The 5 best bakeries in Minnesota

I tallied your votes for the best bakeries in Minnesota. Most of them are outside of the immediate metro (none are in Minneapolis or Saint Paul) and they all have been around for generations.

I was on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live to share their stories.

Hanisch Bakery & Coffee Shop, Red Wing

  • Originally opened at Quandt’s Bakery in the 1920s
  • The white bread recipe they are currently using goes back to the owners from the 1970s
  • Hanisch has 70 kinds of pastries and donuts
    • They sell over 50 dozen raised donuts a day, with twice that amount on the weekend
  • They’re known for their Presidential Cookie Poll
    • On a Presidential Election Day, Hanisch will sell cookies for the main party candidates
    • They have correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote based off cookie sales since 1984

Emily’s Bakery & Deli, Hastings

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  • Family-owned since 1946 when it was Pitz Bakery
  • Steve and his sister, Norine, own the bakery and both have worked there for over 35 years
  • The shop is named after their grandmother, Emily
  • Their Prison Bars are Emily Bakery’s version of the Scotcharoo. The recipe came from a woman who used to volunteer at a prison and always brought the bars with her for the inmates.
  • The Almond Tarts are a signature item. It’s a butter rich tart that’s filled with an almond paste. It’s one of the best things I had on my tour of all these bakeries.
  • Don’t pass on the Coconut Macaroons. They are also gluten-free.

Hans’ Bakery, Anoka & Blaine

  • Original location in Anoka, satellite location in Blaine
  • The original owner, Hans, passed away from cancer in 1997, just two months after being diagnosed
  • The bakery exchanged hands multiple times and eventually went into foreclosure
  • When the current owner, Kelly Olsen, bought it, it had sat vacant for 4 years. She says “everything needed help”.
  • The community rallied behind the new ownership to help Hans’ Bakery reopen in February 2014. The Food Network caught wind of the buzz and featured them before they opened. On their first day, they sold out of everything they had in the store.
  • The Texas Donuts are the size of your head. And they cost only $5.

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  • The Beehive, and the smaller Beesting, are eye-catchers. The sweet dough pasty is filled with Bavarian cream, topped with candied almonds and dusted with powdered sugar. If you’re really hungry, order it as a cake.

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  • The Whipped Cheesecake is a hidden gem.

Cold Spring Bakery, Cold Spring & Waite Park

  • Original location in Cold Spring, satellite location in Waite Park
  • The original owner, Mel, learned how to bake on a Navy ship
  • After World War II, he found a bakery for sale in the city of Cold Spring
  • Soon it will be passed on to the third generation, as Mel’s granddaughter will take over as head baker
  • Cold Spring Bakery delivers throughout central Minnesota, including many meat markets
  • They will handle 25 to 30 wedding orders per weekend. And that’s not just cakes. Many couples are opting for cupcakes and donut walls now.
  • Their Raspberry White Chocolate Chip Cookie is a soft, tender cookie with raspberries, cream cheese and white chocolate chips. It’s incredible.
  • Their Cashew Brittle is special. It’s not hard like peanut brittle, and tastes a bit like Chex Mix. It’s perfect to bring to a holiday gathering.
  • Kolachies are a tender, flaky pasty baked with a fruit or poppyseed filling. They have a streusel topping and a Danish icing. Think of it like a really good Toaster Strudel.
  • Don’t pass on the Oatmeal Date Filled Cookies.

Benson Bakery, Benson

  • Benson is northwest of Willmar, about 2.5 hours from Saint Paul
  • The building the bakery is in dates back to 1900. It originally opened as a bakery, cafe and hotel.
  • It’s now owned by the third generation of the Johannessen family.
  • There are deep Norwegian roots here.
  • The Peanut Squares are something special. Some refer them as Mocha Bars. It’s a combination of frosting, cake and peanut meal.
  • Don’t miss out on their Sour Cream Raisin and Salted Nut Bars. There are eight to 10 different bars available daily.
  • The Angel Food Cake recipe has been handed down for over 80 years and can be ordered in a variety of flavors. The most popular is lemon.

Check out my other roundups of what’s ‘Worth the Trip’

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The can’t-miss building at the Minnesota State Fair

It doesn’t sound super fun, but there’s a lot happening inside the Agriculture Horticulture Building at the Minnesota State Fair.

I appeared on KSTP’s Twin Cities Live to share some of my highlights.

If you miss out on the First Kiss Apple, it’s still worth a visit to the Minnesota Apples booth for a Cider Pop! They are popsicles made with juice from Minnesota grown apples.

I mean, take at look at these pieces of art made of seed.

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The “Ag Hort” building is also home to the Minnesota Bonsai Society State Fair Bonsai Show, which is incredibly cool!

Play Minnesota State Fair Bingo with this free template

The Minnesota State Fair’s website is a must-visit before you head out to the Great Minnesota Get Together. Watch my segment on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live to learn about State Fair Bingo cards and how to create a custom list of what you want to see and eat at the Fair.

You’ll find the State Fair’s Bingo template here.

The 17 best restaurants for breakfast in Minnesota

Breakfast becomes a passionate subject for many people. And for good reason.

For starters, it’s the most meaningful meal of the day. You need fuel to be productive.

It’s food people love, too: omelets, pancakes, French toast, hash browns.

Sitting down for breakfast is also the chance to connect with the people who mean a lot to you. Time and time again you hear about the senior mens’ groups who have coffee and chat about current events and what’s going on in their neighborhood. I’m guessing many of you reading this have a breakfast tradition you remember from when you were a kid, whether it be at home or at a restaurant on a weekend morning. Breakfast is more than food. It nourishes the soul.

I asked my Facebook fans, along with Twin Cities Live viewers, to tell me their favorite spot to get breakfast in Minnesota. Hundreds of entries came in. I visited the top five restaurants to meet with the owners and learn what you should order when you stop by.

I appeared on Twin Cities Live to share the top five spots:

1. Lindas’ Cafe

13575 Northdale Blvd, Suite 200
Rogers, 55374

Linda Frigaard and Linda Grady have been friends since third grade. A divorce kickstarted Linda Grady to call Linda Frigaard, who worked in the restaurant industry, to help her achieve a dream: to open a restaurant.

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Linda Frigaard and Linda Grady, owners of Lindas’ Cafe in Rogers.
  • The two opened Lindas’ Cafe on August 1st, 2006 in a strip mall off of I-94 in Rogers. The space used to be a video store.
  • You will find four generations working at Lindas’ Cafe. Linda Frigaard’s father is there, along with her daughter and grandchild.
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The Log Cabin Skillet.
  • Their skillets are the number one menu item. The Ranch Skillet, with eggs, green peppers, onion, cheese and meat, along with the Log Cabin Skillet, smothered in sausage country gravy and a country fried steak, are the most popular.
  • The Lindas tell me they’ll go through nearly 225,000 eggs a year. If you’re a fan of wild rice soup, get the Minnesota omelet — it has the soup inside.
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Lindas’ Cafe has the most traditional version of the pancake I had on my breakfast tour.
  • The pancake is worth ordering. The recipe belongs to the cook’s great great grandmother. The owners mentioned that customers drove from Edina to Rogers to get their pancakes. That’s nearly 60 miles roundtrip.
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The Lindas’ Stuffed, a homemade take on the McGriddle.
  • You don’t want to miss the Lindas’ Stuffed. I’m calling it a homemade take on the McDonald’s McGriddle. It’s two slices of French toast stuffed with Swiss cheese with your choice of ham or sausage. Pour some syrup on it and you got yourself a quality, homemade McGriddle without the guilt.
  • Lindas’ Cafe is not big — it’s only 88 seats. Make sure your whole party is there if you want to get seated.
  • Their entire menu, which does include broasted chicken and other lunch items, is available for take out.

2. Fat Nat’s Eggs

3 metro locations, including the location I attended:
2700 39th Avenue NE, Saint Anthony Village 55421

Jeff Nat, whose nickname was Fat Nat while playing hockey, started Fat Nat’s Eggs in 2002.

  • Jeff, who loves to cook, wanted to run restaurant like his grandma’s house with quality ingredients.
  • The original location in New Hope had 35 seats when it first opened. Today, it has more than 100. It previously was a Chinese restaurant.
    • Fans of my Facebook page say the New Hope location is best, although the menu is consistent at all three restaurants.
  • They expanded to Brooklyn Park in 2007 and opened a Saint Anthony Village restaurant in 2012. Jeff’s wife, Lisa, tells me another location could be in the cards.
  • Fat Nat’s Eggs is a family affair. Jeff, Lisa, and their sons, Michael and David, run the restaurants.
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Eggs Bacon Avocado Benedict with a can’t miss avocado verde.
  • The number one selling menu item is the Eggs Bacon Avocado Benedict, served on a toasted English muffin with a slice of tomato, bacon and an (AMAZING) spicy avocado verde. If you like spicy, you must order something with the avocado verde.
  • All of the salsas Fat Nat’s Eggs serves are made in-house. They have green chili, which you will find in New Mexico cuisine.
  • If you’re looking for an omelet, the owners say a hidden gem is the Jacob’s Omelette with carnitas, black beans, salsa verde, pepper jack cheese and homemade salsa on top.
  • Don’t pass up on the warm fruit fritter, which are made by Denny’s 5th Avenue Bakery in Bloomington.
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Fat Nat’s Eggs in Saint Anthony Village.
  • Fat Nat’s Eggs has counter seating at all three locations.
  • It gets busy, especially on the weekends. Owner Lisa says for the shortest wait time, come before 9:00 am or after 12:30 pm.

3. The Original Pancake House

4 metro locations, including the location I attended:
1661 County Road B2 West, Roseville 55113

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The Original Pancake House in Roseville.
  • I need to be honest: before my first trip to The Original Pancake House, I wasn’t thrilled about eating there, mostly because it’s a chain. But after learning their story, it’s definitely worthy of this list.
  • The four Minnesota locations are franchisees of the national The Original Pancake House brand. The locations in Edina, Eden Prairie, Roseville and Burnsville have the same owner, however, each location has a totally different look and each location has a different menu.
    • The Edina location is the original in the Twin Cities, opening in 1977. They started by serving pancakes in the morning, closing for a couple hours, then serving pizza for dinner. You won’t be able to miss the huge chandelier inside.
    • Eden Prairie opened in 2007 with a traditional restaurant vibe.
    • Roseville opened in 2013 and is very contemporary, having gone through a remodel in 2018.
    • The newest location in Burnsville has a Scandinavian feel.
  • None of their kitchen have microwaves.
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The 49er Flapjack.
  • Their most popular item is the 49er Flapjack, a thin pancake. The Potato Pancake and Buckwheat Pancakes are top-sellers, too.
  • A hidden gem are the Breakfast Ribs, which is like thick cut bacon.
  • On a busy day, one location will serve up 1,400 orders of bacon.
  • The hash browns at OPH are epic.
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The Original Pancake House does a great job accommodating food allergies.
  • I heard this from multiple people: The Original Pancake House does an extremely good job accommodating those with food allergies. Gluten-free food comes out on yellow plates and there’s no extra charge. Our gluten-full table tried a gluten-free peach crepe, and it was really good. They also can accommodate those who are dairy-free and who have soy or egg allergies.
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The coffee mugs at The Original Pancake House are made by a Saint Paul artist and are available for purchase.
  • The coffee mugs are made by a potter from Saint Paul. Some of the other OPH locations from around the nation have started to use her mugs as well. You are able to purchase them, too.

4. R.J. Riches Family Restaurant

2145 Highway Avenue, Mounds View 55112

R.J. Riches Family Restaurant in Mounds View originally was a Country Kitchen back in the 1970s. The owners who took over that space were named Royce and Janice (RJ) and they wanted to make ‘Riches’ — hence the name R.J. Riches. The current owners have operated the restaurant since 1992.

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This is just one regular sized pancake.
  • You need to watch other people’s food come out before you place your order. Food comes in HUGE portions. The chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes are not only the size of dinner plates, they’re also extremely thick. Think of it more like a cake than a pancake. You don’t need more than one for your table.
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The Country Fried Steak comes with all the things you see in this photo.
  • The number one menu item is the Country Fried Steak, which was really good. A thick gravy didn’t sit too heavy.
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The Gyro Omelet.
  • The second most popular menu item is my favorite. The Gyro Omelet was epic. First, it’s huge — it could be two, maybe three meals. It’s four eggs, with hash browns, cheese, and gyro meat inside. It’s served with Tzatziki sauce, too.
  • Owner Barb tells me that a lot of people overpass their Spicy Chicken Omelet, which has deep-fried, spicy chicken.
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I wouldn’t attempt to eat at R.J. Riches with more than 4 people at your table.
  • The restaurant isn’t huge, with only 120 seats. On a busy weekend day, you may have to wait 45 to 60 minutes to get a table. They’re the busiest between 8:30 am – 1:00 pm.
  • In addition to breakfast, R.J. Riches is open for dinner, serving all-you-can-eat meals.
  • Note that R.J. Riches is not set up for large parties. I would recommend that you keep your group to four or less (or be willing to split yourselves up). Most of the restaurant is booths.

5. Keys Cafe & Bakery

9 metro locations, including the original restaurant in Saint Paul:
767 Raymond Avenue, Saint Paul 55114

The first Keys Restaurant opened on Raymond Avenue in Saint Paul on November 1st, 1973 by Barbara Hunn. She took over a space called Mister D’s. Before that, it was called Slater’s.

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You will see Keys owner Barbara Hunn at the Raymond Avenue location 3 days a week.
  • Barbara had no restaurant management experience at the time. In fact, she was a licensed psychiatric nurse.
  • Barb and her late husband had four kids, all who would work in the restaurant. As kids, they would make hamburger buns.
  • About nine years in, they added a location in New Brighton. That’s when Keys started to sell more baked goods, which they’re known for today.
  • Today, Keys has nine locations around the Twin Cities. At one point, all 17 of Barbara’s grandchildren have worked at Keys.

Keys is known for large portions. The Beef Hash and Cajun Skillet are popular menu items and will fill you up.

  • Thick cut bacon is key at Keys. One pound is 13 slices. So if you eat 3 slices, you’ve eaten about a quarter of a pound of bacon.
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Probably one of the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had.
  • The Cinnamon and Pecan Rolls are amazing. Their number one baked good is the house chocolate cake.
  • Make sure to order toast and get their house-made strawberry rhubarb jam. I would drink it if it was socially acceptable.
  • Barb says that their oatmeal is an unsung hero on the menu at the Raymond Avenue Keys. It’s not instant. Make sure to add fruit and nuts.
  • All of Keys soups are made in house. Barb says to try the Tomato Basil, Chicken Noodle and Tomato Bisque.
  • You’ll still see Barbara at the Raymond Avenue Keys three days a week.
  • The catchphrase “Yummy!” that Keys uses in their radio commercials was inspired by Jim Carrey’s character in the 1994 movie, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”.

Did you conquer those breakfast spots that are Worth the Trip? Try these honorable mentions

6. Frieda’s Cafe, Willmar (warning: closed Sundays)
7. B&B Cafe, Albert Lea (warning: closed Sundays)
8. Oasis Cafe, Stillwater
9. Jensen’s Cafe, Burnsville
10. Carol’s Restaurant, Blaine
11. Al’s Breakfast, Minneapolis
12. Peg’s Countryside Cafe, Hamel
13. North Pole Restaurant, Newport
14. Windmill Cafe, Savage
15. Duluth Grill, Duluth
16. The Buttered Tin, Saint Paul
17. Hazel’s Northeast, Minneapolis

Check out my other roundups of what’s ‘Worth the Trip’

Date night ideas in one Twin Cities suburb

Hopkins, located in the west metro, is home to one of the cutest Mainstreets in Minnesota. I was on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live with places worth checking out if you’re looking for a date night, including one shop mixing books with beer.

Featured spots:

The best ice cream shops in Minnesota

Every month, Worth the Trip, my series on KSTP’s Twin Cities Live, presents the top five Minnesota spots in a particular category. And since summer is officially upon us, I had to determine who sells the best ice cream in the state.

The winning locations are determined by your suggestions. Thousands upon thousands of votes came in. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming.

All of the top five vote getters are ice cream parlours, not places where you would go for a soft-serve cone. They are using premium ice cream. But I did notice something peculiar: none of the spots make their own ice cream. It’s purchased from two ice cream wholesale producers in Wisconsin (one shop also tosses in ice cream from Kemps, so there are three producers overall).

I have personally attended many Minnesota shops who make their own ice cream. Many of you are extremely loyal to them. What these top five shops had that some of those shops don’t offer is top-notch customer service. You’re going to be more than a number at these parlors. The owners are always there. They live in the community. And many of the shops were able to rattle off a whole bunch of ways of how they connect with the school kids and the neighborhoods they are situated in. This is far beyond donating a $20 gift card to a silent auction, folks. To the loyalists: I recommend you venture to these shops before you comment back to me with your distain.

The top 5, ranked

1. Cullen’s Ice Cream

10905 Douglas Drive North, Champlin
12085 Hanson Blvd, Coon Rapids

  • Cullen’s received the most popular votes from Twin Cities Live viewers and receives my overall best vote
  • The Champlin shop opened in June 2014 with the Coon Rapids location opening in June 2017
  • Their cases have 48 flavors of ice cream at any given time, the most of any of the top 5 shops
    • Eight of the flavors change monthly
  • Cullen’s uses Cedar Crest Ice Cream, premium small batch ice cream made in Cedarburg, Wisconsin
  • They carry 125 flavors of pop, which can be combined with any flavor of ice cream for a soda float
  • They do make their own waffle cones in-house, putting chocolate chips in the bottom instead of malted milk balls
    • They will make over 10,000 cones in a season
  • Insider: you can split a single scoop into two flavors with no extra charge
  • Cullen’s offers dairy-free ice cream, which is made in-house (it is also vegan)
  • In addition to ice cream, Cullen’s makes their own gourmet popcorn and roasted nuts
  • The owners tell me customers drive from Minnetonka and Wayzata twice a week to get Cullen’s Ice Cream
  • Cullen’s is a seasonal shop, open from the beginning of March through October

2. Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour

3419 Saint Croix Trail, Afton

  • Selma’s is the oldest ice cream parlour in Minnesota, first opening in 1913 and receives my vote for the best ambiance
  • The current owners, the Nickerson family, purchased the bank-owned property in 2011
    • All 6 of their kids have worked there
  • Selma’s has about 35 flavors of ice cream in their cases; they are from Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, based in Madison, Wisconsin
    • Chocolate Shoppe first started in 1960 and does not sell retail, meaning you cannot buy their ice cream at any grocery store
  • While you’re there, sample:
    • Strawberry — the owners family says “don’t skip it”
    • Blueberry Cheesecake
    • This S&#! Just Got Serious — salted caramel
    • Exhausted Parent — Bourbon Spiked Espresso
    • Carrot Mango Italian Ice — dairy free
  • They have a staff member dedicated to making waffle cones
    • They will sell 400 on a busy summer day
    • They also sell their own milk chocolate and white chocolate dipped cones
  • Gluten-free sugar and cake cones, along with gluten-free ice creams, are available
  • Selma’s also makes their own cakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches and has a coffee bar
  • Selma’s is a seasonal shop, typically open from late March until October

3. What’s the Scoop?

18 Division Street E, Buffalo

  • They are the newest shop in the top 5, opening in September 2017
  • Owner Brady Elsenpeter, a Buffalo native, went from owning a car dealership to running an ice cream shop
  • What’s the Scoop? is in downtown Buffalo in a space which once was a Curves for Women workout studio
  • Their case has 40 flavors from Cedar Crest
    • They have a case solely designated for nut-free flavors
  • They make their own waffles cones and bowls in house, and their waffle cones was the best of any waffle cone in the top 5
  • They do carry gluten-free cones and have dairy-free flavors available
  • The owner’s favorite flavors:
    • Shipwreck — vanilla ice cream with sea salt caramel ribbon and almond splinters
    • Big Muddy — a rich, chocolate ice cream with brownies
    • Scotcharoo — just like the cookie!
  • Ice cream cakes are made to order, including some with Fruity Pebbles
  • What’s the Scoop? is open year-round

4. Two Scoops

1918 Second Avenue, Anoka

  • Two Scoops opened in 2010
  • They have over 100 flavors of ice cream available, with 20 in their case at one time
  • Like Selma’s, Two Scoops uses Chocolate Shoppe ice cream
  • Their most popular ice cream: Cookie Dough
  • Their sleeper hit: Strawberry
    • The owners tell me that the Chocolate Shoppe’s Strawberry ice cream has won national awards
  • They make waffle cones and bowls in-house
  • Two Scoops also makes dipped cones, sundae cones and homemade cakes
  • They specialize in chocolate malts that are heavy on the malt powder
  • Two Scoops does have at least one dairy free Italian ice and has gluten-free ice cream and cones
  • They are also home to The Tornado challenge, where you get 20 scoops of ice cream with toppings (it comes out to about 7,000 calories)
    • One individual has completed it in 6 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Two Scoops is open year-round

5. Nelson’s Ice Cream

920 Olive Street W, Stillwater
454 Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul

  • Nelson’s Stillwater location originally opened as a grocery store in 1923
  • Art Nelson bought it in the 1940s and customers to this day still call it Art’s
  • The currently owners purchased it in 2006
  • Nelson’s is known for big scoops of ice cream — and I mean big scoops — that era started in the 1960s
  • They serve both Cedar Crest and Kemps ice cream
  • Both locations carry 44 flavors
  • You should expect a line when you go to Nelson’s
    • Their manager tells me there’s typically a line at 11:00 when the Stillwater location opens
    • The best time to go is between 5:45 and 7:00 pm during the dinner lull
    • On a busy day, they will go through 450 gallons of ice cream
  • Ice cream is served by dixie cups or cones at Nelson’s
    • They do not make waffle cones
  • Nelson’s does have Rapsberry Italian Ice if you are looking for a vegan or dairy-free option
  • Gluten-free options are going to be hard to come by, but you can get ice cream in a cup
  • Heads up: they only take cash!
  • Nelson’s is a seasonal shop, typically open from the beginning of April until Halloween

Honorable mentions

These are ranked from highest to lowest. Ice cream shops needed to receive at least .6% of the total vote in order to be listed below. 

Check out my other roundups of what’s ‘Worth the Trip’

31 can’t miss events in Minnesota this July

Not much gets better than July in Minnesota! There’s plenty to do with long summer nights. Bonus: you don’t have to spend 20 minutes putting on a parka and scraping ice off your windshield!

I compiled a list of events happening around the state. Many are your suggestions! Is there one I forgot? Let me know! Fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Happy summer!

  1. July and fireworks go hand in hand. Here are Minnesota cities with great 4th of July shows:
  2. Check out a good ol’ fashioned community festival:
  3. Sing with the Twin Cities Beer Choir. The concept is simple and quite fun. The group gathers as a brewery, bar or restaurant and hand out “hymnals” to attendees. The music are melodies you are familiar with, but the words are switched out to involve drinking beer. Many Twin Cities Beer Choir participants are alumni from those really good Minnesota Lutheran college choirs, so as a group, they sound quite good. It’s a very lighthearted time. Their July meetup takes place at Spring Cafe, located at the Como Lakeside Pavilion in Saint Paul. (July 3)
  4. The PGA Tour stops in Minnesota with the brand new 3M Open. The field has yet to be announced when this list was published, but Phil Mickelson has already announced he will play. Tournament play takes place July 4-7, but festivities go all week at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. (July 1-7)
  5. Head down to the Mississippi River in Northeast Minneapolis to watch a Twin Cities River Rats show. Every Thursday night, this ski team puts on a free show filled with stunts, jumps and pyramids all on the water. They do have a show on the 4th of July, which is followed by fireworks. They also have a bonus performance on Friday, July 5th. They’re super family-friendly. Bring a blanket! (July 4, 11, 18 and 25)
  6. Little Mekong is the Asian business and cultural district in Saint Paul. It runs along University Avenue between Mackubin and Galtier Streets. At the tail end of the 4th of July weekend, businesses in the area hold the Little Mekong Night Market, which is a huge street festival with really good food,  unique shopping and lots of entertainment. It’s inspired by the night markets you would find in southeast Asia. It runs from 5-10 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. (July 6-7)
  7. The Minnesota Orchestra starts their annual Sommerfest concert series by performing the soundtrack to the Disney Pixar movie, “Coco.” Sommerfest 2019 has a Latin American theme, with concerts throughout the month of July. It should also mark the expected debut of the new Peavey Plaza, the public park space next to Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. (July 6-7)
  8. If you can’t wait for the Minnesota State Fair to start, check out the Ramsey County Fair in Maplewood. Admission is free. (July 10-14)
  9. There’s no need to head west to catch a classic rodeo! The town of Hamel is just west of Plymouth and since 1981, has hosted a rodeo with barrel racing, steer wrestling and more. More impressive: the Hamel Rodeo is operated by 5 non-profit groups; the large event doesn’t have a single paid staff member. (July 11 – 14)
  10. Kacey Musgraves, Semisonic, Jason Mraz and Hanson headline the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis. The two-night outdoor concert first started in 1995 to raise money for the Basilica of St. Mary. (July 12-13)
  11. A spot featuring one of the best meat raffles in the Minnesota is hosting a parking lot fish fry. Stop by Bull’s Horn in south Minneapolis on July 13 for a fishing tournament, music, drinks, and of course, fried fish.
  12. Celebrate French independence, Bastille Day, on either side of the Mississippi River. In Minneapolis, Barbette hosts its annual block party from 2-9 pm. In Saint Paul, Alliance Francaise and Meritage host an outdoor family-friendly celebration outside of Landmark Center from 12-6 pm. (July 14)
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      Cafe Lurcat in Minneapolis is one of more than 50 restaurants participating in MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s Restaurant Week July 14-19.
  13. Enjoy $10-25 lunches and $15-35 dinners at some great Twin Cities restaurants during MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s Restaurant Week. Over 50 spots are participating. My personal favorites include 4 Bells, Cafe Lurcat, Corner Table, FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar, The Freehouse, Holman’s Table and Lela. (July 14-19)
  14. The Minneapolis Movies in the Park series continues all month with free films shown at parks across the city. Stop by the Nicollet Island Pavilion on Monday, July 15 for “Free Solo,” a National Geographic documentary following Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan at Yosemite National Park without any ropes. I recently saw it and it’s riveting.
  15. Once a month, The Spring Street Tavern in Northeast Minneapolis hosts Pundamonium, a pun slam competition. Those who think they are punny are welcome to show off their skills. Participants are selected first come, first serve. The five judges are pre-selected members of the audience. (July 17)
  16. Italian restaurant, Pazzaluna hosts its annual Wheels of Italy street party in downtown Saint Paul on Thursday, July 18. Stop by to see some of the finest street cars along with live music. The car show is free to attend.
  17. Twin Cities Summer Jam at Canterbury Park in Shakopee features three days of big names in music: Tim McGraw, Aerosmith, Pitbull, REO Speedwagon, Soul Asylum, and others. (July 18 – 20)
  18. People from around the Twin Cities will make their way to the Rondo neighborhood of Saint Paul for the Rondo Days Festival and Parade on Saturday, July 20. The parade begins at 10 am with the festival running from 12-7 pm.
  19. Enjoy Celtic music, Highland dance and a bag pipe band competition during the Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games at Central Park in Eagan. (July 19-20)
  20. Minnesota Monthly hosts its Fine Spirits Classic inside Orchestra Hall. Sample cocktails from the best mixologists in the state. (July 24)
  21. Competitive eater Joey Chestnut will be at The Great Midwest Rib Fest at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake. His mission: to eat more than 13.76 pounds of pork meat in 12 minutes. The three day festival is free to attend and also includes performances by Gretchen Wilson and Sugar Ray. (July 25-27)
  22. The iconic Porky’s drive-in diner in Saint Paul has a new home in Hastings. It’s a part of the Little Log House Pioneer Village, a collection of historic buildings which are restored to make it feel like you are stepping back in time. The village is open to the public one weekend a year. Stop by the last full weekend of July for the Little Log House Antique Power Show, which allows you to walk through the Village. This year, they welcome artifacts from the Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove. (July 26-28)
  23. The British choral group, Libera, is astonishing. Boys range in age from seven to 16 and members are from schools throughout London. They tour internationally and are visiting Saint Paul once again. I had the privilege of hearing them the last time they were in Minnesota and I just wanted to melt in my seat. The venue is ideal, too: the gorgeous Cathedral of Saint Paul. (July 26)
  24. Fitness studio Alchemy 365 is taking over the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and will offer a free class as part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial festivities. All fitness levels all welcome, just bring your own yoga mat. Check in begins at 5 pm with the class starting at 6:00. (July 26)
  25. Watch (or walk in) a parade of dogs in northeast Minneapolis. The gathering point is right on the shores of the Mississippi at St. Anthony Main. (July 26)
  26. Say ‘ooh, ahh’ at one of the largest fireworks displays in the country. The Minneapolis Aquatennial fireworks display start promptly at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The best viewpoint is near the Guthrie Theater.
  27. The Loring Park Art Festival in Minneapolis features 140 juried artists in a beautiful setting. (July 27-28)
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  28. Avoid downtown Minneapolis traffic by taking a water taxi! That’s right, the Minneapolis Water Taxi is a solar powered boat and is currently privately operated, meaning that you can book it for your group of friends for an intimate ride down the Mississippi River. The Water Taxi can fit two to six people and does private events for up to one hour. It goes from 10 am to 10 pm.
  29. Rent a Lime or Spin scooter for a ride. They’re very simple to use and their max speeds only get to 15 MPH, so it’s hard to lose control. Pro tip: find someone who has already rented the scooters to refer you before you download the app. That way, you both get a free credit!
  30. Be in control of how much beer you want to sample. Stop by the new First Draft Taproom & Kitchen near Target Field in Minneapolis. They have over 50 beers, wines, ciders and kombucha on tap. You get to control how much you would like. If you’re curious, the average pour is about 5 ounces.
  31. Make sure you dine al fresco. Watch my Twin Cities Live segment featuring the 5 best restaurant, brewery and winery patios in Minnesota!Also on Give Me the Mike: Best places to play bingo in Minnesota

Is there something I missed? Please let me know!

 

Twin Cities restaurant date deals for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday

Cash in on some great deals from Twin Cities restaurants. I appeared on Twin Cities Live with a roundup of spots offering incredible discounts.

Sunday: Acqua in White Bear Lake

  • 4:00 – 9:00 p.m.
  • 3 course meal for 2 people for $60
  • You can purchase a bottle of wine for $20
  • Reservations are accepted
  • Patio seating is first come, first served

Monday: Dark Horse Bar & Eatery in Saint Paul

  • All day, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
  • 14″ 2 topping pizza and a bottle of wine for $25

Tuesday: Urban Growler Brewing Company in Saint Paul

  • All day, 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (food orders must be in by 9:00 p.m.)
  • 2 pints of beer and an appetizer for $15

My website has more restaurant date night deals!

Why no Minnesotan should pay to use Ancestry.com

I recently went on a work assignment to visit the spots Twin Cities Live viewers selected as the 5 best museums in Minnesota. One of those was the Minnesota History Center in Saint Paul.

Before my visit, I asked museum officials what they felt was underrated. They told me that the Gale Family Library was worth checking out. I wasn’t provided much more information, but I wanted to scope it out.

At the front desk, we asked the volunteer what we could do here. She said we could look up information (like any other library), but then she said we could use ancestry.com for free. Our jaws dropped. People pay good money for that. A monthly membership is $44.99.

So there must be a catch, right? Nope. When you arrive to the History Center, go up to the second floor. You don’t need to pay for History Center exhibits to go to the Library. If it’s your first time at the Library, bring your ID and they will give you a special Gale Family Library card.

Now, not only do they have access to ancestry.com, the computers in the Gale Family Library have access to Fold3.com, a military records database. They also have access to newspapers.com, which lets you search newspapers from Minnesota and around the world.

The Gale Family Library isn’t the only Minnesota library with free access to ancestry.com. Call your local library and check.

However, the Gale Family Library in Saint Paul also has the power of working the Minnesota Historical Society. Reference staff are on hand to help you look through birth records dating back to 1900 (when the Minnesota Department of Health began keeping duplicate records of births), church histories, death records, family histories, land records and newspaper articles. Another highlight is that you are able to do a full text search of the Minneapolis Tribune from 1867-2001.

While you’re there, check out the digital fire insurance maps for Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth. The old street grids and maps are very similar to the artwork you might see sold on Etsy. Those maps are just one thing you can use to document the history of your house. If you want, you could find out who lived there long before you, learning when they were born, when they died, what they did for a living, and more.

The Gale Family Library and the Minnesota Historical Society are accepting your artifacts for their database. From high school yearbooks to church directories, click here to tell them what you have.

Some of the services I mentioned above can be accessed from your house, although you do need to go to the Gale Family Library to use ancestry.com and Fold3. Click here for the Minnesota People Records Search and research guides.

Here’s a quick glimpse inside the Gale Family Library. The video is produced by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Gale Family Library
Inside the Minnesota History Center, 2nd floor
345 West Kellogg Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55102

Tuesdays: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Wednesdays – Saturdays: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays

reference@mnhs.org
mnhs.org/library

Know before you go:

  • Photos of most evidence is allowed
  • On your first visit, you must present a photo ID
  • You must use pencil (no pens)
  • No jackets, backpacks or purses are allowed; they can be left in a locker which requires a $.25 deposit, which is returned when the locker is opened
  • No food or beverages are allowed
  • Laptops are allowed
  • Copy services are available; copies of most items cost $.20 a page

55 things every Minnesotan should do this summer

Summers in Minnesota are too short to be bored, even if it is raining. For inspiration, I compiled this checklist of 55 things you can do before Labor Day.

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This guide is presented by Family Fun Twin Cities. For even more suggestions of what to do this summer, check out their Ultimate Summer Guide.

  1. Buy Candy Buttons or a bottle of bacon flavored pop at Jim’s Apple Farm/Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store along Highway 169 south of Jordan. Don’t forget to bring cash or check — they don’t take credit cards.
    • They don’t have a website or phone number…just go. They are open 9 am – 7 pm until the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
    • 20430 Johnson Memorial Dr, Jordan, MN 55352
  2. Determine who makes the best ice cream around. Nelson’s in Stillwater, Oak Station Coffee & Cone in Freeport, Conny’s Creamy Cone in St. Paul, Pumphouse Creamery in Minneapolis, and Honey & Mackie’s in Plymouth will get you started. Click here for a list of the shops voted as the best in Minnesota.
  3. Learn why there’s a basketball on display at the St. Paul Saints’ City of Baseball Museum inside CHS Field in St. Paul. It’s free on non-game days.
  4. Watch the Minnesota Lynx go for their 5th WNBA title at Target Center. Those with a valid .edu email address can get $10 tickets to select games throughout the season.
  5. Take a day trip to Winona and explore the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. It’s home to 2 works by Picasso along with a Monet and an O’Keefe in its original 1922 frame. Admission is only $1 the second Saturday of the month!
  6. Be in the audience at KSTP’s Twin Cities Live! Shows are brand new all summer long and tickets are free. Don’t forget to be in their audience at the State Fair!
  7. Make friends with someone who has a pontoon. Watch the sunset aboard said pontoon. You can also rent a pontoon from multiple companies, including Your Boat Club.
  8. Pack some sunscreen and head to Valleyfair in Shakopee. Hit up Soak City Waterpark and then air dry aboard Wild Thing. Buy your tickets online before June 30 to get kid prices for everyone (it’s a savings of $20 per adult!)
  9. Spend an afternoon tubing down a river. Welch Mill Canoeing and Tubing will take you on the Cannon River. Make sure you wear shoes in the water, and flip flops don’t cut it! Pack a cooler with your favorite beverages and make sure to rent a tube for your cooler. After a hard day of relaxation, stop by King’s Place in Miesville for a burger.
    • Welch Mill has not yet opened for 2019 due to high water. Check their website for updates before you go.
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      Rent a paddle boat at Centennial Lakes Park in Edina.
  10. Play ‘golf in miniature’ or take a romantic paddle boat ride at Centennial Lakes Park in Edina.
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    Starlight Cinema in Woodbury.
  11. Watch an outdoor movie. Minneapolis Movies in the Parks host free films almost every night at locations around the city. In the east metro, check out Starlight Cinema in Woodbury.
  12. Road trip to Taylors Falls. Go for a hike at Interstate State Park and stop for a milkshake at The Drive-In Restaurant.
  13. Spend a late night out at the Vali-Hi Drive-In movie theater in Lake Elmo. It’s three movies for the price of one. Kids 5 and under are free and ages 6-12 are only $1. Plus, hot dogs are always $1! They don’t accept credit cards, so bring cash.
  14. Sleep under the stars.
  15. Some of the Twin Cities’ best restaurants don’t have permanent homes. In Northeast Minneapolis, scope out the Animales Barbeque Co. food truck parked outside Able Seedhouse + Brewery along with Union Hmong Kitchen at Sociable Cider Werks.
  16. Stroll through the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, the winner of USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Award for best botanical garden in the country.
  17. Go geocaching. The DNR has hidden caches throughout Minnesota’s 75 state parks and recreation areas. You just need a GPS device get started, and if you don’t have one, you can borrow a kit for free at many of the parks.
  18. On a rainy day, head to the Gale Family Library inside the Minnesota History Center. Once you register for their free library card, you get free access to ancestry.com.
  19. Feed a giraffe romaine lettuce at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. The experience is only $5 and admission to the zoo is free!
  20. Grab coffee and stroll through the flagship Minneapolis Farmers Market location on Lyndale Avenue. Don’t want to battle the crowds? Check out the Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market, the Mill City Farmers Market or the St. Paul Farmers Market.
  21. Have a drink on at least… 5 restaurant patios. Visit Hola Arepa on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Surly Brewing Co. Spring Cafe at Como Lake Pavilion. Hai Hai.
  22. Sit on the rooftop of Union Restaurant in Downtown Minneapolis for a drag queen brunch planned by Flip Phone. Themes change from shows dedicated to Taylor Swift to Rihanna to “Lion King”.
  23. Take your little ones to Madison’s Place, a 16,000 square-foot all-inclusive playground in Woodbury. It features sensory play equipment, ramps for wheelchair access and sun-shade covered play decks. Cool off in the neighboring splash pad.
  24. Check out one of Minnesota’s vineyards. Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls and Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery in Kasota have popular tasting rooms.
  25. Go camping. We won’t judge if it’s in a pimped out RV or in an old school Coleman tent. You can reserve a campsite at a state park one year in advance.
  26. Attend an outdoor art fair. Choose from the Edina Art Fair (May 31 – June 2), Loring Park Art Festival (July 27 – 28), Uptown Art Fair (August 2 – 4), or Powderhorn Art Fair (August 3 – 4).
  27. Go fishing. It doesn’t matter where. On a boat, on a dock. On Take a Kid Fishing Weekend, Minnesotans 16 or older who take a child 15 or younger fishing don’t need a license. And if you don’t have the gear, the Minnesota DNR offers free fishing kits, complete with a stocked tackle box. (June 7 – 9)
  28. Check out a Father’s Day car show at the Stone Arch Bridge Festival. (June 14 – 16)
  29. Watch the red-hot Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Make sure to be there when they retire Joe Mauer’s number. (June 15)
  30. See over 11,000 street rods and vintage cars at the Back to the Fifties Weekend on the State Fairgrounds. Take advantage of the free park and ride service if you go on Saturday. (June 21 – 23)
  31. Nearly 400 exhibitors, 40 food vendors and 4 music stages will be set up in Loring Park for the Twin Cities Pride Festival. Best of all, it’s completely free. (June 22 – 23)
  32. Go on a Haskell’s Beer & Wine cruise down the St. Croix River, leaving out of Stillwater. (June 29, July 27, August 24)
  33. See Kacey Musgraves, Semisonic, Jason Mraz and Hanson perform at the 25th edition of the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis. (July 12 – 13)
  34. Head to the ‘front porch of St. Paul’ and take in a St. Paul Saints Baseball game at CHS Field. The team will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Monty Python on July 13, the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 16, and the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz July 17.
  35. Twin Cities Summer Jam at Canterbury Park in Shakopee is 3 days of big names in music: Tim McGraw, Aerosmith, Pitbull, REO Speedwagon, Soul Asylum, and others. (July 18 – 20)
  36. Soak up the 53-foot waterfall at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. Grab a bite to eat and a beer at Sea Salt Eatery. Every booth at the Minnehaha Falls Art Fair will have an item under $30 for sale. (July 20)
  37. Explore the unique shops of downtown Anoka and dine from over 45 food trucks during an annual Food Truck Festival. (July 20)
    • The organizers of the Food Truck Festival also host gatherings in Uptown (June 23) and St. Paul. (August 17)
  38. Your summer will be ‘Larger Than Life’ when you see the Backstreet Boys perform at the Xcel Energy Center. (July 20)
  39. Take in an old fashioned parade. One of the largest in Minnesota is the Hopkins Raspberry Festival Grande Day Parade. (July 21)
  40. Bib up and chow down on ribs at The Great Midwest Rib Fest at Mystic Lake. Sugar Ray and Gretchen Wilson will headline this year. Admission is free. (July 25 – 27)
  41. Say ‘ooh, ahh’ at one of the largest fireworks displays in the country. The Minneapolis Aquatennial fireworks display start promptly at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The best viewpoint is near the Guthrie Theater.
  42. Visit the new home of iconic St. Paul drive-in restaurant, Porkys, and nearly 50 other restored buildings at the Little Log House Pioneer Village in Hastings. (July 26 – 28)
  43. Check out nearly 700 performances of nearly 130 stage shows during the Minnesota Fringe Festival. (August 1 – 11)
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    U.S. Bank Stadium will once again host the X Games in August.
  44. The X Games return to Minneapolis once again. This time, they bring in bands Diplo, Incubus, P.O.S and Wu-Tang Clan, too. (August 1 – 4)
  45. Ditch the car and explore Northeast Minneapolis by foot, bicycle or rollerblade at Open Streets Mpls. Get lunch at Maya Cuisine. (August 4)
  46. Watch clips of cuddly kittens at the Cat Video Festival, presented by myTalk 107.1 and the St. Paul Saints, at CHS Field in St. Paul. (Thursday, August 8)
  47. Drive up I-35 to Duluth for the Bayfront Blues Festival. The outdoor music festival draws more than 30 bands and 20,000 fans each year. (August 9 – 11)
  48. The 40th annual Irish Fair of Minnesota features Celtic and Irish music, dance and food. Admission is free. (August 9 – 11)
  49. Duluth’s Tall Ships Festival has a new name. Check out historic ships and the world’s largest rubber duck at the Festival of Sail. (August 11 – 13)
  50. Be ‘The Luckiest’ hearing Ben Folds in the Surly Brewing Company Festival Field. The concert is planned by First Avenue, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in April 2020. (August 14)
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    RENT returns to Minneapolis August 14 – 18.
  51. It’s been over 20 years since the musical, RENT, started touring. The Pulitzer Price and Tony Award winning show stops by the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. (August 14 – 18)
  52. The Minnesota State Fair’s best kept secret is their annual fundraiser, Taste of the Fair. Held the Thursday before the Great Minnesota Get Together begins, attendees can taste new and classic Fair foods, play Mighty Midway games and enjoy entertainment. (August 15)
    • Learn more: read and see my experience from Taste of the Fair here.
  53. The Como Park Japanese Obon Festival is an end of summer tradition. The evening ends with the majestic lighting of lanterns in a pond outside the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. (August 18)
  54. Nosh on a turkey leg while watching Puke & Snot perform at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee. (Weekends August 17 – September 29)
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    Photo credit: Minnesota State Fair
  55. Feast on wild rice cheeseburgers and deep-fried cookie dough riding the Skyride at the Minnesota State Fair. (August 22 – September 2) To avoid big crowds, go August 22, 27 or 28.

What Minnesota summer traditions do you love? Let me know!