I love discovering new places in the USA. Having lived through Covid, like many Americans, I have the “travel fever” again. I’ve been to maybe half the states in the US, but now I’m developing a desire to visit all states and take advantage of travel opportunities whenever I can. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit both Hawaii and Alaska, but here in the “lower 48” contiguous states, there are many gaps in my travel history. My closest friend from college, a British compatriot who was very lucky to land in Atlanta, is often my “travel partner”. Since my husband is a bit burned out after decades and millions of miles of business travel, my girlfriend and I like to plan our girls-only getaways and long weekends.
But when we told people we were going to Minneapolis, the usual response was, “You’re going WHERE? You do realize it’s NOVEMBER in MINNESOTA, right?” I think we got these reactions for two reasons. The first, of course, is the climate up there. Okay, I don’t want to live in a cold and wet climate again after 40 years in the UK, but I don’t mind visiting cooler climes and am determined to be more adventurous. Not only did we visit Minnesota in early November, but we were fortunate that the weather resembled the gray winter weather of England rather than the stereotypical giant frozen snowdrifts of the North. In fact, locals were practically euphoric about having highs in the low 50s and freezing nights, and kept talking about how balmy it was as they strolled outside in their shirtsleeves. I had pulled out my rarely worn sweaters, gloves and coats that rarely find their way out of our South Georgia closet, but we knew we had gotten off easy for this time of year.
The second reason for the reactions we received was that, outside of summertime outdoor activities and hunting outside of the cities, Minnesota just isn’t a very popular tourist destination, especially in the winter. Minneapolis has some high crime rates, and of course last year’s riots are front and center on many people’s minds. Perhaps that’s why we got great deals on the hotel, flights and the amazing production of “SIX,” the traveling Broadway musical that was the centerpiece of our trip. It was a great trip and we learned a lot.
Minnesota is the northernmost state in the Midwest, the 22nd most populous, and the 14th largest geographically—roughly the size of Georgia and West Virginia combined. Minnesota gained statehood in 1858, becoming the 32nd state to join the Union. It’s known as both “The North Star State” and “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” and we enjoyed delicious walleye dinners from those lakes while we were there. For more than a century, Minnesota has also been known as the Gopher State, a nickname that led the University of Minnesota to adopt a smiling buck-toothed rodent named Goldy Gopher as the school mascot in 1940.
We were mostly in the metropolitan area called the Twin Cities, made up of Minneapolis (the largest) and St. Paul (the capital), which are contiguous but separated by the Mississippi River — which is pretty narrow this far north. First famous for its lumber business in the 1840s, Minneapolis became known as the “Flour Mill Capital of the World” through the 1880s and into the first half of the 20th century. The Twin Cities are home to The Mall of America, a 78-acre shopping and entertainment center with 330 stores and 10,000 employees that hosts over 400 events and 40 million visitors each year. Duct tape, the Bundt pan, Bisquick, and pop-up Easter were also invented in Minneapolis.
Minnesotans struck us as warm, good-natured people, and we Georgia girls-turned-English were in love with the Minnesotan accent.
They emphasize long vowels like “O” and “A” to create a distinctive, singing voice. They often say “dontcha know” (pronounced due-cha-nooo) and “you betcha” (yo-betch-ahhh).
They call soft drinks “pop” (not soda pop, just “pop”) and have a dish that resembles some kind of casserole but appears to be made out of random ingredients called simply “hotdish.”
Since we only mastered the language later in life in the southern US, this added a whole new level to the English language for us!
Visit www.thefactfile for more information. org. I’m saying goodbye this week with a poem about Minnesota by an unknown author:
It’s winter in Minnesota and the gentle breezes are blowing, seventy miles an hour, at thirty-five under.
Oh how I love Minnesota when the snow is up to your ass.
You breathe in winter air and your nose gets frozen.
The weather here is beautiful so I guess I’ll stay here, I could never leave Minnesota because I’m frozen to the ground.
God Bless America and Happy Thanksgiving!
Lesley grew up in London, England and made Georgia her home in 2009.