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Best of the Cities 2010

Yes, that ballpark rocks. And, getting there on the Northstar line is pretty cool. That kestrel is awful funny. And did you try the Vincent burger at the park? Those are just four reasons to celebrate the new stadium and the Twin Cities. Read on to discover 100 more reasons to love the place you live.

Best of the Cities 2010
Photo by Thomas Strand

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Global Tour

Urban Expeditions

Worried that your 6-year-old will never try kimchi, or that your tween will tweak at the idea of salsa dancing with you? Take them to the Landmark Center’s Urban Expeditions, a free series of afternoon activities that explore far-flung cultures through traditional crafts, cuisine, and dancing—a globetrotting tour for tots that leaves everyone with a mini passport, a postcard, and zero jet lag. • 75 W. Fifth St., St. Paul, 651-292-3225, landmarkcenter.org

Arts Innovation

Community Supported Art

Inspired by the direct-to-consumer model of community supported agriculture, MNartists.org and Springboard for the Arts conjured a way to similarly sustain local artists: Community Supported Art. Nine artists were chosen to create original works and 50 “shares” were sold to supporters in just six hours. In their inaugural “farm boxes” of art, the lucky few received a run of screen-prints, limited-edition photographs, small original paintings, and other artistic morsels, with more to come this fall. • mnartists.org

Outdoor Entertainment

Target Field

It’s been called the best ballpark in America, yet the greatest thing about the new Target Field isn’t the structure but the lack of it. When the air is warm and the alchemy of dusk has turned the field and the skyline to gold, it’s hard to remember how we ever did without this for so long. We’ve been freed. • twinsbaseball.com

New Auteur

Eric Howell

Howell was a stuntman for the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man before pulling an even better trick last year: writing and directing his own award-winning short film, Ana’s Playground, and shooting it on some of the Coens’ leftover sets in Minneapolis. Set in a nameless war zone where children have been dragged into the conflict, the movie has won 15 awards at an astounding 14 festivals, including enough top honors to qualify for the Oscars. • anasplayground.com

Twitter Feed


You can’t possibly cram the energy and vitality of the most diverse and historic street in Minneapolis into 140 characters, right? Tell that to the Lake Street Council, which has been packing its Twitter feed, @VisitLakeStreet, with gorgeous photos, restaurant reviews, coupons, and breaking news from the people and businesses that line Lake Street. • twitter.com/visitlakestreet


Buzz and Neil

After a two-year hiatus at a Detroit zoo, polar bears Buzz and Neil returned to new digs at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul with nearly the fanfare accorded their astronaut namesakes. Their new home mimics the Hudson Bay area with native vegetation, three pools (with live trout), and a 260-square-foot digging space. • 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, 651-487-8200, comozooconservatory.org

Easy Stroll

Noerenberg Gardens

This park on a point in Lake Minnetonka’s Crystal Bay is popular for weddings—and for good reason. A world apart from the lake’s Jet Ski and Busch Light ambience, this former estate of Grain Belt Brewery founder Frederick Noerenberg is surprisingly idyllic. Stroll through the day-lily and perennial gardens, which shift with the seasons from spring wildflowers to autumn colors. • 2865 Northshore Dr., Wayzata, 763-559-6700, threeriversparks.org

Facebook Friend

Punch Neapolitan Pizza

As if their swoon-inducing pizzas weren’t enough, Punch’s Facebook page will have you BFF with the local chain faster than you can say, “Friend me.” Unlike companies that clutter Facebook feeds with inane trivia and “engaging” questions, Punch is judicious with its posts, which are almost always accompanied by clever deals—a free pizza and Peroni if Italy won the World Cup, for instance, or wine for the price of a soda. • facebook.com/punch.neapolitan.pizza

Stage Director

Michelle Hensley

The founder of Ten Thousand Things Theater has long been among the most consistently sharp and thoughtful directors in the Twin Cities. But she outdid herself this past season, producing a stripped-down but deep Othello, a psychologically taut take on Crime and Punishment called Raskol, and, of all things, My Fair Lady, highlighting the push and pull between who we are and who others would like us to be.


U of M Bookstore Author Events

The University of Minnesota attracts dozens of notable authors every year for readings, from David Sedaris to Garrison Keillor to Siri Hustvedt. But you don’t have to make the drive to enjoy them: The university records the talks and offers free podcasts through its website and iTunes. Listen to them at the gym or in the car and see if you aren’t a little wiser and happier at the end of the hour. If only the rest of our iPod playlists could do that. • bookstores.umn.edu/genref/podcast.html

Train Ride

Northstar Commuter Rail

Used to be that if you lived in Big Lake or Elk River and worked in Minneapolis, you could spend a good chunk of prime morning sleeping time enlarging the ozone hole in rush-hour traffic. Well, sleep in, exurbs! Thanks to the Northstar Commuter Rail line that started up last November, you can cruise in and out of town at 79 mph while working a crossword puzzle or getting in some last-minute shuteye. And with an estimated 3,400 people a week lining up to ride the rails, the roads are less congested for those of us still on them. • northstartrain.org

Family Outing

Minnesota’s Greatest Generation

Say what you will about the misty-eyed nostalgia propagated by the Ken Burns documentary. But taking the family to “Minnesota’s Greatest Generation” at the Minnesota History Center will put some facts behind the sentiment. With its 1930s soda fountain, an M8 armored vehicle made in St. Paul, and a 1950s hospital nursery with an “endless babies vista,” the 6,000-square-foot exhibit offers lots of reasons to admire our midcentury minders. • 345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul, 651-259-3000, mnhs.org

Great Outdoors

Where to seek nature—without all the nature seekers

You could drive scenic Highway 61 along Lake Superior—or, as of this year, you could bike it. The new Gitchi-Gami State Trail (ggta.org), when completed, will parallel 86 miles of Highway 61 from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. For now, the 13 finished miles running from Beaver Bay to Gooseberry Falls State Park, passing through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, make for a perfect afternoon outing.

Of Minnesota’s eight official scenic drives, the Edge of the Wilderness route (minnesotascenicbyways.com), from Grand Rapids to Effie, is the least-explored and the most fun to cruise: Nicknamed Highway Loop-de-Loop by locals, it’s best traveled in the fall, when the thick woods of the Chippewa National Forest are aglow.

The perfect picnic? Head east on Highway 8 to Interstate Park (dnr.state.mn.us) and work up an appetite hiking the bluffs above the St. Croix River before settling in the shade for comestibles gathered in nearby Taylors Falls.

Silverwood Park (threeriversparks.org), on the shores of Silver Lake in St. Anthony, used to be run by the Salvation Army as a place for city kids to explore nature. Now it’s everyone’s urban oasis, a unique center for arts and the environment where you can take nature-art classes, see shows in the amphitheater, and imbibe fair-trade beverages in the Silverwood Coffee Shop.


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