Thanks to Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, on August 20 I was sent off on a fast-paced, one-hotel-per-night Minneapolis vacation. What was the result of such a whirlwind trip? Four amazing, luxurious vacations – and nothing less.
Minnesota’s best-kept secret is the ability to appeal to a variety of niche travelers at once. Whether you’re coming into town for Mall of America shopping, a lakeside retreat, off-the-beaten-path hiking, or some great urban biking, you can find the trip that’s right for you.
In this article and its upcoming sister post, we’ll explore a few of the awesome getaways for travelers of every kind.
Minneapolis for Fashionistas – Without the Hefty Sales Tax
If you’re used to sky-high sales tax in bigger shopping meccas like New York and Chicago, you’re in for a real treat here. Not only will you save yourself a few percentage points in Minneapolis (The city doesn’t levy taxes on clothing and shoe purchases.), you’ll have hundreds – thousands – of chances to make good use of them.
The Mall of America, of course, is a national favorite. Get lost in the 400+ stores that make up this mini-city (Word has it they employ about 12,000 people!), or speed-walk your way through a space the size of seven – seven! — Yankee Stadiums. Don’t forget to check out the Mall’s calendar of special traveling exhibitions. Currently featured is a showcase of the history of Star Trek . . . located right next to a large-scale reproduction of Barbie’s Dreamhouse. Win.
If you’re looking for something a bit more low-key, I’d recommend checking out the upscale, boutique collections at 50th and France, an adorable brick-clad neighborhood with Euro cafes, pizza places, and more. Between you and me, I ended up spending a solid two hours just relishing in some good old-fashioned window shopping.
Be sure to check out my top picks, including:
1. Cos Bar, a beautiful cosmetics store with collections of the top luxury makeup brands (Chanel and Le Mer — enough said)
2. Bone Adventure Pet Gear (a wide selection of home-baked, healthy pet treats)
3. The Edina Creamery (Any place where I can stuff my face with Almond Joy-inspired ice cream is a win in my book.)
Dig into some delicious ice cream! Photo by Ann Santori.
If you have a larger chunk of time to kill (and a passion for art-house cinema), the Landmark Theatre’s Edina Cinema (located smack-dab in the middle of 50th and France’s district) has entertainment options galore.
Put Your Feet Up
After a long day of working those shopping feet, nothing beats a hotel that’s just a quick hop and a skip away from all of the action.
Starwood put me up at the Sheraton Hotel Bloomington, which is perfectly centrally located (less than 10 miles from the Mall of America and 5oth and France). Since it’s in the middle of a dense, corporate district, it’s also a great spot for business travelers who are interested in a bit of leisure as well.
Savor the pleasure of disconnecting at times like the Sheraton Social Hour — a Monday-through-Wednesday nightly mixer, where, for five bucks (!), you’re offered two 2-ounce samples of two different 90+rated wines (according to Wine Spectator magazine’s rating system).
If you’re looking for a little extra luxury, consider upgrading your room to the “club” floor for another $20. With the special status you get access to the Club Lounge, where you can load up on coffee, snacks, “hot apps,” and scallops from 5 to 8 pm every night. And there’s breakfast in the morning to boot! You’re likely to save more in food costs than you’re paying – and those extra dollars can go right to the shopping budget.
Travel Tip: If your work schedule keeps you absolutely confined to the hotel, your taste buds won’t feel slighted. The Colette Bar & Bistro and its French-inspired menu will take excellent care of them!
Minneapolis for Health Nuts
Where the Sheraton Hotel Bloomington is all business, the Westin Edina Galleria is a more relaxation-friendly environment. Get your fix of organic food, luxury body products, and local boutiques — all via an underground tunnel.
Those who wish to maintain their exercise regimen while on vacation can take advantage of the Westin’s fitness center. In colder weather, when you’re loath to leave the hotel, don’t miss the fitness center’s heated pool and whirlpool. CorePower Yoga is also within a couple minutes’ driving distance, and they offer a week’s worth of first-timers-free classes (a win for travelers). If “om”-ing isn’t your style, the Westin concierge staff can provide you with a complimentary running/walking map of three-to-five-mile suggested routes.
Those of you Go Girls who skew on the adventurous side will love that the Westin Edina Galleria’s underground tunnel connects you directly to the Edina Galleria Shopping Center, which also hosts great options for dinner.
View of the Westin Edina from across the street. Photo by Ann Santori.
Natural, Organic, Delicious Food
People’s Organic, an organic, local, and fair trade restaurant with everything from farm-to-table bison burgers to biodynamic wines, sent an adorable gift bag to my hotel, complete with a $40 gift card and signature coffee mug designed by a local 16-year-old artist. For dinner, I just had to check it out.
My gift bag from People’s Organic! Photo by Ann Santori.
With People’s Organic’s casual vibe — art on the walls and candles on the tables, but small children and jeans welcome — you can feel comfortable wearing your yoga pants and tennis shoes.
Don’t have anything comfy enough? These are items you can easily rent from the Westin’s New Balance Gear Lending Program for $5. Just be forewarned that sizes only reach up to women’s XL and men’s XXL.
The Peruvian Chicken Broth and Artisan Cheese Flight were light but filling.
After dinner take a brisk walk to Good Earth for a light dessert (Hey, everyone has to cheat!). They were “sweet” enough to take care of my tab for free. I took advantage of the summer’s special menu (with produce and ingredients sourced from local suppliers) and grabbed a lemon ice box cake and customizable, fresh fruit smoothie.
If you’re reluctant to leave the hotel, don’t feel you have to venture out for some delicious eats. The Westin Edina Galleria has 24-hour room service, with all food prepared by their in-house restaurant, McCormick & Schmick’s.
Minneapolis for Adventurers
Spin Your Wheels
If you’d like your exercise regimen to take you past some of Minneapolis’ famed landmarks, the Midtown Greenway (a 5.5-mile bikers-only trail which runs parallel to Lake Street, past Lake Calhoun on the West, and the Mississippi River on the East) is a perfect fit. Stop off at the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center to rent a bike and the safety gear you need; they also have lockers and showers for your convenience.
When you’ve worn yourself out and your tummy is grumbling, the Midtown Global Market is right across the Greenway — housed in the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. building. Fun fact: The Midtown Greenway is constructed on a former railroad corridor which used to deliver shipments to the Sears building’s basement warehouse!
The St. Paul-based non-profit organization, the Neighborhood Development Center, helps to manage the market, and the NDC’s Ms. Becky George graciously offered me a tour of the Market during my time in Midtown.
The Market is full of eccentric characters and shops with their own stories to tell. A few of my favorites?
1. The Produce Exchange runs a stall which is open to the public, but which also sells (at wholesale prices!) to other Market stalls — without the minimum order that the bigger produce suppliers require.
2. There’s a fully equipped commercial kitchen, available for rent in time slots, for those who operate food trucks and catering businesses and need to prove that they produce their food in a proper kitchen (versus at home) to maintain their license.
3. There is an all-natural bath and body shop (run by a mother-daughter team) where the mantra is, “If you can’t put in in your mouth, don’t put it on your body!”
4. One of the only two sit-down restaurants (vs. food-stall-style), called the Rabbit Hole, is Alice in Wonderland-themed and serves dishes inspired by Vietnamese street fare.
Bison feet sold as chew toys at the Midtown Global Market; longer chew time and less splintering! Photo by Ann Santori.
Steps away from both the Greenway and the Midtown Global Market is the Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown. You can relax in style, and, if you get a second wind and you’re interested in exploring more of the city, take advantage of the services of the Sheraton’s free shuttle, which will transport you, with door-to-door, on-demand service, anywhere within a five-mile radius of the hotel (from 6 am to 11 pm).
If you didn’t fill your belly at the Midtown Global Market, and the weather is warm enough, enjoy a glass of wine and appetizers on the Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown’s Great Room patio, which offers a pleasant view of the Greenway.
Stay tuned for my next post, which will wrap up my final day in Minneapolis — at the luxurious Hotel Ivy!