Minneapolis, Minnesota – January 2001

Venturing Out
It’s not intentional, you just gotta get out sooner or later. Going outside in subzero temperatures sounds crazy, bordering on insane. But when it’s cold for 4-5 months out of the year you don’t have much of a choice. By the end of January your bartender is your best friend and your roommate calls you by a pet name.

Being outside can be fun if you are dressed properly. A stocking cap and gloves are standard issue, so standard in the winter months that we should probably hand them out at the airport when we stamp your passport. One of the best ways to beat the cold is to dress in layers. It makes your heat level adjustable and it helps to have the padding. While walking down the street or snow boarding, your bum will surely hit the icy, hard ground.

Some voluntary activities that are fun in the winter include sledding. More an activity than a sport, sledding can be done with expertise the first time out. It requires very little equipment, a sheet of cardboard works well in a pinch. Most Kmart, Walgreens, or other small Department stores carry a cheap $3-5 plastic sled. There are also, of course, more elaborate versions usually carrying a title such as toboggan. A wood slat platform and medal blades that slide down a hill without much effort, but don’t get your fingers caught under the blades (There are many urban legends pertaining to this).

Once you have the sled of your choice, all you need is a hill. The rest I’m sure is self explanatory. A few hills worth a spin include Theodore Wirth Park located at Wirth Parkway and Glenwood avenue in Golden Valley, just minutes from downtown. It’s quite an exasperating walk to the top, but as any good sledder knows, the higher you climb the bigger the payoff will be on the way down. This hill is also lit at night for night time sledding.

In Crystal you’ll find Valley Place Park, which boasts a warming house, two parking lots and a skating rink. All of this is located at 32nd and Jersey Avenue N. Maple Grove also has a lot to offer, the sledding hill is at Elm Creek Park Reserve (763-559-6778). This hill is lit at night for night sledding, there’s a visitor’s center and if you get a chill while you’re out you can grab some hot chocolate. A little farther out is Keyes Park in Columbia Heights. The hill is steep and there is plenty of room for hoards of sledders. Also on site is a warming house and playground.

Actually any hill will do, these are just some of the more popular sites. Always make sure that wherever you sled, you don’t slide down a hill and end up at the bottom in the middle of the highway, or in the middle of a snowmobile trail.

A step up from sledding is tubing. Where you ride down the hill on a huge rubber tube. Your likelihood of being bounced off are much greater than sledding, but there is usually a tow rope to pull you back to the top for another wild ride. Badlands Snow Tubing Park (715-386-2216) is in Hudson Wisconsin, about a 45 minute drive from the twin cities. Closer in but south of Minneapolis is Trapp Farm Park (651-681-4660) in Eagan or Valleywood Golf Course and Park (952-953-2323) in Apple Valley. Ten minutes from Down town is Wirth Park (763-522-4584) in Golden Valley.

A large portion of winter activities includes strapping wood to your feet. Alpine (Downhill) Skiing and Snow boarding are usually done at the same location. Downhill skiing requires two long pieces of wood, one clamped to each foot. Snow boarding only requires one pieces of wood but it’s wider and you go down the hill standing sideways.

Not far from the city is Hyland Ski and Snow board Area (612-835-4604) in Bloomington. Just outside the cities is Afton Alps (651-436-5245). When bigger is better, go north. Giant’s Ridge (218-865-4143) just out side of the wonderful city of Biwabik is a good place to escape to. But one place most Minnesotans can say they have been to, skier or not is Spirit Mountain (218-628-2891) in Duluth. It’s the ski area in Minnesota that is actually on a mountain. They have 23 runs and a separate snow board park.

Warning: If you live anywhere that you have regular access to mountain skiing, do not, I repeat do not attempt to ski in Minnesota. You will hurt yourself, laughing. People downhill ski here, some even love it, but get out your topographical map of Minnesota and you will see what I mean.

Cross Country Skiing is very similar in equipment to down hill skiing but the activity takes place on a much more level surface, most of the time. Any frozen lake is a great cross country ski path. But there are more than 20 XC ski areas with groomed trails, including Fort Snelling State Park (651-296-6157), Gateway State Trail (651-296-6157) and Afton Alps (651-436-5391) has 18 miles of groomed trails. All locations rent equipment.

If breaking a sweat in the winter sounds like an oxymoron to you – try the family orientated St. Paul Winter Carnival (651-223-4700). A yearly festival of all things winter. Ice Sculptures, parades, music, and a giant snow slide are just some of the highlights. Make sure you buy a Winter Carnival button to show your support. You probably won’t have much of a choice, if someone notices that you do not have one proudly displayed on you winter jacket, they will most likely offer to sell you one.

Never mind that your mind and body are both against going out in the cold, once you are out there it’s always a good time. Dress for it! After all, it’s January now, only three months until spring.

Fast facts

Minneapolis is very grid-like. Avenues run north/south; streets run east/west. There are a lot of one-ways, but the next street over usually runs the opposite direction. Please remember there are always exceptions.

St. Paul – The capital of Minnesota and the other city that makes up the
“twin cities”. Even though it’s just a few miles across the river to the East, going to St. Paul is considered going out of town for most Minneapolis residents.

There are several distinct areas in Minneapolis:

This is exactly where you think it is: the place where all the big buildings are.

This is the melting pot of Minneapolis. There are three main roads; Hennepin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue run parallel (N, S) to each other, and Lake Street crosses (S, E) both. Lake Street is a good border for the southern, more residential area, and the northern, more commercial area.

Warehouse District
An area to the west of downtown that is slowly being rejuvenated, but still has some long-standing establishments and killer warehouse apartments.

West Bank
This is literally the West Bank of the University of Minnesota (the campus is divided in half by the Mississippi River).

North East
Nordeast is the way the movie Fargo claims we say it, and they’re right. This is a blue-collar, old-school region. There is a bar on every corner and a church across the street.

Minneapolis’ area code is 612; St. Paul’s is 952. You will not need to dial the area code if you are within the area. Get it?

Buses, buses, buses. That’s really all we have for transportation, and they go everywhere. Well, just about. Most bus drivers will answer questions for you, or tell you what bus to take to get where you want to go.

There is a bus phone line with an operator that will get you where you want to go on-time:

From the airport, a cab to the city will run you about $20-30. To take the bus from the airport, take the #7, and transfer to the #21 going west when you get to Lake Street. This will take you to the Uptown area.

At the Airport, when waiting for the #7, make sure you stand in the line for Downtown and not Mall of America. Unless of course you want to go to the Mall of America.

Minnesota is working on getting light-rail installed by 2003-2004. This is a great conversation starter with the person on the next barstool. You will most likely get more than one opinion.

There is a money exchange at the airport, and in Downtown Minneapolis at the Federal Reserve Bank on 2nd St. and Marquette. Call for hours: 340-2345.

My suggestion would be to exchange your money at the airport, unless you are planning on taking a daytime trip, during the week, to downtown.

Click here for info on where to rest your head.

Click here for some great eating-out ideas.

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