Some Minnesota and Wisconsin Tourism
Part of: Old West Road Trip
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.
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.
Our first stop was the Minnesota State Capitol, built in 1907. We didn't go inside.
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.
1950s Greyhound bus. Greyhound Bus Lines was founded in 1914 in Minnesota.
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.
Up the hill from the History Center is the Cathedral of St. Paul, a grand Catholic church built from 1907 to 1958.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
After our wanderings in the woods, we stopped for dinner in a little town right on the river.