48 Hours in Minneapolis

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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!

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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 ย 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.

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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.

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St. Mary’s Basilica

What a gorgeous piece of architecture theย St. Mary’s Basilicaย 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 –ย 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.

Hudson, Wisconsin

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.

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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?

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Stillwater, Minnesota

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.

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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.

33 COMMENTS

  1. Looks like it’s more fun being indoors in that giant mall, although I’ve seen pictures of the sculpture garden during springtime and it’s quite spectacular!

    • You are right Noel that indoors exploring is probably the ‘sensible’ thing to do at this time of year in the Minneapolis area. But you know, it was such a beautiful weekend with the sun shining bright that it made it exciting to be outdoors. I quite like the cold weather and don’t mind it at all so it wasn’t an issue to be out in it! But of course, getting back into the car after wandering around with the heater on was pretty nice!

      The sculpture garden I can imagine is pretty awesome in Summer but in Winter with the snow and ice, it added an extra piece of life to the various pieces of architecture!

    • Cheers Paul! I thought including the beach was pretty humorous but I guess that’s Minnesota and Wisconsin in Winter right ๐Ÿ™‚

      Just writing about the Mall of America and trying to conceptualize the size in terms of images is near impossible. Until you actually experience it for yourself you really have no idea. You are probably aware of the Trafford Centre and I think that is pretty big but when you put these two together in comparison, it’s like comparing chalk and cheese.

    • Well thanks Ashley, very kind of you to say so! One of our goals of this website is to prove to folks out there that are working full-time 8-5 jobs that you can still get out there in the big, wide world and see things. Of course, experiencing so much in such a short time is a tiring experience but we both honestly believe that it is worth it.

      Thanks again for your kind comments, we appreciate it!

  2. The Sculpture Gardens sounds a lovely place to explore and I can just picture the two of you knee deep in snow giggling away! I’d love to have a look around St. Maryโ€™s Basilica and, while I’m not much into shopping, as a rule, I’m sure I’d enjoy looking around the mall just for the novelty of seeing a funfair inside it. Stillwater sounds charming too but I’m not sure I’d get on to well with all those stairs – good exercise as you say! Keep on travelling – it’s amazing what you can pack into in a weekend.

  3. So glad to see you enjoyed your visit! It always seems like people skip over visiting Minneapolis, so it’s fun to read about it when people go. We grew up in Minnesota and are moving back to the Twin Cities in a few weeks actually–we love it there–well, except for the frigid winters ๐Ÿ™‚ Good choices on places to check out!

    • Thanks Jenna, yes I can see why many folks overlook Minneapolis and it really is a shame because we enjoyed our time there. I guess the frigid winters as you appropriately referred to them as are off-putting for many people and probably because media coverage and tourism is rarely featured on this part of the States, aside from the Mall of America of course.

      I actually thought that Minneapolis was very similar to Dallas in many respects (not sure if you have visited there), aside from the climate. I much prefer the colder temperatures, though having snow/ice so much throughout the winter I am sure gets old (plus it would hinder my desire to be somewhere where I can play golf all year round!).

    • It was a really cool experience Bob and as I think I indicated earlier, the snow just made it even more picturesque despite the chilly conditions! That’s what you anticipate when you head to states such as Minnesota though right ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It’s awesome Raphael but a little too big to explore in one visit (even though we wandered around all three levels). Realistically you need to plan out where you want to visit in terms of shops and then just head directly there because otherwise you will spend all day just walking and not have time to explore inside some of the rare stores that the mall houses.

    • As Ashley eloquently pointed out in an earlier comment, I guess we are becoming the experts on weekend travel. You know it’s interesting to think about exactly just how much you can do in a weekend. Many people fail to realize that 48 hours is plenty to see a lot of things. Sure, you can’t visit everything and have to be careful on what you select but it also gives you a feeling as to whether you want to return there in the future to experience more of the area.

      St. Mary’s Basilica really is a cool design and takes an excellent picture!

    • It really is a great city. I mentioned in an earlier reply that this reminds me in many ways of Dallas, TX aside from the fact the temperatures are at the other end of the spectrum. So many cool suburbs, each have their own unique style and culture with attractions worth exploring.

  4. You’ve given us a real slice of Americana! The sculpture garden looks like a great place to visit {maybe when it’s a bit warmer} and I love that photo of the cherry on top of the spoon. Great capture!

    • Cheers Alison, yes I certainly think you would see a different perspective on the sculpture garden in the middle of summer when there is no snow on the ground but at the same time it provided a different angle and I think some good photographs of the architecture.

    • Thanks for the kind remarks Phoebe, we really appreciate it! I honestly never grasped the magnitude and size of the States until I moved here in 2006 and realized I was stuck in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, Oklahoma and now Arkansas. But the reality is it gives you a great base to travel the rest of USA and explore everything that is out there. Minneapolis is really cool and of course we were only there for a short time but it gave us enough indication that we would love to go back and experience more of what the Twin Cities have to offer.

  5. Okay, that mall just makes me break out in hives. I can’t stand going to our tiny local shopping mall, never mind that monster! Too many choices for this girl. The sculpture garden looks interesting though. The cherry piece made me think of the pop art movement.

  6. I was in Minnesota a few years ago, on purpose. Then within the next few months, I found myself there on accident two more times. One was when we took a voluntary bump for compensation and ended up spending the night. The other was for a very long layover. Both times I got to return to the mall. It was like being inside a huge city but without any fresh air, it was so weird.

  7. Hell of a way to spend 48hrs and a great example to show people that you don’t have to spend vacation time to do a little exploring. All it takes is some planning and a weekend. : )

  8. The Mall of America is HUGE! I knew it was big but didn’t realize that it is that big. Also I loved the pictures of the “beach”, being from California I don’t really expect to see beaches covered in snow and frozen rivers. I guess we cannot complain about being cold now…

  9. Never been here, but looks like this city had a lot to offer and 48 hours are not enough to explore it all.. I would definitely go to the top floor of the Mall of America to eat these famous Buffalo Wild Wings :).

    • We have been to various Buffalo Wild Wings around the States, including a new one that just opened in our hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas but none of them have quite compared to the one in the Mall of America. You also hit the nail on the head when you state that 48 hours here isn’t long enough but it did give us just enough time to realize that a return trip to Minneapolis would be definitely justified ๐Ÿ™‚

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