Treasures of the Twin Cities

What makes for a Christmas vacation adventure? If you are near the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, you can explore skyscrapers, visit monuments to celebrities, check out historic stagecoaches, dine at terrific restaurants, stroll through museums of modern art, and stand mere feet away from birds of prey. Traveling with my wife to visit with her family over the holidays, I had an opportunity to return to Minnesota and Wisconsin and to play tourist yet again. Leaving New Jersey far behind, we flew to the Midwest and spent a week filled with family, friends, and celebrations.

Since no trip would be complete without a new post on The Open Road Ahead, I recorded my travels to share. Once again, I’ll eschew the long introductory write-up, and dive right into the photo essay:

Map of Minneapolis and St. Paul, with a red pin in the location of Gabbert Raptor Center.
Having been in Minnesota earlier in the year, we headed back to further explore the Twin Cities.
Blue Hyundai Tuscon in parking garage, signs above that says EMERALD CLUB AISLE.
After our flight arrived, we headed to National Car Rental. My wife is a member of National, so we are able to pick any vehicle in the lot. As it was Christmas week, the choices were slim, so we settled on this Hyundai Tucson. At least the shade of blue would mean there’s no chance of losing it in a parking lot.
Exterior of Day by Day Cafe in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Our first stop after arriving was breakfast at Day By Day Cafe in St. Paul.
Table at restaurant with pot of coffee, coffee cup, menu, lamp, and cup with napkins and flatware.
After waking up at 2:30 am to catch a 6:00 am flight, coffee was our first order. While perusing the menu, one entree caught my eye: the “Heart Stopper.” Order it and you’re getting three eggs, four sausage links or pieces of bacon, home fries with cheese (!), and toast.
Plate with scrambled eggs, ham, hashed browns, and rye toast. A cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice is on the table.
On a cold December morning in Minnesota, a hearty breakfast of eggs, ham, and home fries hit the spot.
Exterior of Keg and Case market, with Schmidt brewery in the background.
Our next stop was the Keg and Case Market. Built on the grounds of the Schmidt brewery, Keg and Case has restaurants, microbreweries, and a marketplace featuring goods from around Minnesota.
Panorama of interior of Keg and Case Market.
Schmidt closed its doors as a brewery in 2002, but Keg and Case is one of several ventures that seeks to revitalize the urban spaces occupied by Schmidt’s abandoned buildings.
Wooden logs in a glass case, with mushrooms growing in the logs.
One of the coolest vendors at the market was Forest to Fork, which grows shiitake mushrooms in logs in a climate-controlled glass vault.
Trees in foreground, with town of Hudson at a lower elevation.
On the way to visit my wife’s family in western Wisconsin, we stopped at Prospect Park in the town of Hudson. This scenic overlook of the town was like something from a postcard.
Blue Hyundai Tucson on road in Prospect Park.
A funny thing happened as I drove the little Hyundai… it grew on me. A lot. This little crossover utility vehicle (CUV) has a peppy engine, handles well, and soaks up bumpy pavement with ease. I’ve never cared much for Hyundai vehicles before, but this little guy began to change my opinion. It won’t replace my Accord or my wife’s Grand Cherokee, but for a small around-town all-weather vehicle, it’s pretty good.
Dashboard and steering wheel of 2017 Hyundai Tucson.
In fact, the little Hyundai earned something no rental car has ever gotten from me: a nickname. Meet Hank the Hyundai.
Stone by roadway which says HUDSON CITY PARK BIRKMOSE PARK.
My father-in-law took me to visit Birkmose Park, another park in the city of Hudson, Wisconsin.
Indian Burial Mound in the park, surrounded by a metal chain fence.
Birkmose Park has five Native American burial mounds. The mounds date from 100 BC until 1200 AD. These mounds, created by the Sioux people, have been preserved by the town of Hudson (via St. Croix County History).
Burial Mound overlooking the St. Croix river.
The mounds sit high on a bluff overlooking the St. Croix River. The river divides Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Street-level view of Minnesota Skyways.
A few days later, my wife and I traveled back to Minneapolis to tour one of the more unique features of the city: the Skyway system.
View of skyways from inside a skyway. Buses and cars are in the streets below.
The skyways are a series of enclosed footbridges that are built between many of the skyscrapers and buildings in Downtown Minneapolis. The Skyway system connects over 80 buildings. In a city that can see temperatures as low as -20F, the bridges make life much easier for pedestrians (via Wikipedia).
Statue of Mary Tyler Moore on pedestal in front of brick building.
“Who can turn the world on with her smile?” In 2001, this statue of Mary Tyler Moore was dedicated on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. My parents were fans of this 70s sitcom set in Minneapolis, and my wife and I detoured from our walk through the Skyway to visit the statue.
Lobby of IDS Center. A Christmas Tree is on the right side of the image.
One of the stops along our Skyway tour was the lobby of the IDS Center, the tallest building in Minneapolis. The Skyway system is filled with restaurants, shops, and cafes. As someone described it to me, “It’s like the world’s longest indoor mall.”
Wells Fargo & Company Stagecoach, in the lobby of the Wells Fargo Center.
The centerpiece of the nearby Wells Fargo Center is the 1863 stagecoach. Built in Concord, New Hampshire of four types of wood, these stagecoaches were pulled by six horses and were crewed by up to 18 people who were tasked with protecting a strongbox of gold as the wagons carried money from places such as Chicago and Omaha to businesses, farmers, and miners on the West Coast.
Exterior of Annie’s Parlour restaurant in Dinkytown.
For lunch, I stopped by Annie’s Parlour in Dinkytown. No, I’m not making fun of this section of Minneapolis – Dinkytown is the name of a small commercial section of Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota campus. Originally a small commercial center, the area transformed into a student village in the 1970s, and remains so today.
Burger, pickles, and French fries on a plate. A vanilla milkshake is in a glass to the left of the plate.
Annie’s is a burger-and-shake joint. And so that’s exactly what I chose: a cheeseburger, fries (that were absolutely amazing), and a vanilla shake. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Exterior of Weisman Art Museum.
My next stop was the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota. Opened in 2011, this museum of modern art was designed by Frank Gehry. Most widely known for his revolutionary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Gehry is one of the most noted architects of the modern age.
Close up of exterior of museum.
I was fascinated by the museum’s exterior design, and a design that seemed to go as far as possible to avoid right angles and truly vertical lines.
Standing Glass Fish art exhibit in the museum.
“Standing Glass Fish,” an art installation by Gehry within the museum. He was inspired by the carp his Jewish grandmother would leave swimming in the bath tub before she prepared gefilte fish for Friday night dinners.
Gallery of Indian art. A couch, a coffee table, cushions, and art books are in the middle of the room.
One of the galleries was devoted to modern Indian art, featuring artists such as Mayank Shyam.
Gallery of poster prints from the University of Minnesota.
Another gallery featured posters of student activism, created by students working for an art department faculty member at the University of Minnesota.
Cabinet and painting in glass along wall in museum. Shards of glass decorate the wall beside it.
Perhaps my favorite work in the museum: One Portrait of One Man by Beth Lipman. A study of the life of artist Marsden Hartley, she created a work of art that tells the life story of Hartley, a artist who was profoundly affected by his experiences in World War I.
View of the skyline of Minneapolis, with the Mississippi River in the background.
From the front door of the museum, you have a view of the downtown Minneapolis skyline. The Mississippi River, which runs from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, is the second longest river in the United States.
Entrance to parking garage. A sign on the left of the image says U of M Gortner Avenue Ramp.
I then drove to the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. One interesting item about the Minnesota and Wisconsin area… what would you call this building? I have only encountered this structure as a “parking garage.” However, in the Midwest, you’re more likely to be given directions to a “parking ramp.” Regional dialects are fascinating.
Gabbert Raptor Center exterior.
My next destination was the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. Established in 1974, the Raptor Center treats approximately 1,000 sick and injured raptors every year.
Susan P. Wilder Visitor Center. A diorama of a tree with an eagle’s nest is in the foreground.
I arrived a little after 2:30, and then next tour wasn’t scheduled to start until 3:00 pm. I wandered around the Visitor Center, reading facts about these majestic birds, and the work of the Raptor Center. When I met up with the guide at 3:00, I was the only visitor, so I had a private tour of the center.
Peregrine Falcon, standing on a small stand.
A room off to the side of the Visitor Center housed a few birds who need a warmer environment than the main enclosure, which is outside. This peregrine falcon, named Talon, kept a watch on me.
Another view of Talon the peregrine falcon on its perch.
Peregrine falcons are lethal hunters. Using their excellent eyesight, they will dive at prey from great distances, reaching up to 200 miles per hour during their attack. These birds inhabit every continent except for Antarctica,
Head of vulture, looking through a glass window.
There are two kinds of birds in the Raptor Center. Those that will be treated and released into the wild are kept in the lower level of the building, with an absolute minimum of human contact. Those that could not survive in the wild are kept as educational birds, such as this 45-year old vulture. He imprinted on humans at a young age, and so lacks the skills to survive outside of the center.
Another view of Talon the peregrine falcon, on a perch.
Raptors such as eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls, have a few shared characteristics: they hunt live prey, they kill with their talons, and they have excellent eyesight. Unlike humans, raptors’ eyes do not move, so the bird must rotate their entire head to look around at their environment.
Head and body of immature bald eagle.
This immature bald eagle lacks the characteristic white plumage and yellow beak. He will develop them as he grows older.
Mature bald eagle, close-up of head.
This bald eagle is 19 years old. Eagles typically live 20-30 years in the wild.
Close-up of great horned owl.
This is Samantha, the great horned owl. Owls are nocturnal hunters, only looking for prey at night. The fluffy coat of feathers serves an important purpose – it keeps them virtually silent during flight, ensuring that they can sneak up on their prey.
Bard owl sleeping.
This is Strix, the bard owl. These powerful birds can carry up to three times their body weight. Owls’ reputation as wise might be misplaced, however. Their large eye size means they have very little room in their skulls for brains.
Profile of bald eagle.
Perhaps my favorite bird was Freedom, the bald eagle.
Head portrait of bald eagle.
Freedom kept posing for me where some of the other birds would turn away when I attempted to photograph them. The guide remarked that he seemed extra social today.

Of all the places I have been able to visit during the course of writing this blog, the Raptor Center stands out as one of the most unique, educational, and exciting. Being so close to these majestic birds, and learning about the important work done by the staff to rehabilitate the raptors that come through their doors, was truly fascinating. The Raptor Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, and 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 3-17, and $3 for adults over 62 years old. The Weisman Art Museum is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Fridays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, and admission is free!

The Twin Cities area is filled with hidden gems to explore. If you are visiting Minneapolis-St. Paul, make sure to pick up a travel guide, grab your camera, and spend some time exploring. You never know what you might find!

Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead. And best wishes for a Happy New Year!

’Til next time.

9 thoughts on “Treasures of the Twin Cities

  1. Such a cool arts & culture scene out there, who would’ve thought? I’ve never been to that area but now it’s on my must-see list. That museum with all the haphazard angles is really something to look at. But now all I can think about is having a Heart Stopper for breakfast and a shake from Dinkytown for lunch!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim — thanks so much for this one! The photos are wonderful, especially of the birds (and also of the food, and also of the Gehry building!). I am going to send this on to El! I am really glad I am on your mailing list!
    Best, Muffin

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow-what a cool trip! I enjoyed reading about the various birds (Freedom, the Bald Eagle definitely had some personality show through in his pics), the mushroom logs (how cool!), and of course, your fondness for Hank the blue Hyundai-haha! It looks like it was a fun trip!

    Liked by 1 person

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