Not wanting to tackle the cities but still desire the amenities they provide? Growing up in Coon Rapids I was only a 10-minute drive from the neighboring town of Anoka. My friends and I used to call it mini-Minneapolis because of its lively downtown feel. (Anoka also is known as the Halloween capitol of the world, supposedly having had the first Halloween celebration ever in 1920.) The town is just 20 miles northwest of Minneapolis and has many features of the city, but with more of a small-town feel.
The stores here are locally owned and independent. Jenson’s department store has been a landmark in Anoka since 1938, and its affiliate, I. Appeal, since 1984. Stop for your favorite brand name clothing for women, men, tweens, children, and babies. The second weekend of every month the stores feature the Weekend Rack Room where you can find bargains from all departments.
There are four stores right around East Main Street, including my favorite, The Artique, otherwise known as the big white house. Shopping for old things in an old house sets the mood just right for antiquing. It also is host to the Two Rivers Flea Market on the second Saturday of each month, gathering sellers from all over the Twin Cities and filling the lawn with more treasures than can fit in the big white house.
Tea and Coffee
Avant Garden has a warm, neighborhood café feel and is a comfortable place to sink into one of their chairs, take a break, and sip on some tea or one of their coffee drinks. I haven’t tried it, but the name alone makes me want to order the Anoka Mocha—espresso, chocolate, and almond Roca flavoring in steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and chocolate.
Try making your own wine at Genesis Wine Making. My mom and I stopped by one day and made our own Riesling. After selecting the kind of wine we wanted, we mixed the ingredients (the grapes have already been turned into juice) according to a very detailed process to ensure the best taste. It then sat at the store for five weeks and we went back to bottle it. It’s a fun thing to do, and you get to leave with a great tasting product (but make sure to let it age for awhile first!).
While driving down East Main Street, especially at night, you can’t miss the lit up sign of the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage advertising its most recent production. Ticket prices are cheaper than most theaters in downtown Minneapolis, but you will be equally entertained. There are a variety of productions shown year-round in the 228-seat bowl-style theater.