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Destination Guide

Trying to tell someone about St. Paul and Minneapolis - the Twin Cities ' is not hard. Its just a matter of where to start. The Twin Cities are bustling centers of culture and technology. But the locals also have a great love for leisure. You will find a golf course close by no matter where you are, and the green spaces around the lakes are favorite spots for special occasions and just plain relaxing.

The music scene is hot, with many music festivals around the area all summer long. Perhaps the most famous musical son of the Twin Cities is the singer/songwriter Prince, who gained fame with Purple Rain in the 80s, changed his name to a symbol in the 90s, and now is back to being himself.

Perhaps the best music venue for a close-up show is First Avenue, a former bus station. The Fine Line Music Café, Northrup Auditorium, Roy Wilkins Auditorium, and the State Theater all book solid national acts in rock, country, blues, jazz, classical, and other genres. But these are intimate venues; the really big crowds go to the Target Center or the Metrodome.

If you want music and dancing, The Quest is the biggest and probably the best dance club in town. Rodeo is your country music destination. Many other spots offer dancing, including South Beach for a splash of class, Lyons Pub, Margarita Bella for Latin tunes, and Stone Wings in Bloomington.

If you want to listen to something more civilized, try the Artists Quarter or The Times for jazz, Dakota, Famous Daves, or Nikkis Café for jazz or blues. Ryans is a good old fashioned heavy metal rock club and O?Garas and the Turf Club pack them in for local rock acts.

Many bars and restaurants offer live music at some time during the week. Almost every festival features multiple stages with local and national acts. You won't have any trouble finding something that sings to your beat.

There are many first-run cinemas in the area; check the local paper for one nearby. Many now offer stadium seating, and new ones are being built all the time. The Mall of America has a General Cinema with 14 screens; at Cinema Café, you can have a meal with a beer while you watch the movie. If you?d like to watch something a little more unusual, try the Oak Street Cinema, Uptown or Lagoon. You are sure to find something there that is not to be had at your local mall, whether its foreign language, documentary or the latest Cannes winner. The Plaza offers budget tickets for movies that lag a few weeks behind the first run theaters. If you didn't get a chance to see that thriller that won the Oscar, they are likely to have it. With two screens, stadium seating, and a full concession stand, the ticket is the only thing cut-rate. The Plaza always offers late-night cult movies; call to see whats on deck.

Many national and local theater companies play to local audiences year-round. The theater district on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis is the hub of the action; Broadways second home is the Minne-Apple, as Minneapolis has sometimes been known. The Historic State Theater hosts Broadway productions and other national acts. The Guthrie Theater never fails to deliver a faithful rendition of A Christmas Carol every year. Orchestra Hall is home to the Minnesota Orchestra. In St. Paul, The Fitzergald Theater is the home of Garrison Keillors weekly radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in downtown St. Paul is home to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Opera. Rent, Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Riverdance are some of the shows that have delighted Twin Cities audiences in recent years. Check out the latest show, Les Miserables. Or check out the James Sewell Ballet. There are also many other stages located around town. Children can enjoy an old favorite or an original production at The Childrens Theater. The Historic Orpheum, The Chanhassen Dinner Theater, The Old Log Theater, Mixed Blood Theater and many others will fill out your dance card. Even the University of Minnesotas Showboat Players have a new floating home at Harriet Island, the Minnesota Centennial Showboat.

Museums and Galleries
Art is everywhere in the Twin Cities, from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden which features the famous Spoonbridge & Cherry, to contemporary art at The Walker Art Center, to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, with its fabulous Asian collection. Don't miss the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, a stainless steel and brick masterpiece in itself. The Minnesota Museum of American Art has its home in downtown St. Paul. There are many art colleges which have regular exhibits, including The College of Visual Arts and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Private galleries permeate the cultural climate, and there are at least three art crawls in the area each summer.

During the summer of 2000, look for the many Snoopy figures that dot St. Paul. This is in tribute to St. Paul native Charles Schultz, who wrote and drew the Peanuts comic strip for 50 years. Each Snoopy was decorated by a local artist and sponsored by a local business. Many were auctioned in October 2000 to provide funds for a permanent memorial and a scholarship fund, garnering over $800,000.

The Science Museum of Minnesota and The Minnesota Childrens Museum offer hands-on experiences, educational and fun. The Bell Museum of Natural History covers the natural habitat. In addition, there are many opportunities for outings involving more recent history, such as the Minnesota History Center, Murphys Landing, and Fort Snelling.

For sports-minded individuals, the Twin Cities offers every opportunity to catch a pro team in action or engage in some yourself. The Twin Cities Marathon has an impressive turn out every year; it is known as the "Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in the Country." In addition to the miles of lakeshore surrounded by paths, most old railroad beds have been turned into beautiful pathways for biking, running and skating.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, located in downtown Minneapolis, is home to the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins, and the Target Center, also downtown Minneapolis, is home to the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves and the WNBA Minnesota Lynx. Downtown St. Paul welcomes NHL expansion team Minnesota Wild in their new arena, Xcel Energy Center, in 2000.

The residents of the Twin Cities have not escaped the national craze of playing golf. There are hundreds of golf courses in the area, enough that its not usually a problem to get a tee time. The Edinburgh USA Golf Course hosted the U.S. Open a few years ago. There are golf domes, mini golf courses, 9-hole par 3s, and plenty of more challenging links; enough to keep any client happy.

Zoos and Amusement Parks
The area boasts two zoos: the Minnesota Zoo, with its monorail and natural habitats, and Como Zoo, situated in a century-old park and one of the few remaining free zoos in the country. If thats too sedate, try Valleyfair Amusement Park, which usually comes up with at least one new ride every year. The countrys largest indoor amusement park, Camp Snoopy, is located inside the Mall of America. For more action, try Gasoline Alley with their racing go-karts or Rice Street Amusement Center for water bumper boats.
Racing enthusiasts flock to Raceway Park for NASCAR action or Canterbury Park to bet on thoroughbred horse races.

There are many beautiful lakes in either city: St. Paul has Como, Phalen, Keller; Minneapolis has Calhoun, Harriet, Cedar, Lake of the Isles, Nokomis ' well, the list goes on. When the founding fathers were laying out the city plans, they had the good sense to designate quite a bit of the land around lakes as public space. That means that you will find both of these cities to be lush and green in the summer; full of parks, golf courses and public paths; and people making full use of the facilities. Many of the lakes offer equipment rental, from the paddle-boats on Como Lake to the canoes at Lake Calhoun and Lake Phalen. They also offer fishing and boating. Lake Minnetonka is perhaps the areas largest, and offers several opportunities for lake cruises and watercraft rentals.

The fun does not stop in the winter. The golf courses are turned into cross-country ski trails. Snow shoeing is offered in many of the area golf courses and nature preserves. Many areas of the lakes are turned into miniature towns where little ice-fishing houses materialize seemingly overnight - you can even get pizza delivered to some of them! The parks are full of children sledding down hills, and playing hockey and ice skating on the many ice rinks that are put up each winter.

The St. Paul Winter Carnival offers ten days of fun winter activity. If its skiing that takes you there, try Buck Hill Ski Area or Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area. There are numerous locations throughout the metro area where you can go snow tubing as well. If you?ve never been snow tubing, you ought to try it.

Even though theres so much fun to be had in the winter, when the nice weather hits, Minnesotans don't let go of it. With the first hint of spring almost every restaurant and bar turns into an al fresco dining experience with an outdoor patio. The sidewalks downtown sport tables and chairs where you hadn't thought there was room. Rooftops turn into terraces, and the lakes are full of sun worshippers. The weather is gorgeous about five months out of the year; the remainder is dependent on whether or not the winter is mild, as it has been the last few years. The fall foliage is not to be missed; you can get peak color updates on the nightly news. But be warned, the weather is apt to change very quickly. It can be 50° F in the morning and 90° F in the afternoon, or vice versa. Its best to dress in layers, and carry a jacket in your car.

Almost every neighborhood and suburban area or town has their own festival. Grand Avenue in St. Paul has Grand Old Day, featuring the best in live music; Cedarfest in Minneapolis is another live music mecca. Theres Valley Days, Crazy Days, Fall Round-Up, May Day, Cinco de Mayo, and The Taste of Minnesota on the lawn in front of the capitol. Each of the seven metro area counties has a fair each summer.

Of course, theres the biggest fair of them all, The Minnesota State Fair, which boasts the largest midway in the country. In addition, it has an extreme thrill park, horse and livestock exhibits, a kiddie land, and a grandstand that attracts national music acts every night of the 12-day fair. There are also two beer gardens, a living history Heritage Square, DNR exhibits, an International Bazaar, and a haunted house. Couple that with the food and horticultural buildings, the race track, and thousands of individual vendors, and you can guess why its called the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

For those who prefer indoors, of course there is shopping?world-class shopping. The Mall of America is a day in itself, a sensory overload experience with every kind of shop you could imagine. Downtown Minneapolis boasts The IDS Crystal Court, Gaviidae Commons, and Daytons flagship store ' eight stories of high fashion and housewares with seasonal exhibits on the top floor. Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus are just two of the names you might recognize. The Galleria and Southdale in Edina are highlights of any shopping trip. Southdale was the first enclosed mall in the nation. In St. Paul, stroll down Grand Avenue for block after block of unique shopping opportunites.

L. A. Smith