One of our favorite pastimes seems to be taking weekend trips to new destinations. When you are working from 8-5, the reality is that you have no other option if you want to truly maximize your opportunities of traveling around the world. On our recent trip to Minnesota, we experienced an amazing 48 hours in Minneapolis proving that you can have a great time in such a short timeframe.
The positives that come out of this are you don’t need to take any vacation time away from work, plus you see just enough in a short space of time that will encourage you to go back again in the future to explore more!
We were even fortunate enough to knock two more states off our visited list which now takes us to 24, still a long way to go but at least we are heading in the right direction. Minneapolis, Minnesota, AKA the Twin Cities, is a great city to explore and also cross the border into Wisconsin to sample some of their delectable cheese.
Flying into Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, we stayed overnight at the Quality Inn and Suites next to the airport before rising early Saturday morning to begin our exploration of the city! Here are some of our adventures we experienced during a crazy 48 hours.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
After requesting recommendations on our Facebook page of where to go, we were strongly urged to visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden located near downtown primarily for the magnificent views and excellent art designs. Not knowing what to expect, we went here with an open mind and left pleasantly surprised. Of course, visiting Minneapolis at this time of the year is not the best time to go for wandering around, with ice and snow covering most areas, however the sidewalk was clear around the perimeter of the gardens.
We saw several pieces that appeared to be particularly intriguing and lured you in for a closer look! However, walking in closer meant you had to go ‘off the beaten path’, heading into the soft snow which inevitably saw us sink to our knees on several occasions (very memorable experience with lots of laughing – one of those ‘you have to be there’ moments!)
Seeing the spoon with the cheery took me back to my Art History background and for some reason it made me think about Andy Warhol, the snow reflecting the sun and several different angles from the sculpture enabling us to capture unique images of the iconic structure.
St. Mary’s Basilica
What a gorgeous piece of architecture the St. Mary’s Basilica is! If you have any interest in seeing cathedrals and churches, then put this iconic structure high on your priority list of must-sees because this is certainly impressive. Though we didn’t see the interior, just exploring the towering structure from the outside is enough to see how much history is present here.
It didn’t surprise me to see a couple shooting their engagement pictures outside on the front steps leading up to the entrance of this cathedral – it really has that aura about it.
The Mall of America
Excitement, Endurance and Exhaustion! Those three words pretty much sum up the feelings we had throughout our Saturday afternoon experience at the Mall of America, also in that order. Heading to the biggest mall in America, there is that sense of excitement with a hint of trepidation as you really don’t know what to expect.
Hearing of over 400 stores which is at least double what you normally expect within most malls, you just can’t fathom whether it is realistic to see all of this inside one day. Prior to heading to Minneapolis, knowing that we only had a weekend here, we pretty much imagined that we would be spending the majority of time within the confines of this mall.
The reality wasn’t far from our assumptions, though we managed to explore the majority of the mall inside a 6 hour span! Arriving at lunch time, we decided to get something to eat so after parking on the top floor of the six level parking garage we headed to the third (top) floor of the Mall of America and ate at Buffalo Wild Wings. Entering the mall you immediately grasped a real sense of the size of this place – massive is an understatement!
Sat in an area of almost 5 million square feet, this mall could house 7 Yankees Stadiums just to put the size into context. Three levels containing every genre of shop you could imagine, a food court offering a vast array of cuisine options and the ultimate attraction – Nickelodeon Universe theme park sat right in the heart of the mall on the first level! Yes, that’s right there are numerous theme park rides flowing throughout the mall.
This place is huge and of course with all these amazing attractions, plays host to millions of tourists and locals every year! In terms of a popularity contest, this place certainly delivers.
Heading to Minnesota, we decided this would be a great opportunity to knock off Wisconsin from our list of US states we have visited. Looking at the map, we noticed that Eau Claire, WI was not too far but given our time constraints we opted for the small town of Hudson which is just across the St. Croix River. The first thing worth noting here is that the river was pretty much completely frozen, probably a common occurrence in this part of the country, but for us it was a strange sight yet provided impressive photo moments.
With a population of a little over 8000, you can probably tell what type of town we are talking about here. Added to this we visited here early on a Sunday morning and there wasn’t much going on apart from a few locals preparing to head to church and others wandering to the local cafe for breakfast.
Apart from that, the town was dead but there was a really cool riverfront walk that was at least worth getting out and exploring for a while, despite the bitter 12 degrees temperature that we encountered. Fighting the frigid temperatures, we were still able to explore the ‘beach’ which was a little strange given it was covered in snow and the river was completely frozen – weird right?
Returning to Minnesota, we visited Stillwater which was another small town but offered much more in terms of character. Located on the limestone banks on the other side of the St. Croix River from Hudson, WI, this is a great little town to explore especially if you want to improve your fitness levels.
There are numerous staircases throughout the little town that take you to the top of the town overlooking the surrounding area. We climbed the 157 steps of the South Main Street staircase and it is certainly worth the challenge for the amazing views once at the summit.