Monday, July 21, 2014

Molly Goes To Minnesota: Part 5

Molly Goes To Minnesota: Part 5

(See Also: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4)

Day 4 & 5 (Saturday & Sunday)

When I woke up Saturday, I honestly didn't know what I'd be doing that day. I had many options, but I knew I didn't want another day of trying to make bus connections or paying for taxis. So I narrowed it down to the following:

1. Go back to the Art Institute
2. Go to the aquarium at the Mall of America
or
3. Visit the Mirror Maze and just hang out at the Mall Of America

I did a mental coin flip and decided to go to the MoA again. After a morning of lounging about, I caught the noon shuttle to the mall.

Once there, I saw that it was crowded -- much more so than it had been on Thursday. The aquarium looked totally swamped -- plus, it wasn't cheap, and I had just spent the previous day looking at animals. So I headed upstairs to the Mirror Maze.



Excuse me, the Amazing Mirror Maze.

 I had a dollar-off coupon, so it ended up costing $7-something. They made me wear plastic gloves (the kind cafeteria servers wear) so I  couldn't fingerprintpalooza all over the mirrors, I guess.

I donned gloves and went in...



At first, I thought the maze would be easy. I mean, if I saw my reflection, then obviously that meant I was next to a mirror. No reflection? It must be a doorway.


This method worked well, until I smacked into a mirror.


I learned to just keep one arm stretched outwardly and feel my way along.


I actually found the maze's exit after a couple of minutes, but I wanted more time in the maze, so I turned around and went back through.

Took some funky photos....


And spent, perhaps, 15 minutes total in the maze before successfully finding the exit again.


It's funny how befuddled my brain got when in that maze. The only thing I can really compare it to is, like, trying to get somewhere or find something in total darkness. You have to feel along and sort of just be really careful, because the sense that you tend to rely on (sight, assuming you have your sight) just turns to mush, and becomes mostly useless.

But it was a fun thing to do, and I'd recommend it!

I had lunch next -- 

                    Mediterranean crepe!

After lunch, I walked the mall. All three floors, starting from the top. Somewhere I read that it's .58 miles around. It felt like more.







Despite being at a shopping mall, I did very little actual shopping during my two days at the MoA. I bought a few Build-a-Bear clothing items for a friend, a bag of candy for me, lunch on both days, and a muffin & a smoothie from Barnes & Noble's little cafe.

By 4pm Saturday, I was done... tired... ready for an evening of R&R.


Goodbye, Mall. Sorry I didn't give you very much money! (But not really.)

Back at the motel, I spent the evening reading and watching TV. I know, I know... I could do that almost anywhere. But I'd had several very busy days, and I needed to relax, so that is what I did. 

Sunday morning, after breakfast, I packed up to go to the airport. I was planning to take the 9am shuttle (my flight was at 11:15) but ended up being ready by 8, so I took the 9am shuttle. That was fine, as it let me really explore the airport (and pick up a few last-minute gifts/souvenirs.)

I did not play in this arcade the airport had, but it looked cool!


Sly reference to The Langoliers, I WONDER?!?

Meanwhile, I know that we've been doing the taking-off-your-shoes-at-Security thing for a long time, now, but holy crap is it a pain in the butt. It's not just the shoes. It's the sweaters and the hats and the money belts and the removing every last tissue and penny out of your pockets and... look, it's just really degrading. (And when you consider that no matter how strict the TSA folks are, planes can still go missing, get hit by seagulls, or be shot down, regardless of the fact that I dutifully removed my sneakers... well, it just makes me mad.)

I got a little stir-crazy on the flight home, but I have to give a shout out to Delta's flight attendants -- they are second to none! (Little Sharknado joke, there.) Plus, Delta gives you free wifi on-board now... but there's a catch... the only thing that works with it is Facebook. That's just cheap. I was glad to disembark. Like Indiana Jones hates snakes, I hate planes.

* * * * *

Minnesota Overview

I really enjoyed my 5 days in Minnesota. If I'd had more time and energy, I might have visited St. Paul, or gone on a Mississippi River boat ride, but I will have to save those for next time. I do want to go back someday. When I do, I'd be happy to visit the zoo again, and I'd be very happy to spend another afternoon at the Art Institute. I feel I could probably skip the MoA on a return trip, unless they have a new exhibit that I'm interested in... or unless I go with a friend next time, in which case I would at least visit the mall on a weekday and show them the mirror maze.

My motel, La Quinta Inn Minneapolis Airport Bloomington, was fine, though I'd probably try a different place next time.

La Quinta IMAB Pros:

Central Location
Free Airport & MoA Shuttle
Free Breakfast
Free Wifi
Cable TV
Friendly desk staff
Everything was very clean
Roughly 1 block from downtown bus line stop

La Quinta IMAB Cons:

Annoying air conditioner
Smoky smell (at first)
Loud people in the corridors (fairly typical, that)
Shower, but no tub (not a deal-breaker)
Older building, though it's had updates
Persistent maids (no, I do not want housekeeping services at 8am -- go away.)

-----

Minneapolis Institute of Arts 

Pros: Beautiful, open, awe-inspiring, huge, free

Cons: None

-----

Minnesota Zoo

Pros: Exhibits are huge, lots of different animals, camel rides

Cons: Lack of shade in some areas, takes several buses to get there, food wasn't impressive

-----

State Theater

Pros: Beautiful place, comfortable Seating

Cons: Located in somewhat sketchy area, but nothing unlike downtown Portland (no, I do not have a dollar for you, creepy old dude.)

-----

Mall Of America

Pros: One-stop shopping! Also, plenty of dining options. Think your mall's food court... times ten.

Cons: Insane crowds on weekends, all the experiences (amusement park, mini golf, aquarium, mirror maze) cost money, & sales tax on everything except clothing (so I'd want to shop here why?)

* * * * *

Well, that's about it. If there's anything you think I forgot to mention, or if you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Molly Goes To Minnesota: Part 4

Molly Goes To Minnesota: Part 4

(See Also: Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Day 3 (Friday)

Good morning, Minneapolis!


Good morning... rain. :(

Weather.com said this "liquid sunshine" (and thunder -- and lightning) would taper off by 11am, so I made plans to sleep in, and go to the zoo later in the morning.

Getting to the zoo proved to be a bit of an adventure.

I knew I needed to get to the Mall Of America transit station, where I could catch a "red line" ride to the Cedar Grove transit station, where, once an hour, I could catch a bus to the zoo.

But I left the motel at 11, and you may recall that their shuttle only goes to the MoA on even-numbered hours, darnit, so I walked a block to the nearest bus station, only to remember that that bus route only had rush-hour service, so I walked four blocks up to another bus stop/route, and by the time that bus got me to the MoA, I'd missed my connection to Cedar Grove, and by the time I got to Cedar Grove, I'd missed my bus to the zoo by 10 minutes. So I got to sit there for another 50. Luckily, the transit station is a nice enough place, with benches in the shade. A little deserted and creepy, but not too bad.

Finally, just after 1pm, I made it to the zoo!


Thanks to the zoo's reciprocal membership program (which the Oregon zoo also participates in), I was able to get in for half price by showing my OZ membership card. I also got to avoid the $7 parking fee. (Kinda made that bus trip worth it!)

And now -- on to see the animals!

(Note: I've grouped the animals by type; they photos aren't necessarily in the order in which I saw the animals.)

Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs




Amur Tigers









Canada Lynx



North American Beaver







North American Porcupine (Baby)



Brown Bears







Puma (Bobcats/Mountain Lions)




Family Farm









Camels




v    Me Riding A Camel    



Carousel





Lunch!


Wolf


Cardinal


Bear... I mean Bear Fountain...


Butterflies!






















I had a great day! It was a bit hot and very humid, but I really enjoyed seeing all the animals, especially the ones that the Oregon Zoo doesn't have, like the brown bears. I was very impressed by the tiger exhibit; it was enormous! The highlights of my day included riding the camel, seeing the tigers play together, and visiting the butterfly garden.

* * * * *

After two full days of going-going-going, I was ready to take it easy on Saturday. And I did -- sort of! Find out where I went on the last full day of my Minneapolis trip -- in Part 5!