Minneapolis Box Score
(Ratings employ the Joe.My.God. five-star scale)
Airport - 4.0 Stars
Minneapolis-St. Paul International feels brand new and well planned, with trams to the terminals and logical gate layout. However, a big point off for having the recorded announcements done by a breathy British woman. Gate announcements done by Miss Moneypenny seem like a painfully Midwestern stab at sophistication. Otherwise, a good travel experience. I'm down with MSP, yeah you know me.
Transit - 4.5 Stars
The new light-rail took us to the door of the Mall Of America for only $1.50, a incredible bargain for a 40 minute trip. We were so happy with the service that we took it back to the airport the next day, saving over $35 on our arrival taxi trip to downtown. Taxi service is spotty and best reserved by phone, as hailing cabs outside the core of downtown is chancey. We waited 30 minutes for a cab on one occasion, an outrage by New York standards. Still, the cabbies WERE chatty and amiable, a nice change. One even gently teased me for naively referring to the skyways as "those people...crossing over...thingies." We never used the bus system but Minneapolis appears to have a robust service, judging by the numbers of buses and riders we saw on most downtown corners.
Downtown - 4.5 stars
Minneapolis is sparkling clean, easily navigable on foot, with broad sidewalks and logical street signage. My only quibble is that since almost all retail (food, services, shops) is located up in the skyways (enclosed bridges that connect all the downtown buildings), a little more direction to those stores might be nice. I walked around for almost an hour, trying to find a barbershop. But I actually enjoyed the walk, so again, just a quibble here. Best store name: Typo, the deli next to the newspaper's offices.
Mall Of America - 2.0 Stars
Over-hyped, over-built and over-crowded...but you knew I'd say that, didn't you? I'm not sure what my expectations for "America's Largest Mall" were, but I think I expected more than a fairly standard suburban mall wrapped around a C-grade amusement park. Granted, the mall portion is massive and three levels, but the stores comprise your standard mall store inventory, with some local flavor mixed in. There was a cheese store, of course. There was a Vikings store, of course. There were also stores devoted to fly fishing, camping supplies, Lake Wobegon, and an entire store devoted to glass and plastic farm animal figurines. Add the dozen or so nightmarish, Laura Ashley-ish, crocheted toaster-cozy-ish stores and the fact that the entire mall is carpeted and you get the effect of a big ole jam and jelly show. With rollercoasters.
The Saloon - 3.5 Stars
The Saloon is a fairly big space, with multiple rooms (video, game, disco, patio). It somehow retains a pub feel, despite its size. Interestingly, even on Saturday night, everybody on the packed dance floor kept their shirts on. Youngish crowd, average age about 25-30. Here, I was recognized by local blogger and young hottie, Aaron. We chatted for a few minutes in front of the enclosed elevated shower stall where young men take nude soapy showers for the audience. The Saloon also has a rather suspicious looking hotel above the club.
The Gay 90's - 4.0 Stars
The Gay 90's is huge. Massive. Seven bars, 3 dance floors, 2 drag shows, even a restaurant. Locals told me that the place is getting "oppressively straight" on the weekends, but I found a wildly diverse crowd, lots of black lesbians, queens, pretty boys, AND straight couples. The 90's might be the most diverse gay bar I've ever been to. Hip-hop in the front room, techno in the bigger disco. I was particularly entranced by one tall black queen in the hip-hop room, who with his enormously oversized glasses and short blond afro was giving the room some old-school Grace Jones fierceness, working a black veil and a huge turned-up collar. Very smiley crowd. On my second visit, a young thuggish black dyke came up to me, asking "Say what?" I said, "What." She walked away, satisfied. Oh, and there's a bar inside The 90's called "The Men's Room", which, logically, must be accessed from a door inside the men's room. Porn video was found inside. Sweet.
The Minneapolis Eagle - 2.0 Stars
The Eagle is a standard railroad-style (that's a NYC housing term, look it up) pub. Not much happening here on either night I visited, most of the patrons seemed to gather on their small outdoor patio. They did have a great jukebox and a very hot short bartender named Dave. Other than that, I give the Eagle an "eh".
The Bolt/Underground - 2.5 Stars
Attached to the Minneapolis Eagle and from the same owner, the Bolt is two levels. On the ground floor you find a low-style video bar with a few screens and one video projector. Good tunes the one time I was in there, but as in most video bars, the crowd is glued to the screen, rather than each other. Downstairs is Bolt Underground, a much larger room with a continuation of the video theme, only with slightly more naughty (Guys Gone Wild, on the night I was there) videos. The Underground also has medium-sized dancefloor, no one on it when I was there. Could be fun, but I didn't anybody having any.
The Mississippi River - 5.0 Stars
Wide, fast, with waterfalls and impressive dams and locks. What's not to like? I was amused to see a huge operation take place to open and close one of the locks. Bells, sirens, horns, flashing lights. Millions of gallons of water drained, the hundred-feet high doors open.....and out comes a tiny, tiny ski boat, its two passengers sheepishly waving at the hundreds of tourists lining the rails above the locks. Hilarious. Lots of vigorous waving back ensued.