After enjoying a couple of days of sightseeing in St. Paul and Minneapolis, our focus was now on the reason why we were in Minnesota in the first place, the 2017 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championship. This was my daughter’s third year of playing club volleyball and the first time for her team to qualify for JNs. It was all pretty exciting stuff, and the opportunity to play teams from all over the United States was reward in itself (spoken like a mom, not the players). Competition was fierce and as someone who played at a collegiate level, I was blown away by the level of play by all the teams. This was some serious play! This tournament was the culmination of 7 months of 3 days a week practices and weekend tournaments (thankfully, not all weekends). There were many sacrifices the girls (and their families!) made along the way, but the skills they developed and friendships they made will be long lasting.
The games were held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which was one of the biggest convention centers I’ve ever been in. There were even huge underground convention halls in addition to the huge ones on the ground level.
Since so much time was spent sitting or standing and watching games, hubby and I made sure to take walks during our spare time. Minneapolis has these great walkways which connects many buildings and makes it easy to get from place to place (no waiting for traffic lights).
One afternoon we made our way to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden near the Walker Art Center. I kinda got obsessessed with seeing the Spoonbridge and Cherry Fountain after I saw a picture of it. I mean who wouldn’t want to see a giant spoon bridge and cherry? The 11 acre sculpture garden underwent renovations and opened up recently (June 2017). We made our way through Loring Park to get to the pedestrian bridge, then to the sculpture garden. We truly enjoyed walking around this beautiful garden and looking at the many unusual and thought-provoking pieces.
Our next stop as we walked along Hennepin Ave was to head over to Lunds and Byerlys Market to pick up some local nibbles. This market has a wonderful cheese section and the super nice cheesemonger helped us choose some cheeses from the area. Minnesotans know how to make cheese! When we left the store we happened to see the Butcher and the Boar Beer Garden across the street and with such a fun name and great entryway, we couldn’t pass it up. Great food, atmosphere, beer, drinks and waitstaff sums it up! We were so glad we decided to stop here, I’m still dreaming about those ribs.
On our last night in Minneapolis, the girls, of course, wanted to check out the Mall of America. I’ve heard it was huge and that it even had an amusement park in the middle, but I needed to see it with my own eyes. I was so glad I wore my athletic shoes because you do A LOT of walking here.
After a meal at the Shake Shack, we were off to ride the rides (not the best time to ride roller coasters, but what can you do when the girls had a looming curfew?). We’re not talking a few kiddie rides in the middle of the mall, these were full on rollercoasters, even a log ride and a ferris wheel. We stayed there until they closed getting in as many rides as possible.
After one last serious day of tournament play that determined the teams’ final standings, which were also the last games many were going to play for the season, our time in Minneapolis came to an end. It was a great experience all around, both the tournament and getting to know St. Paul and Minneapolis. We made our way back home to the Bay Area with no airline dramas this time, although I don’t think the Minneapolis Airport was quite ready to handle so many people coming through their airport. Downtown Minneapolis is undergoing a lot of construction right now, so I can only imagine how much nicer it will be when it’s all done. Thanks Minneapolis for being such a wonderful host for the USA Girls’ Volleyball Junior National Championships!