Monday, October 17, 2011

In and Around Minneapolis

You can guesstimate the number of lakes you’ll find in Minnesota when the car registration number plate says –“Minnesota, Land of 10000 Lakes”. Yes, Lakes are something that you absolutely cannot miss if you come to the state capital –Minneapolis. Quite prominent among all the lakes are the Chain of Lakes consisting of Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles. Out of these four, Lake Calhoun falls on an important bus route 6 which connects the suburb of Edina to downtown Minneapolis via Uptown station. And due to the same reason, attracts a lot of people during the summers. Apart from the Lakes, you’ve got a couple of important shopping arenas in the form of The Great Mall of America and Albert Lea which calls Minneapolis home. The weather in this part of the country hovers from one extreme to the other… during summers we have almost 35 degrees centigrade which goes down to -35 degrees in the winters... and when it rains, its as if the world is coming to an end. However having stayed in Minneapolis, I've got fond memories of the place. I'd like to write a little bit about what I've been through in the 18 months that I've spent in this wonderful city.

Lakes are something that is a part of everyone’s life here in Minnesota. I’ve visited all the Lakes in the Chain of Lakes except for Cedar Lake. Out of them, I found Lake Calhoun to be quite frequented. You’ve got a nice wide jogging track around the lake and during summers you’ll find a lot of people out there trying to shave off a few pounds and get back to shape. In the waters, you get to rent out a canoe or a sail boat for a minimum of an hour. This is wonderful stuff and I’ve done that a couple of times. Navigating a canoe is one of the simplest and at the same time exciting water business that I’ve ever done. It’s fun when you’ve got the winds as well… cause the waves come in and make the job of rowing a bit tough since you no longer have time to rest. Same is the case when a motor boat passes you… the ripples can cause some fun. Apart from that there’s this nice restaurant –Tin Fish quite close to the boat renting office where you get some amazing Fish preparations… the seating is facing the Lake and with a cool breeze blowing, that’s the best place to be in. While you sip your drink sitting on one of the high chairs facing the lake and watching people sail around near the shore is such a great way to relax. And if none of these excite you, there are a few places in the Lake where a wooden plank is laid which takes you into the lake from where you can fish away your way to glory. But you’re supposed to release the fish back into the waters after catching them. Seems so surreal?

Other than being in water, I’ve walked around Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and Lake of Isles. I did Lake Harriet when it was covered in snow and got to walk on the lake [ice rather] for a short leg of the trail. Since it was winters, I didn’t find a lot of activity except for a few skaters. Lake of Isles also did not offer a lot beyond having a nice wide track around the Lake.

Another place worth mentioning about Minneapolis is the Sculpture Garden which is quite close to downtown Minneapolis. You’ve got some 40 odd art and sculpture pieces installed at various places in the Garden out of which the center piece of Spoonbridge and Cherry is the most photographed. The Sculpture Garden is located just across Loring Park on the other side of Interstate 94 and is also home to the Cowles Conservatory where you find a lot of tropic and exotic flora. The center piece here is the Standing Glass Fish. About half a day can be spent here.

And for all those shopaholics Minneapolis is the best place under the sun with the biggest Shopping Mall of United States calling it home. With four floors of absolute retail outlet of the best brands in clothing, electronics, restaurants, shoes, sports, toys and what not, someone might need a whole day to have gone through each and every shop of the Mall. To top it up, you have an amusement park in the center and a large aquarium at the basement. There are a few shops where I would frequent every time I visited MOA -Starbucks, Barnes & Nobles, Fossil Store and Lego Store. There is a Starbucks outlet inside B&N which has given me great company as I read some books or wrote something while my better half and friends were out there exploring the shops. You’ve also got a huge food court with some 20 odd outlets to choose from. I rarely tried anything other than Subways, McDee and Chipotle. My visits to MOA have been great thanks to the B&N and the amazing collection of books that were available there to read and buy. MOA is one place where someone should go to, to experience the sheer size of the Mall.

For those of us who enjoy a light trek/walk, the various state parks along the lakes offer some nice opportunity to venture out into the sun with the cool breeze blowing from the lakes. One among them, the Minehaha Falls is what I liked the most; not only during summers and the rainy season but also during winters. The whole waterfall except for a narrow stream freezes as you’d see in any photograph. For the enthusiasts, you can jump over the fence from the base of the waterfall and climb all the way up to a small opening just behind the waterfall –while everything is frozen into ice. I did that once, and believe me its an awesome experience to be standing right there just behind the waterfall. The water from the Minehaha Falls crawls along for a mile or so before it merges with the Mississippi River. There are proper walkways made along the bank of the shallow creek. Its a nice half a day fun activity walking with the clear water till it meets the great river. A nice place to enjoy during summers and winters.

Summer is the time when you’ll find almost everybody out of their houses. That is also one reason why you’d be surprised if you are out on a Thursday afternoon during the summer months. That is when we have the Farmer’s Market setup at various places in the city… In downtown Mnpls it’s all along Nicollet Mall Road while close to where I stay the market is setup along Centennial Lake Park. You get fresh vegetables and home made preparations along with flowering plants and flowers. During the Farmer’s Market you get to see a big gathering of people which is quite unusual in Minneapolis. Apart from that during the summer months, due to the fact that there’s more daylight you’ll find more and more people spending time outside home… I remember seeing so many people jogging along Centennial Lake or playing golf or maybe playing with the toy RC boats… you see people having lots of fun. Close to where I stay, every Thursday evening during summers we get to watch a family movie on the makeshift big screen in the amphi-theatre at Centennial Lakes where a lot of people come in and sit on the grass as it gets darker and just enjoy the movie. At the same time, during winters the same lake becomes a skaters’ paradise. I found Centennial Lake a nice place to hang out.

I’m sure there are a lot of other fun places to be in Mnpls and if I get another opportunity to visit the city, I would definitely explore more. With this I’d want to end this little write-up. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I loved writing this… a walk down memory lane!

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