Seeing Double: Exploring the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul

September 22-23rd:

I spent the final two days of my Lake Country Adventures – exploring the rich cultural histories of The Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul.

While I could have spent a week taking in all the sights – from the history of the Mill District to Fort Snelling to the dozens of amazing museums and beyond – I tried to pack in as much as I could in a short window.

Outside of blogging, I love to paint and I make it a point to visit every art museum I can when visiting a city. I’ve had the Minneapolis Institute of Art on my bucket list for awhile.

Located in the heart of downtown near the historic Whittier Neighborhood on the edge of Washington-Fair Oaks Park.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art is one of several major art museums in Twin Cities. I had to prioritize my time and focused on the MIA and a bit of The Walker. Next trip I’ll definitely block off time for the Museum of Russian Art and the Minnesota Museum of American Art (St. Paul).

The MIA has a renowned and diverse collection of over 90,000 pieces of art spanning 5000 years.

It is completely free to visit – which is ART-mazing and features a unique fusion of classical and modern design.

The art is spread across multiple floors and easily accessible via ramps (similar to the Guggenheim and High Museum in Atlanta).

The main floor features a cool gift shop, and is flanked by a locally sourced cafe called Agra-culture.

I love all types of art, but I will admit I crave bright colors and landscapes. I love European Renaissance art to modern and post-modern abstracts.

This museum has it all.

I always take extra time in studying the iconography and religious art of Europe. As a person of faith – I imagine the number of people who prayed in petition contemplating their rosary mysteries in the Renaissance. Many were illiterate at the time and the importance of art to tell stories and shed insight and themes was so important. The glory of God’s creative spirit is found in each piece of artwork, spanning time.

I particularly loved the St. Michael painting. St. Michael is the parish I grew up in and is a patron saint. He is the protector against evil and shows his loyalty to God’s will and his defense against evil.

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One of the MIA’s crown jewels is the Van Gogh – Olive Tree painting. I love Van Gogh’s style and impressionist passion in his art. I really enjoyed taking in the colors and depths of the painting in person.

I noticed several patrons just sitting for over fifteen minutes staring at the beauty of this unique work of art.

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And if Van Gogh weren’t enough – Monet, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Sergeant, Seurat…the list goes on…they have a fabulous collection.

I was said to miss the Cezanne painting – which was on loan to another fave museum of mine – The Art Institute of Chicago. Fun fact – my cat is named after Cezanne. She is my painting buddy.

I thought this Monet was unique because it shows the depth of his acumen and ability to paint outside of impressionism.

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Monet still life – MIA

After leaving the MIA I explored the neighboring Whittier neighborhood, which was packed with history.

Just across the park from the MIA is the Hennepin County History Museum. It was unfortunately closed by the time I finished at the MIA – but I’d love to visit on my next trip.

Also nearby, you’ll find the American Swedish Institute – dedicated to the many Swedish immigrants in Minnesota and the US. *I remember as a child the American Girl Doll Kirsten moved to Minnesota with her family my friends and I loved pretending to take part in the Swedish customs with Kirsten.*

The Museum of Russian Art is another worthwhile stop if you have time.

If I had been hungry – I could have eaten at one of the dozens of AMAZING restaurants a few blocks from MIA on EAT Street.

I decided to instead drive to The Walker Art Center – a modern art museum a mile or so from the MIA.

I’m a huge history buff – so exploring the historic sites in downtown Minneapolis was a priority. You can learn more about The Twin Cities history here.

Minneapolis has a long history given it’s prime location on the banks of the Mississippi River from Native Americans to voyageurs to settlers – you can step back in time in downtown Minneapolis

One of the top sights in Minneapolis – The Stone Arch Bridge was closed to construction ( a bummer), but I did explore The Mill District.

Minneapolis was originally a prime Mill hub, using St. Anthony Falls (the only falls on the Mississippi River) to grind mill, especially for nearby Fort Snelling.

In fact General Mills (as Washburn – Crosby Company) and Pillsbury both started in Minneapolis. You can learn about the city’s ‘run of the mill’ explosive history at the Mill Ruins and Mill City Museum. This is set in the ruins of a historic mill

While General Mills and Pillsbury are still around, Target and other major corporations also call Minneapolis and St. Paul home. You can learn more about the Mill City Museum here.

A lot of roadwork/construction cut me off to some other popular sites like Boom Town Island Light. But I still enjoyed my time in the heart of ‘Mill City’

Normally I would have grabbed a bite to eat downtown, but struggled to find a parking place.

Plus I had another sightseeing item on my to do list…and you can make fun of me for it…

I wanted to visit The Mall of America – the largest mall in square footage in the USA. I first became fascinated by the mall when I was a young kid watching ‘The Mighty Ducks’ and Charlie goes to the indoor amusement park in the mall. I was like – that is cool.

Well I’m a kid at heart, so I made the trek and it was fun. I loved LL Bean (I’d been to the original in Maine, but this was pretty cool) and enjoyed dinner at Margaritaville, which oddly enough this parrothead has never eaten at. I just peeked in the Key West location. A bit touristy – but hey I am a tourist.

On Friday, I spend my last free afternoon in the area, on a pilgrimage of sorts…

First, I wanted to find The Mary Tyler Moore house featured in the show. I grew up watching reruns at my Grandma Ruby’s house and Mary was always an inspiration for being ‘spunky’ and ‘making it on your own’…plus the architecture in the neighborhood is gorgeous.

The house is privately owned so I didn’t snap any pictures, but you’ll find it in the Kenwood neighborhood, near the scenic Lake of Isles. The area you see Mary walking in the opening credits.

I think headed back downtown to visit the Basilica of St. Mary. This is the oldest basilica in the US and a gorgeous church. It was unfortunately closed to the public (I visited around 5 p.m.) – but truly a place of solitude and architectural wonder.

And that leads me to my last set of adventures:

I decided to drive the twenty minutes or so from downtown Minneapolis to it’s twin, St. Paul.

And I’m glad I did. Both are awesome cities with unique personalities and character. St. Paul seems a little more laidback and yet still has a dynamic history and culture that lures you in on first glance.

A friend from church recommended I visit The Cathedral of St. Paul and I was blown away. Sitting atop Cathedral Hill and overlooking the city, with views of the State Capitol in the distance (St. Paul is the capital city, FYI), St. Paul’s is a beacon on the hill. The third largest cathedral in the US it is a place of pilgrimage for quiet reflection and prayer. The cathedral also is an active parish servicing the people of St. Paul.

I think did a driving tour of the various neighborhoods from Rice Park to the Riverfront and The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater (Home to Prairie Home Companion).

As I wrap up this edition of my travel blog – I’m already missing Minnesota and Wisconsin’s raw beauty and exciting cities. I look forward to a return trip in the future.

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