By Chris Parker
By Jesse Marx
By John Baichtal
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Jesse Marx
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Tatiana Craine
By Judy Keen
The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary feels like a secret and wonderful place as well. The wild flowers are all identified by plaques, but finding them all still requires careful detective. Additionally, there are picnic and swimming areas for warm weather, and a golf course as well as places that are just right for tubing, skiing, and sledding when the snow comes.
Best Park in St. Paul
Como Park, Pavilion, Zoo, and Conservatory
Midway Parkway between
Lexington and Hamline avenues
There's a treasure in St. Paul. Under the all-encompassing name Como Park, you can find trails for biking or in-line skating, a lake with canoes and paddleboats to rent, gardens, and a golf course. At the Pavilion you can find a concessions stand to indulge an appetite, recreational equipment to rent, and concerts and plays to watch from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission to the zoo is free, and its small scale makes it easier for young children to find animals and a great deal of fun for everyone to watch them. The monkeys never fail to amuse. And when it seems that winter will never end, come to the conservatory and smell the fresh and fragrant flowers.
Best Local Fun on Wheels
Buses to the Downtowns
MTC info line: (612)341-4287
At some time, perhaps the next time you have something to go to in one of the downtowns, try taking the bus. Of course, neither St. Paul nor Minneapolis have to be the destinations; riding the bus around a busy city can be exciting in itself.
It might also be a fine alternative to parking garages and traffic jams. Instead of investing time and energy finding, entering, and exiting parking garages, see how efficient a stroll from the bus stop can be.
The bus ride can also be a good way to unwind from big events and ward off big fun letdown. A bus ride can soothe frazzled post-event nerves, and gently bring the outing to an end. The turmoil of a parking garage has set many a young child, and overtaxed parent, past the brink. Take it easy. Take the bus.
Best Butcher Shop
Meats and Deli
4307 Upton Ave. S.
For those who have tasted the difference a fresh, organic turkey can make on Thanksgiving, there is no going back; the flavor and tenderness cannot be replicated by frozen birds. Besides, how many of us have spent the frantic early hours of that fourth Thursday in November trying to speed up the thawing process?
The service and quality at Linden Hills Meats is outstanding year-round, but at holiday time everything is exceptional. With humor and professionalism, the staff offer suggestions, give guidance, and make shopping a pleasure.
Best Place to Tickle Your Nose
674 Grand Ave.
Relish the aromas that permeate the shop, and witness your child's sense of smell become highly advanced and deliciously developed. Renowned for their cinnamon, Penzey's seeks to provide the highest quality of spices available by traveling all around the world. Grinding and blending are done on the premises, and buyers, especially children, are encouraged to learn an appreciation for the difference freshness and quality can make.
The vanilla sugar is especially wonderful when used to make cocoa from scratch; the cinnamon can "transform French toast" and the barbecue spice rub has won fans around the country.
Gift boxes are available, as is a catalog. Look for the recipes.
Best Ethnic Restaurant
Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit
2300 University Ave. NE
Sometimes walking into a restaurant is like crashing a great party. And few parties are better than the ones with accordions.
At the Gasthof, the beer is cold, the portions huge, the atmosphere friendly, and the singing loud. Standing outside, you're just a family in a parking lot in northeast Minneapolis, but once inside, you are in Bavaria. The world falls away, and you are swept to a place where dining out is a joyous group experience. The wood carving, the lederhosen, the jovial faces, and the staff's authentic costumes begin the transformation, while the food and music complete the process.
Come prepared to eat, laugh, and sing. You may even have the opportunity to dance. Tables are large, sturdy, and very child-friendly. Services is efficient, funny, and helpful.