Best of the Twin Cities 2011
Variety is the spice of life, right? Sure, but we think the wondrous mix of things to do, eat, drink, buy, and enjoy in the Twin Cities is better described as, well, pretty sweet. It’s a veritable Candyland out there, and on the following pages we highlight the things that make us feel good as gumdrops. The tastiest focaccia (the best Dara’s ever eaten). The hippest cover band (they know Weezer’s The Blue Album front to back). The most honest auto-body shop (they do exist). And, yes, the best candy store. Admit it, we’re spoiled rotten here. And that’s a good thing.
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New Green Space
Upper Landing Park
The newest strip of riverfront renovation in St. Paul, just below the Science Museum, could’ve been brought over by barge from Paris, its stone stairways leading down to the water, its grass a fine place for a picnic, boat-watching, or whatever the kids are into these days. It was bewitchingly christened this summer when it hosted the huge, twinkling “Scattered Light” sculpture for a month, and City House, a refurbished grain elevator at the park’s south end, opened as an event space. But even when it’s quiet, it speaks to our ongoing, ever-changing relationship with the river.
☛ Chestnut Street and Shepard Road, St. Paul, stpaul.gov
Downhill Ski Weekend
Buena Vista Ski Area
Over in Bemidji, a ski bunny is a rabbit bounding down the slope, and getting plowed means someone helpfully cleared your driveway: it’s not the most party-hearty ski area (hello, Lutsen!). But it may be the nicest—especially on the wallet, with specials like $5 lessons, $18 lift passes, and $3 sleigh rides for when you want to give your legs a rest.
☛ 19600 Irvine Ave. NW, Bemidji, 218-243-2231, bvskiarea.com
Theodore Wirth Park
You know the skiers: the ones zipping by you on the trail like lynx in hot-pink spandex. They’re skate-skiing, a kind of Rollerblading on snow. And if you’ve ever wondered if it’s for you, you can check it out, fairly inexpensively, at the Theodore Wirth ski area, where rentals and lessons are offered by the Sisu Ski School. If it doesn’t feel right, you can always go back to your tortoise ways.
☛ 1339 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Mpls., 763-522-4584, sisuskiers.org
Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium
If it once seemed strange that octopi were twirling their tentacles just below Banana Republic at the Mall of America, it may seem even stranger now that the new owners of MOA’s aquarium have taken things up a notch. The exhibit now features twice as many sea creatures as before, including more rays and sharks—and a curvaceous new green turtle called Swim Kardashian. And if you can’t afford a tropical holiday this winter, good news: you can snorkel with these fishes.
☛ 120 E. Broadway, Bloomington, 952-883-0202, visitsealife.com/minnesota
Lebanon Hills Regional Par
This Eden, in Eagan, is so dense and immense—bigger than many state parks—and so criss-crossed with skiing and mountain-bike trails, that several bikers got disoriented last year and had to be rescued by plane, wilderness style. Even two of the searchers got lost for a time. This fall, the visitor center—already a model of sustainability—is getting an upgrade. New picnic shelters will also be added and new mountain-bike trails for beginners will be cut through the woods. Just bring your GPS.
☛ 860 Cliff Rd., Eagan, 651-554-6530, co.dakota.mn.us
Kitchen in the Market
It’s the cooking-class equivalent of a shore lunch: once a month, the high-energy chefs of Kitchen in the Market will take you on a hunt for seasonal ingredients among the various produce shops housed within the Midtown Global Market. Then, right there in the complex, they’ll show you how to cook them up. Sound simple? That’s the point, a direct lesson in how to convert groceries into goodness.
☛ 920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-568-5486, kitcheninthemarket.com
Voice and Speech at the Guthrie
Having a commanding voice is helpful on stage—and just about anywhere else you’d like to assert your authority (office, ship, courtroom). Which is why the Guthrie’s lessons in projection and effective, motivational speech have become a favorite of executives, lawyers, and others looking to…hey, I’m talking to you!
☛ 818 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6172, guthrietheater.org
Wild Earth School
You need a place to sit. Now, you could drop 10 bucks on an IKEA chair that will probably collapse within a week. Or you could spend that week making your very own Adirondack chair. You could also build your own guitar to strum in that chair, and, should you choose to get up, some new cabinets for your kitchen—all during night and weekend classes just across the St. Croix in Hudson. Your butt, and your spouse, will thank you.
☛ 924 County Rd. N., Hudson, Wis., 715-749-9011, aboutwildearth.com
Vino & Vinyl at Corner Table
You with the Bee Gees beard and distinct lack of digital devices! It’s time to stop listening to your old records in the basement—you could be sharing them with everyone at Corner Table. Every Thursday night, this quintessential neighborhood restaurant becomes a gourmet rec-room: bring an old LP and the chefs will spin it during dinner. Also, the usual $12 corkage fee is ratcheted down to $1—another flashback to the good old days.
☛ 4257 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-823-0011, cornertablerestaurant.com
Best Outdoor Adventure
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
3815 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, 952-854-5900, midwest.fws.gov/minnesotavalley
15400 Buck Hill Rd., Burnsville, 952-435-7174, buckhill.com
Columbia Golf Course, Minneapolis
3300 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-789-2627
For Downhill Skiers
6600 Peller Ave. S., Hastings, 651-436-5245, aftonalps.com
For Cross-Country Skiers
Elm Creek Park Reserve
12400 James Deane Pkwy., Maple Grove, threeriversparks.org
Baker Park Reserve
2309 Baker Park Rd., Maple Plain, threeriversparks.org
7499 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-833-9580, centenniallakespark.com
[ Readers’ Pick ]
Voted on by Minnesota Monthly readers at MNMO.com