Although it may not seem like it this weekend, the city of St. Paul and the surrounding areas have a lot to offer visitors besides men on skates. The planners of this year’s Frozen Four have plenty of activities to keep fans busy, but I thought I’d offer a few others — just in case.
First, a note about navigating the Twin Cities area. My husband, USCHO’s own Todd D. Milewski, likes to think of the highway system around the Twin Cities as a hockey rink: go figure. At any rate, that does make navigating the cities a little easier.
If you look at a map, interstate highways 694 and 494 form the outside boards, while highways 35E and 35W are the blue lines. And as any [nl]Minnesotan will tell you, the adversarial twins, Minneapolis and St. Paul, are like opposing hockey teams — they really don’t agree on much except love of the game. Minneapolis is on the 35W blue line and 35E runs through St. Paul.
The full schedule of official events can be found at the website for the Xcel Energy Center, which, not coincidentally, is where (or next to where) all the official events will take place.
If you’ll be in town on Wednesday, and you aren’t planning to watch the teams practice (as my husband is!), I suggest you visit the [nl]Minnesota State Capitol. While I don’t think it’s as grand as its neighbor [nl]Wisconsin’s capitol, it’s still a very interesting building both historically and architecturally. More information is available at http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/capitol.htm.
A walk down the park in front of the capitol building will take you to the Minnesota History Center. You can learn all about what makes [nl]Minnesota great, and find out all sorts of facts to impress your friends at your next cocktail party. Admission is free.
On Thursday, of course, the real fun begins. The puck will drop at the first semifinal at 12:30 Central time. The second game doesn’t begin until 6:30. Believe me, once you’ve found a place to park in downtown St. Paul, you don’t want to drive again until you have to. Luckily, two of my favorite downtown sites are within easy walking distance of the Xcel Center, so you don’t have to sit and watch the Zamboni clean the ice between games.
The Landmark Center, in addition to being a very impressive building in its own right, houses several museums and historical exhibits. Information about the building, its occupants and tours can be found at www.landmarkcenter.org. One of the museums, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, is currently featuring an exhibit of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers. Admission to the permanent exhibits is free; however admission to the Rockwell exhibit is $4.
For those of you who, like me, like interactive museums, the Science Museum of Minnesota is right across the street from the Xcel. The exhibits include the Mississippi River Gallery (you can actually see the river out the windows of the museum), dinosaurs, the human body and, my personal favorite, the Experiment Gallery, where visitors get to play.
The museum also has an omnitheater, currently showing the perils of an ill-fated Antarctic expedition, and a 3-D laser show. Admission package prices vary, depending on what you want to see. Of course, if you don’t want to pay at all, there is a several-story kinetic art display in the lobby featuring bubbles traveling through clear pipes. Take my word for it, you’ll be mesmerized.
On Friday, after you attend the U.S. College Hockey Online Town Meeting, head down to the Mall of America, the United States’ largest shopping mall, in Bloomington. I know what you’re thinking — “I’m going to St. Paul for hockey, not shopping” — but it’s more than a mall and amusement park. It’s an experience.
If you’ve never been there, plan to spend the rest of the day. Just walking through the entire mall can take several hours, and that doesn’t include any shopping at all. If you think about the Twin Cities metro area as a hockey rink (see above), then the Mall of America is the penalty box.
Since the championship isn’t until 6 p.m. on Saturday, why not see some sites in the other Twin City, Minneapolis?
The sculpture garden (featuring the world-famous Spoonbridge and Cherry) is open at 6 a.m. and admission is free. Check out the sculpture garden’s page. For more art, visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, or to catch all the sites without having to drive to find them, take a trolley tour for only $5.