This year, my wife and I had nowhere to go for the holidays … and we loved it.
As dramatic as that opening line might sound, it’s not quite the truth. For various reasons, travel plans to visit my wife’s family in Wisconsin were put on hold for a yet-to-be-determined, more convenient date. Sure, we would have been welcome to visit my relatives in Nebraska, but since we had just seen them during a family gathering at Thanksgiving it left us in a peculiar predicament: home alone for the holidays. Holidays for us are usually a rotation of 500-mile road trips either east or south during the months of November and December. One year, here; another, there. Not that I am complaining. I do indeed treasure time with family and old friends to share glad tidings and all. Yet, the idea of not packing the car for another white-knuckle drive dashing through the snow sounded like an early holiday gift to me. It was my wife Sarah’s idea but I was quickly onboard: Why not enjoy some of the sites, sounds (and tastes) of Minneapolis as any other visitor might? Why not take a staycation? Plans were made. A good time was had by all.
We set a target date of December 23 for our overnight holiday adventure in downtown Minneapolis. In the past, anticipation for upcoming holidays always seemed to divert my attention elsewhere, preparing itineraries out of town. But knowing that we were going to remain in town for the holidays, I began look at the Twin Cities with fresh eyes. An evening at the Holidazzle Parade or a trip to Mall of America had me feeling more like a visitor taking it all in rather than someone who’s seen it all before.
Our first stop of the night was to join another couple for dinner at Manny’s restaurant. I had eaten there before, but never during prime dining hours on a Friday night. What fun. Knowing that we were on a “trip,” maybe we weren’t as price conscious as we should have been, but then again we were there to eat. Manny’s motto of sorts is that “life is good at the top of the food chain.” I would have to agree with that. I don’t suppose I thought I was going to find a poor meal at a steakhouse with such a wonderful reputation, but you always wonder whether a place can always live up to expectations. It certainly did. After our waiter cheerfully provided the table a tour through the available cuts of meat complete with visual aides, eyes away from price I happily ordered a 20-ounce Bone-in Ribeye that was cooked to perfection. When in Rome, right? The time for dieting comes after New Year’s. All jokes aside, Manny’s does offer everything that a formal old-time steakhouse should: great service, dark wood red-leather ambiance, prime cuts, a deep wine list (from which we ordered…twice), and a lively atmosphere made all the better with good conversation among friends.
Our next stop of the evening brought our small group to the late show at the Dakota Jazz Club. Again, the Dakota is a place whose reputation runs far and wide. (Following a summer show in California last July, my wife and I had the opportunity to meet the band members of a jazz guitar trio. When we told them where we were from, one quickly said, “Wow, we would love to play a show at the Dakota.” It’s nice to hear that kind of admiration for your home when you are on the road.) The Dakota is my favorite Twin Cities music venue for many reasons, due in large part I’m sure to my taste in music. I also love the setting itself, and for our late show we had seats on the railing in the upper balcony with an unencumbered view of The Bad Plus, a Minneapolis trio that has gone on to receive national and international acclaim during their career. After a nightcap and a dessert, we parted ways with our friends, but our vacation wasn’t over.
What made my wife and I feel like we were truly on vacation was our short walk to our downtown hotel: W Minneapolis-The Foshay. A room in such a landmark hotel, complete with a view of the Minneapolis skyline adorned with holiday lights, is something only a guest might have the pleasure to enjoy. It was also nice to avoid the road after an evening with wine and drinks. The next morning, Sarah and I made the most our stay, using the hotel’s modern and well-equipped gym, aptly named SWEAT. The workout also made us feel less guilty about our large breakfast at nearby Key’s Café & Bakery, also located in The Foshay. (You just have to try a piece of the chocolate cream pie. Yes, even at breakfast. One slice is enough for two.) We still had plenty of time remaining in the day to celebrate Christmas Eve at home.
So if you live in the Twin Cities and are looking for a place to travel for a quick getaway, maybe you don’t have to look very far. Sometimes the best that life has to offer the traveler can be found in your own backyard.