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Sleeping Around: Minneapolis

Courtesy of "A Prairie Home Companion"
Courtesy of “A Prairie Home Companion”

By Shari Hartford

I’m in a constant New York State of mind. Born and raised, thank you very much. I do, however, occasionally venture far afield to experience what the rest of the world has to offer. But I am embarrassed to report that what is contained between the two coasts of our great country remains a bit of a mystery to me. So, when the opportunity came around to visit Minnesota—Minneapolis specifically—I approached with baby steps.

After a quick whisk away from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport I was standing in the lobby of the spectacular Radisson Blu. Newly opened in 2013, the 500-room hotel is sophisticated and trendy. If you approach the lobby on the lower level, there is a horizontal fireplace and great cone-shaped wicker chairs that are suspended from the atrium ceiling. My accommodation on the business class floor was a gorgeous study in black marble, dark wood and turquoise. The large bathroom, with shelves for all my stuff and a large soaking tub, was brightly lit. As a matter of fact, this room sets the gold standard for perfect hotel lighting…individual controls from every corner with great reading wattage and task spots. After all, you don’t always want romantic ambiance. In the hotel, there’s also an indoor pool and fitness center with a spa opening soon.

Radisson Blu, Minneapolis
Radisson Blu, Minneapolis

But the main attraction is the skyway to the Mall of America. New York City is for the most part mall- free, so my exposure to mall shopping is extremely limited. Seeing 520 stores, an amusement park, an 18-hole miniature golf course, an aquarium, large movie theater, a Vegas-style wedding chapel and 60 eateries under one roof is enough to make a serious shopper swoon. But, for you dear reader, this intrepid reporter shopped the mall – seriously. There are 13,000 employees and each one I met was pleasant and helpful, with nary a surly or bored attitude. The mall is arranged in “neighborhoods” with luxe brands in one area, children’s stores in another, and so on. Wisely done, considering the scope of the experience. Staying in the hotel and overburdened with bundles? Just give a call and a representative will fetch your purchases and deposit them in your room.

Not all activity in Minneapolis is dedicated to retail therapy. Among the highlights are the Walker Art Center, with a beautifully serene sculpture garden; the Guthrie Theatre, with world-class productions; a variety of microbreweries; and the perennial favorite, A Prairie Home Companion, broadcast live from the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. For me that was a lot of ground to cover in one weekend. I needed sustenance and the cuisines in Minneapolis were a welcome surprise.

Mall of America
Mall of America

Each restaurant I sampled was unique in its own right. I started with dinner at FireLake, located in the Radisson Blu. Led by Chef Paul Lynch, the space, decorated with reclaimed Minnesota barn wood, serves up farm to table fare. The Corn Crusted Walleye and Hardwood Grilled Salmon melted in my mouth and the Peach Rhubarb Cobbler with Buttermilk Ice Cream rounded out a memorable meal. Another delicious meal was dinner at Bar La Grassa, where James Beard winner, Chef Isaac Becker specializes in excellent Italian specialties. You can’t leave Minneapolis without a large plateful of his Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Orange. In fact, I spent time while gobbling trying to figure out a way to get a barrelful past the TSA. Lobster in Minnesota? You bet. Look no further than Smack Shack where the crustacean is king. Start with the Lobster Guacamole and proceed to either a hot or cold lobster roll, both redolent with fresh herbs. And, the elegant Union Fish Market reigns supreme with fish, naturally, as the centerpiece of a classic menu.

It’s easy to see why Minneapolis has become more than just a city to fly over. As a travel destination, there is something for everyone and its convenient enough from the east coast to make it to a short list of vacation spots.

 

 

shari (1)     Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

 

 

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