Today we head to the hometown that spawned two of our favorite women, Minneapolis. You’ve met Alissa before, and we are very happy to introduce another fantastic blondie, Kiira. Kiira is equally travel-footed and is one of the wittiest, kindest ladies we know. She also takes a mean photograph. Without further delay, let the takeover begin with Alissa!
While I’m sure citizens of every state in the US hold a certain level of state-pride, I think it has to be highest in Minnesota. What’s not to be proud of? Purple Rain. The Great Get Together. Wacky politics. Production site of Mall Rats. Need I go on? There is a very distinct Minnesota culture that seems to bond us together. Perhaps it’s the communal experience of surviving repeated, brutal, unyielding winters, but we Minnesotans tend to identify with each other and our state of origin. Despite having lived outside of Minnesota for almost half my life now, I’ve met Minnesotans in every city I’ve called home. And when we meet each other in a random bar in Brooklyn, or on a bus in Calcutta, or a beach in Tanzania, it’s not that we’re tickled to meet another American… we’re pleased as punch to meet another MINNESOTAN. It’s a special place, and if you find yourself there, here are some of my favorite things to check out. You betcha!
If you are lucky enough to be in Minneapolis when it’s warm enough to be outside (July-August), grab a bike and cycle the 55 mile Grand Rounds Tour. Stop to re-fuel at Sea Salt restaurant in Minnehaha Falls Park, loop around the gorgeous lakes of the Twin Cities, and ride past the downtown riverfront and over the mighty Mississippi River (which starts in Minnesota, dontchaknow) on the Stone Arch Bridge.
Explore the hippest neighborhood in Minneapolis: Northeast. A visit here must include eating sausages at the infamous Kramarczuk’s Deli, sampling a lobster roll and trying your luck at the meat raffle in 1029 Bar, binge on cheese at Surdyk’s, farcified Minnesota fare at The Mill (think artisan Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds with beet ketchup) or if you are craving something extra special, head to my favorite restaurant in all of Minnesota, Alma. This place has repeatedly blown me away with their intriguing, seasonal menu and their amazing staff. If you’re in the area into the evening, catch a show at the 331 Club, an extra strong tiki-drink at Psycho Suzi’s, and be sure to grab a drink at Nye’s Polonaise Room, a neighborhood institution that will sadly be demolished in the coming year. Cue tears. One side of the joint holds a restaurant (eat before going) blasting polka music, while the other houses a piano bar that features the finest silver-haired organists this side of Milwaukee. Grab a dirty martini and sing your heart out.
Take in the arts! Given many of our Scandinavian/Germanic backgrounds, one might take us Minnesotans for being an overly rational bunch, but we’re really right-brained art-philes. There is great theatre to be had at the Guthrie (also just a phenomenal building to visit) and Jungle Theatres, ever provocative exhibits at the Walker (and you have to visit the adjacent sculpture garden to see the iconic Cherry in the Spoon) or classics at the MIA, be sure to check out the small Fraenkel Gallery for amazing photography, and the Northern Clay Center for ceramics all made by local potters. One of my favorite authors, Louise Erdrich, also hails from Minnesota and opened the charming Birchbark Books. Alongside her own works (highly recommend Love Medicine, Round House, and Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse), she sells a multitude of books and crafts from Native American authors and artisans.
Explore Lake Culture. As legend has it, a mythical giant, Paul Bunyan, with his full beard and pet ox called Babe, walked around Minnesota and his footsteps filled up with rain water, creating the 10,000 lakes. These lakes play a big part in everyday life. Stroll around Lake of the Isles, sail on Lake Calhoun, eat walleye at Tavern on Grand, or skinny dip at hidden beach. In the wintertime, try your hand at cross country skiing or ice fishing on the frozen lakes, but beware of wood chippers.
Explore some Minnesotan heritage. The American Swedish Institute houses exhibitions from contemporary Swedish and Nordic culture in the old Turnblad’s mansion in Minneapolis, and its café, FIKA, serves the best damn gravlax and Swedish meatballs in the country. At Christmas time every year, all the Scandinavian countries have a tree-off competition to see who can decorate the most severely minimalist Christmas tree. It’s very fierce. Likewise, the Museum of Russian Art has rotating exhibitions of Russian art and artifacts – like this collection of the Tsar’s porcelain Easter eggs. It’s stunning and a good reminder that Minnesota is a composite of many different cultures – who are all now just trying to make it through the winters.
Laugh sometimes. Minnesota is famous for its humble, quietly accurate humor – replete with Nordic, Swedish, and Iowa jokes. Go to a show at Dudley Rigg’s Brave New Workshop. My parents used to go on dates here in the 70s and are still quoting jokes from the old shows. The troupe has been performing fearless, political satire for 55 years and just moved to a new theatre on Hennepin Avenue. Finally, Garrison Keillor has defined Minnesota and its people for 35 years on A Prairie Home Companion. I’m partial to Keillor because he let me cut my comedy teeth there in 2006. You can catch a live performance at the Fitzgerald Theatre or listen to the shows that have been lovingly archived online. * Stay in and be nice. In the wintertime, when the temperature is way below zero and it’s dangerous to go outside, Minnesotans have had to stay in and entertain one another. That’s why we’ve developed Minnesota Nice, a tactic for not killing each other if we’ve been snowed in. It’s a complicated term that means we’re pleasant, courteous people – if a little reserved. We also practice hygge, a Danish custom of taking time to stop, cuddle up, and enjoy one another’s company in the winter. The Danes believe that it takes 30 minutes of quiet stillness for our souls to catch up to us. Here’s to stopping every once in a while and letting our souls catch up.
Thank you both, so much, for this amazing post! Once we dig out our boots, socks, jackets, scarves, hoodies, mittens, sweaters, earmuffs, maybe one of those old-fashioned furry handwarmers, and full-body sleeping bags, we are on our way there. You ladies are the coolest.