Winter in Minneapolis

I had a work thing in Minneapolis. IN JANUARY. Undeterred by the city’s legacy of frigid winters, I decided to spend an extra day there to explore. It did not disappoint!

Minnesota is the place for curling in the United States. Curling, you may ask? You mean that sport with the brooms? Yes indeed. It was a team building activity and I too thought only about the brooms and figured this would be easy. Then a tall, lithe teenager showed us how to launch the stone down the lane. She slid one shoe into this “slider” (imagine a sole insert) that let one foot float atop the ice. She moved the stone, launching it (I don’t know the real terms) and ended up in this perfect forward lunge/split with the elegance and balance of a professional figure skater.

Huh. I didn’t expect that. Blood started to rush through my body as I thought how absolutely horrible I would mess this up in front of coworkers I respected. Then my colleague, a perfectly normal sized woman said, “my body doesn’t do that.” All the tension was released as my entire team nodded in agreement. We then spent the next hour outdoing each other’s awkward clumsiness. The game was not how much we scored, because we didn’t. Ever. I think maybe one stone arrived somewhere near the target. The real game was how spectacularly we could fall on the ice as we sent the stone flying.

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Later, I was on my own. Minneapolis has an easy public transportation light rail. The Blue Line and the Green Line (to nearby St. Paul) can get you almost anywhere. While the system is entirely outdoors (except for the airport), the waiting shelters have heat on-demand.

My work thing was near the University and my hotel was downtown. I exited the light rail and walked the few blocks to my hotel. It was about 4pm and no one was outside except for homeless people. I was walking behind one man and every time he caught his reflection in the windows he would point and say “checkin’ out my competition.” Where is everyone? I wondered.

Later I learned that downtown Minneapolis is connected by a skyway, a system of indoor passageways above the street level connecting buildings, allowing people to move about the city without having to go outside. Fun! There was no snow, but my day to explore Minneapolis was freezing cold. I dressed warmly and found may way to the skyway. I was able to walk nearly a mile through the system – weaving my way through department stores, windowed hallways, corporate lobbies, atria, and food courts.

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I walked the last few blocks outside to the Stone Arch Bridge along the Mississippi River. St. Anthony Falls generated power for the many mills along the river. I had the entire view of St. Anthony Falls to myself, probably because the bitter cold and wind would keep any normal person away. From there, I had great views of the industrious city and the icy river. Among the riverfont buildings was something called the Mill City Museum. Typing as fast as possible to keep my hands from freezing, I looked it up and discovered it had something called the Flour Tower. SOLD.

The Mill City Museum, in addition to being a refuge from the cold, pays homage to Minneapolis’s legacy as a mill town. Really, it’s a reflection of America. Imagine all the times you gathered with family friends around a Betty Crocker birthday cake, a morning bowl of Cheerios, or a Pillsbury cinnamon roll on Christmas morning. Mill City Museum is one big nostalgia trip. The Flour Tower itself is a giant elevator that was previously used to move grain in the factory. Now, guests ride it and stop at different floors to learn the story of flour in America. The last stop is the observation deck, which provides even more views of the river.

After the museum, I visited Minnehaha Falls. Located in Minnehaha Park, it’s easily accessible from the light rail. The paths through the park were icy, but it was easy to find the overlook to the waterfall. Like sunsets and rainbows, waterfalls never get old. And this one was frozen. A steady stream of water burst through the rock, but was buffered by a frozen curtain on either side. It was gorgeous and despite the temperature, I couldn’t stop looking at it.

That evening, I met up with a friend from my Adventure Bus travels and we drove out to the Minneapolis Landscape Arboretum. If there’s anything crazier than being outside during the day in Minneapolis, it’s being outside after dark. There was an exhibit by an artist named Bruce Munro, who used light and materials to create magnificent glowing sculptures. A series of owl eyes glowed upon a hill, the landscaped grounds were alight with delicate, whimsical fairy lights, and pillars of glass bottles shined in various hues. It capped a perfect time in Minneapolis!

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