48 hours in Minneapolis
Did you know that the origin of honeymoon did not actually involve a trip? Or if it did, any travel meant going to see relatives who were unable to attend the wedding. Honeymoon traditionally refers to a post-marriage period full of sweetness and joy for the newlyweds -- one that, wink wink, probably won't last forever. Hence the phrase, "they're in the honeymoon stage" or "they act like they're still on their honeymoon."
J and I traveled quite a bit in 2014, so we always had plans of driving someplace nearby for a little mini-honeymoon after our wedding weekend, and then saving up for an overseas trip in a year or two. When we received our baby news, it made even more sense to take it easy but do something fun together to celebrate our marriage. It turns out taking a mini-honeymoon AND staying relatively local is not the norm nowadays!
Consequently, I had this conversation multiple times:
Friend/Relative/Coworker/Stranger: "So, where you are going for your honeymoon?"
Them: ". . . Minneapolis? Really?" (Someone actually replied, "Well, that's okay." Ha! Yes, it is.)
We considered Chicago, Omaha, Minneapolis and Kansas City -- and MPLS won out since neither of us had been there before, together. Exploring new cities is one of our favorite things to do, plus, we've got Minnesota friends here in Des Moines that rave about their former 'hood, so we had plenty of recommendations to check out.
On Friday, we drove up in the afternoon and checked in at Hotel Ivy. We wanted to stay at a swanky hotel, and this one definitely fit the bill. Our room offered great views on the 18th floor, a super-soft king bed, a giant bathtub, and plenty of space. Cheap it was not, but overall a win in terms of accommodations. Upon arrival, we went down to the hotel spa for a couples massage. The lobby area, bustling with platinum-haired women in sky-high heels, may have intimidated J a little bit, as he had never gotten a massage before, but we waited patiently and were quickly ushered into the massage waiting area with plush robes, hot tea and quiet hotel music in the background. (You know the type -- elevator piano music that's surprisingly soothing.)
The massage itself was fantastic; I told the therapist that I wanted a lot of pressure, and she delivered. There were even a few moments where I had to use my yoga breath to get through a tender spot, but in a "hurts so good" way. J said his massage was "awkward at first" but then he relaxed and enjoyed it. As for the couples element? Eh. It was okay. We both agreed that getting a massage side-by-side in the same dark room seemed kind of . . . pointless, but I don't know, some people are really into the concept. Perhaps in the future, if it occurred on an exotic beach, it would seem more romantic and lovely?
We cleaned up real nice and then walked over to Butcher and The Boar. My sister and her boyfriend suggested we eat there, and every time I mentioned it to someone while detailing our trip plans, they basically responded with "OH MY GOD THE FOOD IS SO GOOD." (This means I automatically had really high hopes for this place, which usually results in being disappointed in some way, or feeling confused about the hype, or thinking "I mean, it was good but not good.") We killed an hour before our reservation in their beer garden, which was packed and I can understand why -- lots of greenery, clustered chairs under twinkly globe lights, diners enjoying slabs of meat that were making my mouth water from afar. AND, it was dog friendly. (PSA: Des Moines needs an outdoor space like this.)
After sipping on some drinks, we headed inside. The decor? Like the inside of your beloved grandfather's den, all whiskey bottles and dark wood floors, but with a stylish, shabby-chic touch in terms of white marble tables and red velvet armchairs. Well done, B&TB. Then we looked at the menu, and basically wanted to order the entire thing. B&TB is absolutely one of those restaurants where every plate coming out of the kitchen looks better than the one before. On my way to the bathroom, I spied a plate of spare ribs so that's what we ordered as our main dish. Because it looked that delicious.
Also on our table: king trumpet mushrooms (aka large mushrooms in a yummy sauce), brussels sprouts (fried in a buffalo-type coating with ranch on the side; we demolished them), skillet cornbread (all crunchy and golden from the skillet, topped with honey-butter, I ate 3/4 of it myself).
UGHHHHHH. So good. We didn't even talk when the food arrived except to mumble, "Oh my god," and "Amazing" and "Yum."
Then we rolled ourselves home and called it a night.
Saturday morning, after sleeping in with no actual alarm and no dog-waking-you-up-to-eat-or-pee alarm, we ventured down to Mill City Farmer's Market for breakfast. The sun beat down, but temps stayed in the high '50s/low 60's which is basically my favorite fall weather of all time. (I must note that it was a cool 95 DEGREES on our wedding day the week prior . . .)
Okay, DSM'ers, we are incredibly spoiled by the Des Moines Farmers Market. Seriously. Mill City involved maaaaybe a block's worth of vendors, and it was very cute and friendly and all, but we spent the whole time making comparisons between it and DTFM, like, "I like the other egg sandwich more" and "This pastry is a little crunchy, whereas the ones at La Mie are soft and chewy." (#firstworldproblems) The apples were superb, though, and we walked a whole bag 1.5 miles back to the hotel to eat throughout the rest of the weekend. The whole downtown area right near the market was pretty neat as well with informational signs about the history of the flour mills and Mississippi Valley falls right there. We walked alongside the river for a while, and it was just beautiful and peaceful.
And! There appeared to be some sort of impromptu yoga situation happening near the stairs by the farmer's market, which was really cool to witness in light of Emily and I's efforts for outdoor community here with Pop Up Yoga DSM. One young mama actually wheeled her stroller and toddler up to the group after class had started, whipped out a blanket and toys for her kiddo, and then joined in. I will probably be that woman someday, ha.
The afternoon's plans involved biking around a triage of rivers: Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles. Bike rental in Minneapolis is a well thought out concept, with interactive maps online and stations almost everywhere; if I lived there, I would certainly bike much more often. We rented two bikes for about $12 and took off.
I got tired in about 5 minutes (pregnancy problems), but really, the routes were easy to navigate and fairly flat. Lake Harriet = stunning blue water and sky sliced with white sailboat triangles, surrounded by families and children and dogs. Lake Calhoun = primarily runners and walkers, or serious bikers with all their fancy gear, and many more folks on paddleboards or in kayaks within the lake itself. Lake of the Isles = home of the rich and famous. No joke. I should've stopped to take a picture of some of these homes because they were INSANE. We looked some up on Zillow later and all fell in the $2-4 million range. Holy smokes. Several open houses were happening that Saturday as well, and we kept kidding that we should ride our rented bikes on over to them and pretend to be a rich couple shopping for a summer home in Minnesota. NBD.
10 miles later, we were thirsty and hungry, so we stopped at Bread & Pickle, an outdoor cafe right by Lake Harriet, for a hummus plate (my attempt at healthy eating due to nonstop cravings of potato chips these days), a root beer (hers) and a beer beer (his).
After a quick nap back at the hotel, we spruced up for an earlybird dinner at Bar La Grassa, an Italian joint my sister and I visited the one other time I was in Minneapolis. FYI: the ambiance at 5 p.m. is very different than at 8 p.m. -- choose the latter. We took the only reservation they had, but made a crucial rookie move in that neither of us was particularly hungry that early.
Still, we ordered pork shoulder bruschetta (delicious, but not worth $9 for one piece of toast), linguine with lamb meatballs (still not a lamb lover, but fun to try) and gnocchi with spicy cauliflower and orange (I ate 3/4 of this myself). Two more things about this place: 1) they give you bread as a starter, but with a little dish of a white bean salad marinated in olive oil, which is kind of different, and 2) they brought us a free dessert to wish us a happy marriage, which was nice in general and smart customer service.
Ok, one last thing: our waiter pronounced "bruschetta" as "BRU-SKE (hard K)-TA." I've always pronounced it as "BRU-SCHET-TA" (more of a shush sound). Have I been wrong all these years?!
We headed a few blocks away to Marvel Bar, another place I had been to once before that I knew J would absolutely adore. They're known for their inventive cocktails and hidden underground vibe; it's not uncommon to have to ask the bartender for the definition of 4 of 5 ingredients in a single drink, and the entrance is difficult to find. (Reminds me of Violet Hour in Chicago, for my Chitown folks.)
Well, it used to be. This time around, a bouncer stood outside the door underneath strings of lights, checking IDs, so you pretty much knew you were in the right vicinity. But there's no sign outside signifying the name of the bar, and previously, you just had to know to open the one door down the stairs that led to the purple door slash entrance of Marvel.
I'll also add that the Marvel bartenders made me two spectacular mock-tails, in addition to all of J's very boozy drinks, so they cater to multiple preferences with no problem. The audience varies: we saw everything from a bachelorette party wearing Derby-style hats to a group of well-suited men in expensive suits clamoring for whiskey, to a man in his 70s clearly on a blind date and nervous about (note: he requested a drink with "cheap vodka," and had zero shame about it, which was kind of hilarious) to young couples like ourselves lined up around the bar.
After such a fun day and night, we naturally ended up in bed by 10 p.m. watching National Geographic. Living that crazy newlywed life, I tell ya. . . . but truly, I'm happy to be married to someone who doesn't care about being "cool" in the least and has no problem going home early on a Saturday night on vacation when his pregnant wife has had enough.
We kicked off Sunday by driving over to Five Watt, a coffee place probably famous to all MPLS hipsters. I had the Hibernator -- espresso, toasted almonds, honey and milk -- and J had (I think) something called the Big Easy -- cold press, nutmeg simple syrup, black walnut bitters, and cream (say whaaaat?!) Both were delicious, if on the sweet side. We sat outside, and about 5 minutes into our coffee and conversation, a woman walked by and asked us if we were from the neighborhood.
Her: "I didn't think so. Where are you from?"
Us: "Des Moines."
Her: "Des Moines! What are you in town for, then? Are you here for the weekend?"
Us: "We're here for our honeymoon, actually, and yes, we got here Friday."
Her: "How nice! What all have you been up to?"
She proceeded to ask us all kinds of questions, like where we ate and what lakes we went to and where we were staying and what we thought of the coffee, and even whipped out her phone to show us a few other things to do around town. Super nice lady, and afterwards, we looked at each other like . . . where did THAT come from? I've honestly never had a complete stranger come up to me, in broad daylight, and strike up an entire conversation out of the blue with zero prompting. Apparently we looked really out of place there ;)
We walked down the street to find a bite to eat, and stumbled upon another farmer's market -- similar in scope and vendors to Mill City -- where we snatched up a couple of "downtowners" (breakfast pastries with eggs, tomatoes, and herbs) from Sun Street Breads.
After that, we checked out of the hotel (sad face) and went over to Walker Art Museum and the Sculpture Garden to use up a couple of hours before our last event of the weekend, an outdoor concert with Counting Crows and Citizen Cope. The museum seemed a little smaller in scope than Des Moines Arts Center, and it also cost $14 a person to get in -- which, I don't mind paying to support art in cities at all BUT the DMAC is free at all times to everyone, which is awesome and uncommon. A new Jack Whitten exhibit had just opened, which we enjoyed walking around, and then the artist himself came into the exhibit hall and chatted with people looking at his art! How cool is that? (Learn more about Whitten here and here -- he's an extremely talented artist who works in a variety of mediums with heartfelt social conviction; many of his pieces included a quote from him and his life seems really interesting.) As for the sculpture garden, it is currently under renovation, so several of the sculptures had been removed. Another fun fact: I learned from a friend last night that many pieces of this particular sculpture garden were originally on loan, which is another reason there seemed to be a low number of pieces, and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines actually owns all its outdoor public art. Cool beans. Anyway, we still had fun walking around the park area and enjoying the nice weather.
We ate lunch at the Local, where we tried to watch the U.S. Men's Open before it went on a rain delay, and where we accidentally sat next to a girl and guy loudly talking about how they had hooked up and it was a terrible idea and the guy's ex-girlfriend oddly wasn't "cool with it." DRAMA. However, I secretly love eavesdropping soap opera-y conversations while eating. Free entertainment, amiright?
Then we took a harried trip to the library to print our concert tickets the old school way before heading over to the concert venue . . . to learn that the show had been canceled due to a sick band member. Frustrating in the moment, but honestly, we were both a little tired at this point and ready to get back, so we hit the road home.
All in all, I'm so glad we spent our mini-honeymoon in Minneapolis. It's a wonderful city with plenty to offer in terms of food, art, recreation and more; slightly bigger than Des Moines and smaller than Chicago, but with the same Midwest vibe. Every person we encountered in Minneapolis was incredibly friendly and kind, from the hotel staff, to our Uber driver, the farmer's market people, waiters and waitresses and even the dude at the library who showed me how to print something. Can't wait to go back!