The North Star State’s Twin Cities might be tucked away in the often-frigid Midwest, but the duo has charm and beauty that are unique to the area and plenty of attractions to go along with them. While you can have a fantastic T.C. time in countless ways, here’s one batch of possibilities for spending 48 hours in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
There’s a lot to do on your first day in the Twin Cities, and that means rising early and heading to the Uptown neighborhood for a delicious breakfast at Barbette. The charming French eatery will provide a sunny kickoff to the day with a number of favorites, such as ham and Gruyère omelettes; buckwheat crêpes stuffed with scrambled eggs, herbs and Brie; and, of course, French toast. After polishing off your meal, a stroll around Lake Calhoun — just a couple of blocks from Barbette, the natural attraction comes complete with the Minneapolis skyline in the distance — is a scenic mid-morning activity that will give you a sample of one of the state’s signature features. There are more than 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, dontcha know?
After a taste of Mother Nature, it’s time to experience the opposite end of the spectrum — the Mall of America. Many Minnesotans have come to view the MOA and its 520-plus stores as a necessary evil. The mall will likely possess whatever you need, though the sheer scale and density make it a commercial monstrosity. But for visitors, the pure spectacle of the mega mall is worth a trip. After all, any single location where you can shop for socks, watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster, check out an indoor amusement park with 25 rides and gawk at a 1.2 million-gallon aquarium is a destination.
After conquering the Mall of America, hop over to St. Paul for some sightseeing. The city offers many culturally rich attractions, such as the comprehensive Minnesota History Center and the Cathedral of St. Paul as well as educational escapes like the Minnesota Science Museum, with a prime location right on the Mississippi River. Take your pick from any of the offerings and then head to Casper’s and Runyon’s Nook for a late lunch. The Nook is tiny dive that diehard burger lovers revere. Our top menu pick is the Juicy Nookie, the Nook’s version of the Minneapolis staple Juicy Lucy, a brilliant creation that assaults taste buds with a wave of gooey, melted cheese hidden inside the beef patty.
Although full recovery from the Juicy Nookie might take some time, the next stop for Day 1 is back to Minneapolis for a play at the Guthrie Theater. The architecture of the longtime theater — with its skyway-like outcropping, sharp and modern edge and deep blue hue — is almost as compelling as the performances you’ll see on the stage. Even better, sustainable seafood spot Sea Change by chef Tim McKee (the toque behind Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star La Belle Vie) sits on the ground floor of the theater.
If you’re feeling particularly romantic (or just particularly Minnesotan), a nighttime walk along the city’s iconic Stone Arch Bridge is a calming way to wind down the eventful evening before heading to your hotel for the night.
Begin Day 2 in much the same as you did the previous day — only with a slightly more sinister-sounding twist. Downtown Minneapolis’ Hell’s Kitchen is an edgy eatery (its motto is simply “damn good food”) whose cuisine is almost entirely made from scratch (even the ketchup). If you descend into the spot’s underground lair on a Saturday or Sunday, order one of the brunch specials; past dishes have included smoked salmon grataine, chorizo cake benne with shrimp, and a chocolate and strawberry waffle. Hell on Earth never tasted so good.
For the afternoon, we’re going to pretend that the hot, Midwestern summer is already here — trust us, most Minnesotans are doing the same right about now — and that means only one thing: the Minnesota Twins. While the team has faced more downs than ups in recent years, Target Field is still a beauty of a ballpark. ESPN: The Magazine calls the 39,504-seat stadium the “No. 1 fan experience in America.” And when it reopens for tours starting on March 1, visiting sports junkies will get to see why.
Hot dogs and Cracker Jacks may be your meal of choice on the Target Field trek, but as a delicious after-baseball treat, Sebastian Joe’s ice cream parlor is a home run. With a rainbow of scoops, including the local favorite, raspberry-chocolate chip, you’re bound to find just the right flavor to close out your 48 hours in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Photo Courtesy of iStock-Rudy Balasko