Melbourne International Airport

I had the opportunity to fly direct from Melbourne to Minneapolis St. Paul for the weekend using our hometown airport Melbourne Orlando International Airport to showcase a little bit of what you can do in and around the Twin Cities without having to go all the way to Orlando for a flight.

Let’s start at the start, or begin at the beginning.  This trip was for three nights, leaving on Friday morning and coming back to Melbourne Monday morning.  Sun Country Airlines uses 737-700 and 737-800 aircraft and you’ve most likely flown on this type of plane before.  The route to and from Minneapolis/ St. Paul is seasonal, so you’ll need to look on Sun Country’s website to see when the flights begin and end.

You will be paying to pick your seat, but this is pretty standard on budget airlines.  You’re also going to be paying for a carry on or to check a bag.

If you know the layout of the plane you’re flying on, you can end up with a seat featuring not just one, but two huge windows.

A quick photo of Patrick Space Force Base as we left Melbourne.

Now skipping ahead a few hours, I picked up my rental car at the airport and made a run across the Minnesota/ Wisconsin border to eat a late lunch at Pier 500 in Hudson, Wisconsin.  The town sits on the St. Croix River which was still partially frozen (that’s freaky to see for this Florida boy).

I dove straight into some local fare with cheese curds and walleye tacos.  Talk about a delicious way to start discovering some of the things folks up here eat.

Heading back into Minnesota, I checked into my hotel which was located just south of the airport and only a couple blocks from the Mall of America.  Now I’m not a “mall person”, but when you find yourself next to the largest mall in the U.S. you go check it out.  Yes it’s got over 520 shops and restaurants inside, but it’s also home to the Nickelodeon Universe theme park and the Sea Life Aquarium.  Both of which see quite a huge number of visitors every year.  Even if you’re not there for all of the entertainment, it’s worth walking around if you’re in the area.

One of the most popular foods in Minnesota seems to be the Juicy Lucy (it’s basically a hamburger stuffed with cheese) and for my first dinner in Minneapolis I paid a visit to the 5-8 Club.  It’s one of the two most popular places to enjoy a Juicy Lucy (the other being Matt’s Bar & Grill).  The version I tried at the 5-8 Club was their Saucy Sally and that’s pretty much a Juicy Lucy Big Mac.

Thus ended my first day in Minneapolis/ St. Paul and it was back to the hotel to get a decent night’s sleep.

Two of the stores I wanted to visit on this trip you can’t find anywhere near the Sunshine State.

I visited my first Menards during a trip last summer to Dayton, Ohio for the Dayton Air Show.  My son and I took a drive over to Indiana one afternoon to visit our first Menards and were completely blown away by it.  We even took a drive up into Kentucky during a trip later last year when we visited Nashville for the CMA’s just to show my wife a Menards.  It might be silly to enjoy going to a home improvement store when you’re travelling, BUT you’ll be a believer when you visit your first Menards.

The second store I wanted to visit was Sheels and it is because my son had told me that each of their stores have a ferris wheel inside of them.  And wouldn’t you know it, this one sure did!  Sheels is pretty much the ultimate outdoor shop.  Sort of a combination of an Academy Sports and a Bass Pro Shops.

Both boxes checked for this trip.

If you have followed Destination Brevard for long enough, you know that I’m going to visit local doughnut shops wherever I go and the Minneapolis/St Paul area is full of them.  I took a big chunk out of the list and here are four of the five places I visited.

The next couple places I wanted to visit required a trip into Downtown Minneapolis.

Kramarczuk Sausage Co. has been around for over 60 years and it was at the top of my list of local restaurants to eat at.  It also must have been meant to be because a parking space opened up right in front so that I was able to avoid the line to get into their parking lot.

Eastern European cuisine is what you’re going to find here and yeah, it was as great as I had hoped it would be.

Another place I needed to visit was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden which is located just west of downtown Minneapolis.  You’ll pay to park in the lot adjacent to the garden and it’s worth a stroll for sure.  Pictured above is the Spoonbridge & Cherry.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I parked a block away from Minnehaha Falls and even walking along Minnehaha Creek leading up to it, I had no idea how amazing the actual falls would be.  Definitely watch the video.  And yes it was still early spring so there was plenty of ice around the falls.

The Italian Pie Shoppe has a couple of locations in the area and I wanted to bring home some samples of the types of pizza Minnesotans enjoy.  I bought a thin crust pie and a deep dish one.  If you’re wondering how in the world someone could bring pizza on a plane and have it survive, I’ve done it several times.  To me, the secret is to put the pizza in a fridge overnight (this keeps it from falling apart while you’re transporting it).  I always bring a giant Ziploc bag with me on trips to put the pizza in and then you just make sure your checked bag is full so the box isn’t bouncing around while the baggage handlers are throwing them around.  Finally, when it’s time to heat it up and eat it up you preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put the pie on a pizza stone until it’s thoroughly heated.

After all of that running around, I drove back out to my hotel to rest up for what else I had planned for the day.

That night the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing at US Bank Stadium so I decided to take an Uber into downtown Minneapolis instead of worry about parking.

I also got into downtown early because I wanted to find some place to eat dinner and yeah on an event night, everywhere is slam packed.  I managed to get a table at Dong Hae Korean Grill & Sushi and went straight for a sizzling bowl of bibmbap.

This sculpture is The Horn outside of US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

If you like the Chili Peppers, give this bunch of video clips a look.

That wrapped up my second day in Minneapolis, but another event packed day awaited.

To start my third and final full day in Minneapolis/ St. Paul I drove up to Hi-Lo Diner because they serve something called a Hi Top.  It’s a house made doughnut (ding ding, we have a winner) with different items on top.

There are three types of Hi-Tops on their menu and they had a special on the menu that morning which had BBQ ribs and Mac & Cheese on top of the doughnut.

It was still pretty early and I had quite a bit still left on the schedule for the day so I ran back to the hotel to relax for a couple hours.

Gluek’s Bar & Restaurant is the oldest bar in downtown Minneapolis AND they have walleye fish & chips on the menu.  AND they have their own brand of beer on tap.  I mean, how could you NOT stop here.

Thankfully it was also directly across the street from my final two stops for the day.

Target Field is the home of the MLB’s Minneapolis Twins and Target Center is the home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.  They are connected to each other by a walkway and this trip was scheduled for this particular weekend because it was the home opener weekend for the Twins and the last game of the regular season for the Timberwolves.  I had actually planned on going to a Minnesota Wild hockey game in St. Paul the night before, but I had just seen a Tampa Bay Lightning game the weekend before and I had never seen the Chili Peppers so that’s why I chose the concert.

Here’s a look at Target Field from the concession level behind home plate.  BTW, the food and drink options here are AMAZING!  Too bad I had just eaten before walking into the game.

There were less expensive options for seats (heck, they had seats for as low as $10 in the upper deck), but I found this seat right along the first base line for a pretty good deal.

There’s really nothing like seeing the fans go crazy (especially the kids) at an MLB game when a coach or player takes a couple moments to come over for a visit during warmups.

The seat I purchased had me wishing that I had brought a proper camera, but my iPhone did okay.

Since the Timberwolves game started an hour after the Twins game, I hung out for 5 innings of baseball (the weather was absolutely perfect so it was difficult to leave) and then walked over to Target Center to check out the action inside.

This was a must win game for the Timberwolves and the crowd was pretty anxious the entire game, but the home team pulled out a victory for a chance to play into the postseason.

And that ended my third day in Minneapolis.  Since my flight home the next morning was at just after 6 a.m., I figured that it would be a good idea to head back to the hotel and get to bed early.  Especially since I was wanting to eat breakfast at a spot that’s open 24 hours and that meant leaving the hotel at 3 a.m. to make sure I could get there, eat and then get back to the airport in time.

Mickey’s Diner has two locations in St. Paul and I chose the one closest to the airport.  It’s everything you would expect from a diner that’s open 24 hours a day and yes a few others did wander in during my 3 a.m. visit.  It was quite an experience hanging out with the wee hours of the night crowd.

Nothing fancy and you wouldn’t expect it at Mickey’s.  Good food though and it was worth the visit and getting up extra early so I could get there.

That completed my first (but not last) visit to the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area.

The purpose of this trip was to show that there’s quite a bit to see and do in MSP and honestly, I simply scratched the surface.  It’s a very culturally diverse area with just about every kind of food you could imagine finding, plenty of cultural things to see and do and if you’re there later in the spring and into summer, the outdoor activities are quite impressive.  If you’re looking for a fun getaway or you’ve got family/friends in the area, using Sun Country Airlines out of Melbourne/ Orlando International Airport is a convenient way to get there.