My daughter’s volleyball team finally qualified for Junior Nationals at the very, very last qualifier tournament in May, leaving our team scrambling to get flights, hotel reservations, transportation, etc… for Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have never been to Minnesota and frankly, I really didn’t know what to expect, so I embarrassingly spent a lot of time googling “things to do in Minneapolis.” Although our team stayed together in the same hotel for the tournament, it was up to each family to get to Minneapolis on their own. My hubby, daughter and I decided to get there a day ahead and explore St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, since we would have four days in Minneapolis. Despite our past unlucky travel experiences, we arrived in Minneapolis smoothly without incident and picked up our rental car. It turned out so easy to reserve on-line and walk directly to Alamo’s rental lot instead of waiting in the huge line to reserve a car at the airport.
Pretty much our first stop off the plane, right in the airport, was the Angel Food Bakery and Donut Bar. It was such a cute, modern little space that we had to stop and peek inside. Of course once you do that, you have to get a little snack. The donuts, which were freshly made were so soft and fluffy and just a little unique. The strawberry sugared and maple donuts are so worth recommending! (I do have to add though, when my daughter got a donut on the return trip, the donuts were dry and definitely not fresh tasting, so it may be worth asking how fresh the donuts are before buying).
We chose to stay at the historic St. Paul Hotel, which turned out to be such a wonderful hotel. It only took us about 20 minutes to get to the hotel from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport. The hotel has great reviews, won numerous awards, and is considered a “landmark hotel… with old-world charm and European elegance.” With a very reasonable price, we were sold. We loved our stay, the rooms were in fact charming and it all felt very historic. You could tell that care was taken with the up-keep in all the small details. Walking through the lobby really set the mood that we were staying somewhere with a story to tell. In fact, I was reading about the hotel in a book the hotel provided and it described how the FBI considered the hotel a “rendezvous for gangsters.”
Before we set off to explore, we grabbed a bite to eat at the St. Paul Grill, located in the St. Paul Hotel, in the city of St. Paul. 🙂 We had walleye fish and chips (it is the state fish of Minnesota after all) and I had to try their Minnesota mule. Both were delicious, but what made the meal really memorable was the chocolate molten lava Cake (without the Bourbon) that my daughter and I inhaled in 30 seconds flat. Our server was awesome and after telling her we were from California, she made us feel so welcome. So far we were loving Minnesota!
We got in the car and went to see the St. Paul cathedral, which you can see from many vantage points in the city. By the time we arrived, the doors were closed, but we walked around the building and marveled at all the details on the outside. Just beautiful!
St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota so we made sure to take a peek at the capital building.
St. Paul definitely had its fair share of visitors that night because of the jazz festival, but we managed to make our way around.
After driving around the city, we ended up at Upper Landing Park by the Mississippi River. We wanted to see the famous river up close and this park was a beautiful park to take a peaceful walk by the river.
We walked along the riverfront on well maintained (and looks like well lit) paths.
We rented the Nice Ride bikes for 30 minutes ($3/30 minutes), but you can definitely rent them for longer. You can return the bikes to any Nice Ride “station,” making it so easy to use these bikes. The system is easy to use (you can pay with a credit card) and the bikes themselves were easy to ride. You only have to adjust your seat and off you go! I loved that the bike path (we only rode for 30 minutes), was divided up for bikers and pedestrians. One path was for pedestrians and the other was for bikes, how smart is that!?! We saw a few cyclists, but we were the only ones on the bike trail most of the time, it was a great way see more of the Mississippi River. There were a number of pedestrians and if we had to maneuver our way around them, I don’t think we would have been able to see the gorgeous sunset views around us. Our evening bike ride was one of the highlights of our trip. If we had more time, I would have loved to go on the entire bike trail seen on that map.
When we returned to the hotel, we noticed the Jazz festival going on at Rice Park across the street (there were a number of venues going on throughout the city). People were enjoying their music and being outdoors. This is what summertime is about, love it!
The following day we had another “free” day before tournament play started and we were heading to Minneapolis to meet up with the team. This year we’ve had opportunities to visit cities that we never would have if it wasn’t for my daughter’s volleyball tournaments and it’s been a pleasure being introduced to new and interesting places. It warms my heart to know that there are good, kind people everywhere. Thanks St. Paul for a wonderful visit!