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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

July 2010 - Minnesota

In this issue:

July 2010 marks the 100th issue of the USATourist News Magazine. It's hard to believe that we have sent out so many articles to you, our loyal subscribers. Thank you for keeping us going! In honor of our 100th issue we are running a Mail List Contest and starting a new feature - My Favorite Place. Each month a USATourist Staff person will tell you about their favorite place to visit in the United States. Get an insider's perspective on the places that make the US such a great travel destination while you get to know us a little better! Find the feature and the contest at the end of this article. And now onto.Minnesota!

While it's nicknamed the Land of 10,000 Lakes, there are actually 11,842 lakes which help make Minnesota the place to go for outdoor recreation. The summer months are a camper's and boater's paradise. The winter months see plenty of snow, which makes the region ideal for ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and the popular sport of hockey Being that this is July the signs of snow are long gone, and parks, hiking trails and lakes are filled with people enjoying the warm weather.

Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America

The Nickelodeon Universe in the Mall of America will keep your kids entertained with rides and games.
© Beth Blair

The two largest cities in the state are Minneapolis and St. Paul - together they are called the Twin Cities and locally they are simply called The Cities. The Mississippi River divides the two cities and while they are separate territories with completely different vibes - Minneapolis, a hip metropolis, and St. Paul with its historic ambience - they share a few things, such as sports teams. The Vikings football team, Timberwolves basketball team and Twins baseball team plays in Minneapolis while the Wild hockey team plays in St. Paul.

Mall of America

The Twin Cities is well known for the massive Mall of America where four out of ten shoppers are tourists. There are 520 shops, four major department stores: Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, and Sears and plenty of entertainment: Nickelodeon Universe, an indoor amusement park, sits in the mall's center. On the lower level is the Underwater Adventures Aquarium. You will also find a movie theater, 18-hole miniature golf course, and the new Amazing Mirror Maze.

The Mall of America is surrounded with affordable hotels. In fact, Country Inn and Suites is the closest hotel within walking distance and next door is Homewood Suites. If you're the adventurous type, you may enjoy the nearby Waterpark of America which is adjacent to the Radisson hotel.

The best time of year to visit the Mall of America is after the children return to school in September. When you're searching for a hotel near the Mall of America, search for the suburb Bloomington where the mall is located.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Yes. That is a giant spoon. And it is just one of the amazing pieces of art you will see at the Minneapolis Sculpture Park.
© Beth Blair

A free zoo? It's true!

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul is, believe it or not, a free zoo. (Well, a $2 donation is recommended to help keep the doors open.) The newest and most exciting exhibit is the Polar Bear Odyssey. Their zoo welcomed twin polar bears Buzz and Neil this summer. Many of the animals are indoors due to the cold winter climate, but there are several outdoors. Como Town, located on the edge of the zoo, is a seasonal amusement park. Ride tickets are for sale and if you happen to be there on a warm day hop under the misters to cool off.

Minneapolis and St. Paul Highlights

When visiting Minneapolis you won't want to miss the free Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, with the popular Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture. The nearby indoor Walker Art Museum features contemporary, visual, and performing arts exhibits and programs.

Uptown is a great place to find a restaurant, and if the weather is nice, eat outside. This area has many dining choices to choose from and it's not far from the Chain of Lakes, four lakes which are the centerpiece for outdoor recreation. A bike path encircles the lakes and is always busy with cyclists, rollerbladers and joggers. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent. The Lake Harriet Band Shell always has some kind of free musical performance going on.

Across the river sits St. Paul with its more historical atmosphere. One of the first things you will notice driving into town are two large domed buildings. The white and gold dome is the Minnesota State Capital and the other one, situated on a hill, is the Cathedral of St. Paul. Free tours are held every Monday through Friday at 1 p.m., though donations are appreciated.

Cathedral of St. Paul

The Cathedral of St. Paul is one of the historic attractions worth visiting in the city of St. Paul.
© Beth Blair

After visiting the Cathedral take some time to roam the area and look at the Victorian Mansions of Summit Avenue. The James J. Hill House is open to the public.

Quirky fun roadside attractions

Minnesota is known for its quirky roadside attractions many of which can be explored by taking a short daytrip out of the Twin Cities. The SPAM Museum is located about 100 miles south of the Twin Cities in the town of Austin, east of Interstate 35. Hormel Headquarters is located here, explaining why the canned meat is honored here. The museum is filled with displays, history and memorabilia related to SPAM and its history with Americans and the world.

Located in south-central Minnesota, 125 miles south of the Twin Cities, is a little town called Blue Earth. This town of 4,000 people has one of the largest roadside attractions around: the 55-foot Jolly Green Giant. The town also claims to be the birthplace of the Chocolate Dream ice cream bar, and home of the GIANT Museum featuring Jolly Green Giant and Little Green Sprout memorabilia and canning factory machinery.

Darwin, Minnesota, about 60 miles west of Minneapolis, is home to the "World's Largest Twine Ball Rolled By One Man". The ball was started and finished by Francis A. Johnson and he wrapped the twine for four hours a day. Today the famous ball of twine is on display 24-hours a day in an enclosed gazebo.

My Favorite Place

Yellowstone National Park

by Michelle Leco, CEO and co-founder

Self Portait at Yellowstone

Self portrait at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, 1999.
© Michelle Leco

"The first time I visited Yellowstone was in the spring of 1999. It was during my first solo cross country road trip. And I was captivated. It seemed unreal that one small area of the United States could contain such diverse geology.

"Yellowstone is best known for the hydrothermal features -hot springs, fumaroles, mudpots, and of course geysers. The colors of the springs are of the most vibrant greens, blues, oranges and reds and every shade between. And while every visitor can be sure to see the Old Faithful Geyser, there are other ones that few have seen. Even ones that lie on the tourist walk ways can only be viewed with some lucky timing.

"If you visit Yellowstone, be sure to take in the other natural features. There are mountains to climb and meadows to meander through. There are lakes for fishing and boating. There's even a grand canyon carved by tens of thousands of years of erosion.

"While the geological features are fantastic, my favorite aspect is the wildlife. No where else on earth have I seen so many wild animals in their natural environment. During my 4 day visit I saw bald eagles, moose, grizzly bears, coyote, elk and bison. The amazing thing is that what I saw was not unusual.

"Since that first trip in 1999, I have revisited the park. It never fails to enchant me!

"Tip: If you visit Yellowstone, camping is a great option. Just be warned, the howling of the wolves may keep you awake. And when you exit your tent, go slowly and look both ways. There just may be an elk or bison near your door!

"Tip: Both Gardiner and West Yellowstone are good options for hotels if you want to stay outside of the park. West Yellowstone is more commercial. But it also offers more dining options.

"Tip: If you want to stay at the historic Old Faithful Inn, make your reservations well in advance. This popular lodge always runs out of vacancy early. But even if you don't stay at the Inn, be sure to stop in for a visit. The Inn was designed to be a part of the natural landscape and was built using native timber. The architecture is something to behold!"

www.usatourist.com/english/destinations/wyoming/nationalparks/yellowstone/yellowstone-main.html
www.nps.gov/yell

Mail List Contest

Be sure to enter our July News Magazine Mail List Contest. This month the prize will include a USATourist t-shirt, 2010 Road Atlas and a copy of the Riding America's Backroad, a great road trip guidebook! For more details visit our contest entry page.

Thank you for reading this month's USA Tourist News Magazine. We will see you next month.

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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair


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