2017 Highlight: Night in the Children’s Museum

This was a new experience!

Last September, Lindsay and I were playing our weeknight trivia down at Emmett’s Pub on Grand, one of Trivia Mafia’s many locales. We’ve kind of gotten a little obsessed with them over the last year, but that’s a topic for a future entry in MSP Adventure Time. That Tuesday, we happened to win third place and claimed our prize; two tickets to the first ever 21 and over night at the Minnesota Children’s Museum!

I have vague memories of visiting the Children’s Museum in St. Paul as a kid years ago, though by this time, I was more into the dinosaurs at the Science Museum of Minnesota or the dioramas at the Bell Museum than the early childhood hands on educational activities at the MCM, so I never really thought much of them over the years. As a childfree adult, there was no reason to, I guess.

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It was a very fun evening, in any case, and I really appreciated the chance to see the vibrant, cool space in downtown St. Paul, from it’s cozy outdoor play area to the rooftop, and just run around like I didn’t have anything to worry about, while enjoying some adult drinks, of course.

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Throughout the museum, there were cool things to look at, and it seemed the grown up, or maybe “Kidult” attendees were having a good time, thanks to such activities as a fun improv game from the Theater of Public Policy and arts and crafts brought to you by Can Can Wonderland (see previous entry). Lindsay and I definitely had a lot of fun with the latter, crafting our own really cool magnets we totally have on our refrigerator.

Keep an eye out, ‘cause they’re planning another one for this spring. Or you could take your kids any day and miss out on having as much fun yourself!

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Some cool magnets we made from vintage books and magazines!

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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.

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

 

MSP Reading Time: 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die

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The bucket list, all that stuff that one should experience in life before one, well, “kicks the bucket” seem to be a pretty popular format to base local travel books around currently. Perhaps due to its slightly morbid nature, I find it a fascinating concept, having browsed through various lists before, 1000 albums, 1000 books, etc. I am a bit of a list junkie, I must admit, as I write about over on my other blog, Reading Rainstorm. It looks as though this one is only one among many books detail the essential one hundred things citizens should experience before dying (or moving?) So, of course, I was eager to check out the list of must do activities in my home metro of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and their various suburbs. All in all, I found 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die to be a pretty solid list.

While it might be a bit more of a stretch in a medium size metro area like the Twin Cities, I feel that compiler Tom Weber put together a very nice list of some of the most awesome things to do around here, including museums, annual festivals and events, famous local cuisines, and our well known performing arts venues (oh, and sports). It was quite fun going down the list with my fiancee, a transplant from California, tallying off all of the things we’ve done. Even with all of my activity in the course of writing this blog (and my 34 years in the area compared to Lindsay’s 4 years), she’s beaten me out. I’ve only accomplished 42 of the suggestions in, while she’s gotten up to 46. Almost half! I guess we locals occasionally take the wonders held in our neck of the woods for granted while people seeing them through new eyes get through more. I have certainly had a lot of fun adventures with her over the last year.

Of the ones I can check off, a few of my favorites from the blog appear in the list, though I’m definitely looking forward to getting through even more of them with my love, and there are quite a few that I have yet to experience that seem pretty interesting. Of course, as is true for any such book published two years ago, it is not quite up to date. There are a few on the list that, if you haven’t accomplished them already, will be impossible (eating at the Oak Grill at the Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis, for instance).

Of the entries that remain, though, there is plenty of exciting inspirations. I really enjoyed the lists taking advantage of the extreme seasons of the Twin Cities, not forgetting to neglect all of unique experiences to be had in the dead of winter, from ice skating to art sled racing. Over the course of the next year, I’m hoping to check off a few of the more interesting things I haven’t done yet and write about them here, one for each season.

Specifically, I’m hoping to do #27 and experience Powderhorn Park’s May Day Parade for spring, check out a free summer movie or concert in one of Minneapolis’ park (#25), finally get to #23, one of BareBone’s Outdoor Puppet pageants for Halloween, and hopefully next winter they’ll be enough snow for next year’s #31 art sled rally.

Also, regardless of season, I’m looking forward to #64, touring the Capitol with my state worker sweetheart this year, as well. In any case, we’re well set to check off half of Weber’s list in the next year.

This is a cross post with my book blog, Reading Rainstorm.

 

 

Union Depot Holiday Bake Sale

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In the weeks before the holidays, one can certainly find oneself encountering all manner of treats and goodies, whether at holiday potlucks or family cookie exchanges. It can all be a bit overwhelming, especially as one is also scrambling to find those last minute gifts, if you happen to be or know people celebrating Christmas.

Popping up across the Twin Cities in November and December are a large number of holiday craft shows, a few of which I blogged about during the last few years. This year, Lindsay and I went to the St. Paul Union Depot for it’s European Christmas Market. Due to icy wind and snow on that afternoon, though, we soon went inside the depot to check out another event; the Union Depot Holiday Bake Sale. The 4th Annual sale, it boasts drawing the top Twin Cities bakeries to peddle cookies, candy, and other sweets. There were definitely some delectable and tasty treats on sale, in particular the T-Rex Cookie Company and Heavenly Treats’ toffee. We were able to get some shopping done, too! Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’d come back- the admission fee to get in to even browse the treats ($5 with a commemorative tote) seemed a little much, especially since so many other craft and food shows are free (including the Depot’s Christmas Market, itself). Only a handful of our favorite bakeries were represented, so it was definitely lacking quite a few of the best bakeries the Twin Cities can offer, and curiously, several non-baked good merchants were also on hand, almost as if the selection criteria had little to do with merchants offering the best desserts in town. There were some music and cookery demonstrations, but nothing was happening while we were there. May be best to plan ahead before visiting events with admission fees.  

German Culture in St. Paul

It has been a busy summer, and spending all my time going on fun adventures with my beloved fellow adventurer, I have neglected updating my blog on all the exciting things we have been up to. Over the next week, I’m hoping to get things up to date and, I hope, not let it slip so much in future.

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This June was a good time to be in St. Paul if you have any interest in Germanic and German-American culture. The descendants of the largest immigrant group in Minnesota history, as well as the Austrians and Swiss, still know how to have a good time, and those interested in learning more about it or just enjoying its vaunted cultural amenities such as beer, pastries, and dour religious art had plenty of opportunity to get a taste. With Minnesota (and the rest of the country) still struggling with anxieties regarding the influx of immigrants from around the world, it is always interesting to note how similar fears and concerns were raised by Americans to groups now comfortably part of the white American mainstream, such as the Germans. The presence of such institutions and festivities show that new cultures can preserve their customs and add to the vibrancy of the region’s social fabric. Within a couple of weeks, you could experience Deutsche Tage at the Germanic-American Institute on Summit Avenue and Germanfest at the historic Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh.

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Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

The Germanic-American Institute hosted their 2016 Deutsche Tage on the weekend of June 11th and 12th. A free event, it offers crafts, music, and other activities, though you must purchase tokens to obtain the beer and food on offer. On a lovely Saturday afternoon, the Germanic-American Institute was an ideal stroll from home, and, sipping some Paulaner beers and some chewy pretzels with cheese and mustard, we listened to the low, puffing sounds of the Oompah bands while we observed the many varieties of lederhosen donned by celebrating German-Americans. The ornate GAI building was filled with craft activities and more treats, but the real place to be was enjoying the summer weather on the Institute’s lawn. After winning another round of beers by completing a simple scavenger hunt, we went back inside the cool basement Rathskeller of GAI and watched an interesting presentation on home brewing as well.

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Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

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The very next weekend, we went down to the sprawling complex that housed the old Schmidt Brewery, one of the large breweries founded in Minnesota by German immigrants in the nineteenth century for Germanfest. Also free to stroll, here a $7 wristband was required to purchase the alcoholic beverages. Under the inspiring stone walls of the old brewery, all sorts of vendors selling European crafts and genealogical resources. For us, the biggest attraction here was the delicious varieties of food, including delectable vegetarian spaetzle, potato pancakes, more pretzels (of course), and some wonderful parfait with rhubarb and lemon (and plenty of fluffy, rich whipped cream). Of course, there was plenty of beer on tap here, too, this time from Minnesota’s oldest surviving brewery, also founded by German immigrants, New Ulm’s Schell’s. We also attended an interesting lecture on Lutheran identity in German painting presented by a curator from the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Some very interesting discussion with a pint of froth beer!

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You should definitely check them out next year!

The Cure in St. Paul

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The Cure, from the top of the seats!

So, seminal English post-punk band, The Cure, visited the Twin Cities for the first time in twenty years as part of their North American 2016 tour last Tuesday, packing the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and Lindsay and I were there! Lindsay, a bit of a fan of the ‘80s band, picked up tickets for us and we were excited to be present! Of course, we had to be, I mean, these tickets weren’t exactly cheap, and, of course, The Cure! Growing up, I was a bit ignorant of much of popular music, but over the last few years I’ve been trying to increase my knowledge, so this was a great opportunity to see some giants play.  

This was my first real experience with a huge, arena rock show and it was quite the spectacle. Approaching the Xcel, we found ourselves swamped in a hoard of 40-something Cure fans, all clamoring to get through the metal detectors and into the stadium. Lindsay had gotten us some good seats, at least until the organizers decided to open up more of them, pushing us further away from the stage. Up there in the nosebleeds, it was like, as expressed by Lindsay, we were watching an audience watch a show! The flags of the United States and Canada hung above the space usually set aside for hockey, where instead an eager audience awaited a band from Britain. The Cure were opened by The Midnight Sad, a band from Glasgow, Scotland, whose lead singer bantered with the crowd in his Scottish brogue. After their set, the Cure came on!

Robert Smith, founding member and sole remaining original, performed plenty of Cure classics, for nearly three hours, pausing for an encore every forty-five minutes or so. The production values were quite impressive, rainbow lights and pulsing, themed images projected behind the band members as they went through their numbers. The air became thick and foggy with illicit smokes and the screams of fans who, having imbibed too much, were reliving their misspent youth. Lindsay and I realized that we were on the lower end of the average age bracket of the show. Upon the last encore, we left the Xcel along with a dazed crowd, who dispersed into the quiet, midnight streets of St. Paul, a city which had long since gone to bed.   

Grand Old Days 2016

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The crowd takes over Grand Avenue, St. Paul

Last Sunday, Lindsay introduced me to another new event right there in my new neighborhood, Grand Old Days! The first of the year’s summer street festivals in St. Paul, Grand Old Days, celebrating the neighborhoods adjacent to Grand Avenue, from Dale Street to Fairview Avenue. My first time experiencing this decades old event. While the Open Streets Minneapolis events have been drumming up interest in bringing together local businesses, institutions, and residents together in shutting down major thoroughfares for pedestrian and cyclist exploration of Twin Cities neighborhoods, across the river in St. Paul they have apparently been doing this since the 1970s!  

Although Grand Old Days includes a parade in the morning, Lindsay and I made a casual visit later in the day to check out what was going on this year. We strolled down the entire route, from Dale to Fairview and back, around six miles round trip – encountering crowds of festive people, food trucks, and local organizations along the way. There was plenty of food to keep us going; gourmet chocolate mini-doughnuts, Frio Frio ice lollies, and some of Brasa’s delicious tortilla chips and guacamole. We couldn’t pass up some of Topper’s topperstix, too, of course.

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come get your free plungers! Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

In addition to the food and drink, there were many opportunities for people watching. Along the route, we passed many other people out enjoying the beautiful weather, along with various booths for local businesses, non-profits, and assorted eccentric groups It was a bit weird to see some of the political outfits, though, in particular the rather cringe inducing National Coalition for Men harping about just how hard it is to be a man these days what with all of those false rape accusations being filed against us. Well, what can you do? Just laugh openly as you pass ‘em, I guess. The only thing more funny than them was the religious whackos taking advantage of the crowd to stand on the street corner shouting at passersby about hell and the sin of having fun, only to be mocked by a woman yelling down from her balcony. Anyway, it is amazing how many people wear t-shirts proclaiming their love of Minnesota and the various breweries that can be found here!

Speaking of that, for those looking to enjoy some libations, an $8 wristband was required, which also granted access to a series of “entertainment district” venues along the route. Of course, that cost does not include the libations! Some offered fun activities, like hammerschlagen and volunteers from the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s interactive mural made from festival goer colored panels. Of course, the centerpiece of the entertainment district  was the variety of musical acts performing throughout the day. At Axl’s Bonfire, Your Dad’s Band was there, performing nostalgic rock covers for those drinking the overpriced drinks. Down the street at Dixies on Grand, the local electronic indie band Solid Gold played a pretty appreciative crowd, with a beach ball being lobbed around.

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Solid Gold plays Grand Old Days! Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

There really is nothing more fun, I feel, then to walk carefree down the middle of a busy road. It really lets you get an even closer, more detailed view of the neighborhood.I am looking forward to checking out a few in Minneapolis later in the summer.

Festival of Nations 2016

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The crowd perusing treats at the Festival of Nations

A few weeks ago, Lindsay invited me to experience a venerable Twin Cities event I have never tried before; the Festival of Nations, the oldest multicultural festival in the entire Midwest! Held at the St. Paul RiverCentre, this was definitely a fun thing to do as late spring begins to warm up the streets of downtown St. Paul. Celebrating the role of immigrants in the community, each year focuses on a different aspect of the world cultures. The theme this year was a great one for me to start with considering my interests; Folklore and Fairytales, which are always a fascinating way to get deeper insight into the varied worldviews of nations, and how they are similar as well.  

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A bit of Slovenia (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

In the exhibition area, a multitude of countries had storytellers to introduce other people to their famous stories and legends they are known for, such as the various yokai and yurei of Japan, a Mongolian storytelling yurt, and, of course, the krampus of Austria, among many others. In addition, there were plenty of vendors selling the arts and crafts of people from around the world, including some very nice Senegalese pottery, of which Lindsay picked up a pretty blue bowl. As St. Paul continues to be a hub for new immigrants to the US, the festival was a diverse and vibrant taste of global cultures. In most cases literally, as the bulk of the festival (or at least what Lindsay and I were most drawn to) seems to be the treats and delicacies offered by the various participating cultures.

Lindsay and I arrived hungry, and we set upon the first couple of nations represented in the line of venders selling the cultural treats of each national heritage- the Dutch and the Palestinians, where we snacked on some Dutch cheeses, some sort of fig bread, and some cheap Lipton-esque tea, along with a tasty mango drink and a thick, doughy spinach pie. It became apparent that, as much as we would want to, we would not be able to taste every single country represented, it was just too much. Staring down the line of painted facades that served as storefronts for the makeshift restaurants of the festival, I was reminded of the Renaissance festival with their funny 2-D cultural monickers on each booth.

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aebleskiver and a young coconut

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Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Grabbing a whole young coconut from the Cambodian booth, a delicious fry bread from the Native American, wonderful Colombian arepas, a pile of delectable Danish desserts (stroopwafels and aebleskiver), and a Turkish borek (another spinach pastry) we quickly dug into our feast. These were all great, but we were stuffed and there was still half the nations to get through, so we digested and went up to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium to watch some dance performances. We took in the national ethnic dances of the Polish, Egyptian, Tamil, and Czech and Slovak peoples performed by local dance troupes. After we’d watched enough vibrant dancing and colorful traditional garb, we headed back for some Korean dumplings and, sadly, the worst churro we’d ever had. Oh well!   

I would definitely be excited to return next year, and $11 for adults is not too bad a price! The food, of course, is not included with admission, but for the most part was not too expensive, though some were of better value than others.

Minneapolis Reading Time: Jazz Music at the St. Paul Public Library

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Rice Park’s statue of F. Scott Fitzgerald on a snowy spring day not unlike today. You know, Fitzgerald hated snow!

[Cross post with my Reading Rainstorm blog segment, Land of 10,000 Pages]

I attended a very interesting little event at the St. Paul Public Library a few weeks ago and have just gotten around to writing about it! Music of the Jazz Age was a relaxing, casual Sunday afternoon event held at the ornate Magazine Room on the third floor of the George Latimer Central Library. This was one of the first events by a new literary group in the Twin Cities, Fitzgerald in St. Paul, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating the achievements of classic American author F. Scott Fitzgerald in his hometown of St. Paul.

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George Latimer Central Library, St. Paul

This is particularly interesting to me as I prepare to move in with my sweetheart into Fitzgerald’s very own neighborhood in St. Paul! Yes, I’m crossing the river and moving into the other Twin City! As was mentioned by the librarian in the introduction to the Music of the Jazz Age program, we were walking in the footsteps of Fitzgerald in at the George Latimer Central Library, and in my own daily life too! Of note, the Magazine Room also houses the F. Scott Fitzgerald Reading Alcove. It was a superb space to listen to some of the music of his time. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald themselves coined the term “the Jazz Age,” to refer to the era they lived in, and some very talented musicians were invited to perform some examples of the jazz that inspired the moniker.

Vocalist Connie Evingson, accompanied by Dan Chouinard on piano and Chris Bates on bass, performed some elegant renditions of some popular pieces from the 1920s, including some mentioned in a few of Fitzgerald’s stories. Three O’Clock in the Morning, one of the songs sung by Evingson, was mentioned in The Great Gatsby, for instance. A few excerpts from Fitzgerald’s works were read and one felt almost as though one had gone back in time, to when you were actually allowed to smoke in the library! Although Lindsay and I were among a handful of people under age 50 in the audience, I would recommend people of all ages keeping an eye on Fitzgerald in St. Paul, which will be offering a monthly series the first Sunday of every month at FitzFirst@Four. The next one, at Common Good Books, discusses Fitzgerald’s story The Rich Boy on April 3rd at 4 pm. Similar stories appear in one of the books I mentioned in my entry My Twin Cities Reading List, The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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153518Next, I think I’ll be reading this book, A Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul.l Perhaps, as I walk in the footsteps of the great writer, I’ll share more of my discoveries!