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This time of the year, two things come to the mind of any baseball fan: play ball and road trip. If you’re looking for a quick summer getaway, the Twins intra-division road cities provide something for everyone. Here is one fan’s perspective on these four rivals:
At U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, I was tempted to buy a shirt reading, “I STILL call it Comiskey.” Opened in 1991, it can’t compare to its neighbor to the north (Wrigley Field) and doesn’t have the nostalgic feel of the newer retro ballparks but there is a very nice terrace area in centerfield and the hot dogs are top notch. You may want to avoid the upper deck because it seemed very steep when I was there. (333 W 35th St, Chicago, IL 60616, 312-674-1000, www.whitesox.com)
I am spoiled by the Art Institute of Chicago because of my love for Impressionism. Opened in 1879, it is known for its extensive Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including over 30 by Claude Monet alone. Many of the museum’s priceless Monets are due to Bertha Palmer, a late 19th century Chicago socialite who left them to the museum in 1922. The museum’s famous entrance on Michigan Avenue is guarded by two bronze lion statues, and when a Chicago sports team makes the playoffs, they are frequently seen sporting the team’s colors. (111 South Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, 312-443-3600, www.artic.edu)
Unfortunately, I never got to Tiger Stadium before it closed. My trip to Detroit included a game at Comerica Park, the new home of the Tigers. They have done a magnificent job of highlighting the team’s storied history, with five statues along the left centerfield wall honoring their greatest players and kiosks throughout the ballpark giving a decade-by-decade account of the team’s history. It’s more of an entertainment center than a ballpark and despite (in my humble opinion) being slightly overdone, it features unobstructed views of the action, a massive scoreboard in left field and a view of downtown Detroit. (2100 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201, 313-471-2000, www.tigers.com)
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the Fox Theatre is across the street from Comerica Park and features an art deco façade which, when illuminated at night, can be seen from several blocks away. It is Detroit’s top venue for touring Broadway shows, comedians, musicians and more. (2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, 48201, 313-471-6611, www.olympiaentertainment.com/fox-theatre)
The Indians ballpark, renamed in 2008 as Progressive Field for the insurance company, remains a favorite. One of the first of the “retro” ballparks, I remember walking in for the first time and thinking, “Now, this is what a ballpark is supposed to be!” Very similar to another fan favorite, Camden Yards in Baltimore. Foodies, take note: the concessions are plentiful - with choices ranging from shrimp to donuts. (2401 Ontario St, Cleveland, OH 44115, 216-420-4487, www.indiansbaseball.com)
I'm not a huge music fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on the shores of Lake Erie. Designed by famous Chinese architect I.M. Pei, it opened in 1995 and features multiple levels of permanent and temporary exhibits showcasing the history of rock and roll. (Hall of Fame inductees are honored in their own wing of the museum.) When I was there, one of the temporary exhibits featured John Lennon's handwritten sheets of music. (1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard, Cleveland OH 44114, 216-781-7625, www.rockhall.com)
Whenever people tell me they are going to Kansas City, one word comes to mind to describe this town six hours south on I-35: underrated. Even at 43 years old, the Royals ballpark, Kauffman Stadium, remains one of the most beautiful in the major leagues. You can’t help but enjoy the majestic fountains beyond the outfield fence. I heard fellow Twins fans wandering around asking, “Is this a new stadium?” Also, the ushers and fellow fans were just so darn nice, welcoming us to Kansas City even though we were wearing Twins shirts. (1 Royal Way, Kansas City, MO 64129, 816-921-8000, www.royalsbaseball.com).
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum resides in the 18th and Vine District and appeals to my passion for baseball history. It features multimedia displays and interactive exhibits telling the story of the Negro Leagues, American professional baseball leagues featuring predominantly black players, most notably from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. It was a great way to spend a few hours learning about an often forgotten part of baseball lore. (1616 E 18 St, Kansas City, MO 64108 816-221-1920, www.nlbm.com)
Last year, Duluth celebrated its designation as “Best Town Ever” by Outside magazine. The splashy cover image and write-up of the port city in the September issue sparked interest in the mountain-biking, beer-brewing hometown of Trampled by Turtles.
Now Grand Marais — that other best town on Lake Superior — may take a turn on a glossy magazine cover soon.
Budget Travel has launched a contest to determine “America’s coolest small towns,” and Grand Marais is in the running. Competition is keen. There’s Pismo Beach, Calif., along the Pacific Coast; Blanco, Texas, in pretty Texas Hill Country; Berkeley Springs, W.V., where Thomas Jefferson was known to take to the waters; Chincoteague, Va., and others.
But what’s “cooler” than Grand Marais? As I write this, thermometers up there are registering 7 degrees.
Of course we know there’s so much more than wintry weather: the rocky shoreline perfect for skipping rocks, the world’s best doughnuts (in season), hikes to Artists’ Point, interesting shops such as the Inuit-focused Sivertson Gallery, delicious restaurants like the Crooked Spoon.
If you’re a fan of Grand Marais — and don’t mind sharing the secret jewel with the nation — vote for the town at http://bit.ly/1KbVL8X. You can vote once a day through February 25.
Tour company the Duluth Experience and Visit Duluth, the city's convention and visitor's bureau, are teaming up to introduce Duluth at biking and hiking expos in Amsterdam and Antwerp.
The two-year-old tour company has given Twin Citians, Iron Rangers and Canadians a deeper appreciation of Duluth with its history tours of the port city, mountain and road bike tours, kayak experiences in Lake Superior and brewery tours. Most of its customers come from the region, and some are from Duluth itself. By exhibiting at the two expos, they hope to bring in another crowd: adventure-seeking Europeans.
The two expos are expected to draw a combined 35,000 people.
"We're looking forward to showing off Duluth on an international stage," said Dave Grandmaison, of Duluth Experience.
Grandmaison's company is creating a new tour to entice Europeans interested in biking and visiting our unique patch of the United States. Called the "7-day Lake Superior Bicycle Adventure Package," it includes a cycling trip along the North Shore from Duluth to Grand Marais, stays in cabins and a tour of Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors.
Minnesotans are welcome, too. More info here.
The largest passenger steamboat in the world, the American Queen, is returning Friday to St. Paul, where it will board passengers who will mosey down the river to St. Louis. And I, the travel editor, will be among the lucky passengers.
Sure, the paddle-wheeler has been plying Mississippi waters for months now (It took its inaugural sail out of New Orleans in mid-April; Priscilla Presley smashed it with a champagne bottle in Memphis for its christening on April 28). But I had my reasons for waiting: I wanted to launch from a home port and, after all, time cures all glitches. I like sailing on a boat and with a crew that has a few miles under its belt.
The American Queen, built in 1995, sailed the Mississippi for the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. Bankruptcy grounded the boat, until the newly formed Great American Steamboat Co. came to her rescue. Since it purchased the paddle-wheeler last fall, the company has put $6.5 million into refurbishing her. The Victorian ambiance hasn't changed, albeit with new carpet and mattress.
I'm all in. I suspect you'll find me gazing at the egrets from what's called The Front Porch of America, sipping tea on the Main Deck Lounge, fueling my imagination in the Engine Room Bar and working off last night's dinner in the small fitness room. I am under the impression that a Mark Twain impersonator will aboard, and that I can follow our progress in the Chart Room. Whatever I encounter, I'll let you know. I'll be blogging about my experience every day. I hope you'll follow along.
From his computer screen in Fresno, Calif., retired teacher Patt Dodds is embarking on quite a trek: He's visiting all 87 Minnesota counties for his new blog, everycounty.org.
The blog is lovely, with nice photos, fun facts and maps -- all culled from the Internet.
"It takes me about three hours of on-line research per county and I'm doing this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so it should take me about seven months to get from Kittson County in the northwest to Houston County in the southeast," Dodds, 62, tells Escape Artists.
Why is a Fresno guy who grew up and worked at two newspapers in Iowa so obsessed with Minnesota?
About eight years ago, in the pre-blog era, he and his son visited all 99 counties in Iowa. He'd been to the Twin Cities and Rainy Lake and "thought it would be fun to virtually get to know the state better. It's frustrating to only hit the highlights so I'm digging a little deeper."
To wit: He points out that Baudette was rebuilt after a 1910 fire and the Northwest Angle that juts up into Canada ended up in Minnesota because of confusion about the Mississippi River's origins during 1783 Treaty of Paris talks.
He's three counties into his tour with 84 to go, but Dodds is looking ahead.
"Texas has 254 counties," he said.
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