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Mini-thoughts on Minneapolis

I’m in Minneapolis for a few days. Primarily as a judge for Exhibit A, an interactive design case study competition.

But also to enjoy the city. I’d last been here in 1997, and remembered it fondly. So I came out a few days early, and have done a fair amount of wandering and hanging out.

Some thoughts/observations/whathaveyou…

  • There are more people smoking in Minneapolis.
  • Minneapolis is *not* a dog city. This surprised me, because it’s culture/feeling is one of a dog city. But you just don’t see them that much.
  • Minneapolitans love their coffee, but they don’t like it very strong. There are coffeehouses everywhere, and I’ve had a variety of good coffees — but all brewed somewhat weakly.
  • Minneapolitans love their free wi-fi. Every coffeehouse seems to have it — even those that don’t promote it.
  • This is probably the best bicycle city I’ve been to in America. Flat, lots of bike lanes. It’s definitely part of the culture.
  • Minneapolis is inordinately proud of its habitr–errr–skyways. As a Californian, I have trouble understanding the good around creating a system that avoids The Outside. Isn’t that a sign? Shouldn’t you leave if you don’t like The Outside?
  • Minneapolis is a lot more ethnically/racially mixed than I had presumed.
  • Something’s amiss downtown. On a Thursday at 3pm, walking down Nicolette Mall (a kind of main drag), the place felt empty. And this is the heart of downtown.

    I’m sure more will come. But that’s enough for now.


    1. Peter: regarding MN’s habitrail like walkways, keep in mind that you are visiting during one of the warmest times of the year. The habitrails are for when the weather drops well below zero.

    2. a few thoughts to your thoughts…

      if you were going around lake of the isles or lake calhoun, you would likely see more dogs. but also: many people have backyards with fences. it’s possible to have a dog, give it access to the outdoors and not have it on a lead. (or since i’ve always had a dog in minneapolis/st. paul, maybe my view is different).

      try dunn bros. coffee. it should be stronger. or are they letting me down?

      minneapolis had big influx of hmong and vietnamese immigrants in the late 70s/early 80s, and of somalian immigrants over the last ten years. african-americans have also come to minneapolis from other spots in the midwest (like chicago). it’s possible that this has changed since your 1997 visit as well, but i don’t have numbers.

      downtown: nicollet mall (not -ette), when it has its farmers market on… wednesdays, i think? is really lively. it’s also worth seeing what things are like in the summer, when orchestra hall does sommerfest, or when loring park does something. it changes the feel of it. it’s possible, though, that this is less the case than it used to be (or than it is in my memory).

    3. oh and:

      wifi! i’m glad it arrived. a year ago, i tried in vain to find a lot of places that had it, and even as of late summer, i could only find a few. i’m glad to hear it’s proliferated… on the u of m campus last year, someone told me they removed wifi because of lack of interest. huh?

    4. Yeah the walkways are for the winters. Californians would be screaming for walkways in much warmer weather. But then thats why they live in CA isnt it.

    5. I’m not an idiot. I know it gets cold. My point, though I guess it was poorly stated, is that if you need habitrails to survive, well, you should probably live somewhere else.

      And, Molly — Dunn Brothers is as guilty of the not-strong coffee as the rest of them. Sorry!

    6. Having spend my youth in Des Moines, I remember the introduction of the skyways, which helped revitalize the downtown.

      Regarding the weather: yeah, I hate the snow and cold, and i hate the violent heat, but I miss the amazing spring where the lilacs came, and the unbelievable fall when everything turned flame red and purple and orange. In California the seasons are green and brown, or if you prefer raining and not raining, and I prefer that, but plenty of other folks rather like the shift from cold to hot and back.

      others people might wish or need to live somewhere near family, or near where their industry has settled (in Des Moines it was insurance and publishing). You can’t say so simply if you need a habit-trail then move because a. it’s not so simple and b. maybe it’s not even desirable. I’m surprised you forgot the cardinal rule: you are not the user!

      What I found interesting about the skyways, and still do, is they are actually really oddly pleasurable. Walking them between buildings, seeing pouring rain or snow or blistering sun you get a wonderful utterly primal sensation of protection, mixed with the added joy of being up high enough to look down on things. As a teen I remember walking endlessly the skyways with a friend, talking and dreaming of futures we might have. Hey, at least it gets one out and perambulating.

    7. The farmer’s market is on Thursdays. Looks like you were there at the end of April, it must not have started yet. In the summer time, Nicolett mall is very busy because everybody ditches the skyways.

      Your comments are interesting because I work in downtown Mpls and I was just in Los Angeles. Downtown LA is a ghost town at night compared to Minneapolis as far as nightlife is concerned. I was shocked. I guess Hollywood is where it’s at.

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