After crossing Minnesota, we camped in the St Paul suburb of Woodbury, only a few miles west of the Wisconsin border. We called to try to pull ahead our appointment in Chicago, but with no luck. So we now had plenty of time for things between Minneapolis and Chicago.
Our first full day there was a rainy, dreary and chilly day so what better of a day to take in the Mall of America. Neither one of us had ever been there. They used to have cheap air packages to fly from Detroit to Minneapolis for just a day at the Mall, but we never felt compelled to visit but as long as we were in the area on an ugly day, we had to go. This place is huge. The Mall opened for business in 1992. It was built on the site of the former Metropolitan stadium in Bloomington, MN where the Minnesota Vikings used to play football and the Minnesota Twins played baseball. The Mall has a gross area under roof of 96 acres. About half of that is retail space and the other half in the center of the massive building is an indoor amusement park. There are over 500 stores. Outside the main structure of the Mall there now is a hotel of over 500 rooms and an Ikea. Many other large stores and hotels are also planned for outside the perimeter of the Mall. It receives 42 million visitors annually. It is the largest Mall in the United States and the second largest in North American behind only the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, owned by the same Canadian group that owns Mall of America. We were surprised to see that one of the four “anchor stores” was largely empty. Bloomingdale’s had left the Mall after 20 years leaving Sears, Macy’s and Nordstrom as the other anchors. Apparently no other large department store wants to go into that huge space and they will carve it up into smaller retail centers. We didn’t buy much of anything. It is pretty much the same higher priced mall stores that you can see in most any mall, except that Mall of American has virtually all of them. There is a great 360 degree panorama of the Mall in this link: http://bigeyeinthesky.com/NewPan/BigEye/BigEyeMoA.html
In Minneapolis, we visited a city park whose main feature is Minnehaha Falls, a 60 foot high waterfall on a creek near where it empties into the Mississippi River. The Twin Cities are in many ways defined by their waters, with several of those 10,000 Minnesota lakes within their borders.
We also visited the State Capitol in St Paul. It is undergoing a major renovation and all the people of the second floor which houses the offices of the Governor have moved temporarily to another building. As we were roaming the corridors and looking at portraits of former Governors, we came across the one of the wrestler turned politician, Jesse Ventura.
We caught up with another acquaintance from Gary’s High School days. We met Evelyn at a bowling alley of all places. But this bowling alley just happened also to be a brewery in a nice Minneapolis neighborhood. We had a good chat over dinner. It really is kind of cool that Gary seems to know people all across the country.
Somewhere we read that Wisconsin’s premier destination for cheese curds was not far over the state line so off we went on a road trip to Ellsworth. We didn’t arrive until later in the afternoon and the day’s fresh curds are brought out at 11AM. They still had some “squeak” but we should have gotten there earlier for the very freshest ones. In addition to the traditional cheddar cheese curds, they also had various spiced ones including ones impregnated with ghost peppers, one of the hottest peppers of the world. We tasted a sample of those. Yes, those ghost peppers are hot.
Near the state capitol building we also saw a huge and beautiful cathedral. So, what do you name a cathedral in St Paul? Well, it is St Paul’s Cathedral of course. I really wanted to see the inside so we stayed on for another day so I could go to a Mass. You have to marvel at how a church as impressive as this one ever is built.