Tips on travelling to Minneapolis-St Paul from Anya Klaassen
An American expat currently living in South Africa, Anya Klaassen has travelled widely as a musician and writer.
Where are you originally from?
I'm from Anoka, which is about 20 minutes' drive north of Minneapolis.
Where do you live now?
I've lived in Cape Town for three years now, but I still have a lot of family in Minnesota so I visit often!
How well do you know Minneapolis?
Pretty well, since I grew up there!
Why should I go there?
Minnesota is often overlooked as a travel destination, being in the heart of American flyover country (which is basically everything you fly over between New York and Los Angeles), but it's such a beautiful place with different personalities as the seasons change. It has the best music and theatre community within 1,000 miles, good restaurants, lots of places to enjoy the outdoors (whatever time of year), and massively friendly locals.
What time of year should I go?
Unless you're a winter sports fanatic (meaning ice fishing, cross-country and downhill skiing, or snowmobiling), I'd steer clear of visiting in winter as the weather can be pretty harsh. For me, you can't beat late summer/early autumn, which lasts from late August through September. The weather is beautiful then, which is why everything seems to happen in this period!
Anything special I should pack?
If you come in winter, you'll definitely need the warmest clothes you can get! Spring and early summer can get rather wet, so pack an umbrella and raincoat; late summer is incredibly hot, while autumn is cool enough that you'll want a jacket. The weather can be unpredictable, so best be prepared!
What is the first thing you do when arriving?
In the winter, I go to Caribou and get a White Hot Chocolate! You won't find many Starbucks in Minnesota, as we have our own chain. In summer, I get to the first Minnesota Twins baseball game I can get tickets to, as there's nothing better than an afternoon game in their beautiful new outdoor stadium.
What's the best way to get around?
You'll want to hire a car in the Twin Cities: although there is public transport (the light rail is great for getting to and from the airport), everything outside the city centre is pretty spread out and taking buses can add hours to your trip.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?
A walk around Lake Harriet, a rollercoaster ride at Valleyfair, browsing the stalls at the Minneapolis Farmers' Market, and a day wandering around the world-class Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In the autumn though, a drive up to Duluth and the North Shore is non-negotiable!
Anything I should avoid?
The last time I took a friend to the Twin Cities, he remarked Oh, is this the fast-food district? as we were driving down a normal road. Don't be taken in by the endless takeaways, as there is much better food to be had.
What's the best thing to do with kids?
Minneapolis is a very kid-friendly place! The Science Museum of Minnesota is wonderful, as is the Minnesota Children's Museum. The Como Zoo is central and cheap and has beautiful parks to run around in, but is a little run-down on the zoo side, so I'd highly recommend the enormous Minnesota Zoo. Valleyfair is a great treat in the summer, with an amusement and waterpark.
Where is the best place for lunch?
I love the Loring Cafe in Dinkytown (near the University of Minnesota), it has great food and unforgettable decor! A fun local specialty is the 'Juicy Lucy' burger, served at Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club.
Where is the best place for a drink?
There are a lot of microbreweries around the Twin Cities, so visitors are spoiled for choice! I like the Fulton Brewery, which is fun and minimal, and Liquor Lyle's for a relaxed and low-key atmosphere. For something a little fancier, the cocktail menu at Icehouse is almost endless!
Where is the best place for dinner?
I love Famous Dave's in Calhoun Square for amazing barbeque and blues music; Bryant Lake Bowl also offers a fun combination of food, music, and bowling! For a nice night out, try Chino Latino or Manny's Steakhouse.
What should I bring home?
Minnetonka Moccasins are ridiculously comfortable, I have four pairs! Recipe books of good Midwestern comfort food dishes are also great, like the famous Betty's Pies on the North Shore.