Traveling the Land of 10,000 Lakes & Fargo, North Dakota
Waking up in the middle of the corn in Iowa we were again very excited. Today we would be going to the largest city that we had yet to travel to. Before getting to Minneapolis & St. Paul we had to make one stop first in Rochester, MN. It was only a few hours from where we were in Iowa to the border. Southern Minnesota didn’t look much different than Iowa did. More or less it was farmland as far as you could see. Besides the corn there was 1 winery that we did stop by, Four Daughters. In addition to wine they also had their own cider, which was a nice addition. After a quick sample and lunch in their parking lot we drove on to Rochester.
Rochester, MN is famous for mostly one thing….the world famous Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic is consistently ranked as the number one hospital in the U.S. and always very highly ranked in world ratings as well. The clinic alone employs more than 60,000 people, which is a lot for a town the size of Rochester. We drove into town, parked Bubbles and started to walk around. We immediately could tell that we were in a town that is dominated by hospitals as every other person walking the streets had some type of scrubs or doctors jacket on. Most of the downtown buildings were either Mayo Clinic buildings or one of the few other hospitals in town. (side note – the Mayo Clinic was named after William Mayo who arrived in town to treat Minnesota Civil War soldiers) It was pretty neat to see almost an entire towns population dressed in hospital garb. As we walked around we found a few tourist shops and after buying a few postcards and talking to the shopkeeper we found out that Rochester, MN was named after our hometown of Rochester, NY. He also informed us that almost every if not every Rochester in the USA is named after Rochester, NY. We thought that was pretty cool. After another hour or so of wandering around Rochester we hopped back into Bubbles and drove to our destination for the night; The Mystic Lake Casino RV Park in Prior Lake, just outside of Minneapolis. (Casino RV Parks are generally very nice and walk able to the casino – win win for us!)
We woke up the next morning after a beautiful sleep ready to hit the town. It was about a 40-minute drive to downtown Minneapolis from Prior Lake. I’m pretty sure the Minneapolis/St. Paul area has more highways surrounding the city than any other town that we had ever been to. After searching for a while we finally found parking. There is a crazy amount of construction happening right now as the city gets ready for the upcoming Super Bowl this winter. We walked around for a bit trying to find an area with stores or restaurants but to no avail. Finally we found a Minneapolis tourism center. After speaking with them we found out that downtown Minneapolis does not actually have that much of a tourism area. We were told to enjoy the bike paths around the city and specific neighborhoods to go to for shopping and dining, so that is just what we did. First we did find the Guthrie Theatre, which had amazing views of the Mississippi River. From there we walked a few blocks away to the Minnesota Vikings stadium. Just like the Green Bay Packers stadium before it made our Bills stadium look like a glorified high school stadium. The Viking stadium is a brand new all glass building. It is designed to look like the hull of a Viking ship, which it does, and its awesome! From the stadium we got into Bubbles and drove to Matt’s Bar which is famous for the Juicy Lucy cheeseburger. If you have watched any sort of food/burger show this is something that you have for sure seen. Matt’s Bar is a dive bar but it does have (or they claim to have) the first Juicy Lucy. A Juicy Lucy is a cheeseburger with cheese on the inside of the burger. We walked in and sat down. All they really have to eat at Matt’s is the Juicy Lucy and fries, which of course we ordered. After a few sips of our beers the burgers arrived and damn they were good. It is not in the nicest neighborhood and it’s not the nicest bar that you will go to but the burger there was excellent.
Next up for the day was to tour the Minneapolis bike path system. The bike path system in Minneapolis is huge (as is the city itself). You can reach almost every neighborhood or spot that you need to get to on a bike path without having to negotiate a city road. It’s pretty neat. We started our ride in the southeast corner of the city in Minnehaha Regional Park (famous for their waterfall). From there we rode north along the Mississippi river before heading west on a path that follows an old rail bed through the center of the city. We reached the western edge of the city stopping for a water and coffee before heading back to the car. In total we covered 20 miles and when looking back at it we probably should have ridden first before eating a huge burger and fries but all in all it was a great day. We drove back to our casino RV park and called it a night.
The next day we woke up and were headed to Minneapolis’ twin of St. Paul. After a 45-minute drive and what seemed like another 45 minutes finding parking (visitor parking is extremely hard to find downtown for a vehicle that can’t fit in a parking garage) we finally parked. First up for the day was to visit the Minnesota Capital building. The building itself was very impressive located on a hill overlooking a good portion of the city. It was the largest capital building that we had seen so far. After wandering around for a bit by ourselves we joined a tour. This was by far the most entertaining capital tour that we had been on yet. The tour guide liked to throw in jokes seemingly every other sentence and really gave a few kids in the group a funny hard time. From the capital building we walked around downtown St. Paul before finding a great sushi place for lunch. From there we drove to where most visitors who come to the Twin Cities probably visit at least once while they are there, the Mall of America. The mall itself is just huge. It is the largest mall in the USA so of course it would be huge. We entered through the south side and almost immediately walked right into the theme park in the middle of the mall. This theme park had everything from roller coasters to log flumes and everything in between. We walked around looking at all the rides before settling on a ride called “Soaring”. We had gone on this ride at Disney World a few months before and had a great time so we had to go on it again here. Basically the ride picks you up in a chair and places you in front of an Imax screen as you soar through the clouds. As we had spent a great deal of time in Canada on our trip so far we chose “Soaring over Canada”. It was a blast again and we would recommend anyone either in Disney or in Minnesota to go on the ride. We then toured the mall walking 3 of its 4 stories doing a little shopping as well as having dinner at one of its many restaurants. From there we drove back to our casino RV park and after walking over and having a drink at the casino and trying to win a car for $1 called it quits for the night.
The next day we woke up early as we had a long day of driving in front of us. Our destination for the night (and the next few nights) was Winnipeg, Manitoba with a stop in Fargo, ND on the way. From Minneapolis it took about 4 hours to get to Fargo, which is right over the border from Minnesota. North Dakota was the first new state for me in about 10 years and 1 of 3 that I had yet to travel to so it was a pretty big deal not only for me but for Julie as well. I’m not sure I can name another friend that has been to North Dakota. This though should change because surprisingly Fargo was a great little city. We parked Bubbles and walked over to the main strip of downtown. Fargo turned out to be great as it kept some of its old western charm in its brick buildings coupled with being a college town (its home to North Dakota State University). There was a great mix of stores, restaurants, coffee shops and bars in old brick buildings with not an empty storefront in sight. We stopped in for a coffee before wandering the downtown for a few hours. If we had not already booked a site in Winnipeg we probably would have at least spent the night in Fargo. It was just a really cool little town. As we still had 3-4 hours to go before getting to Winnipeg we hopped back into Bubbles and headed north back to Canada.
Next up…..We tour Winnipeg, Central Manitoba and Bismarck, ND