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Minneapolis Blogging: Minnehaha Falls and Hiawatha

Outhouse at the John Stevens House in Minnehaha Falls Park.

Outhouse at the John Stevens House in Minnehaha Falls Park.

On my third trip to Minneapolis this past May, I felt the challenge of figuring out what was left for me to tour in the area. I’d conquered the Chain of Lakes, the Walker Museum, the Sculpture Garden, the Guthrie Theater, the Mall of America, and plenty of delicious eats and drinks downtown. Yet somehow, in my prior searches of things to do in the city, I never came across Minnehaha Falls.

Keep clicking on the photo to get the largest view.

Keep clicking on the photo to get the largest view.

The Falls are famous for being the focus of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” which is actually a name stolen from a nearby lake—we’ll get to that on this day trip, too. This sprawling recreational area is impossible to miss if you’re taking the Blue Line—and you should take the Blue Line because Minneapolis’s public transit is awesome. Just get off at the Minnehaha Falls stop and cross the street to the park. The first thing you’ll see is the John Stevens House.

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The home of John Stevens, who served as a ferryman for Fort Snelling, was the first home built in Minneapolis and it’s been moved four times since. I found the eyes on the statue of Stevens quite creepy.

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Wine Tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains

View from Loma Prieta Winery. Click twice to magnify.

View from Loma Prieta Winery. Click twice to magnify.

For Christmas, the darling husband bought us Santa Cruz Mountains wine passports, an excellent gift. I wasn’t a wine drinker when I lived in Santa Cruz, so now that I’m in the Bay, I’ve wanted to try what that designation has to offer. Plus, any excuse for a weekend in Santa Cruz is a good one for me.

The passports are $45 each and entitle you to one tasting at each of the participating wineries over a 2-year period. The passports themselves have detailed information on the wineries, their locations, and their hours, and they are intended for use on the quarterly Passport Days, during which some wineries normally closed to the public open their doors. But they are also valid any day of the year during regular operating hours—or at least they are supposed to be. We encountered resistance to that at one winery, which only honors it on Passport Days. Everywhere else let us in no problem.

And the wine passport is a great deal. We plotted a course essentially following Soquel-San Jose Road through the mountains, planning to hit up however many wineries we could handle in an afternoon. There are roughly eight participating wineries in reasonable distances from the main road.

We started at Bargetto, right outside of Santa Cruz on North Main Street in Soquel.

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This winery has a gorgeous creekside location, with a large deck under the trees.

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Santa_Cruz_Wine_Tasting_02The tasting room is really nice as well, though under construction against the back wall when we were there.

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Our wine pourer, a retired police officer, was pleasant and laid back. I fell a bit in love with their 2011 Chardonnay, which I’ll review on its own once I get to drinking it.

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The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Click twice for a view of the hotel and cabanas.

Click twice for a view of the hotel and cabanas.

This is Part 2 of my blog posts on our Amelia Island vacation last May. In Part 1, we cruised down the Amelia River, but we’ll stay closer to the hotel this time, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. Spacious rooms, a welcoming lobby and bar, and this each morning:

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Sunrise is not something I normally do, but I didn’t mind when that was what dragged me out of bed. Besides, I promptly went back to bed after snapping a few pictures. My husband was the one doing things on normal-people hours, not I. He was speaking at JS Conf.

Conference center grounds. Click twice for the large view.

Conference center grounds. Click twice for the large view.

I was living the life of someone who gets a free hotel room because her husband is speaking at JS Conf. It’s a good life. Even if I never left the hotel grounds, it would have been enough. The grounds are so huge, I’m giving you only the top 5 areas of it to visit.

#5 The Sunken Forest

View from the top. Click twice for the largest image.

View from the top. Click twice for the largest image.

These pathways may or may not have been closed for renovations when I explored the Sunken Forest, (closed, shh!), but it would have been a short, sweet adventure regardless. I’m not going to lie; rickety old stairs added to the appeal.

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The Sunken Forest is a small thatch of forest hidden behind a sand dune. There are multiple paths to the top, and while I’ve seen more amazing views, it’s fun to feel like you’ve lost track of the hotel for a little while. Or maybe that’s just the thrill of sneaking past caution tape speaking.

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