Grand Prix Minneapolis Travel Guide

Minnesota native Ken Bearl tells you all you need to know about where to eat, how to get around, and what to do if you get there early or scrub out at Grand Prix Minneapolis in a couple of weeks.

I’ve been to the three previous Grand Prix Minneapolis, and I can’t wait for the fourth one. When it comes to Minnesota, Garrison Keillor has my favorite quote. “If you’re planning on coming to Minnesota be prepared to stay a while; it’s just that nice.” Of course I’m a little biased since I’ve always lived here.

The first reason you should come to GP Minneapolis is that the artist is Richard Kane Ferguson. I don’t recall ever getting excited to see an artist at any of the GPs I’ve been to before, but he is such an iconic artist from the early years of Magic. Some of his most notable works are Dakkon Blackblade, Price of Progress, Pillage, Muscle Sliver, and Sol’kanar the Swamp King. The whole list is here if you want to get something from StarCityGames.com before the GP.

Where To Eat During The GP

First off Rob McKenzie and Steve Peterman put together a travel guide for the judges, so you can check that out for the surrounding restaurants. I’m just going to add some food options that they didn’t include.

1040 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 659-7955

This location is within walking distance of the convention center; just head to Nicollet Street and then up two blocks. The only bad thing is that Chipotle isn’t open on Sunday.

Pizza Luce (612) 333-7359

I always try and eat at Pizza Luce when I’m downtown since they don’t have any locations close to where I live. You could walk to Pizza Luce from the convention center, but it would take you quite a while. The nice thing about the location is you can buy single slices. Otherwise they have free delivery, or if you have a car you can easily find a parking meter nearby. 

Galactic Pizza (612) 824-9100

I’ve never had Galactic Pizza, but it’s certainly a different place to order pizza from. Their delivery people come dressed up as a super hero and driving an electric vehicle. They also feature very different pizza toppings, such the Paul Bunyan Pizza which is topped with morel mushrooms, wild rice, and free range bison sausage.

Davanni’s Pizza and Hoagies (612) 338-0000

This is my personal favorite as I can’t get enough of the deep dish; I always eat too much and usually regret it later. I was having a discussion with some fellow Minnesotans about what the best pizza place is, and we agreed on Davanni’s despite them being a local chain. 

Boolaay (Somali food)

I’ve never eaten here or any other Somali restaurant, but MN has the largest community of Somali immigrants in the US, so if you want to try something that you wouldn’t normally give it a shot. It looks to be within walking distance of the convention center and does offer take out.

How To Get Around

If you’re into biking you can rent a bike from Nice Ride, which has stations located around the whole metro area. They also have tours that you can complete by bike on their website. Bicycling Magazine recently named Minneapolis the #1 bike friendly city in the US. So if you choose to go this route, you can trust that there are plenty of bike lanes and people are used to driving by bikes. Of course, to be safe you should bring your own helmet as those aren’t provided. 

Metro Transit runs the combination of light rail and buses that serves the metro area, which is Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the surrounding suburbs.

Since we live in the great frozen tundra, or lately the mildly cold tundra, Minneapolis has a large skyway system to get around.

What To Do If You Scrub Out

May is kind of a down month for sporting events. The Twins will be out of town, but you can still go to Target Plaza and see all the statues of the great Twins players such as Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett. You also could tour the new stadium since it’s a nongame day; tours start at 11 AM, 1 PM, and 3 PM on Sunday, and tickets are 17 dollars (12 if you have a student ID.)

If you still want to go see baseball, the Saint Paul Saints are opening their season the weekend of the Grand Prix. They are known for their special seats and interesting promotions such as the Michael Vick Chew Toy giveaway. They are an independent league team and are partially owned by Bill Murray. He has shown up to many of their games, even coaching third base on occasion. So if you are really lucky maybe you’ll see him there; of course if you’re really lucky you’ll be playing at the GP the whole time.

The MN Lynx will also be opening up their season on Sunday at 11:30 AM. Now, a lot of people will put down the WNBA, but the Lynx were the league champions last year. Also, if you look at the other MN sports teams, the Lynx are the only ones who are actually winning.

The Shout! House

It’s a dueling piano bar. I’ve never been there, but it was recommended by Steve Port, the tournament organizer at the last GP. I know my friends go there quite a bit.

Gay 90’s

Just an FYI that its name is a reference to the fun of the 1890’s since it was built in the 1920’s. However, it is now primarily a gay bar. Although my friend who is straight said that it’s still an awesome place to go and that he and his friends have had a great time there.

First Avenue

Another Minneapolis landmark that has been hosting music concerts since the 1970’s.

Mall of America

It’s the largest shopping center in the US and has an indoor theme park. You can get there by light rail from downtown. Fun trivia fact: if you are in the indoor park and you see a red seat mounted high up on the wall, that is the spot where the longest home run at Metropolitan Stadium was hit by Harmon Killebrew. You also can find the plaque that denotes where home plate was.  

You could also purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Of course, it will be pretty cold this time of year. For us hardy Minnesotans it’s not an issue; reminds me of a story at GP Atlanta, so I’ll put that to an end.

Restaurants Or Food To Try If You Have More Time

Juicy Lucy or Jucy Lucy (depending on your preference)

The Juicy Lucy is a hamburger with cheese in the middle of the meat patty. This website lists all the locations that serve a Jucy Lucy. The 5-8 Club and Matt’s Bar both claim to have started the burger.

Punch Pizza (Neapolitan Pizza)

This isn’t your normal pizza; it’s baked for 90 seconds in a 800 degree wood burning oven. At the last GP Minneapolis I took Gerry Thompson there and he didn’t like it, but I like to have it once and a while since it’s different. I also know a lot of people who really like it and order it every chance they get. The closest location is in Northeast Minneapolis.

Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit

As you may have guessed, this is a German restaurant. It’s also the home of the one-meter bratwurst challenge, which was featured in Man v. Food. It’s also located in Northeast Minneapolis, which isn’t an unreasonable cab ride away from the tournament.

As you can see, there is a lot to do in Minneapolis. A lot of different cultures have come to call it home, so you can find just about any type of ethnic restaurant you want. I read that some place even serves a camel burger.

Ken Bearl

@Kbearl on Twitter

Here’s the story from Grand Prix Atlanta in January 2011:

Since the temperature was in the forties, we had a running joke that whenever someone complained that it was cold we would just pull the good old, “Well we’re from MN, so it’s pretty warm.”

Flash forward to Sunday night: we had just finished up drafting and it was 11:30 pm, so I reminded the group that they said they were going to jump in the outdoor pool. They’d been drinking quite a bit, so they were like, “Yeah, let’s do it!”

We headed back to the room so they could change into swim trunks and grab towels, except for one of the guys who was wearing a suit; he was just going to strip down to his boxers and jump in. We got to the pool, which was obviously closed, but the left side door was open. Ding!

Dana jumped in first and let out a shrill when he hit the water; Mike followed him up with a cannonball. Finally Peter, who had stripped down to his boxers, let out a battle cry and jumped in. Next thing we knew, a security guard had entered the area and started yelling that the pool was closed! “Duh!”

So Mike and the rest of us took off running; Dana instead started talking to the female security guard for some reason, maybe because he’s a lawyer or because he had been drinking.

We got back to the room and started to wonder what was happening to Dana and Peter. Mike went down to the lobby to investigate. On his way there, he was behind a security guard and a manager who were walking down the hall and overheard them say that they needed to kick those guys out! So he called me thinking that Dana and Peter were getting kicked out of the Hilton.

Later he called me back and said, “Dana and Peter just went outside for a smoke.” So they came back, and we heard the rest of the story.

Apparently the security guard just kept yammering that the pool was closed. Meanwhile, Peter or the alcohol decided that he shouldn’t put his suit on over his wet boxers. So he took off his boxers and toweled off right by the security guard, who I assume was distracted talking to Dana.

Peter then lost his boxers in between going for a smoke and coming back to the hotel room. Now that’s an adventure.