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Some Minnesota and Wisconsin Tourism

Posted on June 15, 2009 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Old West Road Trip

downtown st. paul Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota

We didn't do a whole lot of sightseeing in Minnesota since we were mainly there to visit with Grandma and other family, but we did find time to see some historic places in St. Paul, the biggest mall in the country, and some beautiful nature in Wisconsin.

The Twin Cities

St. Paul (pop. 287,000) and Minneapolis (pop. 377,000) are right next to each other and known as the Twin Cities. According to Wikipedia, there has been a fierce rivalry between the two since the beginning with regard to business, architecture and sports. The baseball team had to be named the Minnesota Twins (rather than Minneapolis or St. Paul Somethings) in order to help everyone get along.

Map of Minneapolis-St. Paul

In general, St. Paul is the more historic of the two cities and Minneapolis is more modern and cosmopolitan. We didn't get to see much of Minneapolis - only glimpses from the road as we drove over there to visit Lonna, Kim and Kris - but it looked like a nice city. Since Grandma lives right in the heart of St. Paul, we spent a few hours seeing the sights the day after we arrived. Below are the highlights.

St. Paul

Our first stop was the Minnesota State Capitol, built in 1907. We didn't go inside.

minnesota state capitol minnesota state capitol minnesota state capitol

The Minnesota History Center opened in 1992 near the Capitol. It was an interesting museum showcasing Minnesota's 100 greatest contributions to the world plus other local artifacts.

capitol and history center View from cathedral hill with state capitol

1950s bus 1950s Greyhound bus. Greyhound Bus Lines was founded in 1914 in Minnesota.

spam The infamous Spam was introduced by Hormel Foods of Minnesota in 1937. It is short for "spiced ham" and was the first canned meat product that didn't require refrigeration. It therefore became a major part of the diet of WWII soldiers.

dining car, 1962 Socializing in the dining car of a North Coast Limited train, 1962.

u.s. mail coach Old mail coach

snowmobile, 1962 Snowmobile made in 1962

Up the hill from the History Center is the Cathedral of St. Paul, a grand Catholic church built from 1907 to 1958.

st paul cathedral st paul cathedral st paul cathedral st paul cathedral IMG_2780p IMG_2781p IMG_2790p IMG_2844p IMG_2831 IMG_2817 IMG_0542

White Castle

David was very excited to go to White Castle, as we don't have them out here. They do sell the frozen burgers in grocery stores, though, which he likes a lot. Conveniently, there is a White Castle close to Grandma's house, so we stopped by on our way back after sightseeing.

white castle

We ordered a selection of items to try, including a couple small cheeseburgers, fries, a pulled pork sandwich, and "chicken rings." Since most of our fellow customers seemed to be homeless, on drugs, in a gang, or all of the above, we took our order to go.

white castle to go (yuck!)

I was not impressed. Most of it barely qualified as food, with the pulled pork sandwich being the only edible exception. David liked it all, but said the fresh burgers weren't really any better than the frozen versions he can buy at home.

The Mall of America

mall of america

The following day, we visited the Mall of America in Bloomington (a suburb of Minneapolis). It's the largest mall in the United States. Naturally, it was my favorite place to visit when I stayed with Grandma as a kid! I was interested to see what had changed, and David was pretty excited to check it out too. We spent a few hours walking the entire thing and had a great time.

mall of america map

The mall has four floors, including a theater. It is clean, modern and well laid out - it has a simple square plan anchored by major department stores at the four corners. In the center is an indoor amusement park with roller coasters and other rides. In the basement level there is a huge walk-through aquarium complete with sharks! And of course the food court was far better than most. We were thrilled to find it included a Chipotle, one of our favorite restaurants back home - we had delicious burritos for lunch. Later we made a pit stop at Caribou Coffee, a great local chain, for iced drinks.

mall of america Macy's at one corner

mall of america Main area of mall

mall of america Moose poop

mall of america Rocket made of Legos

mall of america Amusement park

Roller coaster ride

A Forest in Wisconsin

Our last bit of sightseeing was in Wisconsin, just over the border from Minnesota (see map above). About a decade ago, Grandma made a smart investment in some beautiful forested land. She has had the land surveyed and added some roads, but otherwise has left it in its natural state. She visits regularly to enjoy it and check on things, and we were very excited to see it too.

We weren't disappointed - it is really beautiful property. We were given a guided tour on a golf cart by a neighbor who maintains and watches over the property for Grandma in return for being allowed to hike and hunt on it.

IMG_6705r The off-road-equipped golf cart. David and I sat in back.

IMG_6694r Quiet curvy road

IMG_0663 Green carpeted forest

IMG_2923 Trees

IMG_0677 A clearing that would be perfect for a house. Bruce has plowed it and is going to plant some crops to attract deer. He was concerned they'd been a little scarce the previous winter.

After our wanderings in the woods, we stopped for dinner in a little town right on the river.

IMG_0691 Walking to the river

IMG_0697 Pier with bench

IMG_0700 "Downtown"

IMG_0701 We had dinner in the bar/restaurant next to the two cars above. It had a nice local feel and the food (burgers, fries, reubens, pizza, etc.) was great.