Saturday, August 10, 2013

Did I like Minneapolis? Oh, gosh ya! (Part 1)

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Minneapolis, MN from July 31st through August 5th for the 2013 APPA Conference. Prior to this visit, I'd been in MN twice - passing through the airport coming and going from Calgary in 2002 on my honeymoon. So it was nice to actually leave the airport and see what the "land of 10,000 lakes" had to offer. 

I arrived in Minneapolis in the late afternoon of Wednesday, July 31st and after checking in and settling into my room, I reached out to my friend and ERAPPA colleague Greg from the University of Prince Edward Island to see if he was up for an adventure to the Mall of America. I had no desire to shop. Oh, no! I wanted to ride! You see, the Mall of America has an amusement park in the middle, complete with a roller coaster. A Gap is a Gap is a Gap, but a roller coaster in a mall is hard to come by!

Greg and I met in the lobby and walked to the light rail stop at the top of Nicollet Mall for the 40-minute ride to the Mall. Along the way, we chatted about our recent vacations and generally "got caught up" since it had been a few months since we'd seen each other. When we arrived at the Mall, we were very surprised to find that such a LARGE mall had such a SMALL welcome sign. Perhaps had we arrived by car we would have seen a bigger sign elsewhere on the property, but this is the welcome sign we saw.

Greg of Canada at the Mall of America

We entered the Mall and inquired at an information desk about the rides. As it turned out, we simply needed to proceed straight ahead, since we were already positioned at the middle of the Mall. Sure enough, we quickly came upon the entrance to Nickelodeon Universe.

We surveyed the scene and decided to ride two rides - the Fairly Odd Coaster and the Log Chute. Yes, folks, the Mall of America has a log flume ride. Greg generously treated me to the rides as a belated birthday present (thanks again, Greg!) and we got in line for the roller coaster. We were behind a brother/sister pair in line; they were probably 10 or 11. We wound up riding with them in a car for four. We asked if they'd ridden the ride before and they had...several times. We told them we were newbies and that we were likely to scream. They laughed. 

It turns out, we weren't kidding. The Fairly Odd Coaster features individual cars that seat four (two rows facing each other) and the cars spin independently throughout the course of the ride. In short, the ride was an absolute hoot! Greg and I both screamed and laughed the entire time. At the very end of the ride, the car spins several times before returning to the loading/unloading area. That was a bit much for me, but thankfully it didn't last very long. 

After the Fairly Odd Coaster, it was time for the Log Chute. I'd venture to say it rivals Hersheypark's Coal Cracker! And it's inside a mall!!!

Greg took the front of the boat.

We got a little wet on the Log Chute, but - like the coaster - it was a lot of fun! We briefly debating staying at the Mall to grab a bite to eat, but decided that we wanted to return downtown to check out some of the restaurants we'd read about. 

On our return light rail ride (which was within 2.5 hours of our train ticket purchase, so we rode back on the same ticket), we decided to go to Hell's Kitchen (no association with the TV show) for a late dinner.We had a great waitress who suggested several unique-to-Hell's-Kitchen dishes. Greg opted for the ham and pear crisp sandwich and a cup of the soup of the day (tomato basil bisque). Since Hell's Kitchen started as a place that served breakfast, I chose my entree from the breakfast-all-day section of the menu. I ordered lemon ricotta hotcakes. Oh my word, they were delicious!!!


Just as we finished our meal, two of our ERAPPA colleagues - Michelle and Dan - arrived. We decided to venture out onto Nicollet Mall in search of an evening beverage. We'd arrived at Brit's Pub and were about to get street-side seating when some APPA friends told us to go inside and upstairs to check out the second floor outdoor area. It turns out that Brit's has a lawn bowling field/pitch/area (not sure what it's called) and tons of outdoor seating upstairs. We found a table, ordered a round of drinks, and enjoyed a lovely evening at Brit's. 

We wound up back at Brit's two nights later for dinner (Michelle, myself, and our friend Keith), more drinks (give or take 10 of us around the table at any given time), and a little lawn bowling. We were intrigued by the lawn bowling when we were at Brit's Wednesday night. Someone inquired and found out that there was a two-week waiting list for reservations, so we though we were destined to be spectators only. However, one person in our party - Rick - is especially good at "working" people and managed to squeeze us onto the lawn bowling field when a reservation went unfulfilled. Initially, Greg, Rick, Keith, and I took to the field for a match. We played for about 10 minutes when we were joined by fellow Penn Staters and conference attendees Greg S., his wife Beth, Steve, and Steve's wife Donna. To hear Steve tell the story, Greg, Rick, Keith, and I were "brutal" as we proceeded to defeat them 21 to 7. Brutal or not, I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The weather was perfect, the beverages were tasty, and lawn bowling was a ton of fun!

Greg S. bowls while Beth, Keith, and I look on.
(photo credit: Greg Clayton)

The conference ended Sunday afternoon and since my return flight wasn't until Monday morning, I took advantage of the free time Sunday afternoon to go learn something. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you already know that when I travel, I try to go do something educational if/when I have a little free time - learn some local history, see a local attraction, etc. 

This trip, I decided to visit the Mill City Museum. But beyond that, I purchased a ticket for the Gold Medal Flour Walking Tour for Sunday afternoon. The tour ticket included admission to the museum. Beginning at 1 PM and lasting 90 minutes, the tour for Sunday, August 4th was one of railroad history.
Join a guide from Mill City Museum for a visit to railroad landmarks such as the Stone Arch Bridge, Milwaukee Road Depot and the Minneapolis Eastern Railway Engine House & Trestle. Discover the impact of railroads on Minneapolis, find clues to the vanishing railroad landscape and learn about the new era of light rail and commuter rail. (
But before I did the walking tour and visited the museum, I had to GET to the museum. Google Maps indicated the 1.5-mile walk would take approximately 30 minutes, so as soon as the conference ended, I high-tailed it up to my hotel room, changed into shorts, put on my sneakers, grabbed my camera and purse, and hit the street to walk to the museum. Along the way, I snapped a few pictures.

These little guys reminded me of Minions from Despicable Me.

Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Courthouse

The Old Milwaukee Road Depot (which last saw train traffic in 1971) has been converted into commercial space, including a Residence Inn by Marriott.

Ah-ha! I've arrived!

Stay tuned for the railroad history tour and the Mill City Museum!

No comments:

Post a Comment