2017 Highlights: Can Can Wonderland

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Hitting the links at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Just opened in 2017, Can Can Wonderland was one of the most fun, weird, and wild nights out I have gotten the chance to experience over the last year. Buried deep under an old can factory in the industrial zone in the Midway area of St. Paul, it is one of those new uses for decaying industrial infrastructure that is making the city so interesting.

After hearing about it early in the year, Lindsay and I were excited to finally make it there with a group of friends for my birthday last August, and it was definitely worth the wait. In this case, literally, as the place was so popular we had to wait several hours to get into the much anticipated artist-designed mini golf course the place is becoming most well known for.  From what I’ve heard from others, arriving the earlier the better is advisable to get checked in for minigolf, as we discovered as we were the very last group to make it through the links late one Thursday evening after getting signed up before seven.

On the other hand, there is plenty stuff to of keep you occupied while you’re waiting, including vintage arcade machines, a variety of tasty comfort food (I recommend the grilled cheese), and delicious, bizarre cocktails. The blue cheese infused gin “Sailing the Seas of Cheese,” for instance, was a refreshingly creamy mix served in the gaping maw of a shark shaped mug, complete with fake blood. Wow! And, it is was quite tasty as well. Of course, Lindsay ordered me a wonderful Happy Birthday cocktail as well, a delicious birthday cakey drink which was served with a sparkler and a party popper let off by the bartender.

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Receiving a birthday sparkler from the bartender at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

In addition, another new 2017 brewery, BlackStack Brewing, shares the same location, in on old warehouse upstairs from Can Can’s subterranean factory space, allowing you to sip a few pints of Punch Press Belgian ale or Spare Parts dark lager while waiting for your queue in the Can Can line. The comfy, low key brewery offers plenty of seating and board games, too.

As for the mini golf, it was well worth the wait. Now, I haven’t played much mini golf for a number of years, so I was a fair bit rusty when the time came to hit the course. To be honest, I ended up swinging wildly at the ball and didn’t get very far in terms of progress. Maybe the beer and the cocktails had something to do with that, but the elaborate and innovative backdrops certainly made even losing fun. In addition to the cool surroundings, the whimsical holes allow for any number of strategies for getting your ball through the obstacles- attempt a delicate maneuver to roll it right up the tongue of the Blue Toad, or try to knock it over the pond? Take the bridge or brave the tornado in the Natural Disaster? My favorite was trying not to get the ball lost under the couch in Gramma’s Living Room, packed full with kitschy bric a brac and vintage knick knacks. After all eighteen holes, I was pretty tired.

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Taking a rest on Gramma’s Couch at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Thankfully, we were responsible and came via Lyft, though on a less hot, muggy day, Can Can Wonderland is a convenient fifteen minute walk from the Fairview Avenue Station on the Greenline. I’m looking forward to making another expedition here.

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Holiday Cheers

 

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Having a merry Christmas at Lawless Distilling

It’s back to work for many of us Americans on Boxing Day, MSP Adventure Time included, so hopefully everyone has had a warm and cozy holiday season so far. Now that the big ones are over and a subzero cold has settled over the metro, I’m going to reflect a little on some of the fun things we got up to this busy holiday season.

There’s always the crop of local craft fairs and markets, as I’ve written about every year, great for picking up a few last minute locally crafted gifts. A new one we checked out this year was the Hoppy Holidays Makers Market at Urban Growler Brewing Company in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood, one of my favorite local breweries. Along with checking out some cool local craftspeople, we picked up a bottle of the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter, one of Urban Growler’s limited releases. Not as much of a beer drinker, Lindsay has discovered a tolerable liking for the rich, sweet, heavy stouts and porters. That’ll be a great, heady libation for our New Years celebration.

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Urban Growler

Along with the craft fairs, we had another fun, energetic evening down at the Eagles Club in Seward, as I wrote about earlier this year. The 7th Annual Kinda Kinky Holiday food raiser was, again, a good time. The same Kinks hits performed with joy and energy by a roster of guests, it is always a cheery experience.

The highlight of the holidays was definitely the Miracle at Lawless, Lawless Distilling’s hosting of a holiday themed pop up cocktail bar idea originating in New York. Here, they’ve transformed their cosy and intimate but elegant space into a Christmas lighted extravaganza complete with themed drinks and the comforting, nostalgic scene of pine. It was packed when we arrived but we quickly got a couple of tasty drinks, a Gimlet Who Stole Christmas and a Sipping Hot Chocolate infused with fragrant Bittercube bitters. This has come to be one of our favorite spots in the cities for cocktails and it was a great way to get a break from the stressful holiday season. They’re continuing the miracle until New Years, so I’d really recommend stopping by for a festive and stimulating beverage.

 

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Miracle at Lawless

Hmm, I notice that a lot our holiday outings involve a drink or two…

In any case, for the new year, we will be writing a little about some of our favorite distillers here in the Twin Cities!  

 

 

 

Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott Street, St. Paul

Miracle at Lawless, 2619 S 28th Avenue, Minneapolis

 

2017 Highlights: Capitol Restoration

 

 

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June 2017

Last summer, to much fanfare, the Minnesota State Capitol building completed its long standing renovations and reopened in a cool celebration.

Lindsay and I had spent quite a bit of time gathering with large groups of people to voice our discontent with the way things were going in 2017, assembling before the impressive marble dome encased with scaffolding and trying to show that the people of Minnesota do not support the policies being enacted in our national capital or our state, from misogyny, to environmental destruction, to the white supremacy endemic in our state and nation. As “the people’s house” the Minnesota State Capitol is a natural location for protests, demonstrations, and other examples of the people making their voices known, even if those inside on occasion don’t see fit to listen.   

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So, after four years, when the $310 million restoration of the iconic Minnesota landmark was completed, the state invited the public to a weekend celebration with a lot of fun events scheduled. In spite of the busy summer, we made it down on the first evening as the sun set on the city of St. Paul, walking across the capitol grounds and checking out the festivities. There would be music performances celebrating Minnesota artists, local craft breweries sharing their products, and fireworks, but I just wanted to get inside.

20729439_10155590866479322_4458450447497533408_nAs I had not visited the interior of the dome for ages, the opportunity to explore the ornate interior of the capitol building excited us, and we took advantage of one of the free tours of the government edifice. The docents led us throughout the maze-like, expansive building and we enjoyed awesome behind the scenes views of the state senate, house, and supreme court (including the justices’ retiring room, rarely viewable by the public, which Lindsay was pleased to note had the exact same phone as the one in her state worker cubicle).   

 

IMG_3783Along the way, we learned many interesting facts of the 1905 Cass Gilbert designed building, including the fact that the Minnesota State Capitol’s unsupported marble dome is the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. Pretty impressive.

It was nice also to see the state responding to the concerns of people and relocating some artwork with stereotypical, historically inaccurate, and hurtful depictions of indigenous Americans  inside the capitol and, both the guide and the literature discussed the reasons for this change. In the end, we climbed up the innumerable stairs to stand on top of the capitol building, where we could observe the gold Quadriga sculpture up close as well as the skyline of both St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was a majestic end to a cool exploration.

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2017 Highlights: At Home With the Monsters and Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids

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The imposing doors leading to Guillermo del Toro’s traveling exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Last spring, for those interested in the weird, monstrous, and bizarre, two Twin Cities museums definitely had us covered, drawing in special exhibits from each coast. After the cold winter, it was fun to have such escapist fare to check out.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Art, an exhibition put together by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was featured, Guillermo del Toro: At Home With the Monsters. MIA was one of three lucky stops in North America for the fascinating, exhaustive exhibition of pieces collected by the idiosyncratic and innovative director, Guillermo del Toro. It was really kind of breathtaking.

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One morbid piece among many!

While I’m not a superfan, I have tended to be drawn into many of del Toro’s cinematic visions, working with horrific yet beautiful images, intricate and eerie, drawing deeply from mythology and literature. This is true especially of Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno). I was eager to check this exhibit out, and we were lucky enough to get in as part of one of MIA’s fun Third Thursday events, enjoying horror themed cocktails and the music of local band, Graveyard Club, before braving the ornate portals into the exhibition itself.

The collection was packed full of artifacts and works which both inspired Guillermo del Toro in his deep well of imagination, along with background information about the director, from his childhood in Guadalajara to the literary and artistic traditions he drew from. Divided into areas by theme, it seemed that at every turn, some new cool, disturbing, entrancing, or breathtaking discovery was to be found; eighteenth century models of diseased organs, vintage comics, props and full sized sculptures of some of del Toro’s more infamous creations.

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Encountering fandom’s racist uncle

A creepily life-like statue of H.P. Lovecraft, fittingly displayed among the monsters, startled many exhibit viewers with his intense gaze (if not his deeply disturbing personal views). Like del Toro, I too found myself drawn in by the author’s rich, eldritch writing but horrified by his philosophies, which I write about in more detail here. All in all, At Home with the Monsters was a richly rewarding and engaging exhibit, even for those new to the director (though those steeped in his creations were, of course, more engaged).

Across the river at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the special exhibit on Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids was also an interesting, informative exploration into the science behind the mythology of such legendary creatures. Put together by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, this one was a bit more geared for children but still had some interesting tidbits and bits of new information for adult fans of strange creatures, too. Organized around the creatures of the water, the air, and the land, coupled with huge, impressive statues, the exhibit detailed the biological, historical, and literary origins of such mythological beings, hoaxes and folklore, pop culture and high culture. All in all, it was a fun exhibit and a fun accompaniment to “At Home with the Monsters.”

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It’s a kraken! At the Science Museum of Minnesota

Now that the cold times have returned, staying at home and traveling through movies, books, and other things is definitely a smart way to survive a Minnesota winter.

Life Adventures: Highlights of a Busy Year

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Photo by Mauricio Ballestas

It has been some time since I shared anything here, which is, of course, not to say that nothing has been happening in terms of Minneapolis/St Paul times for adventure, but for the most part I’ve left my blog for dead.

Far from being dead, though, perhaps there has been too many adventures to do justice to in recent months, and instead of typing up lackluster accounts I focused on the actual experiences themselves. Well, that and the continual parade of horrifying news rendering even the most fun events rather hollow. Not to mention a healthy dose of procrastination. As the months have gone on, from my last entry back in bleak muddy March, my mind has often drifted back to what I could say on MSP Adventure Time once I could spare the time to put something together.

So, now it comes to my attention that it is the last month of the stressful, amazing year of 2017; to use that Dickensian cliche, it really has been the “best of times and the worst of times” for me. I’m not one to shy away from a cliche now and then. As the world seems to fall apart around us, I find myself happier than I’ve ever been. I wanted to get back into it as the snows begin to fall and buries our fair cities for another five months of cozy, frozen winter, sharing some of the highlights of the year and getting geared up for another one.  

In any case, as I reported last summer, during an expedition into the wilds of Wisconsin, my beloved and I announced our engagement. Last May, our painstaking, all consuming planning came to its amazing conclusion with our wedding thing at the Hennepin History Museum, surrounded by friends and family. A bit of a distraction!

Back in my entry on the HHM’s cute collections and casual events, this was the place I called “perfect for a first date,” and I had no idea of knowing how right I was. It feels so great to think back on this, our biggest adventure so far.

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Photo by Mauricio Ballestas

One early winter Minneapolis night in 2015, two people’s lives changed, suddenly and forever. Armed with a bike and a bag of cookies, I walked into the Hennepin History Museum and found my heart. Lindsay, a vision of loveliness from California entered my life, and I hers. As the city spun into the hectic holiday season, we spun into each other’s orbits.  It was a perfect evening.   

After history, cookies, and delicious cheese, our conversation flowed like Ice Houses’ cocktails. We entered enchanted with each other and left to a landscape being made new with a fresh layer of Minnesota snow. Since then, we’ve adventured, explored, and tackled life in each other’s arms, a full year of love and happiness through the winter cold and the summer heat. Whether cuddling with a book on a lazy morning, dancing wildly in the basement of a German cultural institution, battling mosquitoes deep in the woods, or jogging on a foggy evening along the Pacific, every day is something new. Every day, we fall deeper into each other’s rhythms.    

Some might call it a “whirlwind” romance, but to me, it feels more like a romance that had lain dormant, waiting for a meeting to fertilize the seeds that bloom into a garden of wonders. Officially joining our lives together is be a dream come true.  

Returning to the place that we met to get married was wonderful, and the Hennepin History Museum was a lovely venue for such a ceremony, totally secular and low key, just how we like it. It was fun to draw in visitors from across the country to explore the Twin Cities themselves. It was quite a good showing for the Minnesota experience, with snow earlier in the week quickly transforming to a balmy 70 degrees by our wedding day.

Over the past months, we’ve continued to spend our time trying out new things, keeping busy. After a honeymoon to Alaska and a jaunt out to California as well, along with job changes and just life, there hasn’t been much energy left over to post.

During the last few weeks of 2017, I’d like to post a few highlights of a busy year, which was packed with more than I could ever record. Along with new things never before experienced, and the perennial favorites, a few stood out that I’d like to share in the coming weeks to prepare for a new, and productive, 2018. First, I will return to a perennial favorite- the Minneapolis Institute of Art!