Personal Favorites of 2016

Well, it’s past the third anniversary of my blog chronicling the fun activities I’ve found to experience Twin Cities over the past few years, and the one year anniversary of Lindsay joining me on these explorations, so I thought I would take the time to review a few of my favorite adventures of the past year. Only a little more than a month after New Years, but whatever! I’m raring to go to share my thoughts on fun things to do for Twin Citians for the next awful year of 2017, have to find something to take our minds off how the world is falling apart, after all.

Getting my first tattoo last January, with the colors added in March, was definitely one of the highlights of last year. Now, we just need to get a tattoo for Lindsay!

Over the summer, Lindsay and I found plenty of local state parks not far from the cities to go camping for a lovely weekend of hiking, canoeing, and enjoying the outdoors. Well, at least during the summer, our attempt to go camping in October turned out to be a little bit too cold. Also, watch out for those mosquitoes and deer ticks!

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Enjoying a summer weekend on the St. Croix, Interstate State Park

In late July, we had a great time riding vintage buses throughout the streets of Minneapolis sampling some of the city’s crop of craft beers and learning a little about the history of public transportation in the metro. I thought that the Hennepin History Museum and Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Bus and Beer History tour of Minneapolis was one of the most fun, educational, and enjoyable experiences from last year. I’d recommend checking out any of their tours.

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Twin Cities Lines

The trip Lindsay and I took across state lines to Wisconsin last August on my family’s traditional vacation area of Door County on the Lake Michigan coast was the most romantic and wonderful time of 2016, ending with Lindsay and I getting engaged!

A great end to the year was the Bell Museum Garage Sale last November, celebrating the last days of the University of Minnesota’s awesome natural history museum at its Minneapolis location before it hops over to the St. Paul campus this year. Looking forward to it! I also enjoyed being able to post one of my few prompt blog entries!

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Lindsay and crafting our new ornaments at the last Night at the Bell Museum, back in Decemeber

After looking over the past year, I’m looking forward to all the new things we’ll experience in the coming year! The temperature is already beginning to signal the coming of the Minnesota spring!

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Bell Museum Garage Sale

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The James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History is one of my favorite hidden gem museums in the Twin Cities, tucked away on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. The U’s showcase for the natural sciences, of Minnesota, the world, and the cosmos, I loved exploring its detailed wildlife dioramas as a child and ducking in for a relaxing diversion as a college student. The handsome art deco building built in 1940 houses a great variety of specimens, hands on activities, and works of art, and is a great place to visit if you are interested in checking out exactly what type of creature a “golden gopher” is. However, if you want to visit it at its current location, you only have until the end of the year! After December 31st, the museum will close to prepare for a move to a new, state of the art location being constructed over at the St. Paul Campus. As the only natural history museum in Minnesota, it’s always been a special place to me, and I must admit some mixed feelings seeing it move. Still, I’m excited to see what the University has in store for the bigger, better building!   

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Waiting to enter, morning of November 25th.

This weekend is a great time to stop in at the Museum if you haven’t been or want just one more visit to the cozier old location before the great expansion. Until Sunday, the museum is hosting a garage sale, dispensing with a multitude of awesome museum ephemera that any museum nerd will just have to have. Lindsay and I stopped in this morning, braving a bit of a line to get inside where we dug through awesome t-shirts, posters, and display cards from special exhibits from past decades, and piles of books, among other interesting finds. There might still be fishing rods from the museums’ old summer camp, if you’re into that! While I think all of the lifesize fish silhouettes were snatched, there’s bound to be a lot more treasures to be found over the next couple of days, and at pretty good prices, too! Sunday, in particular, includes free museum admission and $5 for whatever you can fit in a grocery bag!

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Wolf diorama- Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

After loading the car with our haul, it was nice to get to wander through the museum’s renowned dioramas one last time, watching people walk over the simulated bog and other old favorites, such as the touch and see discovery room, filled with all manner of bones, terrariums, and other fun stuff. What will the new location bring that we still can’t imagine?

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Our haul! Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

It’s open tomorrow from 9 to 5, with an admission of $8 for adults (free for University students and staff), and 10 to 5 on Sunday, with free admission!

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A collection of stuffed rodents- Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Vintage Buses and Beer

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The bus travels through downtown Minneapolis

Over the past year or so, the Hennepin History Museum has been trying to raise its profile in the community with a series of evening Night at the Museum events featuring different themes and topics. After our romantic cookie exchange at the museum last year, Lindsay and I have attended some of them, which have always been interesting and full of fun activities and little known facts about local history. We toyed with the idea of robots, learned about bees, saw how the history of pets and bicycles affected the local culture. As I said in previous reports, the Hennepin History Museum is a hidden gem of Twin Cities museums, and each visit has been a treat.

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Interior of the vintage bus (before crowd fills it up)

This summer, the museum hosted, along with another local institution, the Minnesota Transportation Museum, a historical Vintage Bus Brewery tour of Minneapolis. Bringing together three of my interests, local history, public transportation, and beer, it was definitely a blast! One of the highlights of the summer, Lindsay and I boarded the 1950s era GMC Transit buses which served Metro Transit for some years during the ‘50s and ‘60s to be whisked around to several local breweries, all the while listening to interesting facts about the history of the area. Maybe it’s just me, but I find the history of the region’s public transportation fascinating- we were riding in the bus that replaced the streetcar lines across the Twin Cities in a shady bit of corporate grift. The bright colors and lines of the old city bus attracted the attention of passersby as it rumbled through town. The preservation of the vintage bus was immaculate, with its period advertisements and creaking seats, it was like traveling back in time.

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enjoying a beer at Boom Island Brewing

 

Our first stop was at Boom Island Brewing, close to the river. A Belgian-style brewery in North Minneapolis, Boom Island’s beers are earthy and powerful, with enough variety to please just about any beer connoisseur. I had not been there before, but it would definitely be one I’d like to visit again. I particularly liked the Brimstone Trippel and the Cuvee de Boom. While we were visiting, the brewery was hosting a Bayou Blowout Crayfish boil, which was a nice place for me to get my seafood fix along with a beer. Some crayfish fettuccine is just the thing I didn’t know I was craving before setting out!  

Reboarding the bus, the crowd a bit more in our cups than before, we trundled off to our next destination, a stroll across the Stone Arch Bridge. Along the way, we passed through Nicollet Island, our interpreter having to raise his voice a little to be heard over the reveling. Crossing the river, we strolled around the park, walking off some of the beer we already imbibed. St. Anthony Falls, the reason the city was here in the first place, was roaring, the wet weather making it more than twice as full as it would be that time of year on average. The river-scented mist billowing off of the falls dampened us as we watched it flow from the bridge. I also took the opportunity, like so many others on the tour, to capture a few new pokemon on the newly exploding Pokemon Go app. Yep, it was just like being on an actual bus! As for the app, well, that can be an entirely different conversation best saved for another entry.

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View of St. Anthony Falls from the Stone Arch Bridge- photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Our last stop was Day Block Brewery, one of my favorite breweries in Minneapolis, a venue that, in addition to its great beers, offers some intriguing craft cocktails for Lindsay as well! After enjoying a few more libations, and a fairly delicious pretzel to help absorb the booze a bit, we got back on the bus and returned to the Hennepin History Museum. While there are no more tours being offered this year, I’m looking forward to trying out one of the vintage bus history tours of St. Paul breweries next year, and I’d definitely recommend it!

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Preparing to board, outside of Day Block

Light up the Night at the American Swedish Institute

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Rupert Angeleyes performs in front of Turnblad Mansion

Where does the time go? Last time I wrote, an entry for my “Where U Wanna Eat?” segment, I wasn’t even in Minnesota, but spending a couple weeks in southern California. Spring popped up while we were gone, and now it’s practically summer! We got back some weeks ago, and adventures were had, but what with the move to St. Paul and my goodbye to living in Minneapolis, I’ve had my hands full. Better late than never, over the next few entries I’ll write up accounts of a few fun things I’ve done recently, and some fun traditions and new things that I’m looking forward to in the next few months!

Last spring, I attended one of the elegant American Swedish Institute’s fetes, Cocktails at the Castle, an intermittent event in the spring. I attended again this year on May 6th with my girlfriend Lindsay, her first time visiting the American Swedish Institute’s “castle,” Turnblad Mansion. The theme this year was “light up the night,” and we arrived early and spent the entire evening there, eating Scandinavian delicacies like herring and potato salad and drinking some of ASI’s special cocktails on the mansion’s lawn. The entertaining local “music project” Rupert Angeleyes performed on the steps of the mansion, setting up an awesome vibe. Lindsay and I have seen them perform before and they always put on a great show, one that really suited the festive atmosphere.

 

After the show, we painted a watercolor together, explored the mansion from top to bottom, searching for clues for the scavenger hunt, and then got a tour of the entire universe courtesy of the Bell Museum’s traveling planetarium. It was a lovely, warm night and a great time. Like last year, though, it was definitely a bit on the steep side, with a ticket price of $22 each, not counting the food or drink.

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Our watercolor masterpiece! 

As the summer progresses, some of my favorite local events are coming up, many of which are free to experience! Northern Spark is approaching in just a few weeks and looks wonderful, as usual. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Floating Library again later in the summer, and to the many Open Streets events that occur throughout Minneapolis. There will be new events to report on this summer as well, and I’m so excited to experience all the great things Minneapolis and St. Paul pull out for these months of warmth in Minnesota.  

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Enjoying a Scandinavian beer at Cocktails at the Castle. Not a cocktail, I know! 

Madison Bound

 

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Stained glass, Winona County Historical Museum

Over the next few days, I will be tackling a small backlog of adventures I missed writing about back in February. The first adventure is a fun road trip for those times when you might require a change of scenery from the Twin Cities. Over Valentine’s Day weekend, Lindsay and I crossed state borders for a little trip to Madison, Wisconsin, a fun college town that makes a nice weekend getaway from the Twin Cities. Here are a few highlights and recommendations from the trip!

Taking the scenic route down the Mississippi from St. Paul, we stopped for lunch in the sleepy but interesting college river town of Winona, Minnesota. This is the town where my grandparents lived, so I spent a lot of time here growing up, but it had been awhile since I visited so it was fun to stop again, see how things changed, and introduce Lindsay to another weird Minnesota town.

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Riverboat exhibit, Winona Historical Museum (Courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

We had a delicious lunch at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, one of my favorite restaurants in the state. In addition to the yummy food and friendly, laid back artsy vibe, they share a space with a used and new bookstore, The Book Shelf, which always has good finds. We then explored the recently renovated Winona County Historical Society Museum, which I’ve found to be one of the best local historical museums in Wisconsin, displaying a variety of interesting artifacts from one of the oldest cities in the state. After climbing into a reproduction steamboat and marveling at some preserved storefronts, we then took the opportunity to explore some art in the collection of Winona’s ambitious and newest museum, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. It may seem like an unusual location for the collection, but Winona does have a historic port supplying lumber and flour for shipment down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. The Marine Art Museum explores the “historic human relationship with water,” an apt mission for a museum set on the banks of the Mississippi River. Featuring contemporary photography as well as work spanning the artistic movements from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, including such luminaries as Monet and Picasso, it is one of Minnesota’s hidden gem museums.

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Capitol District Madison being transformed into a skiing track.

Crossing the border into Wisconsin, we were in Madison by early evening, where we had a date to catch comedian and actor David Cross perform at the Orpheum Theater, located on State Street, the epicenter for entertainment in Madison. The humor of Cross, of Arrested Development fame among others things, was a great way to kick off the trip, especially when he upset the more religious portion of the audience.img_20160213_133136

Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin and home of the University of Wisconsin, is always an entertaining place to visit. Situated on an isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, with the Capital building sitting on top of a hill, it is a compact, walkable city that seems to pack a lot into a relatively small area. We were in town during the last big cold snap in the Upper Midwest, and it came just in time for the Madison Winter Festival, though a lack of snowfall required the city to haul in a layer of snow to surround the Wisconsin State Capitol building for racing cross country skiers. With folksy fiddle music playing on the loudspeakers and a few quirky little snow sculptures, downtown Madison became a wintery wonderland.  

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Spending the weekend exploring the isthmus area over the weekend was a fun and relaxing way to brave the cold and enjoy each others’ company. Particularly with the Winter Festival going on, parking was difficult downtown, but most things are in easy walking distance of each other. At the center of Capitol Square is, of course, the Wisconsin State Capitol building, a pretty impressive edifice of state government. They offer a free and quite informative tour throughout the building, visiting the executive, legislative, and judicial branches where we marveled at the ornate interiors and fossils embedded in the stone walls. It was pretty interesting to be standing right there behind the leather upholstered chairs where the Wisconsin state legislatures make laws (rather poorly, under current administration, eh?). The tour was full of the usual list of notable “bests” that Wisconsin’s capitol building can boast (taller than the US Capitol Building, largest granite dome in the world, etc.) Some of which seem a little questionable, perhaps, but now I am looking forward to touring the Minnesota State Capitol building, to see what we can boast!

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Wisconsin State Capitol building interior (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

In addition to the Wisconsin State Capitol, we also visited the Wisconsin History Museum and its entertainingly goofy exhibit on Wisconsinites in Hollywood. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is also a good place to check out, which hosted several fascinating collections, including a surreal and energetic collection of 1970s prints by Wisconsin artist Warrington Colescott inspired by Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. That’s one for the reading list! The exhibit goes on until April, so if you’re in town, stop in!

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Sculpture Garden roof of Madison Contemporary Museum of Art, enjoying the snow

Strolling along State Street, we stopped in a variety of charming boutiques and shops, either just browsing or in full shopping mode. Of course, the bookstores were where we found the most to peruse. Browzers Bookshop is a maze of used books, with plenty of weird things to look at and you’ll probably get quite the deal there too! At the venerable independent feminist bookstore A Room of One’s Own, one can browse a very wide selection of new and used books. This was a very nice bookstore to spend some time hanging out and picking out a new book or two (or, hell, more).

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Some of Wisconsin’s fine beers, at the Old Fashioned

 

Of course, nothing says Wisconsin like enjoying an alcoholic beverage and we certainly had our fair share, so leaving the car behind was a wise choice. The charming, quirky, and rowdy bars of State Street and the Capital Square serve up some tasty Wisconsin beers and delicious cocktails. The Old Fashioned, a bar and restaurant specializing in Wisconsin’s food and drink specialties is a good place to start. Offering more than a hundred Wisconsin beers and a half dozen versions of the Old Fashioned, along with cheese curds, cheese plates, and many other tasty treats, it is a good place to go to be overwhelmed by choices. Just arrive early, the place is packed to gridlock by 6 on weekends. Breakfast, though, is a more relaxing time to visit. We had a perfectly decadent Wisconsin breakfast: A rich cheese plate, giant (and affordable) apple fritter, a breakfast old fashioned, and a pint of Tyrena Brewing’s Devil Made Me Do It Coffee Imperial Oatmeal Potter.  

Paul’s Club, on State Street, is another good place to stop in for a drink. Where else can you go to a bar that has a full side tree inside of it, along with a good beer and cocktail list?The Great Dane Pub is a pretty cool place to stop by in the Capital Square area as well, a brewpub that offers a nice rotating selection of brews, including the Stone of Scone scotch ale. Also come for the shuffle boards (Wisconsinites are super serious about this game).

If you find yourself famished while shopping on State Street, a nice place to stop by for very filling Laotian and Thai cuisine is at Vientiane Palace Restaurant, which has a lot of delicious food for reasonable prices, including some very tasty pad thai noodles. My eggplant dish was also very tasty. Graze is a romantic and atmospheric choice for dinner. A new restaurant specializing in farm to table cuisine, we had a very lovely meal here and I would recommend it for a fancy evening out, with nice views of the Wisconsin State Capitol and very good food. Again, the cheese plate is highly recommended, as is the oyster plate.

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Some of the collection of the National Mustard Museum (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

On the way out of town, we stopped by one of Wisconsin’s many “quirky” attractions. Where else, for instance, could you visit a museum devoted entirely to a condiment? Located just outside of Madison in Middleton, Wisconsin, the National Mustard Museum is worth a stop for anyone with even a little appreciation for mustard. An exhaustive selection of gourmet mustard varities from across the world upstairs, and a tongue in cheek celebration of the history and art of mustard downstairs, it is a cool and funny place to stop to sample some tasty sauces. After picking up some mustard for upcoming gatherings, we left Madison for St. Paul. A quick stop in Osseo, Wisconsin, for some top notch pies at the Norske Nook  Restaurant and Bakery rounded out or trip (and our bellies). All in all, it was a great weekend sampler of a winter town in Wisconsin, and I am looking forward to returning.  

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Did you know Tony Shahloub was from Green Bay? Display at the Wisconsin History Museum (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

Day Trip: A Winnipeg Adventure

Here I talk about some destination we in the Twin Cities can get to in less than a day’s driving in order to get a change of scenery for a bit

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Downtown Winnipeg

While some people in Minnesota go on vacations to Florida or Cancun in the middle of January, my sister and I decided to instead take our short winter trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba! We made the seven hour drive from Minneapolis to see a special concert, the Love, Lake Winnipeg concert, a tribute to Canadian folk singer Sol Sigurdson, which included one of our favorite musicians, John K. Samson of the recently disbanded Weakerthans.

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Just past the border!

I can’t think of a better long weekend escape than driving up to Winnipeg, such an interesting and fascinating city that offers a lot of fun things to visit even in the dead of winter with temperatures hovering around -2 all day(-18 celsius!). As we drove up through northern Minnesota and into North Dakota, we crossed the border with no trouble and headed north through the vast, flat prairies of the Prairie province, covered in layers of snow. It seemed snowier than we’ve had down here yet. After checking into our hotel and getting a wad of lovely Canadian currency from the ATM, we spent the rest of the day exploring downtown Winnipeg. Here are a few highlights you should check out if you visit.

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Canadian Museum for Human Rights, at twilight

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights– An amazing feat of architecture, the glistening, glassy spire of the museum towers over the banks of the Red River and affords a commanding view of the Winnipeg skyline on both sides of the river. Opened a little more than year ago, in September of 2014, this was a thought provoking, informative, and affirming museum to visit, one of the best I have visited so far on my blog. With glowing marble ramps and interactive, bilingual displays discussing human rights and Canada’s triumphs and failures throughout its history in terms of racism, sexism, gender, ableism, and labor, making me wish that the United States, and Minnesota in particular, had more to offer here. Truly an awe inspiring place.

The Forks Market

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Forks Market on a subzero morning

A cozy indoor market at the historic confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine River in a converted rail yard horse stables, the Forks Market is definitely a fun place to go for lunch, breakfast, or just to do some shopping. There’s all sorts of different quick and tasty food to grab, Sri Lankan, Chilean, Ukrainian, crepes, and  Caribbean, among others, and plenty of places to grab those needed Canadian souvenirs as well.

The Exchange District

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Stephen Juba Park, just outside the Exchange District

There are a lot of fun things to do around this well preserved historic neighborhood, including Corrientos Argentine Pizzeria, with served up some delicious Argentine-Italian style pizza. For dessert, we stopped in at a really cool place, Across the Board Game Cafe, which, for five dollars minimum for drinks/snacks, you can play an unlimited number of awesome board games. The place was hopping, I had a few local Manitoba craft beers, and missed having more of these in the Twin Cities. I’ve seen them in Winnipeg, Victoria, and Toronto and I wish they would start to catch on around here. We certainly have the market for them!

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Some highlights, via Adventure Sibs

We ended the night by heading down Ellice Avenue to the West End Cultural Centre to see the Love, Lake Winnipeg Concert, which featured four groups of Manitoban musicians from diverse genres, including John K. Samson, formerly of our favorite band, The Weakerthans, interpreting songs from a cult classic lp, The Lake Winnipeg Fisherman, by folksinger Sol Sigurdson. A handful of audience members had a coveted copy of the 1970 original, which has become a hard to come by and much sought after item! It was definitely an awesome show, supporting the Lake Winnipeg Foundation’s efforts to preserve the great lake for the future. With our tickets, everyone got a cool EP featuring the covers and mixes of the groups so that we could keep on listening to them. 

The EP features the electronic artist DJ Co-op, alt country/folk singer Jess Reimer, Scott Nolan performing with John K. Samson and Christine Fellows, the young indie rock group from Gimli, Manitoba, Mise en Scene. Energetic performers, I definitely am excited to see more of them! All in all, it was a great show and I am totally excited to make up another excuse to visit Manitoba, maybe in the summer next time so we can stop by Lake Winnipeg, and the Icelandic community of Gimli as well!

Cookie Exchange at the Hennepin History Museum

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So, last night I attended a new event in Minneapolis I haven’t done before and it was a really fun time! The Hennepin History Museum hosted, for the second time, a holiday cookie exchange, which is a great way to get to know some other people interested in baking and history and break away from that beginning of winter funk of avoiding people. The Hennepin History Museum, a cool, little known museum tucked away in an ornate mansion, the George Christian house, just across the the street from the Minneapolis Institute of Art is, I feel, one of the great hidden gems in Minneapolis. The Museum is currently raising its profile in the city, so expect more awesome events to continue!

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I had only been there once before, but I really enjoyed visiting again and I’d recommend people do too. Focusing on the rich social history of the county, there are always cool special exhibits hosted; currently, the seasonal exhibit explores the background of Hennepin County’s figure skating, which is something I hadn’t even thought of before! Hopefully we’ll be able to do that this year! Also, artifacts from history societies in the West Metro, specifically near Lake Minnetonka were on view as well, which, of course, was pretty interesting to me, given that’s where I grew up.  I’m trying to think of a good excuse for my next MNopedia article to visit again and stop by their exhaustive research library to glean some cool hidden stories of Hennepin County.

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The rules of the cookie exchange are simple; just bring three dozen of your favorite cookies and swap them with other people’s for a tasty, homemade treats. It is also a very Minnesotan type of event! I made some vegan pumpkin oatmeal cookies, which turned out only semi-successful, I feel. Next time I’d try a bit less molasses, and also know what to expect from my oven. The others look delicious, and it always great to have a pile of cookies to enjoy this time of year. Hopefully, the Hennepin History Museum will host again next year. It would certainly be a good choice for a date night!

Hennepin History Museum,  2303 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis

Free Art and Black Fridays

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Still recovering from hammering out slightly more than 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo over the month of November, I find some of the most relaxing places to visit to unwind are some of the Twin Cities art museums. There are a couple of very interesting exhibits in town right now that you should definitely take the chance to see, both exploring very different but equally creative times in art history- the shift into impressionist and modernist art in France between the 1860s and the 1900s, and the rise of contemporary art a century later in the 1960s. Both of these exhibits, Delacroix’s Influence at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Hippie Modernism at the Walker, explore shifting ideas of artistic expression, whether through painting or through other creative pursuits.

Celebrating their 100th anniversary this summer with a huge bash last August, the Minneapolis Institute of Art re-branded itself as Mia, and slated all sorts of awesome programs in the coming months, including Delacroix’s Influence: The Rise of Modern Art from Cézanne to Van Gogh, a unique and exhaustive celebration of the work of Eugene Delacroix, a painter from the Anglo-French Romanticism school whose groundbreaking work in color and optical effects inspired much of the next generation of European painters, who in turn revolutionized the art world by the 20th century; people like Cézanne, Manet, Renoir, and all of those other big names.

Following the my new personal holiday tradition described last year, Black Friday at Mia, so much more relaxing a reason to get up early on the day after Thanksgiving. For those who still needed to do some holiday shopping, the museum store was 20% off, but the real draws were free coffee and cookies from Agra Culture, and, of course, free admission into the special exhibit. I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the event next year.

I personally do not know too much about art history, but as a history major, I enjoy looking at pieces from certain periods and imagining how they fit into the cultural and social world of the time, and the curators at Mia did an awesome job putting together an informative and thought provoking collection, drawing in works from Delacroix and those he influenced from museums and private collections throughout the United States and Europe, including Mia’s own collections. It seemed that none other than James J. Hill himself, in that mansion over in St. Paul, was among the foremost collectors of Delacroix’s works in the US and many of the pieces in his collections made their way to Mia. While you’ve got to buy tickets for Delacroix’s Influence during the rest of its run, until January 10th, the rest of the museum is, of course, always free.

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Meanwhile, the other week I took advantage of the Walker Art Center’s Free Thursdays to visit the latest cool looking offer organized by the Walker, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia. Centered around a decade’s worth of artistic output from the North American and European counterculture from 1964-1974 Hippie Modernism is a pretty stimulating exhibit. Showcasing artistic takes (or aesthetic radicalism) on how to live in the contemporary life, whether an idealized future and the nostalgic past, it is easy to see the tense period of history reflected in these myriad works. The sheer variety of items and ideas shared, from vehicle diagrams, to plastic suits, to orange trees reflected a truly creative era. It was amazing how innovative and strange the represented works were, and I especially enjoyed the vintage furniture you could relax on.

The Walker Art Center, including its special exhibits, are always free every Thursday night from 5-9, as well as on the first Saturday of every month. Oftentimes, these times coincide with other events as well. Hippie Modernism will be at the Walker until February 28th.

 

Internet Cat Video Festival 2015

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People begin to pack the field at CHS Field in St. Paul,

Last night, for the first time, I attended the Walker Art Center’s vaunted Internet Cat Video Festival, along with more than 13,000 other people. You can see why they left the grounds of the Walker in Minneapolis and transferred over the more spacious CHS Field in St. Paul. Interesting how, without seeing any baseball, I’ve visited both the baseball stadiums in the Twin Cities this week! If with the extra space, the stadium was packed to the gills, I’ve rarely seen a larger crowd. I guess we really, really love cats and the internet in Minnesota for some reason. To confess, I’ve never owned, or lived, with a cat. That may change, but by myself, I am not inclined to share my living space with animals at the moment. Thankfully, I’m not allergic to them.

Still, many of my friends do, so I can experience the adorable and mischievous antics of the feline creatures through them. And I must admit, I was looking forward to seeing the internet’s favorite animal celebrated in such a fun, communal setting. The Internet Cat Video Festival, begun just a few years ago in 2012, has gotten really big, really fast. It even sold out this year! It is nice to have our metro know for such a distinctive, positive cultural event.   

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Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask theater’s giant green cat.

 

Hosted by Barb Abney, who spun a good number of cat themed tunes while people enjoyed the perfect August weather on the field, or in the bleachers. With local sponsors selling various cat related art and free cat treats, the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater’s monstrous green cat lurching about with mouse minions, the Fest begun in a low key fashion. People of all ages were there to enjoy the videos and laugh at some cats. 

Finally, the video reel came on at 8:30, curated by Will Braden, the creator of probably my favorite cat video series, Henri le Chat Noir. What makes cats arguably the premier motif of internet based art? Not sure, but the videos themselves spanned the entire gamut of human (and animal) experience, from absurdist humor, to pathos, to adventure. Some worked better than others, though the ones that had cats cued to musical numbers were my favorites. At the end, the vids culminated with the winner of the 2015 Golden Kitty Award. By that time, it was time to attempt to make an escape from the packed stadium. The tickets to the show doubled as admission to the Walker Art Center, so that’s a bonus. Always nice to have an excuse to visit!

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Waiting for the reel to begin.

Open Streets Mpls: Northeast

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13th Avenue NE, Open Streets Mpls Northeast

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A couple tulips of Dangerous Man’s specialties.

On Sunday afternoon, I braved the hot and sticky conditions to check out another great event I had not yet experienced, the Northeast iteration of Open Streets Mpls, a series of events throughout Minneapolis intended to allow citizens to explore and interact with the city in a much more intimate, collaborative way. Closing a few streets to traffic to allow bikes, pedestrians, skateboarders, and other non-motorized traffic to take to the streets for community engagement. Participation is free for all of these events, not counting the myriad food trucks, breweries, and boutiques along the way, of course! I discovered some really cool stuff and I’m looking forward to future Open Streets events as well.

Starting out on 13th street, I paused to write down a wish to add to a wishing tree, and then pedaled down the marked streets people watching, checking out local groups, and hoping that it wouldn’t rain (then again, a few drops might have cooled things off a bit!). Pausing for some of the Anchor’s finest fish and chips, I grabbed a few delicious beer selections at Dangerous Man Brewing (the rich peanut butter porter and some cardamon infused Scottish Ale. I had been craving some fish and chips and the Anchor is my local favorite; Dangerous Man’s brews went down very well after the satisfying meal of fried goodness. Refreshed, I browsed used books across the street at Eat My Words!, while listening to local bands perform on the street outside. A Northeast bookstore I’d never been to before, it had a great selection of books, including a really cool selection of zines! I wish I had thought to bring a bag to carry back some finds, I shall have to return.

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Some of the Cycling Museum of Minnesota’s collections.

Heading up towards central, past Northeast branch library, I visited the wonderful Cycling Museum of Minnesota, a brand new volunteer run museum devoted to the history of bicycles in the Twin Cities. Located above the Recovery Bike Shop on Central, the museum had an interesting collection of historical bikes, from the 1880s to the 1990s, including some cool Norwegian and British bicycles. It looks like tehy have the start for a really interesting, dynamic new institution in Minneapolis. I am definitely looking forward to see what they do next.

Central Avenue was alive with bicycles, pedestrian, puppet shows, and community groups. The Friends of the Northeast Library had a few tables set up with withdrawn and donated books to peruse- of course, I couldn’t resist. Nor could I leave without grabbing some gourmet hand crafted ice cream from Cranky’s. It was a hard choice, but I decided to go with the Doughnut Ice Cream, I rich vanilla filled with chunks of actual cake doughnut. I’ll go for the beer ice cream next time. By this point, I was really starting to feel the heat as the sun began to pierce the clouds and beat down upon the streets of Northeast Minneapolis, so I pedaled back through Northeast Minneapolis to relax at home and cool off. In any case, I was quite impressed with Open Streets Mpls and will attend later events, it was a great way to explore different areas of the city close up, in a laid back way. The next one will be East Lake Street on Sunday, August 2nd, which definitely looks to be an interesting one as well! See you there!

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Central Avenue, Open Street Mpls Northeast