America’s Sort of Midwest: Minneapolis Top Picks

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I was blessed with a gorgeous fall day in Minneapolis recently. Here are some fabulous not-to-miss site in this American midwestern 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 it 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 my 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.

spoonbridge and cherry walker

Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Walker Sculpture Garden

claes oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg exhibit

Walker art museum

At Home in the City exhibit – loved this colorful woven rug!

 

Walker art museum clothes pins

Oh how I love modern art!

There were a couple of special exhibits such as the big Claes Oldenburg exhibit – the creator of Spoonbridge and Cherrry 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 Nice Ride bikes for the day. It’s a bike sharing system in the city that only costs $6 per day and you can get around the whole lake system and city stopping wherever there is another bike stand to ‘click in’ and walk around for a bit. It’s great for tourists or locals.

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 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!

vintage design hats

Goorin Bros. hat store is a step back in time in Uptown

Flatcap history

Love the flatcap – cool history and perfect for travel!

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 I 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 20’s 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 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?

Gingerhop minneapolis

A night out with friends, food, and velvety Jazz!

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 our the Barrel and sip martini’s. This is a super place to get a feel for old Minneapolis.

Nyes polonaise minneapolis

The quirky Nyes Polonaise Bar and Music Hall – Get your polka on…

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.

Firelake Grill Moa

Walleye Cakes – a Minnesota favorite

 

Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice.

Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at Ottsworld.com.com.
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