Myriad possibilities await to the north of the Northland
As summer heats up, the cooler climes of the Upper Midwest make St. Paul, Minnesota, an enticing summer destination for families or a couples’ getaway. The 6.5-hour drive from Kansas City is a road trip that can be accomplished in one day. En route, stop at Van Dee’s Ice Cream Shop in Johnston, Iowa, north of West Des Moines and a short hop from I-35 for a cool treat or Walk’n Tacos, bags of Doritos filled with taco fillings. Once in St. Paul, the city has no shortage of fun places for explorers to eat, drink, and find adventure.
Anyone fascinated by criminal minds may want to investigate dangerous outlaws like Prohibition-era gangster John Dillinger, who helped to shape St. Paul’s history in the 1930s. Costumed guides assume local gangster identities and share tales of their unlawful lives and the era’s criminal justice system. A tour includes a visit to the Landmark Center, formerly the Saint Paul courthouse. $6/person. Two-week advance reservation required. LandmarkCenter.org/visit/tours.htm
Get Down and Dine in Lowertown
The Lowertown Dining District is a hip, neighborly section of downtown with a wide selection of eateries, bars and proximity to CHS field, home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team. For adventurous eaters, try Saint Dinette (SaintDinette.com) with French-meets-Midwest dishes that include octopus with chorizo, duck tartar, fried smelt, shrimp and grits, and beignets. Big River Pizza’s (BigRiverPizza.com) wood-fired oven cooks up pies such as Proud Mary with classic tomato, mozzarella, and basil, the self-explanatory Bacon Jam Slam, a Red Rooster breakfast pizza, and more traditional offerings. Oxcart Ale House (OxcartAleHouse.com) serves pub-style eats like housemade sausages, burgers, salads, and cheese curds, and, of course, beer. Head for the rooftop patio with views of CHS Field, Mississippi River bluffs, and the State Capitol.
St. Paul and Minneapolis are teeming with local breweries to tour. Founded three decades ago, Summit Brewing Company (SummitBrewing.com) draws guests on Fridays and Saturdays, 4 to 9 pm, in Ratskeller Hall. Grab a bite from onsite food trucks. The brewery offers free hour-long tours (10 people per group) from Tuesday through Saturday. Advance reservations required. Bad Weather Brewing (BadWeatherBrewery.com), near Summit Brewing in the West Seventh Street area, is a taproom with house beers and sodas. Local food trucks serve their specialties Thursdays through Saturdays. Diehard craft beer lovers may book a guided tour on a luxury coach bus to area breweries through Twin Cities Brewery Tours (TCBreweryTours.com).
Take Me to the River
St. Paul’s extensive riverfront provides ample opportunity to explore the outdoors and wildlife in the 72-mile Mississippi National River & Recreation Area (NPS.gov/miss/index.htm). Camping, fishing, boating, geocaching, hiking, and canoeing are only a few activities to enjoy on an expedition. National park rangers at the Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center and Mississippi River Visitors Center can provide guidance on scenic sites and park resources.
St. Paul and its bigger sister city Minneapolis have no shortage of arts and culture to discover. “What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones” runs at the Minnesota History Center (MinnesotaHistoryCenter.org) through August 14. Family-friendly exhibition Blooming Butterflies offers visitors a total immersion experience at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory (ComoZooConservatory.org) through September 5. Listed on the National Register of Historical Buildings, the historic Cathedral of Saint Paul is open Tuesday – Friday for guided tours. Completed in 1891, the James J. Hill House (Sites.MNHS.org/historic-sites/james-j-hill-house) tour gives visitors a glimpse of life during the Gilded Age for Hill, who built the Great Northern Railway, his family, and servants in the five-floor red sandstone mansion.
Rest and Relax
For travelers that wish to be pampered, stay at The Saint Paul Hotel (SaintPaulHotel.com). The historic hotel’s scenic views of the Mississippi River are unmatched. Whether staying in one of 254 rooms, including 31 luxury suites, the hotel staff excel at providing premium service for guests. Conveniently, the hotel is near the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport, Mall of America, Minnesota Children’s Museum, Science Museum, Ordway Theatre, Cathedral of St. Paul, and other attractions.
These destinations for dining, drinking, learning and entertainment are only a few of the many options available in St. Paul. Possibilities abound for outdoor jaunts, romantic escapades, family adventures and enough material to fill a class paper on “How I Spent My Summer.” Get ready to pack the bag and hit the road.