Similar to Wisconsin, I never, ever thought I’d go to Minnesota. At least, not at this stage of my life. That is, until I had my reunion trip with Erika in Madison and Minneapolis.
I’ve actually dreamed up a huge U.S. road trip including all of our national parks. Who knows? Maybe one series on Sarah L. Travels will be written from an Airstream a few years down the road. Either way, I’m glad I got to see Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Madison, because I know which areas I loved and what to see again on future trips to the Midwest.
In my few days in Minneapolis, I got to see and do so much. From trying a staple coffee chain for the first time, to shopping at the largest mall in the U.S.–these few days were a great time. And, to top it all off, I got to meet the family of such a great friend. What a sweet time!
Here is everything I did, from the day I arrived at 6am on a Megabus to being wheels up at MSP.
day 1 // cold brew mocha from Caribou Coffee
Honestly, I forgot Caribou Coffee was a popular coffee shop. Since we don’t have those in Nashville, I’d only seen or heard of them through social media. Since I clearly have a slight caffeine problem, Erika knew she had to take me here.
Here is my preferred way of acquiring coffee, and in this order. If I’m going to have a cup, then I’ll either
- make it myself,
- buy from a local coffee shop, or
- go to Starbucks.
Larger chains like Caribou wouldn’t normally be on my radar. But, I am so, so glad that Erika took me. If I’m going to get a specialty latte or a more expensive drink, then I’m a mocha girl all the way. Guess how many mochas Caribou has on their menu? At least 4.
That alone turned me into a human heart-eye emoji. I loved trying the cold brew mocha the first time we went, and then the mint mocha the second time. This place alone could tempt me to move to Minneapolis, or any other place that has Caribou galore!
dinner at Peoples Organic
The day we arrived to Minneapolis, Erika planned to take her older sister to a John Mayer concert as a birthday present. She was worried to leave me alone, but there was no need! I had an absolute blast with her grandparents and great-aunt.
The four of us went to dinner at Peoples Organic, a local restaurant listed on HappyCow that serves delicious meals with whole ingredients. I ordered the Buddha Salad, and was not disappointed! If you’re ever in Minneapolis (or just passing through the airport–I saw another location at MSP) then you’ve got to check this place out!
day 2 // skyline views from the Stone Arch Bridge
Since my itinerary was cut a little bit short on day 1 after our overnight bus ride, we hit the ground running on day 2. The first thing we did once we had vegan pancakes, made by Erika’s grandma, and I’d been caffeinated was to head downtown.
The skyline and river views from the Stone Arch are some of the best in the entire city, and it’s 100% free to walk this pedestrian bridge or ride a bike in the designated lanes. If you’re bringing a car downtown instead of using Lyft or walking around from your accommodations, parking is just $1 per hour. I couldn’t imagine Nashville being so cheap on parking!
river views from Guthrie Theater
Just a short walk from the Stone Arch bridge, Guthrie Theater boasts an equally beautiful, and even more interesting view of the city. Because of its unique architecture, this building offers a one-of-a-kind observation deck and patio overlooking the river and some staples of Minneapolis history within their skyline. The best part? It’s free to enter and check out the views.
If you have time and love seeing shows, check out what’s on stage the night of your visit. Erika and I considered seeing Guys and Dolls, but decided against it after all the other sightseeing you’ll read about in this post! If you’re 30 or under, sign up for their 30 Below program. It carries no annual fee, and grants you access to discounted tickets. It took us all of 5 minutes. Besides, I never know when I’ll be back in Minneapolis!
lunch at The Herbivorous Butcher
Aside from the spring rolls from the Saturday farmer’s market in Madison, this was the most anticipated meal I ate on this trip. Erika told me about this all-vegan butcher shop when we lived together in Barcelona, and I knew I had to try it. That was over 2 years ago!
Naturally, when we visited this place, I had high expectations. You can order their plant-based meats and cheeses in bulk to take home, and they offer a few sandwiches for lunch every day. I got the Italian Sub, because they put 3 types of their meat on it with two cheeses, and a homemade spread. It was the best way for me to sample a variety of their products.
This sandwich was amazing. Point-blank. And, it was so filling that I had the rest for dinner. Even if you’re not vegan, any foodie has to try this place just for the ingenuity alone!
photos in front of all the murals
What’s a getaway without photos? There are numerous adorable murals in Minneapolis for great pics. Two are on the same block as The Herbivorous Butcher, and there are murals on almost every building in Uptown. Snap a couple of photos for the memories!
an hour at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Y’all already know how much I love art and museums. When I saw online that the Minneapolis Institute of Art is free to enter, I brought it up to Erika. We managed to get there an hour before they closed, and had a great time checking out all the pieces in their collection.
This museum is highly sophisticated, with an Impressionist wing (my favorite), and expansive areas each for Asian, African, Greek, Roman, American, and European art. And, of course, there’s an area for Minnesota artists. One of my favorite pieces was a jade carving of a traditional Chinese pavilion. It was absolutely stunning.
happy hour at Up-Down
Next on the agenda was for me to finally meet Erika’s mom, who lives in Uptown Minneapolis. We headed over to her condo, where I also met their two bulldogs, who are the cutest things ever. Don’t tell Teddy I said that!
After her mom got home from work, we headed over to Up-Down, this super-cool bar and arcade where Erika’s cousin, Lana, works. I got a honey crisp apple cider from Wisconsin, even though I normally don’t go for ciders. Once we finished our drinks, we headed down to the arcade, took some pictures in the photo booth, and played Ski-Ball. I even hit the 100 twice. I’ve still got it!
ice cream at Milkjam Creamery
During our conversation at Up-Down, Lana told us that Milkjam Creamery is just down the road and offers a few vegan flavors. All she had to say was “vegan ice cream,” and I was sold.
I typically try to only get foods and flavors I know I’ve never heard of before, and can’t get anywhere else. Sure, I know I love vegan dark chocolate ice cream. But, when I saw a flavor that includes peanuts, peanut butter, nutter butters, chili, and toasted coconut, I knew that was the winner.
It was delicious! The texture wasn’t as creamy as I would have liked, which you can get from coconut or cashew milk. But, I enjoyed it overall!
sunset at Bde Maka Ska
On the way back to her grandparents’ house in Minnetonka from Uptown, Erika and I stopped at Bde Maka Ska. This gorgeous lake was formerly named after a slave owner, and the name has been changed relatively recently.
Its new name is to honor the Native American group that lived in modern-day Minneapolis first. Not only were the sunset views with the sailboats on the water just stunning, but the experience was that much sweeter knowing its history.
day 3 // Mall of America
Day 2 included all of our downtown and uptown sightseeing, so day 3 was reserved for Mall of America. Let me preface this by saying that I live close to Opry Mills, the largest mall in the southeast. Even with my understanding of what a big mall is, I was impressed by how grandiose Mall of America is.
Honestly, I was expecting it to be even bigger, because I’d heard so much about it. I think my view was altered by coming from a place with a mall like Opry Mills. Regardless, this place literally has a theme park inside, a food court, full-service restaurants, too many retail stores to count, and so much to see that it’ll get overwhelming.
Naturally, our first stop was Caribou Coffee. Then, we did some walking, took some photos, and had lunch at the only all-vegan mall food court fast food restaurant I know of. I was so impressed. I ordered a fishless fish sandwich, which was my first since tofish and chips in London over two years ago. Yum!
farewell, Minneapolis and until next time, Erika!
Our itinerary worked out perfectly, because Mall of America is only a five-minute drive from the airport. After checking out a few stores in the mall, it was time for me to head on over to MSP. It was a bittersweet goodbye, but I know I’ll see Erika again soon!
I had a wonderful time on this trip that all started with a 3am wake-up call for a flight to Chicago, and know I’ll visit the Midwest again. You know it’s a good week when you get to see two states for the first time, and have three reunions with amazing people! That’s the beauty of travel–you never know what the next month will bring, and the friendly faces you’ll meet along the way.
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