Hello all, my wife and I moved her in June/July from Tennessee. Long story short we were looking for adventure and the Twin Cities' reputation for bicycling, beer loving, good music, and all around quality of life drew us in.
The summer and fall were just amazing, but as you know the winter is setting in. I have a good coat, I have salt, and a nice stock of hot tea (and beer). What now?
Any tips on:
Driving in cold weather
Things I haven't thought of yet
Born and raised in Madison, WI, where the winters aren't much better than here. Been living in Minneapolis for 6 years. My wife and I have become pros at hunkering down for the winter. A few tips:
1. Activities. I am not a hardcore gamer, but we have a Wii. Each fall, we buy a game that involves a long and involved plot, something like a Zelda or Final Fantasy type game. Both of those games are accessable enough that you don't need to be a super geek to get into them. Also board games are good.
Skiing and skating and all that are fine and good, but you do have to embrace the cold, it's not for everybody. I love to ski, but it is time consuming and expensive.
2. Driving. My rule of thumb, go easy on both pedals. Easy on the gas, easy on the brake. People fall in love with their brake pedal when it gets slick, but it is responsible for so many slide outs! Keep safe distances between you and the cars in front of you, and just tap the brake when you need to. Gently gliding along at 10 mph is much better than gassing up to 30, braking, gassing, braking. You'll get home no faster and your knuckles will be white. I was a pizza delivery driver in college in the wintertime, and to this day, I've never been in a snow/ice related accident.
3. Energy. Seal up your windows with plastic film. Buy an extra blanket and turn down the heat at night. A small space heater/electric blanket works great too to keep you warm in bed without blasting heat throughout the rest of the house. A couple good pairs of slippers around the house are always nice to have too.
4. BOOTS. Get yourself a good pair of boots, don't be afraid to spend some dough on them, they'll be worth it and should last a long long time. I recommend Redwing shoes, they're heavyduty and locally made.
SUBSTANCES. Beer of course, and homebrewing is a great way to pass the time (and heat up your home). Not to incriminate myself, but every fall, I drop $50 to buy a bag of...um... I use it very sparingly, one bag gets me through the whole winter. If it's not your thing, no worries, but I find it helps
GET OUT OF MN! You may not have the flexibility or money or time to do so, but one week spent in a warm climate during the dead of winter really eases the pain. My wife and I try to get to Mexico or Florida for a week or so in Janaury of February every year. It really helps.
PLAN A GARDEN. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to start vegetable gardening in my back yard. Wintertime is great for planning your garden, browsing seed catalogs, reading up on gardening methods. In March, you can start sprouting your seedlings indoors to get a head start on the season. This really helped me pass the time in the winter, and made my Spring and Summer that much more fun and rewarding!
If you like to ski, there's lots of places around to go. Most aren't very challenging if you've ever been to actual mountains, but I'd give my hat tip to Afton Alps (full disclosure: I worked there back in '86 and '87), and Trollhaugen. Trollhaugen is a lot cheaper generally, but is much smaller, less challenging and further out (Osceola, WI).
For your car, if you can swing it, get a set of cheapo steel rims from a junk yard and pick up some snow tires. The Winterforce snows by Firestone aren't terribly expensive (compared to Blizzaks) and in my opinion are 90% as effective. Don't cheap out and get just two, get all four. They're going to be louder and smooshier, but they're absolutely essential for handling the snow. Also be mindful that once the snow is gone, get those other tires on or you'll wear 'em down.
I'm a Saint Paul kind of guy so most of my tips will be for the east side of town. The Muddy Pig, The Happy Gnome, The Bulldog and Great Waters are all excellent beer spots. In Minneapolis, don't miss the Town Hall brewery (especially Masala Mama on cask--wow!), The Herkimer or any of the cool spots in NE.
Restaurants to try: In Saint Paul, try The Strip Club Meat and Fish, Barrio, Cheeky Monkey, Sweeney's and Meritage. In Minneapolis, try La Belle Vie, Solera, The Modern, The Sample Room and Sea Change.
As for saving energy, I'm a big proponent of Compact Flourescent light bulbs where the light quality and the less-than-instant on won't drive you nuts. Toss a few in fixtures that get left on occasionally to make forgetting to turn off lights a bit less painful. CFL Floods outdoors take forever to warm up, but eventually toss quite a bit of light. Some folks use heavy curtains or window plastic to seal off rooms they won't use/don't need during the winter to save some money. I don't go to that extreme, but I do have throw rugs at the base of the outside doors and I'll plastic over particularly leaky windows if it bugs me enough. Having a smart thermostat that lowers the temp during the day when you're not home really makes a difference.
For fun, try shopping in the skyway downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Some call it the human habitrail. It's kind of neat to be able to cover most of downtown without ever going outside. Malls are always a nice break to just get indoors and walk around for a while. I'd avoid Hugedale (Mall of America-most of our bigger malls end in 'dale' for some reason) unless you have something to do there. Try Maplewood Mall or any of the 'dales.
If cross country skiing is your thing or you want to try it out, there are lots of places to do so. Look up the Ramsey or Hennepin county parks, or the City Park and Recreation websites.
For fun out of the ordinary, head up to Prohibition bar in the old Foshay tower. It's up on the 27th floor. The outdoor observatory is usually open during the day, too. I think they still offer rollerblading and such on the concourse in the Metrodome (or Mall of America Field, I guess...) during the winter. Don't miss the Walker (modern art and sculpture garden), The MIA (free always), Mill City Museum, or just have a ride on the Light Rail or the Heavy Rail commuter trains. The Northstar line makes it easy to head up to Big Lake and back on Saturdays. It's not thrill-a-minute, but certainly worth the price of admission.
Welcome to MN!
Four wheel drive vehicle with good tires and battery are good to have. At minimum front-wheel drive. We sometimes have winters with a ton of snow, or very little. It's unpredictable year round. There have been days in the summer that started in the 50's, then get to upper 80's. Winter is usually pretty long and drawn out. Get a break once a year in the months of Jan-March for a mental breathier.
Get in involved in winter activities, hiking, skiing, skaing, sledding, make snowman making with the kids, etc...
Get an automated thermostat to lower the heat at night when you sleep, raise it when you usually awake so the house is warm. Oh and a down blanket/comforter is a good way to go for everyone in the family.
It hadn't occurred to me how great a winter activity homebrewing is going to be. I don't have anything fermenting right now, but I'll be sure to make the trip to Midwest and maybe get a good IPA going.
I've found reading is really good, but go through hot tea like crazy.
Right now I have all season tires. My wife and I are not exactly the wealthiest, so that may not be something we can get immediately. Right now most of our extra money is focused on winter-wear we didn't need until we moved up here (hence why I haven't been homebrewing lately, as it takes extra money).
We're real foodies, so it's good to hear recommendations. Love the Happy Gnome, Busters, Bulldog, Lyndale Tap, Lucia's, etc. Will definitely try the other places.
I'm a guitarist and in the market for a new amp, so I might make the trip to south WI to Dave's because the store has such an incredible selection. But I'm a little timid to make the trip in winter weather.
We loved the summer and spent almost everyday outside and cycling and going to various parks and things. But we deliberately saved the art museums for winter knowing we'd want some indoor activities.
Not huge into malls. They just make me discontent with my life seeing all the things I can't afford, sexual ads, etc. I deal better in shopping for something specific than just walking around a mall which is why I can get lost in a thrift store (props to Unique in New Hope!). We've particularly avoided MOA, but once the in-laws visit it will an unavoidable trip.
Right on cowardm! Indoor projects really are great for winter time. Good call on getting an amp and working on your guitar over the winter. Last November my wife and I picked up a piano at Keys 4 Kids, and I used the winter to regain my long lost piano chops.
And ditto on the malls...they cause me much anxiety too.
The St Paul Winter Carnival is a good time too, especially the medallion hunt. You've gotta be ready to embrace the cold for that though.
Also, just my 2 cents, whenever there's a nasty snowfall and I have the misfortune to be driving on the highway, a disproportionate number of vehicles in the ditch are 4-wheel drive trucks and SUVs. I don't know if it's the false sense of security they provide or what, but I've never spun out in my Civic.
Food: in uptown Minneapolis - The French Meadow is awesome. The Bryant Lake Bowl has great breakfasts, as does Victor's (if you like cuban food, that is, but I think it's pretty unreal) Galactic Pizza is awesome and uses local/organic ingredients whenever possible. Pizza Luce is great (and has many locations). If you like sushi, Fujiya is hard to beat. Other places around Minneapolis: The King and I for Thai food - I worked there and it's very authentic and has won many awards. Bombay Bistro for Indian food. Hell's Kitchen is another great breakfast spot, has good lunches too. They make all their own food, including ketchup and peanut butter.
Driving advice: stay off the side roads as much as possible. They rarely plow them; I guess they just leave it up to the cars to pack down the snow to some sort of driveability.
Also, if you can swing one of those engine block heaters, I would go for it. The cold is no joke up there.
I visited Willie's the other day. I played a Victoria there and it was about the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. They said the could order one for me (a slightly different model) so as soon as I sell some gear (a speaker cab and Randall module) I'll have them order it. But it was great service, great selection, and a cool place.
French Meadow is a favorite of the wife. I like it too, particularly for their beer selection. It's a stone's throw from where I live. As is Galactic Pizza which was one of the first places I tried when we were new to the cities. We really really liked it and their little delivery cars still crack me up every time I see one. We tend to like Pizza Luce better. I like Bryant Lake Bowl and they often have some more obscure beer stuff, gotten a snobby feel from the workers there a couple of times, but for the most part I like the place. On the other hand, I've chatted with some managers in passing (never complained) and they were super cool. The food is delicious, though a bit pricey. We love Hell's Kitchen for being the one place you can get drunk, listen to jazz, and get great breakfast food at 9 in the morning.
My wife waited on the owner of Bombay Bistro and when he found out that we had both been to India and loved it he said he wanted us to come to his restaurant and treat us. I think we need to take him up on that soon!