Happy Wanderer: Minneapolis


CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM: August 26, 2010

It’s a fact of life when you reach middle age. You spend a lot of time going back home.

By home, I mean the area where your parents live … where your childhood memories are, where you went to school, rode your bike, hung out with your friends and had your first job.

For me, it’s the Twin Cities, and I get back there about twice a year. After unpacking my bags in my parents’ house (why does my bedroom seem so small?) we sit down and plan out our visit. Museums? Check. Theater? Check. Segway Tour? OK, this one I do with my cousins, but you get the idea. We use my trips home to explore — as if we were really on vacation and not an obligatory see-the-folks visit.

Here are my favorite family activities. They can be done just about anywhere, so feel free to borrow from the list, or send me ideas of your own.

1. Make time for museums. My current favorite is the Science Museum of Minnesota, where they’re featuring the most amazing exhibit: The Dead Sea Scrolls. This is the first exhibition in the world to display three sets of five scrolls, each going back more than 2,000 years. Imagine seeing fragments of documents detailing life in Jerusalem, up to and during the time of Christ. It’s not only a fascinating archaeological story; it has deep religious significance. It’s on display through Oct. 24 and well worth a trip to St. Paul. Learn more at www.smm.org.

2. Support your local theater. It’s easy for me. Minneapolis is the third largest live theater market in the United States with offerings like “How to Talk Minnesotan” (Plymouth Playhouse) and “The Dixie Swim Club” at The Old Log Theater. The Old Log is a special favorite, with its rural charm in an idyllic setting in the woods along Lake Minnetonka — a scene straight out of Prairie Home Companion. At last check, their restaurant served more walleye pike than any eatery in Minnesota. See www.oldlog.com.

3. See your hometown from the seat of a bicycle. Cycling trails are big these days, and they meander past the prettiest parts of most cities. Minneapolis has been named one of the world’s top cycling cities, according to Travel and Leisure magazine, and I never tire of riding my own yellow bike past the cattail-lined shores of two lakes and a marsh within walking distance of my folks’ home.

4. And finally “… get out and join the “nerd herd.” Segways are a great way to see downtown, and you’ll find Segway tours in most major cities. In Minneapolis, the No. 1-rated Segway tour in the nation is the Magical History Tour, which traverses the Mississippi River along the site of the old mills and St. Anthony Falls. The company has added a tour in St. Paul that I plan to take next time I’m home. Read about the tour at www.magicalhistorytour.com.

Now for some reader comments:

Patsy Newhouse says there’s an Oakland connection to my Aug. 6 article featuring the Weston House Bed & Breakfast in Shingletown. Edward Weston’s famous photograph of Diego Rivera is on display at the Oakland Museum, in the section featuring California’s diversity.

And reader Ellen Galvin has a tip on a hidden travel treasure close to home. She suggests a day on the Bay with OCSC Sailing (www.ocsc.com) in Berkeley. Outside magazine calls it one of the “Top 100 Adrenaline Adventures” in North America, with some of the best wind and wave conditions on Earth. She says popular Wednesday night sails are held every week through October for just $40, and are followed by a party at the clubhouse.

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