- Jay: I've been feeling like listening to classical music lately.
- Dana: That's because it's the fall.
- Jay: Fall is the season for classical music?
- Dana: Yes, and summer is the season for pop jams.
- Jay: What's winter the season for?
- Dana: Winter is the season for Lorie Line.
10. Victoria Valley Orchard. There are lots of places to pick apples and fondle pumpkins in the Twin Cities, but none feel as charming or sincere as this little family-owned orchard in Shoreview. (Their motto: “Live happely.”) In the fall you can climb the hill with a basket to pick your peck from the apple trees, then grab a pumpkin from one of the carts full of them and choose a freshly-made pie from the shelves on your way to the register. All that bucolic autumn action without even driving north of 96.
9. Lilli Putt. The name tells you everything you need to know about this medieval-themed entertainment center in Coon Rapids. It’s not the fanciest mini-golf course in the Twin Cities (that would be the actual miniature golf course atCentennial Lakes) or the most creative (that would be Walker on the Green), but sometimes you just need to putt a pink ball through a goddamn castle, you know?
8. Campus of University of Northwestern. Not to be confused with Northwestern University in Illinois, this is the University of Northwestern in Roseville. It was founded in 1902 as Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School, and its almost eerily bucolic campus is a much better advertisement than its awkward name. Highlights include the portrait of Billy Graham (president, 1948-1952) and the indoor bird window.
7. Woodbury Central Park. In classic suburban spirit, this “central park” is enclosed in glass. I once acted in a dog medicine commercial here (don’t ask), and the finished ad totally made it look like my sprightly “girlfriend” and “our” dogs and I were cavorting through a tropical paradise.
6. Bunker Beach Water Park. Normally, people go to the suburbs to get more space, but on hot summer days, this Anoka wave pool becomes the densest mass of chlorine-drenched humanity in the Upper Midwest. Grab a tube, jump in, and get ready to become intimate with your neighbors’ elbows, feet, and asses: tequila may “make her clothes fall off,” but there’s no substance or circumstance that strips swimsuits from her, him, and you like the Bunker Beach wave pool at high tide.
5. Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Full disclosure: I’ve been to the Renaissance Festival twice, and I’ve never had a completely satisfactory experience. I get there, look around, decide I don’t want to buy these mugs or wait for that jousting match to start, then have a Solo cup of mead and leave. That said, a surprisingly diverse cross-section of my friends absolutely adore the RenFest, and it’s definitely worth at least one visit to see the elaborate, ye olde village that sits incongruously in a field in Shakopee.
4. St. Petersburg Restaurant & Vodka Bar. Moscow on the Hill is fine if you want to sip premium vodka and listen to people lie about their years in the Russian mob, but if you really want to cut loose like a drunken uncle in a Chekhov play, you need to board the bus to Robbinsdale. The St. Petersburg Restaurant & Vodka Bar (appropriately, its URL is myvodkabar.com) sits inconspicuously on top of the Robbinsdale American Legion, in a small but glittery nook where shamelessly trashy vodka drinks are purveyed while a pianist warbles intercontinental standards. If Obama and Putin would just come do a Robbinsdale bar crawl together, this whole Ukraine situation could be cleared up in no time.
3. Great Clips IMAX Theater. Every multiplex brags about having an IMAX theater now—and Atmos, VIP, whatever. For people who like their big screens big, though, the only game in town is the vast expanse that rises in front of you in the one-screen Great Clips IMAX Theater next to the Minnesota Zoo. The repertoire is wide-ranging: as I write, today’s screenings include Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Forrest Gump.
2. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. It’s like a zoo, but for trees and crazy sculpture.
1. Libraries. Minnesota has more libraries than McDonald’s, and every single one of them is worth a visit. From the majestic sprawling expanse of Stillwater’s historic public library to the vaulted wooden barn of Lakeville’s new Heritage Library to the cozy Waconia library, you’ll never regret poking your head in. You might even be tempted to sit and read for a spell.
For more about Minnesota by Jay Gabler, 34 other writers, and nine illustrators and photographers, grab our book Bright Lights, Twin Cities!
I’ve biked from my Uptown Minneapolis apartment to the Minnesota State Fair a few times this year, and Janne Flisrand on the invaluable Streets.mn blog nails it with respect to the challenges of getting from the University of Minnesota Transitway to the nearest State Fair bike corral: it’s not for the faint of heart, and once you get there it can be difficult to find a space for your bike even inside the corral if it’s a busy day at the Fair. That last tenth of a mile is just the tip of the iceberg, though: the whole journey from Uptown to Falcon Heights is a strange trip that illustrates the motley state of bicycle infrastructure in the Twin Cities today.
My trip starts in the Wedge (not the co-op, the neighborhood also known as Lowry Hill East that gave the co-op its name), where I proceed down Bryant Avenue. Bryant is designated a bikeway, which means it sports speed bumps to slow traffic and a lot of signage declaring that it’s a bike boulevard. That’s certainly better than it not being a “bike boulevard,” mostly because the increased volume of bike traffic often forces cars and trucks to be more accommodating. If you’re the only bike on the “bike boulevard,” though, in my experience cars act basically the same as they do on other Uptown streets: that is, impatiently. (I once overheard a cashier at Hum’s Liquors regaling his coworkers with a screed about how all the presumptuous bikers on Bryant drive him nuts, saying he’d like to sideswipe them to break their legs so they learn their lesson. I haven’t shopped at Hum’s since, but I still bike on Bryant.)
That brings me to the Midtown Greenway, which is of course glorious, so dense with bikers and walkers of all shapes and sizes that I feel like the bully, biking faster than most. I remind myself to practice what I preach and to be patient, and when crossing the Sabo Bridge, I feel more valued and respected as a biker than I do anywhere else in the Twin Cities: lifted over the Hiawatha traffic on an illuminated cable-stayed bridge with an epic view of downtown Minneapolis.
All good things must come to an end, though, and if you’re following Google’s directions for biking from Uptown to the Fair, you’ll get off the Greenway on 26th Avenue. There’s a bike lane on 26th—not a protected one, but then, few are. The lack of lane protection gets a little more harrowing when you turn right on Franklin (one of the Twin Cities’ most lethal streets for bikers) and cross the Franklin Bridge, where you get one of these cross-your-fingers bridge bike lanes that’s at least a bit more accommodating than most.
Things really start to get dicey when you cross University and turn right on S.E. 4th Street—a heavily potholed street with no lanes whatsoever and no illumination at night, so BYO headlight if you want to stay upright on your bike. You cross the Green Line at 29th Avenue and hook left on 30th where you gain entrance to the bizarro world that is the University of Minnesota Transitway.
I refer to the Transitway as a bizarro world, because it’s an example of the kind of thinking that’s also informed transportation infrastructure on Nicollet Mall and Hennepin Avenue downtown: the thinking that because bikes and buses are not cars, they’re basically the same and can share the same lanes. Any experienced Minneapolis biker knows that Nicollet, which Google and other bike maps regard as a royal road for bicyclists, is one of the slowest and most frustrating streets in the city for bikers: you’re constantly getting stuck behind buses, which you can’t legally (or safely) pass since that would involve either veering into either the oncoming lane or jumping the curb to bike on the sidewalk.
On the University of Minnesota Transitway, bikers have quite the opposite challenge to deal with: it’s not that the buses are moving too slowly, they’re moving way too fast. Cars aren’t allowed on the Transitway, but buses are allowed to go a zippy 40 miles per hour—just five m.p.h. slower than the speed limit on I-35E, an interstate highway (excuse me, “parkway”), as it passes through the West 7th neighborhood. There’s no separate bike lane, so buses have to pass you; most buses I’ve encountered on the Transitway have given me wide berth, but a few rumbled right past me—at 40+ m.p.h.—so close that I could almost have reached out and touched them. There is a sort of shoulder lane for sections—not all, just sections—of the Transitway, and it’s tempting to regard it as sort of bike lane, but at regular intervals it features sunken drainage grates that you don’t want to get your wheel caught in, especially if a bus is passing you at 40 miles per hour.
Did I mention that bikers are encouraged to use the Transitway?
For a biker to criticize the Transitway might seem like biting the hand that feeds us, since it certainly is a convenient way to get from Southeast Minneapolis to the State Fair. You’d be crazy not to use it, even if you also feel sort of crazy using it. Still, it’s fundamentally a busway that was manifestly designed for buses and is unsafe for bikers. Yes, I’ll use it, but I certainly hope no one is confusing it with a true bikeway like the Midtown Greenway—or patting themselves on the back for providing it to us.
That brings us to Como Avenue, which is where Janne picks up—at the Fair, or nearly there. I love biking to the Fair, and I love biking home from the Fair even more: it feels great to stretch my legs and to burn up some of those calories I just gleefully sucked off a bunch of sticks. It’s free, and it’s fast: about 45 minutes each way, which makes it easy to beat your friends who have to negotiate traffic in their cars. Still, biking to the Fair is an acute reminder of how far we have to go to create an environment where riders can feel confident relying on bikes to get around the Twin Cities—safely.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie wants Minnesota to make a serious bid for the next World’s Fair, and we’re throwing our complete support behind the proposal.
Walk-in freezer winter obstacle course. Hate your life during 45 minutes of fun and adventure!
Invasive carp tacos.
Interactive booth: “Ethanol or corn whiskey? The choice is YOURS!”
A corral that allows visitors from all over the world to quickly and easily shoot the one Minnesota moose they’re legally allowed to take down in their lifetime.
Ride: Michele Bachmann’s Bridge to Nowhere.
A 3D printer that gives you a first look at the POTHOLES OF THE FUTURE!
Build your own light rail and then by the way please leave it here for us we need that.
Custom cocktails created by our vanilla extract mixologist. (Sundays only.)
Wrestling match representing the historical back-and-forth between Minneapolis and St. Paul, both cities represented by Jesse Ventura. After the match he’ll sue himself for some reason, and you can stay to watch the trial.
New York Inferiority Entertainment Complex.
For more about Minnesota by Jay Gabler, Lisa Olson, 33 other writers, and nine illustrators and photographers, grab our book Bright Lights, Twin Cities
Near the end of Vox Medusa’s Labyrinth, a girl we’ve been following along a mythic journey makes a significant decision and flings her phone into the deep. We cheer, not only because it represents her psychic victory over a manipulative monster but because it represents the end of an awkward framing device that distracted from the strong dance and singing in this hit Fringe show.
A program note describes the piece as a “modern version of Ariadne’s Thread.” That’s the thread supplied by the heroine Ariadne to the warrior Theseus, to allow him to find his way back out of the labyrinth after slaying the minotaur (with the sword she also provided). In director/choreographer Kristin Freya’s vision, there’s no Theseus: “the Girl” (Alexandria West) must find her own escape from the labyrinth after confronting a monster represented eerily by a series of dancers and less eerily by communications the Girl receives via that phone that seemingly never stops beeping.
Appropriate to its subject matter, this was a dark, patient show. The dancers—some clad in striking one-leg unitards, with slashes of black facepaint—wrapped threads and themselves around West in a dramatization of her personal journey. A six-woman choir, led by Emily Colay as “the Thread,” added depth to the show with unsettling music by Jeremy Christensen.
I’d like to see Labyrinth again, and I’d like to see a version of the show that puts more trust in the movement and the music, leaving the forced latter-day framing to drift away beneath the waves.
Seeing the Buoyant Group’s Littler Women at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, having seen its earlier living-room incarnation, was like watching a favorite band start playing larger venues. You miss the coziness, but it’s fun to see a bigger group of people react to what you’ve already enjoyed.
Scotty Gunderson’s Louisa May Alcott adaptation also finds firmer footing thematically in this new version, trimmed in length and in cast size—now only the four eponymous women (Gracie Kay Anderson, Kelsey Cramer, Megan Hadley, and Nissa Nordland) themselves are onstage (previously, Gunderson himself joined in as a love interest), and though I missed some of the silly stage business from the initial run this past winter, the trim makes the production’s post-modern flourishes and anachronisms more intelligible as devices to highlight the timelessness of the sisters’ bumpy but loving family dynamic.
My friendships with this show’s creators makes it impossible for me to comment objectively on this charming production, so I’ll conclude my comments here—except to say that I’ve added Little Women to my to-read shelf, though I hear it’s not as good as the play.
Slut Club, written and directed by Lara Avery and Sally Franson, was the weirdest show I saw at this year’s Fringe—and this being the Fringe, of course I mean that as a compliment.
The eponymous club consists of five women, all self-styled sluts by virtue of regularly bedding married men. They don’t tell each other their real names, and they each fit an archetype: there’s the new-age yoga freak (Joanna Demkiewicz), the adjunct professor who opens her tweed blazer for members of certain varsity teams (Clare Dickey), the innocent in denial (Alana Horton), the executive who slept (along) her way to the top (Stephanie Messer), and the punk drunk (Hannah Wydeven).
None of these characters are particularly likable, in part because they all seem to hate themselves—and to resent each other for enabling their self-destructive behavior. That makes Slut Club a bleak experience, despite its regular flashes of deadpan humor.
The show moves at an eccentric pace as the characters make their way from a restaurant booth into a janky sedan, which breaks down out of cell-phone reception range while the five are on their way to meet Horton’s unseen lover and his wife (Avery, in a cameo) for an ill-advised confrontation at which the rest of the club has offered whatever moral support a slut club might be able to muster. The characters rearrange themselves onstage and throughout the Bryant-Lake Bowl space during regular blackouts, the night stretching on and the desperation level rising.
The characters do a number of things people don’t usually do onstage, from masturbating (leading to the second time I heard the word “namaste” at a Fringe show this year) to talking over each other. That gives the show a gratifyingly gritty texture; if I felt like I’d been rubbed raw by the conclusion, maybe that was precisely the point.