Last fall, Teen 1 had an extra credit assignment for social studies that involved exploringhistoricparts of St. Paul. This spring, the equal-opportunity teacher assigned extra credit exploring historic parts of Minneapolis.
Our next stop was to be the Stone Arch Bridge, but really, we were right in the neighborhood of this:
The Electric Fetus, a music and gift store that's been in Minneapolis since, oh, I don't know, forever. Teen 1 is very fond of the Fetus, as they tend to stock some of the more obscure metal groups he likes. I'm fond of them because they stock some of the indie music I like, not to mention snark-worthy cards and joke gifts and even fun handbags and jewelry. Plus they don't look cross-eyed at matronly women shopping in their decidedly alternative store.
Once we'd had our fun there, we proceeded to the Stone Arch Bridge.
Built in 1883 by James J. Hill, this is the only bridge of its type spanning the Mississippi. Crossing it gives a great view of St. Anthony Falls.
One of the paintings we saw at the Art Institute was a view of the falls circa 1848--quite a different sight back then.
On the other side of the bridge, you can see the historic Mill City Museum and mill ruins:
Just to the left of the Museum is where the seasonal Mill City Farmers Market takes place each year, one of my favorite summertime rituals.
Closer to the river banks are some beautiful ruins.
The Teen thought these looked like secret torture chambers.
During the summer, you can explore the Stone Arch Bridge and environs on your own, or you can take one of the Minnesota Historical Society's guided walking tours. Or, if you'd like a different way to explore, you can take a guided Segway tour.
Just blocks away from Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis is the Linden Hills neighborhood. The couple of blocks surrounding 43rd and Upton Ave So may not have numerous shopping and food venues, but there are enough fun places to make a good afternoon of it.
Note: some of the retailers in this area don't allow photography in their stores, while others were so packed full of cool merchandise that photography simply didn't work well. So bear with me--I did the best I could.
A kids' bookstore named, of course, after the rumpusing done by the wild things in Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are. It's clear that kids are welcome just from the door:
Look closely--the purple door, which is fully functional, is a kid-sized door encased by the larger black door for those pesky grownups.
The store has a few pets roaming around, and the staff is hands-down one of the friendliest, most knowledgeable I've seen in a local bookstore (and trust me, that's saying a lot--the Twin Cities' bookstores are filled with passionate, intelligent people). They know their customers, and they know their books. And they know how to make a fun experience.
Books are fun. So are stuffed animals. Even better if they're together.
If all that shopping makes you hungry, there are some excellent options just steps away from any of these shops.
Zumbro Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch with hearty, made-from-scratch dishes.
Or you could do the Asian fusion thing.
Rice Paper has outstanding Asian food. Their shrimp spring rolls are not to be missed.
American Girl opened its first Minnesota store last week at the Mall of America. This is a big deal--I don't have daughters, but even I've heard of American Girl and how popular they are. This is only the seventh store in the U.S., and company spokespeople claim they don't have plans to expand again anytime soon. They choose their markets carefully and apparently do have some thought about not diluting the brand.
I meant to go to the grand opening this past weekend, but crowds are not generally my thing, so I waited until a quiet weekday morning instead. I'm not sure what I expected. But the whole thing is "more" than I thought.
It's enormous. A two-story building overlooking Nickelodeon Universe (the former Camp Snoopy), American Girl makes the adjacent, self-proclaimed largest Nickelodeon Store in the country look pretty rinky-dink:
Upon entrance to American Girl, I found a wall of books for sale.
I knew the dolls had books, but I didn't know they had so many books. This is not a bad thing, since most of them appear to have a historical/educational slant.
What really caught me off-guard was the doll/accessories part of the store.
It doesn't look like a toy store. It looks like an upscale women's boutique. Everything arranged in a tasteful, orderly manner. Displays kept to a minimum and not crowded.
There are baby dolls if you want to start from scratch.
The dolls are not just available in different races, but they have outfits reflecting different interests. Look at the dance shelf:
Ballet, dance team--and Irish dance.
Proud doll owners can take their American Girls out to lunch at the Bistro.
I confess I expected to write a somewhat snarky commentary on American consumerist excess and how retailers pander to children. But as I stood and stared at the Bistro, I overheard two women next to me talking in wistful tones. One of the women looked to be my age, the other old enough to be her mother. The older woman said, "Imagine how fun it would be to bring a granddaughter here." The younger woman said, "I know. I can't imagine eating here without a little girl." The older woman said, "And here we are, no young daughters or granddaughters." The younger woman replied, "Not even a niece." Then they turned away.
Not even a niece!
I understood exactly what they meant. I could not bring myself to plunk down in a chair at the Bistro and order lunch. I don't have daughters either, or nieces, and I've been perfectly fine with that. Boys are great fun.
But looking at the Bistro, and the mothers who were there with young daughters, and thinking how much I would have LOVED this place as a child--it made me a little wistful myself. I would have been in heaven if I could have visited a place like this as a girl. Would my parents have plunked down the big chunk of change required to own an American Girl? Doubtful. We weren't poor, but that would have been a big investment.
But oh, how I would have pined for this:
Look at that tea set. I would have given my parents considerable grief over it. I would have stood in front of that display, lower lip trembling, wishing with all my heart that I could have it.
So. American Girl is a big deal. And, surprisingly, it can tug at the heartstrings.
Having a book signing at Common Good Books allowed me not just to sell my books--always a pleasure!--but to finally spend some time at this shop, one of the Twin Cities' newer independent bookstores. It doesn't hurt that it was founded by Garrison Keillor. It's located downstairs from Nina's, a neighborhood coffee shop (and HQ to the Twin Cities' Nanowrimo community each November).
The bookstore is just what a bookstore should be: small, cozy (possibly claustrophic for some people), crammed with books, a bit messy. It's meant for lingering.
The signing itself went well. I brought food!
Lefse from Ingebretsen's and B.T. McElrath chocolates. Many people stopped by, some I knew, some I'd never met. A very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
And at the end of the day, I was invited to sign the Author's Wall:
Who knows? Maybe someday I'll get to sign copies of my *novel.*