Best of

the Twin Cities

BEST APPLE ORCHARD

Sponsel's Minnesota Harvest

Living in a climate like ours, one clings to rites of renewal: shoveling the first snowfall in late afternoon darkness, taking that brisk first walk around Lake Calhoun in the spring, visiting the Minnesota State Fair with its echoes of back-to-school dread. To work off those corn dog love handles, one should add a leisurely stroll through one of the many apple orchards that surround the metro area. Sponsel's Minnesota Harvest, two miles southwest of Jordan, offers a cool fall weekend's worth of activities. A horse-drawn trailer ferries you to the orchard where over two-dozen varieties of apples, including Haralson, Connell Red, Fireside, and Honeycrisp, are waiting to be plucked. (A heaping bag will put you back about $7.) But don't just grab and run. Lay down a blanket and grab the wine, cheese, and crackers from your backpack, sit for a spell under the trees, and toast the last days of September. Dreamy Hill Trails also offers horseback rides through the orchards and trails throughout the year, with small-horse carriages for the kiddies. With your bags full, it's back to the Apple Lodge for live music with your wild rice soup, brats, dumplings, tarts, and turnovers. Grab a strudel or some apple butter on your way out and your day (and tomorrow's breakfast) will be complete.

BEST ARCHITECTUAL TIME CAPSULE St. Paul Union Depot

BEST ARCHITECTURAL RENOVATION OF AN OLD BUILDING The Chambers Hotel

BEST BEACH Riverfront Park and Beach

BEST BIKE TRAIL The Midtown Greenway

BEST BOWLING ALLEY Memory Lanes

BEST BOXER Anthony Bonsante

BEST CAREER MOVE Keith Ellison's run for Congress

BEST COACH Ron Gardenhire

BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE Dustin Schlatter

BEST COLUMNIST Patrick Reusse

BEST DAY TRIP Lake Maria State Park

BEST FISHING HOLE (EXURBAN) St. Croix River

BEST FISHING HOLE (URBAN) The confluence of Minnehaha Creek and the Mississippi River

BEST GADFLY Tom Emmer

BEST GAY BAR The Saloon

BEST HELLRAISER OR ACTIVIST GROUP AlliantACTION

BEST HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE Whitney Taney

BEST LESBIAN BAR Pi

BEST LIBRARY St. Paul Central Library

BEST LOCAL BOY GONE BAD William McGuire

BEST LOCAL BOY MADE GOOD Joe Mauer

BEST LOCAL GIRL GONE BAD Former Minneapolis Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek

BEST LOCAL GIRL MADE GOOD Diablo Cody

BEST LOCALLY GENERATED BLOG (LEFT-WING) The Cucking Stool

BEST LOCALLY GENERATED BLOG (RIGHT-WING) Faith Mouse

BEST LYNX PLAYER Seimone Augustus

BEST MAYOR Chris Coleman

BEST MOTORCYCLE RIDE (GREATER MINNESOTA) Highway 61

BEST MOTORCYCLE RIDE (URBAN) The Grand Rounds

BEST PICKUP SPOT FOR PARENTS Casper & Runyon's Nook

BEST PICNIC SPOT Minnehaha Byway

BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE The roof of the Tate Laboratory of Physics

BEST PLACE TO BE SEEN WITH YOUR MOTORCYCLE Dulono's Pizza

BEST PLACE TO ICE SKATE Van Cleve Park

BEST PLACE TO JOG Big Rivers Regional Trail

BEST PLACE TO LEARN TO DANCE Zenon Dance Company and School

BEST PLACE TO MEET OTHER GAY FAMILIES Rainbow Families

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (GAY) 19 BAR

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE MEN (STRAIGHT) Spyhouse

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (LESBIAN) Twilight

BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN (STRAIGHT) Twins games

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH Minnehaha Park on a warm spring day

BEST PLACE TO PLAY PINBALL S.S. Billiards

BEST PLACE TO SHOOT POOL Brunswick's (at Grandma's Saloon)

BEST PLACE TO SMOKE INDOORS Mainstreet Bar and Grill

BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS Mill Ruins Park

BEST PLACE TO WATCH SOCCER Sweetwater Bar & Grille

BEST POLITICIAN Becky Lourey

BEST PUB QUIZ Brit's Pub

BEST PUBLIC PARK Como Park

BEST PUBLIC RESTROOM The facilities at Lock and Dam 1

BEST RESCUED LANDMARK Midtown Exchange

BEST ROCK CLIMBING Vertical Endeavors

BEST SCANDAL Norm Coleman Sr.'s special delivery

BEST SIGN OF SPRING Custom cars

BEST SLEDDING Green Acres Recreation

BEST STATE FAIR RIDE The Space Tower

BEST STRIP CLUB The Seville Club

BEST TENNIS COURTS Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center

BEST THUNDER PLAYER Freddy Juarez

BEST TIMBERWOLVES PLAYER Kevin Garnett

BEST TV NEWSCASTER Don Shelby

BEST TV SPORTS ANCHOR Eric Perkins

BEST TV WEATHERPERSON Sven Sundgaard

BEST TWINS PLAYER Johan Santana

BEST URINALS Stasiu's

BEST VICTIM Tammy Lee

BEST VIKINGS PLAYER Pat Williams

BEST VILLAIN Kimanie Carter

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY Trempealeau, Wisconsin

BEST WILD PLAYER Marian Gaborik

BEST YOGA Bikram Yoga Bloomington