Category Archives: Events

Downtown St. Paul: Revisited

Every January, talk of “New Year, New Me” abounds, so we figured now would be a great time to revisit one of our very first featured neighborhoods, Downtown St. Paul, to see what has changed since we last visited in February 2014. As it turns out, a lot has changed in three years – the Metro Transit Green Line opened in June 2014 and has since served millions of passengers; the State Capitol building has undergone a massive $310 million restoration (due to be completed by August 2017); and dozens of other development projects, both large and small, have popped up in the capital city. As its twin city, Minneapolis, gears up to host Super Bowl LII a year from now with its own bevy of renovation projects, St. Paul is also tidying up and polishing the fine china to welcome the big crowds that are expected.

With a “crumbling exterior” and “antiquated infrastructure,” the Capitol building was long overdue for some major reconstruction. After 100 years of use, what else would you expect? So in the past three years, the building has experienced a comprehensive renovation – updates include everything from exterior modifications to safety enhancements and increased energy efficiency. Behind-the-scenes photos of the process can be seen here. The project is expected to reach completion in August of this year, which will be celebrated with a free multi-day event for the public to kick off the site’s next 100 years of service.

  

As is typical in most major metropolitan areas, condos, lofts, and apartments are the downtown’s prevalent housing styles. Conversion and restoration projects throughout the neighborhood over the past year or so, have resulted in hundreds of additional units coming on to the market (with more on the way). In December 2016 alone, there were forty condo units listed for sale (compared to 25 in Downtown Minneapolis). With a relatively low median sales price ($169,900 compared to $261,950 in Downtown West and $514,000 for Downtown East, see chart below), buying a condo in Downtown St. Paul is a smart investment, especially because of the access to a strong job market, burgeoning recreational opportunities, and convenient public transportation.  

A great transit system factors into the decision for many to choose Downtown St. Paul as their home. Fortunately, Metro Transit fits the bill, having received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) last year. With at least 20 bus routes traveling through the Downtown on a daily basis, it is well connected to the rest of the Twin Cities, including suburbs such as Maplewood, Lino Lakes, and Stillwater. The successful addition of the Green Line in 2014 has made it even easier for residents and visitors from anywhere in the metro to check out all of Downtown’s new offerings.

  

The Lowertown area has experienced some of the most growth as of late, especially when it comes to the foodie scene. Favorite newcomers include Public Kitchen and Bar and Dark Horse Bar and Eatery. Also relatively new to the area is The Buttered Tin, a café and bakery which is part of the Wacouta Commons Park district.

Another recent Lowertown addition is CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team. Opened in 2015, the stadium has hosted much more than ball games, including corporate events, concerts, even weddings! And of course you can’t forget one of Twin Cities most popular events, the Cat Video Festival, which relocated last year from the Walker Art Center.  

St. Paul is a haven for the culturally-inclined, brimming with art galleries, music and dance venues, museums, and, of course, some of the most historic theaters in the state. Until just last year, the Palace Theatre – which first opened in 1916 – had not been in regular use for nearly 40 years. Just before being condemned, the building was purchased by the City of St. Paul and refreshed (to the tune of $15.6 million over two years) to become one of the Twin Cities’ premier destinations for contemporary music and entertainment. Built in 1910, the Fitzgerald Theater (originally the Shubert Theater, then later renamed after the literary great, and St. Paul native, F. Scott) is the oldest active theater in the city. The venue is known for hosting Minnesota Public Radio, along with concerts and “Films at the Fitz.” While not quite as old as the Palace or the Fitzgerald, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is just as culturally significant to the fabric of St. Paul, being recognized as one of the U.S.’s leading not-for-profit performing arts centers. The Ordway went through its own two-year update, completed in 2015. One of the biggest annual attractions is the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival, which takes place in June. Lastly, if you haven’t seen or been inside the Landmark Center (built in 1902 and located just across the street from Rice Park), then you are missing out. From its instantly recognizable pink granite exterior, to the green turrets and red tiled roof, to the marble and mahogany interior, the architecture represents the best of the city. Definitely come for a tour of the building, and stay for the impressive performances and exhibits.

Theaters are not the only way to take in St. Paul’s culture – there are many museums, as well, and they are experiencing their own rejuvenations. As part of the Pioneer Endicott/Empire Building’s larger renovation plans, the Minnesota Museum of American Art is set for a major expansion in the months to come. Meanwhile, work on the Children’s Museum, is nearing completion (it’s expected to be wrapped up by April 2017). The $30 million update includes a four-story climbing structure and an expanded gallery for air and water play.

  

Until then (and beyond), the Science Museum is another great option for those who like their museums to be interactive, educational, and fun. As the most popular museum in the Upper Midwest, it takes this distinction seriously, offering a myriad of diverting shows, exhibits (dinosaurs!), and artifacts – the Omnitheater is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser! History buffs will particularly enjoy the exhibit and views of the Mississippi River. Speaking of history lovers, just head north on Kellogg Blvd. to the Minnesota History Center for a walk through our state’s past. Home to the Minnesota Historical Society, the center has permanent and changing exhibits and hosts concerts, lectures, family days and other special events throughout the year.

Through all the changes the city has seen recently, though, there are iconic unchanging landmarks and events that will forever define St. Paul. For example, the Winter Carnival (being held Jan. 26th-Feb. 5th), is now over 130 years old, and can call itself the country’s oldest winter festival (predating the Tournament of Roses Festival by two years). Each year, the festivities attract more than 250,000 visitors from near and far, which helps boost the local economy. From the ice castle and snow sculptures to the Grand Day parade and Winter Jazz Festival to the Beer Dabbler and Vulcan Torchlight parade, there’s nothing you won’t enjoy about this St. Paul tradition. If we have to brave the Minnesota winters each year, we might as well make the most of them, right?  

Union Depot is one of the many venues for Winter Carnival events, playing host to the “paw-some” Doggie Depot day. There are many events held at the depot throughout the rest of the year as well, including weddings, cultural festivals, and holiday celebrations. With the full calendar, it’s easy to forget that on a day-to-day basis (since 1913), the depot actually functions as a working transit station, with connections to local and regional buses, light rail, and Amtrak trains. Like many other St. Paul buildings from last century, the depot underwent a two-year transformation in 2010-2012, making it the architectural wonder we know and love today.

From the depot, we recommend taking some time to navigate through the labyrinth of Skyways – you never know what you might find along the way. During our trip, we came across the TPT studios and the adorably cozy café Per.ke.lat. However, if you’ve ever ended up in the so-called “Skyway to Nowhere,” we feel your pain and are sure you’re happy to know that the divisive landmark will soon be demolished.

Mickey’s Diner is another St. Paul institution. Featured in numerous movies and TV shows, the art-deco dining car is recognized and beloved far beyond the city’s borders. The 50-foot-long diner sits on the unassuming corner of West 7th and St. Peter Street, and while the city has built up around it, the legendary eatery has been preserved for almost 70 years, and has remained family-owned and operated for three generations.  

In recent years, the landscape of St. Paul has certainly experienced a lot of change. But through it all, the heart and soul of the city remain, and it will be “Forever Saint Paul.”

 

How to Throw a Seamless Dinner Party

Think being a good host means stressing in the kitchen while your guests enjoy the party? Think again. With a little advanced preparation, you can unlock the secrets of a stress-free holiday get-together.

Plan and Practice the Menu
Choose dishes that don’t have to be served piping hot, like lasagna, quiches and braised stews. Test out new recipes in advance so you can make necessary adjustments to the ingredients and perfect your prep time. Once you’ve got the menu figured out, prepare what you can ahead of time. Ready entire courses that will keep for a day; then heat them up just before your guests are set to arrive.

Don’t Forget the Drinks
Serving a signature holiday cocktail, whether it’s alcoholic or family-friendly, can simplify your hosting process. If you can, find one that can be premixed and served from a pitcher. Chill other beverages in an ice-filled tub to keep your refrigerator food-focused, and position the drink station opposite the food buffet to create a nice flow and avoid bottlenecks. This will help cut back on the number of people congregating in and around the kitchen.

Aim for Easy Cleanup
Plan out the number of serving dishes you’ll need in advance, and borrow from family and friends to supplement what you have. Want to reduce your dish-washing burden? Serve hors d’oeuvres, which can be filling and require little more than a napkin. If you do opt to use dinnerware, begin the party with an empty dishwasher so you clear plates and glasses as soon as guests have finished.

These tips will help you enjoy your gathering without the typical hosting hassles.


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Featured Image Credit: “Happy Thanksgiving everyone!” by Satya Murthy © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

Top Corn Mazes in the Country, From Family Friendly to Super Scary

Fall is upon us, which means pumpkin spice and flannel is bound to be everywhere soon. But while those two trends may not be for everyone, there is an autumnal activity that all can enjoy: corn mazes! With hundreds of mazes available across the country, there’s something to please families, brainiacs, and thrill-seekers alike. Read on for our list of America’s most a-maize-ing corn mazes!

Family Fun

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1. Sever’s Corn Maze (Shakopee, MN; Sept. 9th-Oct. 30th)

Part of Sever’s beloved Fall Festival – now in its 20th year – the corn maze is fun for all ages. Navigate through the winding stalks as a family, and read fun facts about the 19 previous mazes along the way. Those who participate in this year’s Maze Challenge will be entered into a grand prize drawing, and the winner will be chosen at the end of the season. Past maze designs include the state of Minnesota, the Vikings logo, and a world map.

2. Twin Cities Harvest Festival & Corn Maze (Brooklyn Park, MN; Sept. 24th-Oct. 30th)

Of course we couldn’t forget to mention Minnesota’s largest corn maze. This year, locals will love tackling the Vikings-themed maze, which celebrates the team’s inaugural season at U.S. Bank Stadium. The maze has a sporty history, having previously been designed to honor the Wild and the Twins. Other activities at the festival include a straw bale maze (perfect for kids!), petting zoo, and hayride (of the non-haunted variety).

3. Cherry Crest Adventure Farm (Ronks, PA; July 2nd-Oct. 30th)

You can tell by the farm’s website alone that this corn maze will be an adventure the whole family can enjoy (just check out that smiling corn cob!). You never have to worry about getting lost in this five-acre field, as there are friendly “Maze Masters” positioned throughout to help you on your way. The color-coordinated challenges along the way help encourage teamwork, making this a perfect activity for families and school field trips alike.

Challenging, Not Creepy

1. Great Vermont Corn Maze (Danville, VT; Aug. 1st-mid Oct.)

The largest maze in New England, the Great Vermont Corn Maze has been called one of the top 10 of its kind in America (and you can vote now to make sure it keeps that title). In fact, it’s so challenging, that organizers encourage participants to arrive as early as possible and bring lunch since most maze-goers spend between two to five hours in the maze and checking out the adjoining attractions. They even discourage most teenagers from entering the maze without adult supervision, since they feel they won’t be able to complete it on their own without giving up!

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Photo Credit: “Corn Mazin” by Mark Smithivas © 2008 (CC BY-SA 2.0; Edited)

2. Richardson Farm (Spring Grove, IL; Sept. 3rd-Oct. 30th)

Calling all maze (and maize) aficionados – here’s one you don’t want to miss since it happens to be the self-proclaimed largest and most intricate corn maze in the world. This year, the 33-acre maze pays tribute to Star Trek for its 50th anniversary. If you think you can “live long and prosper” in this tough but fun course, then make the trek (see what we did there?) to Illinois and beam on over to Richardson Farm asap!

3. Cool Patch Pumpkins (Dixon, CA; Sept. 17th-Oct. 31st)

Founded in 2001, this maze has been officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest (at 40 acres in 2007 and, again, at 60 acres in 2014). Bigger isn’t always better, though, as many challengers have discovered by getting lost among the tall stalks…and then proceeding to call 911 for help (a practice local sheriffs discourage, by the way). To avoid the commotion and potential panic, heed the map given to you at the maze’s entrance and plan to be in there for at least a couple hours.

This year’s design was inspired by the farm’s logo, and last year’s pattern was the emblem of nearby Sacramento Kings. The grounds also feature a world-renowned pumpkin patch (of course!), where the youngsters can partake in picking their own pumpkin from a field of thousands. More fun activities include the pumpkin cannon, a corn bath, and hay rides.

Terrifically Terrifying

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We wonder what’s lurking around those corners in the darkness… Photo Credit: “so scary” by Lindsey Turner © 2007 (CC BY 2.0)

1. Ludicrous Labyrinth at Scream Town (Chaska, MN; Sept. 30th-Oct. 30th)

Ready for some crazy thrills around every corner? Then enter the Twin Cities’ scariest labyrinth, and get ready to run for your life. Not only will you have to navigate the twists and turns of a typical corn maze, but you’ll also be combating fog, flashing lights, and creepy characters chasing you through the corn. Enter only if you’ve got nerves of steel (and a good pair of running shoes).

2. Haunted Carter Farms (Princeton, IA; Sept. 30th-Oct. 31st)

Touted as America’s original haunted corn maze, the only clue given by the creators here is where to begin – getting out of “the place where corn and nightmares grow” is entirely up to you. While they are all about unabashedly scaring the bejeezus out of you, there is a bit of good in their wicked hearts – if you bring two non-perishable food items, you’ll get $2 off admission and the items will be donated to The Hunger Drive. That, however, is where the kindness ends. Also, be sure to arrive on time – as they say, the last “victims” enter the gates at 10:30pm.

3. Dark Harvest Corn Maze (Ulster Park, NY; Sept. 17th-Nov. 5th)

Just one of many terror-inducing attractions at the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, New York, the corn maze will surely fulfill your need to scream this Halloween season. Based on a chilling story, the maze is a dark, daunting labyrinth…with no emergency exits. This is definitely an enter-at-your-own-risk situation. Each attraction (including a hayride, several haunted houses, and the corn maze) leads to the next, so be prepared to be scared straight silly for at least three hours. If you can’t handle chainsaws, crazy clowns, or crowds, then we’d advise skipping this one altogether. May we suggest a visit to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm instead?

Have you ever ventured into a corn maze? Where? Do you prefer family friendly or freakishly frightening? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Photo Credit: “UFV corn maze media day 01” by University of the Fraser Valley © 2014 (CC BY 2.0)

The Best State Fairs Across the United States

As we eagerly await the start of the Great Minnesota Get-Together (now only 10 days away!), we decided to take a look at some of the other state fairs put on across the country each summer. While we don’t think any of them can quite live up to our beloved fair, we’re certainly willing to learn a bit more about their histories and traditions. So whether you’re planning a road trip to hit up the best of the best this year, or if you’re just curious about your fellow Americans’ fave foods-on-a-stick, take a look at our list of the best state fairs in the U.S.:

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Photo Credit: “Fried cheese curds. Excellent” by Connie Ma © 2013 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

1. Minnesota State Fair (St. Paul, Aug. 25-Sept. 5, 2016)
Most Daily Visitors

Okay, so we might be a bit biased here, but we do have the facts and awards to back us up! As the most attended state fair on a daily basis (the fairgrounds see an average of 150,000 people per day), we definitely have a claim to greatness. Not to mention the record-setting 1.8 million+ total visitors we had in 2014 – that’s pretty impressive, don’t’cha think? With all-you-can drink milk, cheese curds as far as the eye can see, and big name Grandstand acts (Aretha Franklin and the Backstreet Boys have performed recently), it’s pretty easy to see why USA Today readers named the Minnesota State Fair best in the country!

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Photo Credit: “Texas Star – Texas State Fair” by Kairos14 © 2010 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

2. State Fair of Texas (Dallas, Sept. 30-Oct. 23, 2016)
Most Annual Visitors

Now in its 130th year, the Lone Star State’s annual celebration is the most attended state fair countrywide. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest draws is the endless selection of deep-fried food on a stick (this is the original home of fried butter, after all). But Texas standbys such as corny dogs and Frito pies are top sellers too. Contenders for this year’s Big Tex Choice Awards even include bacon-wrapped Churros and deep-fried Jello. Another sure-to-be fan favorite? The 75 main stage shows, which are all free (with fair admission). That’s right, F-R-E-E. This year’s headliners include Kacey Musgraves and Nelly. If that’s not a big enough attraction for you, then take a gander at Big Tex. The fair’s familiar mascot is 55 feet tall and wears size 96 cowboy boots! The only way you’d be taller than him is by taking a ride on the Texas State Ferris Wheel, which soars 212 feet into the sky (and is the tallest in North America). We guess everything really is bigger in Texas!

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Photo Credit: “alaska state fair” by Dillon Sos © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

3. Alaska State Fair (Palmer, Aug. 25-Sept. 5, 2016)
Most Impressive Produce

Like Minnesotans, Alaskans experience cold much of the year, so they have made warm-weather fun a priority – and a specialty! Locals love the state fair (almost as much as Minnesotans love ours), which is held in Palmer, a city about an hour north of Anchorage. Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, the fair is famous for the massive produce seen in competition each year. Past highlights include a 138-lb. cabbage, a 168-lb. watermelon, and an (almost unbelievable) 1,287-lb. pumpkin. Besides producing award-winners, the fair knows how to receive some recognition itself. In 2012, it was named one of the country’s best state fairs by Country Living magazine and, in 2014, it was named one of the nation’s top 20 events and festivals by Top Events USA.

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Photo Credit: “God bless America and the butter cow” by Quinn Dombrowski © 2011 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

4. Iowa State Fair (Des Moines, Aug. 11-21, 2016)
Most Epic Butter Sculpture

The Minnesota State Fair may be known for its Princess Kay of the Milky Way butter sculptures, but Iowa could just have us beat with their (nearly) life-size butter cow. Each year, a local sculptor creates a 600-lb. cow out of pure Iowan butter that’s then displayed in the fairground’s Agriculture Building. This tradition dates back 105 years, all the way to 1911. Over the years, the cow has been accompanied by other famous faces including Elvis, Superman, and Harry Potter! Another claim to fame for the fair is that it served as the inspiration for the many retellings of the now-classic State Fair,  including the original novel, three motion pictures, and a Broadway musical. Speaking of literature, the fair is featured in the highly trusted travel book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, as well as its follow-up, 1000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before You Die. It’s easy to see why the Iowa State Fair has received so much notoriety. With over 70 foods available on-a-stick, including animal-themed Monkey Tails (chocolate-dipped bananas) and Unicorn Lollipops, the fair has more than earned its motto of “Nothing compares!”

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Photo Credit: “New York State Fair” by Joe Shlabotnik © 2008 (CC BY 2.0)

5. Great New York State Fair (Syracuse, Aug. 25-Sept.5, 2016)
Most Years in Existence

Not to be confused with any New York fairs of lesser quality, The Great New York State Fair, is the country’s oldest, having been around since 1841. In 2001, an unprecedented 1,011,248 fairgoers ventured up to the Empire State for the fair (and it still holds the overall attendance record)! The single-day record was set on Labor Day in 2014, with a whopping 122,870 visitors. In 2015, the state thought it was high time to revitalize the fair, which led to a $50 million redevelopment project initiated by Governor Andrew Cuomo. New features include an improved Midway, a restored park in the Historic Quad, and an RV parking area. With only 10 days to the beginning of this year’s fair, guests are surely eager to see all the improvements! Fairgoers are also looking forward to Taste NY, an event held in the Horticulture building, that links consumers to the best products grown and made right in New York state through free samples of food and beverage, and face-to-face meetings with the artisans behind the fair’s homemade fare.

Which state fair are you looking forward to most this year? What’s your favorite state fair tradition? Let us know in the comments!

Fun Facts about the Minnesota State Fair

As soon as August arrives, all Minnesotans have just one thing on their mind: the Minnesota State Fair. It’s a time for folks statewide (and even from across the nation) to flock to the Twin Cities and enjoy the best days of summer. What began as an event in the early 1850’s to showcase crops, livestock, produce, and handiwork of Minnesota residents, has since become a cultural phenomenon beloved by all Minnesotans, regardless of their involvement with agriculture or farming.

In anticipation of August 25th (the event’s first of 12 days), we put together a list of some of the most interesting facts about “The Great Minnesota Get-Together.” Take a look:

1.It is the largest state fair in the U.S. by average daily attendance.

2. It is the 2nd largest state fair in the U.S. by total annual attendance (the largest is Texas, which runs about twice as long).

3. The highest annual attendance occurred in 2014, with 1,824,830 fairgoers.

4. The single day record was set on August 30, 2014, with 252,092 attendants.

5. It was named the best state fair in the nation by USA Today readers.

6. Theodore Roosevelt first uttered his famous line “Speak softly and carry a big stick” at the state fair in 1901.

7. Since it began more than 150 years ago, the state fair has only not been held five times (see the reasons why here).

8. The current site is not the fair’s original home. Before 1885 when it settled permanently in Falcon Heights (adjacent to St. Paul neighborhoods Como & St. Anthony Park), the fair jumped from city to city, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Red Wing, Owatonna, and Winona.

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Photo Credit: “PrincessKay” by Jonathunder © 2010 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

9. Each year, the newly crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her royal court have their likenesses carved out of a 90 lb. block of butter. Each sculpture takes about 6-8 hours to complete.

10. For several decades, the soon-to-be-renovated Machinery Hill housed the largest annual display of farm equipment in the world.

11. Before moving to the Walker Art Center and eventually to CHS Field (its current venue), the Cat Video Festival was held at the State Fair Grandstand.

12. Owatonna native Lillian Colton created Crop Art for the fair for over 40 years, winning nine purple ribbons in all. Her work included portraits of celebrities ranging from Prince to Princess Diana.

13. The oldest amusement ride at the fair is Ye Old Mill, which just celebrated its 100th birthday last year. 

14. Meanwhile, the Hamline Church Dining Hall is the longest running concession stand, having been open since 1897.

15. Pronto Pups, a highlight of the fair for many, were first introduced to fairgoers in 1947.

16. New food offerings this year include spam sushi and macaroni & cheese curds. Talk about decadent!

17. Perennial favorite Sweet Martha’s Cookies (soon to have a third location in the north end), serves over 1 million warm chocolate chip cookies per day.

18. What goes better with cookies than milk? Nothing! To satisfy your dairy craving, head on over to the All-You-Can Drink milk booth, where approximately 26,000 gallons of the creamy stuff is served per year (in both white and chocolate varieties). If that sounds like a bit too much lactose for you, consider participating in the Milk Run instead – all participants receive a Milk Run T-shirt, fair admission, and a malt coupon.

19. If walking is more your speed, there is a year-round Fair Walking & Cell Phone Tour, which was created in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society to provide a more detailed guide of the fairgrounds.

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Photo Credit: “Fairchild” by Jonathunder © 2009 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

20. You know those gopher mascots you immediately identify with the fair? Believe it or not, they actually have names (Fairchild and his nephew Fairborne) and backstories.

Were you surprised by any of these facts? What are your favorite State Fair traditions? What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Get Together? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Photo Credit: “2010 MN State Fair crowd” by Anndelion © 2010 (CC BY 3.0)

The Most Stunning Venues from Past Summer Olympics

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad (aka the 2016 Summer Olympics) are set to begin in less than two weeks on August 5th. Although this year’s host city, Rio de Janeiro, has been plagued by controversy from the get-go, there are still plenty of eager sports fanatics that couldn’t be more excited to visit Brazil at this special time for the country. Rio will actually hold the distinction of being the first South American city to host the games.There is no denying the beauty of Rio, from its rich history, to the numerous beaches, and, of course, the people! But while Rio will no doubt have some impressive structures built for the Games (if its existing landmarks are any indication), it certainly has some large shoes to fill. Host cities are known to aim high and think big when selecting or building these mammoth monuments. Over the years, some designs have definitely stuck out more than others. From the architecturally impressive to the just plain beautiful, here are our picks for the top 20 venues from past Olympic games:

1. Panathenaic Stadium (Athens, Greece; 1896 & 2004)

By Badseed (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 13 April 2009 Kallimarmaron stadium

Photo Credit: “The Panathinaiko Stadium (Kallimarmaron) stadium” by Badseed © 2009 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

2. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles, CA; 1932 & 1984)

Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum By unknown, U.S. Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOlympic_Torch_Tower_of_the_Los_Angeles_Coliseum.jpg 28 July 1984

Photo Credit: “Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum” by unknown, U.S. Air Force © 1984 (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

3. Olympiastadion (Berlin, Germany; 1936)

The Olympiastadion in 1936 Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R82532 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R82532 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons 1936

Photo Credit: “Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R82532” by Hoffmann © 1936 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

4. Melbourne Cricket Ground (Melbourne, Australia; 1956)

AFL_Grand_Final_2010_on_the_Melbourne_Cricket_Ground

Photo Credit: “AFL Grand Final 2010 on the Melbourne Cricket Ground” by Alexander Sheko © 2010 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

5. Nippon Budokan (Tokyo, Japan; 1964)

Nippon Budokan Hall Main entrance Wiiii - Own work Nippon Budokan, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo Japan, designed by Mamoru Yamada in 1964. © 2010 By Wiiii (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANippon_Budokan_2010.jpg

Photo Credit: “Nippon Budokan 2010” by Wiiii © 2010 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

6. Yoyogi National Gymnasium (Tokyo, Japan; 1964)

Yoyogi-National-First-Gymnasium

Photo Credit: “Yoyogi National First Gymnasium” by Rs1421 © 2010 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

7. Estadio Olímpico Universitario (Mexico City, Mexico; 1968)

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Photo Credit: “Estadio Olímpico Universitario” by Ebidej © 2011 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

8. Palacio de los Deportes (Mexico City, Mexico; 1968)

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Photo Credit: “Palacio de los Deportes” © 2006 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

9. National Auditorium (Mexico City, Mexico; 1968)

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Photo Credit: “Ciudad de Mexico – 1194 – Auditorio Nacional” by Pierre-Selim Huard © 2015 (CC BY 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons

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Photo Credit: “AuditorioNacionalPorDentro” by hmerinomx © 2010 (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

10. Olympic Stadium (Montréal, Canada; 1976) 

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Photo Credit: “Biodome de Montreal” by storem © 2007 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

11. Estadio Olímpico Lluís Companys (Barcelona, Spain; 1992)

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Photo Credit: “Estadi Companys” by Canaan © 2014 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

12. Palau Sant Jordi (Barcelona, Spain; 1992)

Barcelona_Palau_San_Jordi_001

Photo Credit: “Barcelona Palau San Jordi 001” by German Ramos © 2000 (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

13. Pavello Olimpic de Badalona (Barcelona, Spain; 1992) 

Olimpic_Badalona

Photo Credit: “Olimpic Badalona” by Ottobdn © 2007 (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

14. Stadium Australia (Sydney, Australia; 2000)

Australia_Stadium.

Photo Credit: “Australia Stadium” by Adam.J.W.C. © 2009 (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Wikimedia Commons

15. Sydney Super Dome (Sydney, Australia; 2000)

Qudos_Bank_Arena_-_April_2016

Photo Credit: “Qudos Bank Arena – April 2016” by Philip Terry Graham © 2016 (CC0 1.0) via Wikimedia Commons

16. Athens Olympic Velodrome (Athens, Greece; 2004)

Olympic_stadium,Athens_25

Photo Credit: “Olympic Stadium, Athens 25” by Spyrosdrakopoulos © 2009 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

17. Olympic Stadium (Athens, Greece; 2004)

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Photo Credit: “Olympic Stadium, Athens 19” by Spyrosdrakopoulos © 2009 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

18. Peace and Friendship Stadium (Athens, Greece; 2004)

Peace_and_Friendship_stadium_2014

Photo Credit: “Peace and Friendship Stadium 2014” by M(e)ister Eiskalt © 2014 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

19. The Bird’s Nest (Beijing, China; 2008) 

Beijing_national_stadium

Photo Credit: “Beijing national stadium” by Peter23 © 2011 (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

20. The Water Cube (Beijing, China; 2008)

国家游泳中心夜景

Photo Credit: “国家游泳中心夜景” by Charlie fong © 2009 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

What is your favorite venue from the past Summer Olympics? Will you be watching this year’s Rio Games? Let us know in the comments!

Five Traditional Summer Events in Minnesota That Are Too Fun to Miss

The Fourth of July has passed, the dog days of summer have arrived, and Minnesotans across the state are eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Great Minnesota Get-Together. But before you begin counting down the days until the end of August, make sure you enjoy all the other fun activities our state has to offer this month. With nice weather only sticking around for a couple more months, you have to savor every beautiful warm day while it’s here. What better way to celebrate the joys of summer than by checking out some of Minnesota’s longstanding traditions, beloved by local residents and visitors alike? Here are a few (among many) of our favorite upcoming happenings:

Photo Credit: "kids turtle race Nisswa Mn" by Ken Ratcliff © 2006 (CC BY 2.0)

Photo Credit: “kids turtle race Nisswa Mn” by Ken Ratcliff © 2006 (CC BY 2.0)

1. Turtle Races (Longville, MN; June 8 – August 24)

Each Wednesday during this two-and-a-half month stretch, traffic on the streets of Longville slows to a snail’s pace – well, actually, a turtle’s pace. For fifty years, the now-iconic Turtle Races have yielded tons of fun for children and adults of all ages. The event is even drawing international fans now! Though not quite as lively as, say, the Running of the Bulls in Spain, we’d bet on these adorable racers any day. Prizes are even awarded to each heat’s “Slow Poke,” and we definitely can’t get mad at rooting for the underdog.

Photo Credit: "$200 worth of marbles" by cursed thing © 2007 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Photo Credit: “$200 worth of marbles” by cursed thing © 2007 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

2. Agate Days (Moose Lake, MN; July 16-17)

In case you’re not from Moose Lake and you’re wondering what exactly agate is, don’t worry; we had to look it up too. Agates are actually semi-precious stones typically found in igneous (volcanic) rocks, known for their fine grains and vibrant colors (those found along Lake Superior are designated as the official state gemstone). For 47 years, Moose Lake has dedicated a weekend to these pretty gems, and each year thousands of visitors descend upon the area hoping to claim an agate for themselves. If you happen to be feeling a bit competitive this weekend, then make sure to roll up your sleeves for the Clark-Olsen Agate Stampede and get ready for an epic game of finders keepers. If you don’t feel like getting dirty, no worries; there’s also a gem show, car show, pancake breakfast, and a steak fry to enjoy. Good food and the possibility of going home with your very own piece of history? Sounds like a win-win to us. The only downside to this event? You’ve only got two days to enjoy it!

3. Waterama (Glenwood, MN; July 26-31)

The largest community celebration of its kind in West Central Minnesota, Waterama is now in its 61st year. With events ranging from the Midwest’s only Lighted Pontoon Parade on Lake Minnewaska to a Cornhole Tournament to a Tractor Pull, Waterama couldn’t really get more “Minnesotan”…or more fun. The six days of festivities really do have something for everyone; we can totally understand why Waterama has been a favorite for more than six decades!

Photo Credit: "Blueberries!" by FromSandToGlass © 2013 (CC BY 2.0)

Photo Credit: “Blueberries!” by FromSandToGlass © 2013 (CC BY 2.0)

4. Blueberry Festival (Lake George, MN; July 28-31)

If there’s one berry that screams summer in Minnesota, it would have to be the blueberry. Reminiscent of both the clear blue sky on a perfect summer evening as well as the pristine waters of one of the state’s many lakes, it’s hard to find a person who doesn’t enjoy the beautiful bursting berries. And with summer blueberries at their peak, there’s no mistaking these for strawberries that have turned blue from the cold. Lake Georgians have been paying homage to blueberries for many years with their annual four-day festival, which includes activities such as a blueberry pancake breakfast, a pie sale, a pig roast, and the Fireman’s Bean Feed (no word on whether the beans contain blueberries as well). Our mouths are seriously watering already.

Photo Credit: "Vintage cars" by Maciej Lewandowski © 2008 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: “Vintage cars” by Maciej Lewandowski © 2008 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

5. Northern Minnesota Car Show & Swap Meet (Grand Rapids, MN; July 29-31)

Auto lovers, start your engines and hightail it up the road to Grand Rapids for the annual Car Show & Swap Meet. This year will mark the 45th show, which has now grown to be the largest event of its kind in Northern Minnesota. Check out vintage cruisers, hot rods, roadsters, muscle cars, and much more! Grab a bite to eat, listen to some live music, close your eyes, and picture yourself owning one of the many shiny cars on display. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming, okay?

What are some of your favorite summer traditions? Share in the comments!

Summer Solstice Celebrations Around the U.S.

It’s the day many of us have anxiously been awaiting since September of last year: the first day of summer 2016! Here in the Twin Cities, we can officially declare the new season has arrived at 5:34 PM CDT. Of course, the longest day of the year calls for some longstanding unique celebrations, many of which focus on local art and music, environmental awareness, and family festivities. Check out our list to see how people across the nation mark summer’s arrival.

Downtown Days & More (Anchorage, AK)

With over 22 hours of daylight on this special day, you know Alaska has to have plenty of fun planned. Activities include a parade, half marathon, concerts, sports – basically, anything you can think to do outside to soak in the sun is happening in Anchorage.

Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Event (Santa Barbara, CA)

This solstice celebration represents the largest, three-day arts event in Santa Barbara County, and draws crowds of over 100,000 people annually. Each year, the festival has a different theme, and 2016 has been designated the year of “Legends.” We don’t think there’s a more unique way to ring in the new season!

Solstice in Times Square (New York City, NY)

Are you a burgeoning yogi? Make sure to join this Times Square event anytime between sunrise to sunset (in person or via webcast). And since today has been dubbed the International Day of Yoga by the UN General Assembly, expect to see many more public yoga gatherings throughout the country (like this one in Russellville, AR).

Night at the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (Cambridge, MA)

Countdown the minutes to the beginning of summer, while taking in some entertainment and education! Children of all ages can enjoy a fun evening with circus performers, music, dance, food trucks, and hands-on activities, with free evening admission to several local museums. Is there a better way to welcome summer? We think not.

Fremont Solstice Music Festival (Seattle, WA)

If your idea of greeting the summer sun involves a bit more free-spirited fun, then this is the event for you. Featuring more than 25 entertainers, along with shopping, art, and food, this fest will definitely get your summer off on the right foot.

How do you plan to say hello to summer? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: “Santa Barbara 2007 Summer Solstice Parade” by William © 2007 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Lake Harriet Band Shell

Celebrate Memorial Day 2016 in the Twin Cities

Memorial Day is right around the corner, which means summer can’t be far behind. If you need some last minute ideas on how to celebrate summer’s unofficial kickoff, then you’re in luck. We’ve put together a list of the best places in the Twin Cities to spend some time this long holiday weekend. Whether you’re a history buff, sports fan, or just want to relax with some good music, we’ve got an idea for you.

Historic Fort Snelling: Travel through the past to discover what life was like for early Minnesotans and learn about our country’s military history. Afterwards, enjoy games, historical reenactments, and a scavenger hunt.

Lakewood Cemetery: Pay your respects to American soldiers, while enjoying some family-friendly fun. Activities include a Memorial Day ceremony, live music, tours of the cemetery, drawing, poetry and photography classes, art and history exhibits, refreshments and more.

Lake Harriet Band Shell: Memorial Day marks the annual re-opening of the Band Shell for the summer Music & Movies in the Parks series, which runs through Labor Day. Up first is All the Islands, a Minneapolis based folk-pop band. While you’re there, you can enjoy a picnic in the picturesque Lake Harriet Park or rent a paddle board to take out on the water.

The Landing: It’s Wild West Weekend at this Shakopee venue. You’ll be able to experience reenactments of popular western legends, learn how to cook over an open campfire, and finish the memorable weekend with an 1880s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday afternoon.

CHS Field: The Twins are away for the weekend, so why not head on over to St. Paul to catch the Saints play the Kansas City T-Bones on Sunday? Make sure to stick around afterward for the Memorial Day Celebration Fireworks Super Show, which is sure to delight baseball fans of any age.

Crayola Experience at Mall of America: Just in case the weekend weather isn’t ideal for spending time outside, consider heading to the largest mall in the U.S. for this brand new, hands-on attraction which just opened May 25th. The Crayola Experience features 25 one-of-a-kind attractions (including a crayon factory, glow-in-the-dark coloring stations, and create-your-own puzzle area), Café Crayola, and the Crayola Store.

How will you be celebrating Memorial Day? Let us know in the comments!

St.Patrick’s Day Parades and Celebrations

Every year, on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated. It began as a religious holiday in Ireland and is still celebrated like so in Ireland. In the US it is more of a festival that celebrates Irish culture with parades and a variety of events.

Boston parade is the second largest in the country. It is the most Irish of all the cities in the US, that is why St.Patrick’s Day is celebrated all week. The parade goes through South Boston and features marching bands, live music and many more fun festivities.

New York Parade is also one of the largest with 150,000 participants. The bands are marching down the 5th avenue in Manhattan and it usually takes about five hours to complete the route. Participants of the parade are bands military, firefighters and cultural groups and clubs.

Scranton parade is considered to be the oldest ones and it is believed to be one of the most popular. There are over 12,000 participants and include Irish step dancers, local organizations, Irish groups and bagpipers. The parade always begins with a Mass at St.Peter’s Cathedral.

Chicago parade was first held in 1956 with the Irish population growing. They way St.Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Chicago is pretty unique. Starting in 1962, they began to dye the river green for the celebrations and stays green for about five hours. It causes no harm to the water, in fact, the dye can detect pollution.

New Orleans parade also included marching bands, float riders who throw not only beads, but also ingredients for the Irish stew! Festivities go on for 10 days and include not one, but three parades. One of the most popular celebrations are the block parties, these are outdoor parties that are free and open to public.

Flickr Creative Commons: Max Talbot-Minkin (CC BY 2.0)
All photos used under this license.