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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The Teddy Holidays
Invention is overrated—sometimes the most original thing you can do is admit that someone else beat you to the punch. That’s the appeal of the Teddy Holidays, who, while not strictly a retread outfit, have drawn a devoted following for a couple of inspired ideas: playing all of Weezer’s The Blue Album at the Bryant-Lake Bowl last winter and playing the Beatles’ entire Rubber Soul album this fall. They don’t just cover music, they cover good music.
Beers for Books
Wanna be a do-gooder? Here’s what you do: head to the bar (Barrio, Local, etc.) where a Beers for Books event is being held. Order a beer. Drink it. Congratulations, you’re a philanthropist: for every beer sold that night, as part a national concept headed up locally by a Target executive, the bar will donate a buck to buy books for kids in developing countries. It’s as simple as gulp.
Theater Latté Da’s All is Calm
There’s no Tiny Tim, no talking snowman, no Red Ryder BB gun. In fact, it’s the absence of any shooting that forms the story. Yet, several years after its first performance, this musical dramatization of the Christmas truce of World War I, a co-production with the vocal ensemble Cantus and Hennepin Theatre Trust, has toured the country and entrenched itself, no pun intended, as the latest holiday tradition in the Twin Cities. Sure, the shooting starts up again at the end, but in between it’s all about peace, understanding, and a well-sung carol.
Bell Museum Social
You’ve kept your old Ranger Rick magazines. And your butterfly collection. And that tiny skull you’re pretty sure is evidence of an unidentified species (it’s probably from a mouse). Well, here’s the social event for you: a quarterly open house recently started by the state’s only natural-history museum to unite contemporary art and old-school science. Each evening features a local artist, musical performances, food, and drink. Plus, it’s a great excuse to check out the museum’s two stories of classic dioramas—as if you needed one.
☛ 10 Church St., Mpls., 612-626-9660, bellmuseum.org
The Trumpeter Swans of Monticello
Your whole life you’ve dreamt of a river dotted with big white swans that leads to a princely castle where you live happily ever after. Little did you know this experience can be had just west of Minneapolis—the first part, anyway. Because of the warm discharge from the town’s not-so-magical nuclear plant, flocks of trumpeter swans—the largest water birds in North America—treat this stretch of the Mississippi River like their own personal spa in the winter. It’s the largest congregation of the birds east of the Rockies. See the swans, warm up with a coffee in the quaint downtown, and plot your castle-building.
Twin Cities Food Tours/Taste Twin Cities Food Tours
We won’t tell anyone, but if you’re dining at just one restaurant in an afternoon, you might be an eating underachiever. You could be noshing at half a dozen historic and specialty restaurants on one of the Twin Cities Food Tours, a 1.5-mile trek through the Warehouse District into northeast Minneapolis. Or you could take one of the similarly named Taste Twin Cities Food Tours, which launched this past summer with a slightly different itinerary, heading from the Mill District into Northeast. Our recommendation? Do both.
☛ twincitiesfoodtours.com; tastetwincities.com
Pizza and Pie in Stockholm
You aren’t a foodie worth your sea salt if you don’t already know about the legendary pizza farm just across the border near Stockholm, Wisconsin. You’d be forgiven, though, for not realizing that they still serve fresh pizza through November, every Tuesday per usual from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Bring the goods back home or eat in your car, the windows steaming up from piping-hot deliciousness. Along the way, make a pit stop in town at the Stockholm Pie Company for a different slice of heaven.
☛ Pizza Farm, N2956 Anker Ln., Stockholm, Wis., 715-448-4802; Stockholm Pie Company, N2030 Spring St., Stockholm, Wis., 715-442-5505, atozproduceandbakery.com
If your stein hath runneth over with the flood of new Minnesota microbreweries over the past couple of years, don’t worry. Only one has focused on supplying you with a local and affordable version of exotic, Belgian-style ales—the champagne of beers, no matter what Miller says. Take home a growler, take a tour, or just take it from the tap at some 31 local watering holes.
☛ 3036 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-225-2184, harrietbrewing.com
It’s January. Your guy hasn’t moved from the couch in so long that you can’t tell where the crumbs end and the Zubaz begin. Pack a bag: you’re going to the Ivy—both of you. Sometimes overshadowed by its more boisterous boutique cousins in town, the Ivy makes for a perfect couple’s escape. Women will enjoy the good food, posh bed, and spa. Guys will enjoy the big TV, the Esquire on the bedside table, and the oversize Jacuzzi from which they can watch the Super Bowl—when they aren’t staring into your eyes, of course.
☛ 201 S. 11th St., Mpls., 612-746-4600, starwoodhotels.com
Cascade Vacation Rentals
You could buy a cabin—if you hit the lottery and want to spend your summers alternately slapping paint and mosquitoes. Or you could rent one whenever you’re craving that North Woods mystique. And the best place to start searching is the website of Cascade Vacation Rentals, which offers the largest selection of accommodations on the North Shore, from $300 a night for luxury lakehomes to $119 a night for artist studios, some within a stone’s skip of Lake Superior.
Forestville to La Crescent
Type in these two towns on Google Maps and you’ll be told to take I-90 straight across southeastern Minnesota. Don’t be so easy on yourself. Drag the purple line down to Highway 16 on the west side and to Highway 250 in the east: you want to go through Lanesboro, Rushford, Houston, and a bunch of places not even noted on the map. You want to be in the dark green area: bluff country. And once you get to La Crescent, right on the Mississippi, you want to turn back up into the hills on little Apple Blossom Drive, past a handful of small apple orchards. Bring back a bushel for pies. Then, if you must, you can take the interstate home.
Ticket Out of Here
Sun Country to Costa Rica
What would our dispositions be like, not to mention our Vitamin D levels, without Sun Country Airlines, our last truly local airline—determined, despite bankruptcy and Tom Petters, to drag our pale butts to the beach. This winter, they’re taking us farther than ever in search of great surf: the first direct flights to Liberia (the Costa Rican resort town, not the country). Leave Friday morning and you’ll be having drinks in the sand by early afternoon.
Best Date Night
For Movie Buffs
3951 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 763-788-9079, heightstheater.com
For Music Fans
Cedar Cultural Center
416 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-338-2674, thecedar.org
For English Majors
University of Minnesota Author Readings
Locations vary, see website: bookstores.umn.edu/genref/authors.html
For Culture Vultures
Salon Saloon (every fourth Tuesday at Bryant-Lake Bowl)
810 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-3737, bryantlakebowl.com
For Art Lovers
Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Third Thursdays
2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-3000, artsmia.org
For Cocktail Connoisseurs
50 Second Ave. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com
4154 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131, travailkitchen.com
[ Readers’ Pick ]
Voted on by Minnesota Monthly readers at MNMO.com
Best Day Trip