Saturday, December 29, 2007

Food - Dockside Fish Market

Grand Marais, MN

If you are near Grand Marais along Minnesota's North Shore looking for some really good fish products, be sure to stop in at the Dockside Fish Market. A seasonal business that has been in operation since 1998, Dockside is located right along highway 61 in town. They feature an array of locally caught fish, both fresh and smoked, along with a number of deli and "to go" items as well. Speaking from experience, their smoked lake trout is excellent.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Places - Hamel

Hamel, MN

While is has been encroached upon by the ever-growing city of Plymouth, the town of Hamel manages to retain some of its small town charm. Sitting in the middle of town on the old fashioned main street (Hamel Road) is the beautiful St. Anne Catholic Church. And in keeping with the small town feel, every summer you can catch the Hamel Rodeo, which has raised over $700,000 for local community service organizations.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Landmarks and History - The Gammelgården Museum

Scandia, MN

Scandia is the first Swedish settlement in Minnesota, established in 1850. The Gammelgården Museum is a well-preserved 11 acre farm in Scandia where visitors can catch a glimpse of what life was like for these Swedish immigrants. The museum, which seeks to preserve and promote Swedish history in Minnesota, is owned by the nearby Elim Lutheran Church.

Places - White Bear Lake

White Bear Lake, MN

The city of White Bear Lake is located in the northeastern part of what is now the Twin Cities metro area. Incorporated in 1881, this city sits of the shores of White Bear Lake, as the name would imply. White Bear Lake is a scenic area with lots in the way of shopping, recreation, and tourism, as well as history. This area was known during the Prohibition Era as a hangout for notorious Chicago gangsters who worked in nearby St. Paul!

MN 150 Exhibit

The MN 150 Exhibit is now open at the Minnesota Historical Society. To celebrate Minnesota's Sesquicentennial in 2008, Minnesotans were asked, "What person, place, thing, or event originating in Minnesota do you think has transformed our state, our country, or the world?"

Out of more than 2700 nominations, the final 150 have been selected. Please check them out here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Places - Nerstrand

Nerstrand, MN

Founded in 1885 by Norwegian immigrants, the town of Nerstrand is a small farming community located northeast of Faribault. Nerstrand is home to the Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park, a mature hardwood forest that is a haven for wildflower enthusiasts in the spring, and also for "leaf lookers" in the fall.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quirky Stuff - Fishing Bobber Water Tower

Pequot Lakes, MN

When your town is surrounded by countless lakes , it is important to pay homage to the great fishing traditions in the area. Located just north of Brainerd and situated along the Whitefish chain of lakes, the city of Pequot Lakes has done exactly that. Their one-of-a-kind water tower is fashioned to look like a giant fishing bobber. The bobber is rumored to belong to the legendary giant lumberjack, Paul Bunyan.

Quirky Stuff - Lucette Diana Kensack

Hackensack, MN

While much of the North Country pays tribute to the legendary lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, the town of Hackensack has taken a different approach. They claim to be the home of Paul Bunyan's sweetheart, Lucette Diana Kensack, who you can visit in town along the shores of Birch Lake. Every July, the town also celebrates "Sweetheart Days" in honor of this giant couple.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Quirky Stuff - World’s Largest Tiger Muskie

Nevis, MN

The northern Minnesota town of Nevis is an angler’s paradise. It is surrounded by hundreds of lakes teeming with panfish, bass, walleye, as well as the elusive muskie. And in downtown Nevis, you will find the biggest muskie of all! The Nevis Muskie is reported to be world’s largest tiger muskie, built in 1950 and measuring over 30 feet long. Now that is a lunker!

Quirky Stuff - The Birthplace of Paul Bunyan

Akeley, MN

The legend of Paul Bunyan, the giant mythological lumberjack, runs deep in the northern Minnesota forests. And the town of Akeley proclaims itself to be the "Birthplace of Paul Bunyan." In fact, in town along Highway 34, you will find this 25 foot tall statue of Paul himself, which is located next to the Akeley Paul Bunyan Historical Museum.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Landmarks and History - Skelly Gas Station in Madison

Madison, MN

These days, almost all of us swing into the local Holiday or SuperAmerica convenience store chains to top off our tanks. But most people born after 1970 probably have never seen something like this. Along Highway 40 in the town of Madison, you will see this old Skelly gas station. While it did not appear to be in business, this is a beautifully preserved example of the full service gas stations of yesteryear.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Restaurants - Drive In Restaurant

Taylors Falls, MN

What says “nostalgia” more than a restaurant with a giant, spinning mug of root beer out front? If you swing through the St. Croix River Valley town of Taylors Falls on a spring or summer day, you can stop in at the landmark Drive In Restaurant to have a true drive in experience of yesteryear, complete with carhops in poodle skirts. Order up a delicious burger basket, and don't forget a glass of the Frostop root beer. They even serve it in a frosty mug!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Places - Watson

Watson, MN

Located just northwest of the city of Montevideo you will find Watson, a small railroad and farming community. Watson has the distinction of calling itself the “Goose Capital of the USA,” due to its close proximity to Lac qui Parle Lake, a Wildlife Management Area that is a haven for the Canada goose and other migratory waterbirds.

Quirky Stuff - World’s Largest Ball of Twine

Darwin, MN

The central Minnesota town of Darwin claims to be home to the world’s largest ball of twine rolled by one man. Housed in this gazebo is a ball of twine that was rolled between 1950 and 1979, weighs 17,400 pounds, and has a circumference of approximately 40 feet. That is a whole lot of twine!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Landmarks and History - Lac qui Parle Mission

Lac qui Parle Lake, MN

Overlooking the shores of Laq qui Parle Lake in western Minnesota, the Lac qui Parle Mission was built at the request of noted explorer, Joseph Renville. The missionaries attempted to convert the Native Americans to Christianity, in addition to introducing agriculture. After Renville’s death in 1846, the Dakota’s opposition to the mission grew, with the missionaries leaving Lac qui Parle in 1854. It was here that the Dakota alphabet was developed and the Bible was first translated into the Dakota language.

Quirky Stuff - Lutefisk Capital of the USA

Madison, MN

Many residents of Minnesota have strong Norwegian roots. A traditional food you will see during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season is the much loved (and equally as much hated) lutefisk, a dried, salted cod that is preserved in lye. The city of Madison proclaims itself the “Lutefisk Capital of the USA” in recognition of its proud Norwegian heritage. To represent this, the town has erected what is believed to be a statue of the world’s largest codfish.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Places - Wanamingo

Wanamingo, MN

About 30 miles northwest of Rochester and sitting along the banks of the Zumbro River, you will find the town of Wanamingo. Founded in 1858, and eventually incorporated in 1917, Wanamingo is an old railroad town and farming community surrounded by rolling hills and lush green fields. The main street is that of a classic, picturesque small town, and the area is steeped in Norwegian-American tradition.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Events - “Republic of Kinney” 30 years of independence

Kinney, MN

The small town of Kinney is located on the Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota. Kinney is famous for jokingly “seceding” from the United States and becoming the “Republic of Kinney” in 1977. Unable to secure the necessary government assistance to repair its old water system, the mayor sent a letter to the Secretary of State announcing the intention to become a foreign country in hopes it would be easier to receive aid. They even went so far as to create passports which guaranteed safe passage through Kinney, as well as a piece of “potica,” a traditional Slovenian cake! This public relation stunt was successful, and Kinney eventually received the necessary aid to repair the water system. This weekend, July 13, 2007, Kinney is celebrating 30 years since declaring “independence.”

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Places - Willernie

Willernie, MN

On the southeastern shores of White Bear Lake, you will find Willernie. This small, scenic lakeside village was incorporated in 1948, but was a popular destination for tourists as early as 1910, given its close proximity to the Twin Cities. There is some 1930’s mobster lore here as well. It is reported that some of the boys who were part of Ma Barker’s crew hung out in Willernie while performing their criminal operations in nearby St. Paul.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Restaurants - King’s Place

Miesville, MN

Miesville, located near Hastings, is steeped in baseball tradition and is home to the Miesville Mudhens amateur baseball team. It is also home to King’s Place, a cozy, charming bar and restaurant inside of a 1916 building. They are famous for their hamburgers and have upwards of a couple dozen possible combinations to choose from. Stop in for a great burger, and while you are there, take in a Mudhens game!

Landmarks and History - The Folsom House

Taylors Falls, MN

In the Angel Hill district overlooking the river town of Taylors Falls, you will find the Folsom House. William Henry Carman Folsom was a St. Croix Valley lumberman and land speculator in the early days of Minnesota. He served as a member of the 1857 state constitutional convention and was a five time state senator. Today, the Taylors Falls Historical Society maintains this well preserved historic home.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Places - New Trier

New Trier, MN

Located southwest of Hasting, MN, the town of New Trier along Minnesota Highway 50 has just a little over 100 residents. A small German community named after the city of Trier, Germany, it is home to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a beautiful Beaux Arts architecture style building constructed in 1909. The St. Mary’s congregation dates back to 1856, two years before Minnesota became a state.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Events - Norseland Sesquicentennial

Norseland, MN

With the State of Minnesota turning 150 years old next year, there are bound to be a number of celebrations taking place. One of them will be in June of 2008 in the Scandinavian community of Norseland, which will also will be celebrating its sesquicentennial. Norseland is located near St. Peter, and it was settled by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants in 1858. The celebration is being treated as a homecoming of sorts and will include a parade, picnic lunch, and a display of historic articles. The Norseland 150th Anniversary Committee has created a blog to share interesting tidbits of local history, as well as information leading up to the event.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Landmarks and History - Town House School

Taylors Falls, MN

The town of Taylors Falls is located in the scenic St. Croix River Valley on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. Taylors Falls has a neighborhood called Angel Hill District that features several historic buildings from the mid 1800’s. Among them is the Town House School, which was built in 1852 and is considered the oldest existing public schoolhouse in the state of Minnesota.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Quirky Stuff - The Rothsay Prairie Chicken

Rothsay, MN

The greater prairie chicken once thrived on the grasslands of western Minnesota. Today, through loss of habitat, populations have declined greatly. Around the town of Rothsay, several carefully managed areas of native prairie grasses still support these magnificent birds, giving some hope for their future. In 1975, Rothsay built this giant statue to declare itself the “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota.”

Quirky Stuff - The Pelican Rapids Pelican

Pelican Rapids, MN

Pelican Rapids features what is proclaimed to be the world’s largest pelican. It was built in 1957 and sits below the Mill Pond dam in the center of town. The Pelican Rapids area is quite scenic and popular with tourists. It is also located on the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail, providing numerous possibilities for bird watchers.

Landmarks and History - The Little Red Schoolhouse

Sauk Centre, MN

This incredibly well-preserved school, known as the Little Red Schoolhouse, once served the educational needs of the community of Sauk Centre. Today, the school sits on the grounds of the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center and is open for tours. Sauk Centre is the hometown of Lewis, the noted author and Nobel Prize winner.

Quirky Stuff - The Ashby Coot

Ashby, MN

Sure, you have seen a lot of interesting statues, but have you ever seen one of an American coot? You will if you drive to the town of Ashby, MN. This large coot was erected by a group called “Coots Unlimited,” an Ashby sportsmen’s club. Every year they host a banquet to raise money for local area wildlife projects.

Quirky Stuff - Big Ole in Alexandria

Alexandria, MN

Alexandria is home to “Big Ole,” a 28-foot tall Viking. This statue was built in 1965 for the Minnesota pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. It was brought to Alexandria later that year to help name the city “The Birthplace of Minnesota” because of the discovery of the Kensington Runestone, a controversial, yet historic, artifact which could place Vikings in the area as early as 1362.

Quirky Stuff - The Fergus Falls Otter

Fergus Falls, MN

Fergus Falls is a popular recreation and tourist destination in west-central Minnesota that offers countless outdoor activities. While entering the city going west on Highway 210, don’t be surprised to see a rather large otter. It is almost impossible to miss as it guards the shoreline in the Adams/Grotto Lake Park. Why a giant otter statue, you ask? Fergus Falls is located in Otter Tail County, of course!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Places - Isle

Isle, MN

The city of Isle is located on the southeastern corner of Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota. Not only is Isle a summer fishing mecca, but it offers year-round tourism in the form of snowmobiling, ice fishing, hunting, and plenty of golfing opportunities as well. Like the town of Garrison, its neighbor across the lake, Isle also has a giant walleye statue of its own and proclaims to be the “Walleye Capital of the World.”

Quirky Stuff - The Garrison Walleye

Garrison, MN

The town of Garrison is located on the northwest corner of Mille Lacs Lake. While this town is the gateway to both the Brainerd Lakes area, as well as the Grand Rapids area to the north, Garrison is also known as one of Minnesota’s most popular walleye fishing destinations. In recognition of that, this large walleye statue greets visitors at the scenic overlook along Highway 169.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Food - Caribou Cream Maple Syrup

Lutsen, MN

Aficionados of a good breakfast know that there is absolutely no substitute for real maple syrup. And in an area of the state known primarily for being blanketed by boreal forests, many are surprised to learn that there is some excellent maple syrup being produced on the North Shore. One of them is Caribou Cream, a locally made syrup out of Lutsen. This marvelously sweet liquid gold will make any pancake or waffle a decadent treat!

Landmarks and History - Hay Lake School

New Scandia Township, MN

Built in 1896, the Hay Lake School served New Scandia Township and the Washington County Rural School system up until 1963. The school sat boarded up until 1970 when a group of citizens sought to save the building, cleaned it up, and started offering tours. As a result, the Hay Lake School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and now serves as a museum that is owned and operated by the Washington County Historical Society.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Landmarks and History - MN's 10 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2007

This week the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, an organization with a mission "to preserve, protect, and promote Minnesota's historic resources," released its 2007 listing of Minnesota's ten most endangered historic places. The list is as follows:

1. Ely Community Center in Ely

2. Serbian Cultural Center in South St. Paul

3. Litchfield Opera House in Litchfield

4. St. Anthony Falls Historic District in Minneapolis

5. Waseca Depot in Waseca

6. State Theater in Owatonna

7. St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Jordan

8. Southeast Library in Minneapolis

9. The Mississippi River Valley in St. Paul

10. Minnesota's Historic Schools - Beardsley School in Beardsley, Jasper School in Jasper, Kasson Elementary School in Kasson, Pipestone Central School in Pipestone, Two Harbors High School in Two Harbors, and Worthington Central School in Worthington

The reasons that these particular locations are in trouble vary, but common themes include such things as planned demolition, underutilization, neglect, and the threat of development. Please check out this beautiful photographic exhibit featuring these endangered sites. This exhibit also contains information on each location, as well as some proposed action items people can take to help preserve these sites and others for future generations of Minnesotans.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Landmarks and History - Fort Snelling

St. Paul, MN

On the bluffs overlooking the intersection of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers sits Fort Snelling, which was built in 1825. The fort, named for Colonel Josiah Snelling, was originally built to control trade, settlement, and exploration of the area, and served as a military training center through the mid 1900's. In 1962, Fort Snelling became one of Minnesota’s State Parks , preserving its place in history and providing people with recreational and learning opportunities for generations to come.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Landmarks and History - The Präst Hus

Scandia, MN

in 1850, the town of Scandia became the first Swedish settlement in what is now the state of Minnesota. In 1868, the Präst Hus was built as a parsonage to serve the local Elim Lutheran Church. Today, the Präst Hus sits on the site of the Gammelgården Museum and is the oldest existing parsonage in Minnesota.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Food - Lou’s Fish House

Two Harbors, MN

When visiting the North Shore, fans of smoked fish must stop at Lou’s Fish House on the eastern edge of town. Lou’s is a Two Harbors landmark, and they have been smoking salmon, lake trout, and whitefish for better than three and a half decades now. In addition to fish, Lou’s is also known for jumbo smoked shrimp, beef jerky, and specialty cheeses.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Restaurants/Landmarks and History - The Freight House

Stillwater, MN

When is a restaurant also an historic landmark? When it is The Freight House, of course. Built in 1883, this railroad freight depot served the bustling commercial hub of Stillwater, MN, as well as the the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad, until it was sold in 1970. In 1977 it was Stillwater’s first building to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Now converted to a restaurant, The Freight House serves up hearty American fare to hungry locals and tourists in the beautiful downtown area.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Restaurants - The Lookout Bar & Grill

Maple Grove, MN

The Lookout Bar & Grill opened in 1958 on a hilltop in what is now the bustling city of Maple Grove. Orignally built on 40 acres next to a dirt road, this family-owned bar and restaurant is now completely surround by homes in the middle of a residential neighborhood. This landmark restaurant has been serving this area for decades, offering fantastic hamburgers, sandwiches, numerous entrees, and even the famous Broaster chicken. They also offer live music and entertainment, as well as catering and private dining room options.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Quirky Stuff - The North St. Paul Snowman

North St. Paul, MN

In 1972, the city of North St. Paul adopted the “snowman” as their official city logo. To accompany that, why not have a giant snowman statue as well? Built in 1974 by a local resident named Lloyd Koesling, the snowman was originally located on 7th Avenue and Margaret Street, but was moved to a more visible and prominent location along Highway 36 in 1990. According to the city of North St. Paul’s web site, the statue is 44 feet tall and weighs around 20 tons.

Restaurants - Snuffy’s Malt Shop

Roseville, MN
Highland Park, MN
Minnetonka, MN
Edina, MN

While the Twin Cities has turned into a veritable sea of fast food restaurants, it is refreshing to find a place like Snuffy’s Malt Shop that is alive and well. Snuffy's is an old-fashioned burger joint and malt shop with four locations throughout the metro area. Stop in for a “Snuffy Burger,” or for those who are feeling nostalgic, an honest-to-goodness soda, float, or phosphate.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Landmarks and History - Bally Blacksmith Shop

Grand Marais, MN

The Bally Blacksmith Shop once served the town of Grand Marais in the early 1900's. While blacksmithing is becoming a lost art in modern times, thankfully the locals had the foresight to preserve this distinctive, landmark building in the downtown area. In 1986, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Quirky Stuff - Lindstrom Water Tower

Lindstrom, MN

The quaint and scenic city of Lindstrom has one of the more unique water towers you will ever see; it is shaped like a teapot! Located approximately a half an hour northeast of the Twin Cities in the Chisago Lakes area, Lindstrom declares itself “America’s Little Sweden” as a sign of its proud Swedish heritage.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Places - Marine on St. Croix

Marine on St. Croix, MN

The quaint village of Marine on St. Croix was founded in 1839 on the site of the first commercial sawmill on the St. Croix River. The General Store, built in 1870 and pictured on the left, is still in operation to this day. And the Village Hall, built in 1888 and pictured on the right, is said to be the oldest village hall in the state that is still in use for serving a local government.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Quirky Stuff - Mora’s Dala Horse

Mora, MN

The city of Mora in east-central Minnesota has a giant statue of a dala horse located just south of the old downtown area. This ornate horse was built in 1971 and serves as a reminder of Mora’s rich Swedish heritage.

Quirky Stuff - The Isle Walleye

Isle, MN

On Main Street in front of the bank in the town of Isle is a statue of a giant walleye. Located on the southeast corner of Mille Lacs Lake, a premier fishing destination in central Minnesota, Isle is one of a handful of towns that lays claim to being the “Walleye Capital of the World.”

Monday, January 01, 2007

Restaurants - Brine's Bar & Restaurant

Stillwater, MN

Brine’s Bar & Restaurant is a landmark in downtown Stillwater. It was founded in 1958 by a gentleman named Lamont “Bud” Brine and is housed in a building that is nearly 140 years old. If you find yourself in downtown Stillwater, stop in and have one of their great burgers or sandwiches.