“Fun and accessible…honest insight, first-rate strategic advice, and an essential dose of humor…an uncommon and entirely satisfying experience.” The fact that Moon Handbooks’ description of themselves would also suffice to describe the Twin Cities makes it apt that two of Moon’s newest guides describe life in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and environs.
There are several travel guides to the Twin Cities available, and having read only Moon Minneapolis & St. Paul (Avalon, $17.95), I am unqualified to compare and contrast except to observe that, as we like to say in Minnesota, you could do a lot worse. There’s quite a lot of information stuffed into the guide’s 227 pages—including, because why the hell not, a Farenheit/Celsius conversion guide—and appropriately, the guide doesn’t claim to be comprehensive. For each major category (restaurants, nightlife, arts and leisure, etc.), there’s a fair selection of the major stops. Even longtime residents will find their eyes opened a few times: have you been to the Hennepin History Museum? Me neither.
Author Tricia Cornell, who both edits Minnesota Parent and contributes to City Pages, writes with reasonable authority on everything from art galleries to nightclubs to children’s theater; being exceptionally well-traveled, she balances an appropriate level of affection for the Cities with a sense of what a globetrotter needs to know about what to see and how to get there. (“Outside of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, forget trying to hail a cab. In fact, forget trying to hail a cab downtown, too.”) She also has a good sense for interesting facts. Of course she hauls out the dubiously documented chestnut about the Twin Cities being second only to New York City for theater seats per capita, but she also comes up with a lot of little-known zingers. None of the locals I’ve mentioned these facts to since cracking the Moon handbook were aware that St. Anthony Falls is the only waterfall on the Mississippi or that the Hennepin Avenue Bridge is the shortest suspension bridge in the country. (My friends have been looking forward to my finishing this review so I can stop peppering them with Twin Cities trivia.)
Also new this summer is Moon’s Take a Hike Minneapolis & St. Paul (Avalon, $17.95), a guide that serves very nicely as a list of good hikes within two hours of the Twin Cities—that’s a two-hour drive, not a two-hour hike—and less well as a guide to the hikes themselves. Author Jake Kulju is not the writer Cornell is (“For a walk along one of the best-known urban parks in the Twin Cities, look no further than the famous Summit Avenue”), and I can imagine the small trail maps combined with brief text narratives leading to some confused hikers; still, I’ll keep the guide handy as an inspiration for weekend outings or road-trip detours. If I happen to get lost along the detours…well, that probably would have happened anyway.
Jay Gabler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.
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