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Prairie Home Companion, Pigs Eye Beer, Minnesota Archaeology Week, and Other Fun Things to See and Do in the Twin Cities

Phyllis Messenger and Ken Liss

Welcome to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul for the 1995 SAA Annual Meeting, May 3-7! The weather has a good chance of being balmy and springlike, with tulips and lilacs blooming. The new Hilton Hotel and Towers is in the heart of Minneapolis -- the City of Lakes -- just a block off Nicollet Mall and four blocks from the IDS Tower and Crystal Court, which until recent years dominated the Minneapolis skyline. The city has grown and changed since 1982, when SAA was last in town. However, there is still a strong emphasis on culture and the arts, and you are likely to encounter some of that famous "Minnesota nice."

Minneapolis Attractions

Exciting attractions, events, restaurants, shopping, culture, sports, and entertainment are accessible by foot, an easy bus ride, or a modest taxi fare. If you are interested in the arts, the Guthrie Theater, Orchestra Hall (kitty-corner from the Hilton), and the renovated State and Orpheum theaters all feature top-rated shows and concerts. Museums include the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with a large collection spanning time and space, the Walker Art Center focusing on 20th-century American art, and the new Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum ("not just another square brick building") on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus. The art institute's newly reinstalled "Art of the Americas" collection is the focus of free tours for SAA members, offered by its curator, Louise Lincoln, on Wednesday and Friday. There are other, less well known gems as well, such as the American-Swedish Institute and the Bakken Museum of Electricity.

To satisfy every taste Minneapolis nightlife offers everything from comedy to jazz to world-class restaurants. Many nightspots are within a one-mile radius of the hotel. The Warehouse District, a renovated industrial area close to downtown, has its own collection of restaurants and night spots, including the Fine Line Music Cafe. The Uptown area, a taxi or bus ride away from the hotel, is our "new age" district catering to both the fashionable and the funky customer. Except for the Uptown area and parts of the Warehouse District, almost everything is connected by a network of skyways that will protect you from the cold or the rain. A number of convenient lunchtime eateries are reached via skyway, too. Your registration packet will include a list of restaurants, both convenient and exotic (from Afghani to Vietnamese), being prepared by the local advisory committee.

If you want sports, there is the Target Center where the Timberwolves play basketball. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is home to the Twins, the Vikings, and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Who knows, there might even be a baseball season this year!

For the shopping enthusiast, the Nicollet Mall is a 12-block transit/pedestrian street with fountains, landscaping, street furniture, boutiques, and department stores, anchored by Dayton's across from the IDS Tower. At some point during the week, you will probably want to go to the Mall of America, the largest single-structure mall in the United States, just so you can say you've been there. The "Megamall" is about 20 minutes south of Minneapolis in Bloomington, not far from Twin Cities International Airport and worth the trip, even if you're not a shopper. There are movies, entertainment, great restaurants, and an amusement park, Camp Snoopy, right under one roof. There is even an entire store just for Legos, complete with life-size, moving Lego figures.

If you want a break from the urban scene without really leaving it, there are 22 lakes and 153 parks woven together by a 45-mile system of paved paths. There are separate biking and walking paths around many of the lakes and combination paths in most other areas. Some of the lakes, including Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis, are big enough for sailing and wind surfing. Minnesota has the highest per capita boat ownership in the country. You can also rent inline skates, bicycles, or canoes near the Uptown area on Lake Street. A drive along either side of River Road overlooking the Mississippi River starting at the University of Minnesota is quite spectacular. Another interesting view of the river and the history of Minneapolis as a city lies just 12 blocks north of the Hilton at St. Anthony Falls, the only true waterfall on the Mississippi River. There you can walk or bike across the Mississippi on the newly restored Stone Arch Bridge or climb up to the observation room overlooking the lock and dam. This is also an urban archaeological site, exploring the early history of the mill district (as in flour), which you can tour with SHPO Archaeologist Scott Anfinson and Minnesota Historical Society staff on Wednesday or Sunday. Riverboat tours are available from both Minneapolis and St. Paul.


University of Minnesota

Just a few blocks east of Minneapolis is the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus, which straddles the Mississippi with an enclosed heated pedestrian bridge connecting the East and West banks. This campus is home to the College of Liberal Arts (celebrating its 125th anniversary this year), the Medical School, the Bell Museum of Natural History, Wilson and Walter libraries, Northrop Auditorium, and numerous sports facilities, among other units. Ford Hall, where the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Interdisciplinary Archaeological Studies (former Center for Ancient Studies) are housed, is on the East Bank, along Northrop Mall. Shepherd Lab, birthplace of the Internet gopher server, is also on the East Bank. The St. Paul campus of the university, housing agricultural and biological sciences, is just a few minutes away, next to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The combined University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campuses have one of the largest university populations in the country -- about 60,000 students, staff, and faculty.


St. Paul Attractions

St. Paul lies about 10 km to the east of Minneapolis and is connected by Interstate 94 and the Mississippi River, which makes several dramatic turns as it shapes and defines the landscape. A charming, historic city, St. Paul takes great pride in its restored monuments and buildings, including the Landmark Center, the Hill Historic District, St. Paul Cathedral, and the white marble State Capitol building. Two museums—the Minnesota Historical Society's stunning new History Center and the Science Museum of Minnesota -- each provide reason enough to venture over to St. Paul from the conference. Special tours of the History Center's vast collections are available on Thursday and Friday, led by curator Chuck Diesen, or come on your own to enjoy exhibits on wild ricing, Minnesota from A to Z, and others, as well as a terrific bookstore and restaurant. The Science Museum's Anthropology Hall features a traditional Hmong dwelling, built for the museum by some of the thousands of Hmong refugees who now make their home in the Twin Cities. The hands-on science and technology experiment hall is another high point. SAA members who sign up for the Friday night reception hosted by the Science Museum will have access to the exhibit halls, an Omnitheatre feature, and a choice of three museum shops.

For the art-minded archaeologist, St. Paul boasts the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, whose new artistic director is Bobby McFarrin, and the Ordway Music Theater, both as top-notch as their Minneapolis counterparts. And who would come to the Twin Cities without thinking about Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion radio show in the World Theater, now the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater, next to the Science Museum? Yes, he's in town for the Saturday night broadcast, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at (612) 989-5151. There would be just enough time to squeeze it in between the SAA public session lectures on Native American and archaeological perspectives on sacred sites and the SAA plenary, both of which will be outstanding sessions back at the Hilton.

In St. Paul, "Lowertown" is where to go for restaurants, coffee houses, art galleries, food shops, comedy galleries, and Mears Park, a wonderful place to stroll, talk, or just relax. St. Paul also has its own brewery, boasting Landmark and Pigs Eye beer.

This is just a smattering of the options in the Twin Cities. Your registration packet will have more detailed lists of restaurants, activities, nightspots, and other points of interest.


Special Events

Your colleagues in Minnesota are especially pleased to be collaborating on the first Minnesota Archaeology Week, April 29-May 7, planned to coincide with the SAA Annual Meeting. A schedule of events and other materials will be available at an information table near the exhibit hall. Or if you want to come a day early to take in one of the talks being given at sites throughout the state by some of your SAA colleagues, call the Minnesota SHPO office at (612) 296-5434 for a calendar of events.

There are also several SAA excursions for those who want to see some of the sites around Minneapolis and St. Paul and in Minnesota. Check your preliminary program for details on all of the special events, most of which require preregistration.

On Wednesday, May 3, there are two options for all-day excursions for SAA members. One is to Jeffers Petroglyphs, a rock art site in southwestern Minnesota, led by Bob Clouse of the Minnesota Historical Society. This tour, and a site visit for the public on the previous Sunday as part of Minnesota Archaeology Week, may be the only opportunity for several years to see this site, while planning for a new visitor's center gets underway. The second all-day trip is to Red Wing, Minnesota (home of Red Wing Shoes), to explore a thousand years of land- use relationships in the Upper Mississippi River valley, including several Mississippian sites under study by the Institute for Minnesota Archaeology, led by Clark Dobbs, who will serve as guide for the day.

Special tours to historic Fort Snelling will be offered for SAA members on Friday and Sunday (the latter can be coordinated with your flight home, if you plan ahead). Costumed interpreters will be on hand at this reconstructed 1820s military post, and an added attraction for Archaeology Week and the SAA meetings will be a functioning Roman-era iron ore smelting operation, which promises to keep dozens of volunteers from the University of Minnesota and elsewhere busy tending it all week and interpreting it for the public.

Here's hoping your visit to Minnesota in May is even better than Anaheim, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and all the other past SAA meetings combined!

Phyllis Messenger is with the Institute for Minnesota Archaeology and Ken Liss is at the University of Minnesota. Both are on the SAA Local Arrangements Committee.


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