking sharing wants you to do. Minneapolis was recently named the #1 park system in the US – and that’s no surprise with its beautiful string of lakes in Minneapolis proper and the extensive pathways. In fact, there are 6,743 acres of parkland within the city limits, and 94 percent of residents are within a 10-minute walk (one-half mile) of a park. When I lived there I was 3 blocks from Lake Harriet and running/biking paths that connected all of the city lakes. It was in Minneapolis where I started running and doing marathons thanks to the super environment to train in.
Cyndi, Lynn, and I decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather and rent bikes for the day. The Minneapolis bike-sharing system allows you to get around the whole lake system.
Uptown and Hat Shopping
We made a Nice Bike stop in Uptown – the hip area of Southwestern Minneapolis that is home to the chain of lakes and beautiful old neighborhoods and homes. When in Minneapolis I always have to stop at my favorite hat store. As some of you may know – I LOVE hats – I travel with more hats than bras in my suitcase – and I get many of them from the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop. The hats have an old-world feel – walking into the shop is like taking a step back in time. So we made a quick stop at the Goorin Bros to check out the latest styles. I personally love the flat caps as they are great for travel and suitcase packing!
Food & Music
Since I was excited to see a bunch of old friends on my short trip, I decided the easiest way to get everyone together and see the most people would be to have a big night out on the town! We headed to Northeast Minneapolis – a growing hip area that is near the University and home to many new restaurants and clubs. When I used to live in Minneapolis this area was pretty run down, but it had some ‘well-known’ bars there that I would go to occasionally. I was excited to get back and see what was still there.
GingerHop and Honey
GingerHop is where East Meets Northeast. A restaurant that covers a variety of Asian Cuisine was the perfect place for my friends and me to meet for dinner. I had gathered up a diverse group of friends from my long-ago past when I used to work at Best Buy in IT in my 20s and also new travel friends who I work with on Meet Plan Go and other travel writing projects. After dinner, we went down to the Honey Club downstairs to listen to some Jazz music by Sophia Shorai’s band – a velvety sound that was perfect for after-dinner drinks and conversation. Seeing my friends from such different times in my life made me realize just how incredible of a journey I had been on for the last 15 years. I could have never predicted that I’d end up where I am now – but isn’t that the beauty of life?
Nyes Polonaise Room
If you really want to step on the time machine, then head to Nyes Polonaise Room – an old tried and true Polka and Piano bar that had staying power. I remember going to this kitschy bar with big circular vinyl booths and poor lighting when I was 25. And here it was – still going strong. It’s one half sing-along piano bar, and one half polka bar – both incredibly strange, yet incredibly fun. It’s as if you have stepped back in time as you dance to Roll Out the Barrel and sip martinis. This is a super place to get a feel for old Minneapolis.
Firelake Grill Restaurant
Now to take a trip to the other side – the future of Minneapolis cuisine – then make sure you take advantage of the Radisson Blu’s signature restaurant – Firelake Grill and Cocktail Bar. The design is completely communal with big welcoming tables, circular booths (quite different from Nyes!), and a big open-plan kitchen. I took my sister to dinner there for an early birthday gift and we had a super time in our big booth eating up some classic Minnesota forward dishes like the Walleye Cakes. We loved our evening out at the Firelake Grill – and I was thrilled to get to spend a dedicated evening with my sister.
A little old, a little new – Minneapolis is a super place to spend 48 hours!
My next stop is Chicago!