Tuesday, July 22nd - Friday, July 25th
This one we will call a 'fractured' trip as this leg (nor the next) doesn't start out or finish at 'home'. So, leg one, home to Minneapolis, Minnesota! Jill was taking part in teaching a class there, which was reason enough for me to go out as well (so I could spend a few days with her). Couple that with a city I had never been to and a couple of ballparks we had never seen and voila, part one of a crazy trip! Jill actually headed out on Sunday to be there in time for class, and I followed up on Tuesday. My flight was from Syracuse to Minneapolis, with a layover at Laguardia in New York City. Arriving in Minneapolis early evening, Jill met me at the airport and we made the short drive back to the SpringHill Suites. After ditching the car and my luggage, we walked over to the Mall of America (my first chance to see this shopping mecca). Stores are stores, but the thing that set this place apart (and the really cool part too!) was the amusement park in the middle of it all! What a great idea/concept, especially with as harsh as winters are in Minnesota! Dinner was at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar, which was located inside of the Radisson at Mall of America. Back to the hotel to crash after dinner.
On Wednesday Jill taught/took part in the class daytime leaving some extra time for me to bomb around. Jill had attended a St. Paul Saints game on Sunday when she got into town, and encouraged me to do the same (they were home Wednesday afternoon as well). So, I trekked over to Midway Stadium in nearby St. Paul to take in the game, and boy was I glad I did! The Saints have long been known for their promotions, on field antics, and overall great fan experience. Even with an aging stadium that lacks the bells and whistles of other ballparks this place was still full (on a Wednesday afternoon!) even with their MLB neighbors home at the same time! Very glad I got to experience this ballpark in its last season. Back to the hotel after the game; when Jill finished with her class we walked back over (and around) the Mall of America again before deciding on dinner. Being the food channel and show fans we are, we realized that a short drive away was the home of (one) of the homes of the 'Juicy Lucy', the 5-8 Club. So, off to dinner we went! I had the 5-8 Club version of Lucy and found it to be pretty good (and not as hot or runny as they warned). After dinner we went back to the hotel.
On Thursday I spent the equivalent of the entire day either 1) traveling to Target Field, or 2) actually at Target Field (and loved every minute of it). Took the MetroTransit Blue Line from the 28th Avenue Station (a short walk from our hotel) to the Target Field station (around a 40 minute trip). Arriving at Target Field a bit early for my 1:00 tour, I walked around the outside snapping pictures as well as taking in the environs around the ballpark. Before my tour I found The Loon Cafe, a short walk from the ballpark (and well worth it). After lunch I returned to the ballpark and did the tour; beautiful ballpark for sure and with the exception of the no roof thing (I'm sure it gets pretty cold early in the season for baseball fans in the Twin Cities) one of the best in all of baseball. After the tour I hopped back on the Metro to the hotel, met up with Jill, went back over to the Metro and took it back to Target Field for the Twins game against the Chicago White Sox. Dinner and beer(s) in the ballpark, good seats (except for the annoying people behind us that were more interested in socializing rather than watching the game). Onto the Metro around the bottom of the seventh for the ride back to the hotel.
Friday rolled around and it was time to head out. Jill taught/took part in class until midday, while I packed up the room and gassed up the car, and then it was off to the airport for our direct flight to Orlando!