“Friends made me go” as I always replied when asked why on earth I’d go to the middle of America.
To be fair, why would I? My only impression of Minneapolis was that a medium-ish Midwest town with dilapidated rustic buildings, abandoned shops, amid a vastly flat farmland.
Or maybe I got that mixed up with Detroit. Either way, besides the big mall, I had little to no reason let alone to go over there. I stand corrected, and I wanna go back to truly explore. This has been a common pattern for most of the places I’ve been to for friends and events; I take one look and get inspired to truly visit and explore. This has happened with Boston, Pittsburgh, and Denver, so I guess it’s no surprise here.
I was persuaded by a couple of friends to see them at Furry Migration, a fan event in MSP around late August. Again, I had no reason to go, but…. I haven’t seen these friends in a long time, and the drive to get away to somewhere new seemed cool. I booked a flight, grabbed a few more friends for a room, and off I went.
I did an evening flight right after work (oh the joys of working by a major airport), and to my surprise was upgraded to First Class! The food was a nice and welcome surprise, as was getting a seat to myself.
What I love about evening flights.
First Class Dinner: BBQ chicken with salad.
There was nothing really much to say on the flight beyond enjoying the sun setting above the clouds and binging on Househunters. I will say that three hours in, I must’ve adjusted to the new time zone as I was exhausted by the midnight arrival.
After finishing up some work for the day, I decided to take a stroll downtown. The hotel I was staying in was right off a Nicollet Mall, effectively a downtown-street-turned mall that didn’t look as run down as the other attempts I’ve seen. The traditional Midwestern brick block architecture was pretty much unmissable, but honestly charming.
To be honest I was merely looking for lunch, but I kept walking down the street, almost touching the Mississippi River but got blocked by construction.
What surprised me about downtown Minneapolis was how almost every building was interconnected by a series of skybridges. Like, each building was their own set of shopping centers and offices, ideal for the cold Winters. One could easily get lost in them if not careful, and I almost did by accidentally walking into Target’s Corporate offices.
Inside one of the Skyways
Back at the hotel, I socialized with a couple of friends, and saw some adorable animals. Furry Migration, as far as cons go, is fairly small and you can easily loop around the space, seeing the same people in less than an hour. Considering my past two conventions were among the largest, this was a nice break and in fact felt more like a mini vacation.
I invited one of my roommates to a British Pub down the street (because, like, what is the most natural thing to do in Middle America?)
They had me at Maltesers
This looked like something out of the films, and I’ll be honest: I went to the UK a decade ago and of course pubs were a necessary visit. This brought back memories, albeit supersized for crowds. Good food, too.
Food and Pubs
As this was very much a semi-impromptu trip, I did zero research on what to expect and see at Minneapolis. The only other thing I knew to see in such a short notice was Mall of America. After a quick coffee chat with a fellow traveling friend just south of the hotel, I headed out to the mall and almost got lost in the process by walking down a very scenic trial to the wrong path due to a Google Maps confusion (always double check your surroundings, kids).
Mall of America is just that, a really big mall. I have heard in documentaries how the mall itself varied up its sections to various themes so as to make it feel more natural, but I never noticed that. It looked no different than my local Westfield Galleria, only bigger.
The one highlight, however, is the giant amusement park in the middle. Nickelodeon Universe is a bizarre mishmash of a nostalgia festival in what may as well be a Costco.
Seriously, this place was bizarre. Some parts of the park felt natural and well-themed to the point where I couldn’t tell I was inside, but on the other parts it’s like a post-apocalyptic prison. What did catch my eye was a ride called FlyOver America, which seemed very, very, very similar to Soarin at Disney.
In fact it pretty much was, if not a bit longer. It was really neat to see such an attraction becoming possible in the most random of places at a much lower price.
Surprisingly Satisfying Meal
Alas, the weekend flew by and it was time for me to head back. Again I got upgraded to first and was treated to a nice meal while watching BeetleJuice (damn I never knew he was such a jerk), and an amazing view of the Bay Area upon landing.
I wish I had more time to explore Minnesota. This place is beautiful. During the time going from downtown to the airport and that mall, I was presented with the greenest and lush of fields, of trees. I was told that I was a couple hours’ drive from the source of the Mississippi. While I didn’t get to see much, with so few time and more/less being limited to an event, I want to go back. I want to explore Minneapolis and see more of what it has to offer. I expected a mini Detroit and got Midwestern Portland.
Also, the Minnesota charm and accent is real. Minnesotans get you with the way they speak and have you with their charm.
When will I be back? Eventually. I’ll definitely consider this neck of the woods again if I need to be back; with a few extra days added to explore. 🙂