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48 Hours Project: Car-free in the Twin Cities

Yes, you will be using Nice Ride MN with this itinerary
Yes, you will be using Nice Ride MN with this itinerary

For the third installment of our 48 Hours series, we came up with a plan emphasizing multi-modal transportation. Meaning, bikes, buses, and trains -- but no cars; don't wimp out and cab it! There will also be stops featuring unique food and local businesses along the way.

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FRIDAY

5:30 p.m. Once you've landed at MSP, loiter near the Larry Craig Memorial Bathroom (Concourse G, Gate C11) to honor the WC where former Senator Craig used the toe-tap method to solicit sex, ending his political career. Whoops. A photo here makes for a great souvenir.

5:45 p.m. Next, scamper to the light rail -- a fast, quiet train from Bloomington to Minneapolis. Stick your earbuds in and enjoy the ride.

6:30 p.m. Check into Le Méridien Chambers on Hennepin Avenue, downtown's most hectic thoroughfare. Chambers is the United States' first luxury art hotel, with 200 works of art from the private collection of hotel owner Ralph Burnet on display. Chambers also sits in the center of downtown's entertainment district, littered with theaters, bars, clubs, upscale restaurants, and three-sheets-to-the-wind revelers.

8 p.m. Once you've soaked in downtown, stroll to Bombay Bistro on Ninth and Marquette, a family-owned Indian restaurant whose dishes define delicious. From aaloo mater to tikka masala and [insert your meat of choice here] vindaloo, they have it all. The food is (if you wish it) so spicy it'll make your nose weep, and the naan is to die for.

9 p.m. Walk to First Avenue, Minneapolis's world-famous, beautifully grungy music venue, and see whoever is on the marquee. Somebody awesome plays here every weekend, and tickets range from $15 to $35. Once a Greyhound Bus Station, First Ave is reportedly brim-filled with ghosts. (Ask someone in a black and white T-shirt about the bathroom ghost, who hanged herself in a stall decades ago.)

11:30 p.m. Not tired? Belly filled with Red Bull and Jägermeister? Hit the North Loop (another easy traipse away) for dancing at Jetset, a gay bar on First Street that's always bumping as the clock nears midnight.

 

SATURDAY

10:30 a.m. Whoa, that's some headache. Shotgun a gallon of water, then stumble from your hotel with your shades on and find a Nice Ride station on Hennepin. Nice Ride is Minneapolis's bike-share service, and a one-day pass on these comfortable, neon-green bikes is only $6. Once you're rolling, Nice Ride charges by the half-hour, so trade your bike in often to avoid fees. Use the map attached to each station to determine your route, and take advantage of downtown's bike lanes.

11 a.m. For breakfast, pedal onward to the farmers' market in downtown's historic Mill City 'hood, a rise above the Mississippi River beside the Guthrie Theater. This market ain't cheap, and it's a little bourgeois, but there's excellent food here. Snatch a cold press and an egg sandwich, then sit by the river and watch it roll by, or browse the market's crafts and offerings.

12 p.m. Dislodge a brand-new Nice Ride, then pedal up Gold Medal Park's spiral walkway to the center of its 32-foot mound. At Gold Medal's summit, there are benches and grass you can rest on as you admire a 360-degree view of downtown Minneapolis and the Northeast neighborhoods across the river. Especially beautiful is the Stone Arch Bridge, a former railway now devoted to walkers and cyclists.

12:30 p.m. Nap on the grass at Gold Medal Park.

1:45 p.m. Our next stop is Big Brain Comics, a comic-book shop stacked with weeklies, graphic novels, action figures, manga, movies, and assorted oddities, including back issues of The Believer and U.K. magazines like Clint. Gently page through the comics you find. Venture outside the Marvel and DC realm with help from Big Brain's knowledgeable staff. Walk out with a pile of books.

3 p.m. How's that hangover? Regulate it with a Nice Ride across the Stone Arch (glimpsed earlier from Gold Medal) to the northeast side of Minneapolis. Thanks to 2011's Surly Bill, Northeast has become the city's de facto brew district, with craft-beer taprooms from Indeed Brewing, Dangerous Man, and 612Brew. Map a route between the breweries, and drown your fragile senses in a craft beer, such as 612Brew's Mary Ann or Dangerous Man's Cream Ale.

7 p.m. Hold steady on your Nice Ride, young soldier. It's dinnertime at Sen Yai Sen Lek, a family-owned Thai restaurant on Central Avenue. The Khao Soi, a curried Chiang Mai egg-noodle dish, with cilantro, pickled mustard greens, shallots, and a meat (or meat replacement, like mock dock or tofu) of your choice is a great option. Be sure to jack up the spice level to maximum intensity.

9 p.m. If you're in the mood, see a movie at St. Anthony Main Theater, a five-screen cinema on the riverfront. The Minneapolis International Film Festival is hosted here every spring, and there's often a unique indie screening, thanks to the theater's in-house Film Society of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. But the latest $250 million-budgeted blockbuster is screening there, too.

12 a.m. End your night with a walk along the river. Grab a drink at Pracna on Main if you aren't sleepy yet, or laugh at the gaping "Vagina Tree" stationed at the southeast entrance of the Stone Arch Bridge.

 

SUNDAY

48 Hours Project: Car-free in the Twin Cities
Ed Neaton

10 a.m. These aren't the Twin Cities for nothing. Today's your time to appreciate St. Paul, Minneapolis's underrated buddy. Take the 94 bus, from the stop outside Block E on Sixth Street and Hennepin Avenue, into downtown St. Paul. The city was once a haven for gangsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger, but now it's dead-calm (unless there's a Wild game or a concert at the Xcel). Don't let that hinder your appreciation of St. Peezy, though. It has plenty to offer--especially on a beautiful Sunday.

11 a.m. Once downtown, enjoy breakfast at Meritage, a French restaurant on St. Peter Street with simply outstanding food. Sit in the classically furnished dining room, or on Meritage's patio, as you drain coffee after coffee. The bœuf et œufs (steak and eggs), served with potatoes and toast, is excellent, as is the smoked trout frittata. For dessert, order the vanilla-scented brioche French toast. Holy amaze-balls.

1 p.m. After you've strolled downtown, take the 63 bus up to Grand Avenue, the city's shopping district, with a melange of chains and local boutiques. Focus your efforts on Common Good Books, a bookstore on the corner of Snelling and Grand that's owned by Prairie Home Companion's dulcet-toned boss, Garrison Keillor. GK's influence is all over this store, from the book-section titles (one is named "GOD") to the recommendations.

1:45 p.m. Around the corner from CGB is the simply named St. Paul Cheese Shop, where you can gorge on stinky gouda.

2:15 p.m. Fancy clothes? The intersection of Selby and Snelling, a quick walk away, has plenty of vintage stores to satiate. Everyday People is a well-curated, locally owned shop that always has items worth buying, especially if you like vintage polos and Member's Only jackets. Walk out with a new outfit.

3:30 p.m. St. Paul has Nice Ride, too. Nab another 24-hour pass, and pedal down Summit Avenue's bike lane, river-bound. Summit is one of the Twin Cities' prettiest streets, with well-maintained Victorians on both sides and plenty of foliage for shade.

48 Hours Project: Car-free in the Twin Cities

4 p.m. Pedal until Summit stops, where it meets the Mississippi River, and climb down to the (legally off-limits) cliff Overlook for a unique POV on the flowing waters. Say "good afternoon" to the dreadlocked, reggae-listening hippies smoking doobs in the bushes. Read the book you purchased at CGB.

5:30 p.m.
By now you've surely amassed a hunger. Pedal back up Summit to Fasika, for a smorgasbord of amazing Ethiopian food on University Avenue. The Misir Key Wot, a plate of lentils cooked in Berbere sauce that's spicy and insanely scrumptious, is highly recommended.

7 p.m. If you aren't suffering from bitchy Sunday exhaustion, stop into the Turf Club a few blocks from Fasika. Since the 1990s, the Turf has drawn the small-time indie bands that pass through the Twin Cities, as well as local up-and-comers. End your 48 hours by downing a cheap shot and flailing around on the Turf's dance floor. And don't forget to visit the Clown Lounge in the basement.

10 p.m. Pass out on the 94 bus home.


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