Highlights of Minneapolis
Part of: Solo UK and France by Train
Although my lovely cousins Kim and Kristen and their husbands had just pulled off a spectacularly beautiful DIY wedding, cleaned up after it, driven back and forth to Wisconsin multiple times, and dealt with various minor catastrophes (including a cell phone dropped down an outhouse toilet and a midnight emergency with a nearly-poisoned dog!), they showed me a wonderful time in Minneapolis on Monday.
Just as I said about St. Paul, I've visited Minneapolis for family things but don't actually know the city very well. So I requested to see the Frank Gehry building that I did know about, and left the rest up to them. I said I would be happy to sit around and just hang out so they could relax, but instead they (well, Kim) planned a bike ride around the city! They are amazing. It was such a fun day, and it turns out I like Minneapolis very much. I told them if they could only fix the uninhabitable weather in winter and summer, I might consider moving there.
We used the Nice Ride bikes, which are sponsored by the city and quite cool. There are stations throughout the city so you can return them and pick up new ones anytime. You just pay at an automated machine, get a code, enter that code next to the bike you want, and it unlocks. They are simple bikes, with three speeds and big tractor seats, but they are all you really need for a pedal around the city.
Even better are the excellent bike trails around Minneapolis. Only a block or two of our route was in a bike lane next to traffic; the rest was on bike paths through parks, through the university campus, over pedestrian bridges, and along the Mississippi River.
In addition to all that, it was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day. And we ate lots of delicious food. And the company was spectacular. So I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my last day in Minnesota. (Well, maybe I could have asked that all the museums not be closed on Mondays... but that would just be greedy.)
We saw a lot of good stuff, but I'll just share with you a few of my favorite sights. First up is the Frank Gehry building that was the main goal of the day. It's called the Weisman Art Museum and is part of the University of Minnesota. It has a great location overlooking the river on the east bank, next to the main bridge connecting the two sides of the campus. It was completed in 1993. It is closed on Mondays. That is all I know so far.
I loved this building. It is the third Gehry building I've happened to visit in the last year, so it has been interesting to compare them while they're fresh in my mind. I like them all very much, and they are all so fun to photograph. But I would personally rank them as follows:
1. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles (2003):
2. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis (1993):
3. Experience Music Project, Seattle (2000):
Right next to the Weisman Art Museum is the catchily-named Science Teaching and Student Services Center, which was completed just two years ago. It is also very cool, and I've since learned that it was awarded a Gold LEED certification for its sustainable design.
The final major highlight is the Guthrie Theater, on the other side of the river from the other buildings. It was founded in 1963 and rebuilt in 2006. My cousins took me to it so I could see the unsupported "Endless Bridge" that juts out from it towards the river on the back side. I'm glad they did - it was super cool! We biked under it first, then returned our bikes to a rack nearby so we could go inside.
Bike park, with Guthrie visible beyond
General view, with portrait of Sir Tyrone Guthrie. The red logo reminds me so much of the Turkish flag - I wonder if that was intentional.
George Bernard Shaw
Inside the Endless Bridge - I didn't notice those images on the ceiling until I looked at my photo!
View of Stone Arch Bridge (a former railroad bridge, 1883) and various other notable sights from a cool mirrored window on the Endless Bridge.
On the Endless Bridge
Kim enjoys the view of the Stone Arch Bridge from the Endless Bridge.
I hadn't heard of this theater before I came to Minneapolis, but I came across it again in a different context the very next day! During my flight to Amsterdam, one of the in-flight entertainment options was an episode of Inside the Actors' Studio featuring the cast of Mad Men (my favorite show). I learned that the actor who plays Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) was born in Minneapolis, and then the host commented that he was fortunate to have the wonderful Guthrie Theater available to him!
Some older architectural highlights:
The Coffman Memorial Building on the U of M campus, 1930s. Steve explained that it was meant to be an abstract gopher (the university's mascot), with the little towers on each side being the ears and the pillars the big teeth.
Pillsbury Mill, 1881
Mill Ruins Park
Another nice old building in the vicinity of the Mill Ruins
And now, I think we should talk about the food. In the mid-afternoon after the Guthrie Theater, we stopped for appetizers at a Thai restaurant right next to it. We sat outside and ordered just about everything on their happy hour menu, which included:
View of the Mill City Museum (closed on Mondays!) from our table.
A couple hours later, we went to the Loring Park Pasta Bar for dinner, which is in the coolest building. Guess who that red car belongs to? The wedding photographer! Small world.
The restaurant's interior is really awesome, as you can see! But in September, you should eat outside while you still can, so we did. It was excellent, aside from the honeybees that were very interested in our raspberry lemonades. We shared a cracker-crust pizza as an appetizer and I got spaghetti with a meatball. In a nice change from most Italian restaurants, they have half plates that are actually half-sized, which was good because next we went to...
Sebastian Joe's, a family-owned ice cream place that was AWESOME. We met Kim's husband Ryan there after he got off work, which was also awesome.
Between the four of us, we ended up getting variations of only two different flavors: the Pavarotti (my choice, with banana, caramel and chocolate chips) and the Nicollet Avenue Pot Hole (chocolate fudge, Heath bar, and sea salt). It was really hard to decide - check out all these flavors! And then you can choose from a variety of fancy cones - I got chocolate with almond silvers. But no matter what you choose, YUM.
By this time it was getting late, but my tireless hosts refused to stop showing me a good time - now I got to ride in Steve's beautiful Dodge truck to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, mainly so I could see the famous cherry and spoon. I hadn't heard of the famous cherry and spoon, but apparently it's the icon of Minneapolis. It's actually pretty cute, and even though it was very dark and difficult to take pictures, I really enjoyed the sculpture garden. I'd like to visit again someday when I have more time.