| Off the Eaten Path |

The North Midwest: Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa

Naomi Nachman, with Zvi, Gabriella, and Leora Nachman

Our summer travel has begun, and we’re trying to get through a few more states. We discovered a great app called “Countries Been,” which displays a map of the world and allows you to fill out which countries and/or states you’ve visited. You can do it by country or break it down by state or province. We’ve been using it to track our US progress, and we only have about seven or eight states left.

When we plan our trips, we always try to combine a few states at once. So our next stop was Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota for another three-state trip. Summer is the best time to visit the north-midwest region of the US, since these states have very cold weather during the winter.

Using our Delta points, we flew to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Memorial Day weekend. I’d heard that Minnesota is a beautiful state that boasts over 10,000 lakes, and we were excited to see the local sites. We landed Thursday midday and headed straight to the local pizza shop, Basil Pizza, for delicious pizza and wraps; it was an awesome welcome for us weary travelers.

After lunch, we headed down to Mason City, Iowa, a two-hour trip south. As mentioned previously, my rule is that we have to do something significant in each state to make it count as a visit. I’d seen that Mason City was having a sculpture tour called “River City Sculptures on Parade” — a 1.7-mile walking tour looping around the city. The city also boasts the last hotel designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright; the lounge, built in 1910, is still open and you can play billiards on the hundred-year-old table.

Sadly, the weather wasn’t great for finishing the tour, and we headed back up to Minneapolis to the absolutely delightful Prime Deli restaurant. Everyone at the deli was warm and friendly, and it had incredible customer service. We ordered steaks, the famed deli-packed Howie Sandwich, chicken matzah ball soup, chicken tempura, and burgers. After a day of traveling, I was thrilled to have a restaurant available so I didn’t have to pull out my Betty Crocker and start cooking!

Friday was our day to tour Minneapolis. In the morning, I met up with some friends, who took great care of me. We had breakfast at Breadsmith. Minnesota has three Breadsmith locations, and I’m still dreaming about their scones. My friends showed me around the Jewish neighborhood, and we went to Kosher Spot, the local kosher store (located next door to the deli). We also visited the kosher sections of the local supermarkets, which were very impressive.

In the afternoon, I rejoined my family for a tour around some of the beautiful local lakes. We rented bikes and peddled around one of the lakes, then headed to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to see the iconic Spoon Bridge and Cherry Fountain sculpture. With Shabbos starting very late (since Minneapolis is pretty far north), we even had time to stop by the Mall of America and do some camp shopping!

We spent Shabbos in St. Paul, Minneapolis’s “twin city,” at the home of my husband’s rebbe. His rebbetzin made delicious Shabbos meals, hosting many locals in a true hachnassas orchim manner. We felt so welcome.

Sunday was our day to head west out to Fargo, North Dakota, via Alexandria — another beautiful lake, which we hiked around. We had a picnic lunch with our purchases from Breadsmith.

Fargo is a small town just a few miles over the Minnesota border. We walked around Main Street and saw the iconic theater, but we found that there wasn’t a lot to do on the east side of North Dakota. While North Dakota has a national park and is home to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, that was many hours away, and we didn’t have the luxury of traveling that far west. (Renting a car in one state and dropping it off in another state can be very expensive, so we’d decided to fly in and out of Minneapolis.)

On our final day of vacation, we drove back to Minneapolis and saw the Minnehaha Falls, a beautiful park within the city with waterfalls, wading pools, picnic grounds, hiking paths, and so much more. The weather was incredible, and we took off our shoes and socks and enjoyed wading in the water.

Our wonderful weekend ended with a barbecue with our friends in Minneapolis before heading back to the airport. Minnesota is a beautiful state, but the warmth of the Jewish communities made our stay extra special.

(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 754)

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