A June 2005 trip
to Minneapolis by SFPhotocraft
Quote: There is an old joke that Minnesota only has two seasons, winter and the 4th of July. However brief that window of summer may be, it is glorious. Summer in Minnesota is a bit of heaven on earth!
We went back for Japanese Camp in Northern Minnesota, but spent a few days in the Twin Cities to see relatives and just enjoy the summer.
You can expect some thunderstorms during the summer months, and of course those dreaded Minnesota mosquitoes (carry bug spray). But other than those two distractions, summer, to me, is the best time of the year to come here.
Minneapolis is on a growth spurt, and at times, the growth has caught up with the city. Traffic can be awful, and places like the Mall of America can be crowded. I hail from LA, and I found the traffic in Minneapolis to unbearable at times! If you want to get away from the crowds, head to one of the lakes up north.
People who don't know this area don't think of it as an art town, but Minneapolis is big on the arts. The Art Museum, The Walker, the Guthrie or the Ordway all have summer exhibits, plays or concerts and you will be amazed at the level of theater and art Minneapolis (and St Paul) have to offer.
I suggest staying downtown or on the 494 strip. The 494 strip is near the airport and is where The Mall of America is located. Here there is plenty to do--494 is loaded with restaurants of every description and it's easy to spend a full day at the mall.
One of the things most Minnesotans do in the summer is walk around the lakes in the evening. You can walk around Calhoun, Lake of the Isles or Nakomis. There are well-groomed paths around the lakes and you may think the whole city is out walking on a nice summer evening. But watch out for the Canadian geese; they are everywhere on the paths and leave a lot of poop and at times can even be aggressive!
One of my favorite things to do with out of town guests was to take them to the local grocery store chain called Byerly's. So why a local grocery store? My guests eyes were always wide as they walked into the store here and see one of the most posh food markets on the planet. For whatever reason, Minnesota has some of the best food markets you will ever step foot in!
If you stay downtown, you will not need a car. You can walk almost everywhere. Plus, in the brutal winter months, you can use the skyway system and never have to step out in the elements.
But if you want to explore a bit, I suggest a car. I find the car rates here during the weekend are very affordable - this trip, the weekend rate was only per day from National.
Minneapolis also has numerous taxis, like any other large city.
Now, I know Minneapolis, and when I think of hotels that I would consider airport and Mall of America hotels, I think of the 494 strip. There are plenty of hotels in that area, in the swing of the Bloomington entertainment area. I was sure that from this description it would be one of these hotels. How wrong I was - not once, but twice!
Actually, this is a fine hotel. It's has a small, elegant lobby; a lounge; a nice restaurant; and an indoor pool. It runs a free bus to the airport, and the room was pleasant and the staff friendly. Our wake-up call came right on time, and we got a free newspaper. Our room had a down comforter and was updated. It had a CD player and Internet on the TV. We were very comfortable here. The problem is that it's in the middle of nowhere! It's across the bridge from the airport in a sleepy office park in Eagan. It's got a nice, quiet location, but there is absolutely nothing out this way! It stands alone.
It's lucky it has it's own restaurant, as there is nothing else in walking distance. I felt really sorry for the group of Dutch high-school students who missed their connection in MSP and were given this hotel to layover in. They seemed liked animals trapped in a cage at the zoo, just waiting to get out!
Again, the hotel is fine. It's a low-rise brown brick building. We liked our room. It was a Crowne Plaza, so its amenities were upgraded. The pool looked inviting, although we had not time to use it. The hotel does not have a gift shop, but does sell some items from the desk. I found the staff to be friendly and helpful.
This hotel would be fine anywhere else in the Twin Cities, but I don't consider this an airport or a Mall of America hotel, as Hotwire does.
If you have a car or just want to spend a peaceful night on your MSP layover with no distractions, this hotel would work. Also, it's near the Northwest Airline Corporate offices, and if you are doing business there, this hotel would work. But if you have a MSP layover and want to go out and about and even spend sometime at the mall, I would suggest anything else on 494, not this hotel in the middle of a quiet office park in Eagan!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 13, 2005
Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza
2700 Pilot Knob Rd.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55121
Hotel | "Hampton Inn - Airport"
The hotel is an older Hampton Inn and conveniently located on the 494 strip within miles from the Minneapolis airport. They offer a free shuttle to the airport.
The lobby was small and the breakfast area seemed a bit crowded. The floor plan did not allow a lot of space to work with. The hotel does have a nice pool off the lobby and I liked away the pool was incorporated into the lobby by windows. It seemed to open up this small space a bit. Also the lobby seems to have been updated with some interesting black and white prints. It had a fresh, modern feel to it with the updated art.
Check-in was fine. The staff was friendly and made us feel welcomed. When getting up to our room we were a little surprised just how small the room was. One adult, two kids and lots of luggage (camp equipment), we seemed a little squeezed in. However I can not say we were uncomfortable. The room had everything we needed. It was compact, but it was all there. A view was rather dull, we looked at the shopping center across the street. Because of the location, no room here will have an interesting view.
Our wake up call came right on time the next morning and we enjoyed a good breakfast. A free newspaper was on our door.
I may not want to stay at this property for a full week. However, for one night prior to an airport run, it was fine. It was comfortable, clean and friendly, even if it was a bit on the small side. The rate was under $100, so I found it affordable, but maybe not a bargain.
The location is good. It's near the airport, it's near the Mall of America and there are a ton of places to eat nearby. Even if you don't have a car you can find several good dinner choices, just a few blocks away. Plus this is a very safe neighborhood. For a one night stay, the Hampton Inns will meet all your needs.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 14, 2005
Hampton Inn Minneapolis/Bloomington (Airport Area)
4201 W 80TH ST
The story goes that Dave became obsessed with finding the best ribs in the country and he went around tasting ribs everywhere. He took pieces of the best and concocted the best barbecue sauce anywhere.
Most folks think the first Dave's was in downtown Minneapolis. At least this establishment was the most famous one. But I learned an interesting fact on this trip, the first Daves actually opened in 1994 in Hayward, Wisconsin!
This piece of the chain was in the Mall of America in Bloomington. It's located in the upper level with the other restaurants and not far from the movie theater.
It's hard to miss, it's got bright lights and neon everywhere and of course that famous logo of a pig eating ribs (isn't that cannibalism?}.
I was surprised as we walked up on a Saturday night and 7:00pm and told there was no wait. We got right in and sat right down. This Dave's was heavy into the Minnesota, northwoods theme. Most have some cabin theme, but this one was done to the nines. It was cute and cleaver, but maybe a tad on the overdone side.
We ordered our ribs. I had a cold beer to accompany my ribs. One thing that Dave's does right is to give each table a full roll of paper towels instead of napkins. You need that full roll of paper towels as they are gooey, sloppy and very messy. The roll gets used up quickly!
The plates are huge here, they are really platters and come with delicious sides, like corn on the cob, baked beans and coleslaw.
I like the ribs and the sauce here. They use a top grade of pork and it pulls away from the bone and is tender. The sauce is good. Most folks rave about the sauce here and many consider it the best anywhere. It's won almost every major BBQ sauce contest in the country. I like the sauce, but I have to admit it does not stand out to me. It's good, but to my taste, it tastes like a lot of others.
This is great place to eat with your family or friends. Daves is always fun and the staff is usually young and lively. If you have not tried a Dave's don't worry - you will, I looked on their website and was in awe at how many they are planning to open all across the country. Famous Dave's is no longer a Minnesota tradition, but now a national chain.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 13, 2005
Famous Dave's BBQ
320 South Ave
Culver's was born in Wisconsin in 1984. They were a small fast-food restaurant that believed you serve good-quality food in spotless surroundings with friendly service. Even the outside of each Culver’s is surrounded with green grass and flowers. Their featured hamburger was known as a "Butter Burger" (try saying that fast three times).
Well, when you do things right, people want more, and so Culver’s grew and grew all over Wisconsin, and soon hopped the border into Minnesota. Today they have 290 restaurants in 15 states and are spreading like wildfire. The Culver's we visited was in the Minneapolis suburb of Maple Grove, but you can find them all over the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota.
I get a kick out of how they look: they are spotless and look like you should find them in "Leave it to Beaver" or Pleasantville; they are a step back in time. I don't know where they find the kids who work at them, but everyone I have ever been in has a crew out of central casting. They are young, well groomed, scrubbed-face happy teens who never forget a "please" or a "thank you." Once you order your burger, find a table and one of these freshly scrubbed kids will bring your order to you with a big smile. It's a little bit frightening how cloned all the Culver's are!
Back to that famous butter burger, I have tried a lot of burgers in my life, and these certainly rank in the top tier. They are thin but outstanding. They come with a nice soft bun.
Besides burgers and sandwiches, they also offer frozen custards. The custards are soft-serve and can be ordered with a variety of toppings and fruits.
Culver's has their formula down pat, and it works. The day we were here, on a Sunday afternoon, the place was backed. I noticed many new Culver’s going up all over the Twin Cities on my visit. They seem to be on a winning streak, and my guess is it won't be too long until we will be seeing them here in California. I can't wait!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 14, 2005
16380 96th Ave. N.
Attraction | "Mall of America and Camp Snoopy"
The mall sits on the site of the old Met Stadium where the Twins and Vikings use to play. It's considered the largest mall in America, with 330 stores and over 10,000 employees. It opened its doors in 1992 and is only 1.5 miles from the airport.
If you like large malls, this is nirvana. This place is huge and has most of the major retailers. You can visit all your favorites: GAP, Abercrombie, Hot Topic, or Macy's. I am on the side of bigger is not always better. I can find all these retailers at home and my mall is much easier to learn and maneuver. I do, however, enjoy the several Minnesota cabin stores in the mall, as they offer a unique look at cabin items not found everywhere. At times, this mall is overwhelming, and often you will see a store, forget where it was, and not be able to find it again.
The centerpiece of this complex is Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy is a Knott's Theme Park located inside the mall. They have some fun rides for kids, like a roller coaster, bumper cars, and a log flume. It's an amusement park under a roof. Now I understand why the folks here in Minnesota would want a park like this enclosed in the winter, but the summers here are beautiful, and it seems a shame to be stuck inside a mall riding rides when it's so wonderful outside. It was 78°F, without a cloud in the sky, yet the mall was packed.
The mall is also an entertainment complex for adults. In the upper level they have a movie-theater complex and all the major theme restaurants, like Hooters, Rainforest, and Bubba Gump. There is a lot of bar action up here, and it seems to be a popular place for a Saturday night date.
The kids love it here, and we can't visit the Twin Cities without a stop at the mall. It's sensory overload with so much going on. I can do almost anything here at the mall near my home in L.A. I don't need everything in one enclosed complex.
The mall is only 1.5 miles from the MSP airport, so if you find yourself on a long layover or a flight delay, it's an easy way to kill a few hours.
The mall has given Minnesota an identity, maybe not always good, but something the rest of the country knows. The place is filled with both tourists and locals alike, even on a glorious summer night.
Mall of America
60 East Broadway
Bloomington, Minnesota 55425