I think this is a byproduct of a life spent living in California, but I’ve always had a fascination with the Midwest. That fascination has only grown as I’ve gotten older, now that I spend most of my days either sweating on a couch or listening to sad Midwestern pop-punk bands like Banner Pilot and House Boat (or sometimes doing both activities at the same time).
I know a few things about the Midwest:
- They have actual seasons there, not just summer and then “less hot summer.”
- The winter brings the sort of sadness that artists crave, and can wallow around in and really be sad about for a while.
- It’s a real feast or famine as far as your favorite baseball team goes.
- There’s good food, good music, and good art, just like everywhere else.
That last bullet point is an important one, especially when you start talking about “coastal elites” and other such nonsense. Whatever you’re into, whatever you love, however you feel, whatever you believe … you can find likeminded folks of your exact type pretty much anywhere in this country.
So yeah, I’ve been itching to try out the Midwest and a real winter for a good long time. Then, last month, I had the chance to spend three days in Minneapolis, while researching a story about the quietest place on earth. I was excited to go, especially during the winter. Again, since I live in California, I even bought a winter coat for the occasion. Before I set out, I made a list of all the things I knew about Minnesota, specifically.
- “Minnesota nice”
- A million great bands are from there.
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
- Prairie Home Companion.
- It’s a real feast or famine as far as being a Twins fan goes.
- Prince is from Minnesota.
I mean, I knew other stuff about Minnesota, but those were the big ones. As I believe is the case with most human beings, we think we know certain things about a place because of the media we consume. People probably think they have a good idea of Portland based on Portlandia, of Texas based on the works of Richard Linklater, and of Los Angeles and New York based on every other bit of television, film, music, or literature ever made. (The dark secret of Southern California is that if you watch Real Housewives or The OC, you’ve actually nailed it.)
Anyway, off I set for Minneapolis, full of excitement and wonder and an eagerness to explore. I was only there for three days, but as it turns out, that was the exact amount of time I needed to fall head-over-heels in love with the city. For your enjoyment, here is a step-by-step guide to letting Minneapolis capture your heart:
1. Stay downtown
From what I was able to gather during my stay, there’s quite a bit of brand-new construction in Minneapolis’ Downtown East, cropping up around U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings (and built on the same ground where their previous home, the Metrodome, once stood).
The newer buildings and businesses of Downtown East have a definite bent toward young, hip, and upscale. To wit, it’s the location of the only Radisson Red in the United States (so far). The über-modern hotel is marketed mainly toward 20-somethings, and features a unique mix of high-tech and artisan offerings. You can unlock your room with your smart phone, grab locally-brewed Kombucha or fresh sandwiches from a kiosk with a swipe of your credit card, or relax for a spectacularly tasty meal in the ground-level restaurant.
While you relax with some duck fat popcorn or a fresh grilled beet salad, you might also take in the expansive mural painted by a local graffiti artist, jam-packed with references to local Minneapolis landmarks and heroes. The hotel is an extremely short walk away from the Vikings’ stadium, or to local eateries of every stripe. It’s also remarkably close to the Armory, the historic building the Minneapolis Lakers called home for a time.
Just on the other side of downtown, you have the legendary 1st Avenue club, where concert scenes from Purple Rain were filmed, the Twins’ stadium, and the Target Center, where the Timberwolves and the Wild both play their home games.
Also a short walk away is … well, anywhere in downtown Minneapolis, thanks to the Minneapolis Skyway System.