A 2:30 am wake-up alarm. A 6:00 am flight. A journey of 1,200 miles. Unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar rental car. A terrific brunch. And visits to four major attractions. All before 3:00 pm. This weekend’s adventure took me to Minneapolis, Minnesota, the second-largest city in the Midwest. During my visit, I was able to learn about the city’s economic history as a center of flour milling in the 19th century, to visit a historic geological site, to explore a museum located in a historic mansion, and to amble around an outside exhibition of art.
Despite there having been no posts since my Accord rolled across the 100,000 mile mark, I have certainly not been sitting around! Several weeks ago I accompanied my girlfriend to visit a relative in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. It was my first journey to upstate New York, and as someone whose experiences with that state begin and end with Manhattan, I was in awe of the landscapes I witnessed in the mountains.
The Adirondack Mountains. You know you’re far to the north when you are closer to Canada than you are to another major US city.
As this sign in front of a hardware store attests, there was a lot of pride for area athletes participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Cloudy and gray skies were replaced Saturday night by an amazing sunset. A series of eight interconnected lakes in the Adirondacks comprise the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Sometimes the simplest names are the best: the lakes are known as First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Lake. This is Fourth Lake.
All together, the Fulton Chain of Lakes contains almost 6.8 billion gallons of water.
Fourth Lake is the largest of the chain. Much of the economy of this area is dependent upon seasonal tourists who visit to enjoy the lakes during the summer months. In the depths of winter, snowmobiling is a popular tourist attraction as well.
Fourth Lake at sunset. The Adirondack Mountains were some of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen.
Putting my Nokian tires to the test on my way back to Massachusetts. In the Berkshire Mountains in western MA I encountered ice fog- a fog that caused ice to form on the trees and roadways due to the cold temperatures. The tires, and my Accord, did just fine.
This past Saturday morning, we headed off to Minneapolis. It was a bit of a whirlwind tour, but I certainly got to see quite a bit of the Twin Cities, as Minneapolis and St. Paul are known. Our flight on Saturday arrived before 9:00 am, and we departed Sunday evening. Despite less than 48 hours in town, I was able to visit several tourist destinations. As one of my girlfriend’s family members remarked, “You managed to see more in one day than most people who live here see in a year.”
Located north of the Mississippi River, Minneapolis and St. Paul constitute the twin cities. The American Swedish Institute (red pin) would be my third stop of the day.
Flying into Minneapolis early in the morning, the sun beginning to break through the horizon.
We rented our 2017 Nissan Rogue from National. As my girlfriend is a member of National, she is able to walk to the rental car parking lot and select any vehicle she likes. As I looked up and down the available cars in the lot, she said, “Pick any car from the lot. You have sixty seconds. Go.” I felt like I was on a gameshow.
Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. My girlfriend’s brother, his fiancee, and her sister met us at Hot Plate in Minneapolis, aptly described as “Quirky, family-friendly spot offering artisanal twists on hearty American breakfast fare.”
While waiting for our table, we spotted this wall of electronic games from the 1980s and 1990s. It was like seeing my childhood on display!
The sausage and egg biscuit hit the spot, and the home fries were absolutely terrific. Filled up, I was ready to explore Minneapolis.
At first I was not crazy about the Nissan Rogue we rented. Compared to my Accord, its small four-cylinder engine lacked the punch of a V6, and its handling was less than sporty. However, after several trips around the still-icy and pothole-filled streets of Minneapolis, I began to appreciate the vehicle for what it was: a comfortable, safe crossover SUV that was surprisingly maneuverable in small spaces. If given a choice, I’d certainly rent one again.
Our first stop was to the Mill City Museum, which tells the story of the rise of Minneapolis’ flour mill industry.
A railroad was built to link Minneapolis with Salt Ste. Marie, a shipping port on Lake Superior. The ultimate goal was to link St. Paul with the Pacific Ocean via rail. Although that line was never fully established, the railroad did provide a much-needed transportation system for the mills shipping flour to other parts of the nation. This boxcar was in service on the line in the 1870s.
In 1878, Washburn A Mill was completely destroyed when a spark ignited the flour dust in the mill. The explosion and fire killed 22 people and destroyed five mills. The museum is built in the ruins of Washburn A. Notice the bent steel girders on the right, which shows the force of the explosion.
On Saturdays, the Mill Museum is open to the public as a farmer’s market. Local artisans bring their produce, baked goods, and other products for sale. My girlfriend’s mother suggested we check this out, and it did not disappoint.
Crossing the Mississippi River is the Stone Arch Bridge, a railroad bridge built in 1883. It is the only stone bridge with an arch design on the entire Mississippi, and is now used solely by cyclists and pedestrians. In the distance is the Pillsbury factory. Although it has been owned by its Minneapolis-based rival General Mills since 2001, the Pillsbury name is still used along with Poppin’ Fresh (more commonly known as the Pillsbury Doughboy).
My girlfriend had some personal matters to attend to after the Mill Museum, so I dropped her off at a friend’s house before I continued on my journey. She, however, had taken it upon herself to create this tour guide for me, with several Minneapolis locations that I could visit. Very cool!
My first stop was Minnehaha Falls. Located in Minnehaha Park, the 53-foot high Falls are part of the Minnehaha Creek, a 22-mile long tributary of the Mississippi River.
Despite all of the stairs and paths to the banks of the creek at the base of the Falls being closed off due to snow and ice, that did not stop this couple from venturing down to have their engagement photos taken with the waterfall in the background. The gentleman’s outfit? A tuxedo. The lady was dressed in a red gown and heels. Neither were exactly attired in hiking gear.
I shot a brief video of Minnehaha Falls, almost completely frozen over:
The American Swedish Institute, a museum focused on the history of Swedish immigrants in the United States. On the right is the Swan Turnblad Mansion, and on the left, connected to the mansion, is the much newer museum complex.
Much like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the Institute has a newer museum building connected to a far older historic site. I liked how this section of the exterior of the Turnblad Mansion was encased by the newer museum.
The exterior of the Swan Turnblad Mansion. The son of immigrants from Sweden, Swan made his fortune as the publisher of a Swedish language newspaper in Minnesota. He would later donate his wealth to create the American Swedish Institute, which celebrates and studies Swedish immigrant contributions to US society.
One of the most iconic rooms in the mansion is the Grand Hall, centered on this elaborate fireplace and mantle.
The dining room reminded me of something you might see in an old European castle.
The ornate ceilings caught my eye.
The ceiling in the Grand Hall is equally stunning.
Does your house have elaborate stained glass windows above and beside the doorway to the solarium? Well, mine surely doesn’t. The window at the top of the doorway is the Visby Window.
A view of the much newer museum building through the windows of the mansion’s solarium.
Mail order… stoves? 11 of these tile stoves were ordered from Swedish catalogs and shipped to be built in this house in 1904.
The third floor of the museum is filled with various art installations. I loved these glass bowls.
I stopped by the Grand Hall one more time on my way out.
My final stop was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an outdoor exhibit. Part of the Walker Art Center, the sculpture garden opened in 1988 and was significantly renovated in 2017. This is Spoonbridge and Cherry, a fountain.
Hahn/Cock is a bright blue rooster.
Love, by Robert Indiana. Another version of this famous sculpture should be familiar to anyone who has visited Philadelphia: it sits in Love Park.
Meeting up after a few hours, we headed to Wisconsin to meet with her family for dinner at a restaurant along the St. Croix River.
Returning to the East Coast, I raced back to Boston, trying to beat an impending winter blizzard.
The sky became more ominous as the storm, known as a Nor’Easter, rolled in. I made it back to Massachusetts safely. My Honda Accord continues to roll along without complaint, the mileage now at 101,626.
The Mill City Museum is open every day from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (12:00 pm – 5:00 pm on Sundays) as costs $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and college students, $6 for children ages 5-17, and is free for children age four and younger. The American Swedish Institute is open from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 10:00 am – 8:00 pm on Wednesday, and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm on Sundays. Admission costs $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for children ages 6-18. Minnehaha Park is free to the public and is open from 6:00 am – 10:00 pm. The Minnesota Sculpture Garden is also free, and is open every day 6:00 am – midnight. Despite all I was able to see and do this weekend, I really wish I had more time to spend in Minneapolis. I will certainly look forward to a return visit to the Twin Cities and further exploring this beautiful and fascinating part of America.
Thank you for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.