If any of you readers are like me, you find yourself holed up inside from October to March (and let’s be honest about it, sometimes April). The snow, the ice, the wind; it should all just truly disappear. I have spent many a year curled up inside my house sipping coffee, snuggling in blankets, reading books, and watching my favorite movies all in an effort to avoid the terrible world that is winter. I make minimal trips to the store, and try to get from my car to the safety of home as quick as possible. Yes, I admit it, I am a closet hermit throughout the winter. To continue in my theme of honesty, it gets really boring just sitting around even though my Instagram makes it look otherwise.
We had a friend from El Salvador visit this last week and I realized I can’t have her sit indoors with me and just wait out this dreaded cold. We’ve got to show her something! Our friend is from a HOT climate and has never been in weather colder than 60 degrees. What can Minnesota offer someone from paradise? In my effort to help her enjoy her time, I found myself inspired. Minnesota can offer a lot. The leafless trees are not barren but tall and haunting. The snow is not blinding, but glistening, The ice is mesmerizing rather than thick and cumbersome. The wind, well I still hate the wind, but you get the idea. Luckily, this time of year offers the best of two worlds. You can still experience some of the beauty that winter has to offer, but it’s starting to feel like spring. Take advantage of this amazing time of year before it’s gone!
This weekend was an opportunity to embrace the cold & just have fun!
On Saturday we pulled on our boots and went trekking outdoors. Where did we end up, you ask?
It was one of my favorite days of this entire winter! The Minnehaha Falls are a great spot to visit in the summer, but it’s much more mesmerizing in the winter! The falls are surrounded by gates and fences that say closed, or no trespassing. They even state that it is illegal to walk down to the falls in the winter, so this activity is not for those afraid of criminal activity ;). For me, being a goody goody in most of my life, I welcomed the mischief! A lot of Twin Cities natives know about this spot, but growing up in northern Minnesota I can say that not everyone knows this is there! It wasn’t until I moved to the Twin Cities for college that I found this gem. It is well worth the adventure.
We had planned to do the falls in a half hour, but once we got there we realized there is much more exploring to be done. If you are taking a trip to the Twin Cities and want to visit Minnehaha Falls, I would plan for an hour and a half. The falls are located in the sprawling Minnehaha Park which is filled with walking trails and trees, and borders the beautiful Mississippi River. We Minnesotans are hearty, and so many people were out walking their dogs and jogging in the cold. Once you get to the falls, there are many things you can do. Be a rule follower and just appreciate from the bridge and walking paths above the falls, or break the rules and jump the fence. (*Disclaimer- I made the personal decision to visit the falls close up, as a lot of visitors do, but I am not telling people to engage in criminal behavior, or put themselves in harms way by walking out on thin ice.)
Once you are down at the level of the falls, you can climb around on the frozen stream and walk right up to the spot where the falls have frozen in place. If you are lucky and get there on a day when it’s relatively quiet, you can hear the open water flowing beneath you and down behind the frozen part of the falls.
Pause for a photo op and then get ready to get messy. Oh, did I mention that you shouldn’t wear anything you aren’t willing to let get dirty? If you are facing the falls, there is an opening on the right side that is said to have never frozen shut. Climb up the hill directly below that spot, or jump over the fence by the staircase and walk across the hill to get there (this is the messy part…. we went on a day when the ice was melting and got muddy)! The opening takes you into a magical wonderland behind the falls. If Narnia were a real place, I think it would be located here. Depending on the time of year and time of day you meander behind the falls, you can see the ice illuminated in brilliant blues and greens. It is a spectacular sight to behold, and if you saw nothing but that, the trip would be well worth it.
The falls are beautiful, but no day trip to Minneapolis is complete without completely stuffing your face full of the amazing cuisine this city has to offer. So here is a step by step of how to plan your day.
A day trip for that inbetween time; When It’s not fully winter and not fully spring
1. Spend your morning at Minnehaha Park and Falls taking in the brilliance.
2. Grab some lunch! When you are ready, take a 15 minute drive further into Minneapolis and visit one of my FAVORITE restaurants that is sure to help you warm up! What restaurant am I talking about? None other than The Quang (located on Nicollet Ave. AKA, Eat Street). Order a steaming bowl of Pho (pronounced FUH) which is a Vietnamese soup filled with yummy yummy goodness. This soup is all about the broth, and in my attempts to satisfy the craving at home, I can say that The Quang’s broth cannot be replicated! In that broth sits herbs, rice noodles, beef strips and/or meatballs (you can order other meats but this is my preference), and add fresh bean sprouts, basil, and hot peppers. To add even more flavor, squirt some hoisin and siracha sauce in. You will not regret eating this tasty dish, and if you are like me, you will start craving it from the second you step out the restaurant door.
3. Did you save room for dessert? Bundle up and take a block and a half walk down to Glam Doll Donuts! Step back in time in this retro themed bakery. Order a donut or two, or ten ;), in any flavor and I promise you will enjoy. They have the amazing ability to make their donuts light and airy yet dense. I don’t know how one can accomplish that goal! I also enjoyed a warm Chai tea when I was there, but I must warn you, if you aren’t ready for a very authentic Indian Chai taste you might be surprised. What did I taste in that chai to make it so different from others? Cardamom, and a lot of it! If you are up for something a little bit different than the norm, then you will thoroughly enjoy your chai.
4. By this time it might be 2:00pm and you far away travelers are thinking of heading home, but don’t! Take a quick jaunt over to Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington. During this time of year they teach their visitors how to tap trees, collect the sap, and boil it to make syrup! My husband and I spend time with his family in the sugar maples in Grand Rapids every year and it’s such a fun activity. It makes you feel like you are stepping back in time and are living off the lands like the natives did! It takes a lot of time and sap to make syrup (I’m talking hours and gallons) so you may not be able to sample your own batch at the nature center, but they always have some for you to try.