Minneapolis Skyline

Traveling Like a Local – Minneapolis/St. Paul

The Twin Cities, some people call it, as well as “The Cities” to Minnesotans out of the metro area. Mill City, City of Lakes in Minneapolis, and Hockeytown in St. Paul are others. Each nickname holds its own merit, we’ll visit some of these in this piece as well as numerous other places to enjoy during your stay in Minneapolis/St. Paul. There are just so many local places to see with a story to tell and many of them are free or low cost.

MSP Airport

Terminal 1 Light Rail Station

Free rides between Terminal 1 and 2

You’ll most likely fly into the MSP International Airport. Fly into Terminal 2. Sun Country, our  “hometown” airline flies in and out of there, and it’s a much smaller terminal so the lines are shorter resulting in less time spent at the airport.

There are different options for leaving the airport including shuttles, car rentals, car-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft, buses that leave Terminal 1 or a favorite, Light Rail Transit (LRT). For convenience, the Light Rail is free of charge between the 2 terminals and they run as often as every 10 minutes.

The Light Rail is also the easiest option to get to both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, although there’s no direct line to St. Paul and it will take longer. As in 90 minutes. Then, it’s all the better as you can often connect to wi-fi signals while riding. Either way, you can take the Blue Line all the way to Downtown Minneapolis or switch trains at the U.S. Bank Stadium station to catch the Green Line into St. Paul.

Mill City District

In Minneapolis, Mill City is an unofficial district nestled against the Mississippi River. While there, consider taking in your favorite ice cream treat at the local Izzy’s and a walk up or down West River Parkway. The lights are pretty, the people are engaging and the bridges are a work of art.

Hennepin Ave Bridge

Hennepin Ave Bridge and its Reflection

Bicyclist West River Parkway

Bicyclist enjoying the early evening down by the river

The Parkway area is an urban planner’s dream. A street with a slow speed limit, separate walking plus biking paths, public art and precise landscaping make this both beautiful and functional. When walking around this neighborhood, it’s hard not to say hello, engage in short conversation or wave. It’s a Minnesota thing to do. And of course my new friend wanted to give me a smile and peace sign.

The Nicollet

You’ll find captivating streets throughout the whole Twin Cities area, perhaps none more present than one you can’t drive on. “The Nicollet” up until November 2017 was called Nicollet Mall. After a 3-year reconstruction project and rebranding exercise, the city changed the name. It’s beautiful, modern and worth the walk up and down to have food and drink, shop, or see areas of interest.

Dakota Jazz Club on The Nicollet

Dakota Jazz Club on The Nicollet

Toward the South end of The Nicollet lies The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant. The Dakota has been a really well-known and respected fine dining and jazz club since 1985. It’s somewhat of a secret to even locals, but Prince used to sneak in a back door and move around at his own free will and just enjoy the music on stage.

The nearby Minnesota Orchestra speaks for itself. Take in a show! They have performances all year around (opens PDF) and are world-renowned. It’s a can’t-miss and is located on 11th and Nicollet.

Take a selfie with the Mary Tyler Moore statue on 7th and Nicollet. Yep, even the locals do it. It’s back at its prime location.

A must is to head off The Nicollet a couple blocks to First Avenue and see Prince’s star. He’s a local hero, put Minneapolis on the map musically, and the set and settings of the movie Purple Rain was at this venue. It’s humbling to look at his star and just think. Think as if nothing around matters. Just think.

Prince Star at First Avenue

Day after Prince’s passing

A 360 view of the venue:

Outside downtown is the temporary home of Minnesota United at TCF Bank Stadium. The soccer there is contagious and the fans are excited with their European-style flag waving and chants.

Nordeast Mpls

A true, local and engaging neighborhood is the Northeast (Nordeast) Minneapolis Arts District. You can find all you need right on or off 13th Ave NE. Pick your place:

  • Dangerous Man Brewing Company – A craft brewery in a customary neighborhood is a total Minnesotan thing to have. Their story is compelling and their beards are out to get you.
  • Northeast Social – Continental cuisine and exceptional mixologists. Tip: Have the mixologist create something with dill aquavit. It’s a Scandinavian and Minnesotan treat and your palate will leave happy. Last July, I couldn’t help but head to Twitter to mention a delicious scallops appetizer.
  • 331 Club – Divey, vintage club with live music 7 days a week. Favorite Google Review quote: “To our amazement, it was the best nerd party we had ever seen and had to quickly join.”
  • Bunny’s Bar & Grill NE – Nestled by the Mississippi River, it’s a newer sports bar. Tip: The Walleye Fingers is a total Minnesotan thing to try. While you’re there, take a few steps to Sheridan Memorial park, take a selfie by the metal orb and share for social proof. The park itself is on a trail with great neighborhood views of the Mississippi.
  • Gumball Boutique – A hidden gem, Gumball is a cozy consignment shop with locally-made everything.
Pan-Seared Scallops App

Pan-seared scallops w/ Pork Belly appetizer

Cathedral Hill, St. Paul

Across the river sits St. Paul, a trip worthy all in its own. After all, it is called the most livable city in America. If you go to the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and take a James.J. Hill House tour, you’ll know more area history than many locals. The family were railroad pioneers, or “empire builders”, responsible for the majority of railroad that went out to the West coast. A couple fun facts are that the Hill family were very similar to the Rockefellers with one exception. The Hill family didn’t put their name on stuff. The second? The house is built on the top of Cathedral Hill. Guests would enter in the front, and leave in the back which is twice as large looking down the hill to leave guests with one, lasting, prestigious memory.

Back from Hill House

Down Cathedral Hill from the James J. Hill house

While on the hill, walk down Summit Ave. You’ll pass the Governor’s mansion as well as hundreds of other homes that are considered Victorian mansions. You’ll see regular folks working on their lawn or shoveling their driveway in the winter. Give ‘em a friendly wave and they’ll always wave back. It’s just a Minnesota thing to do. We joke about being called “Minnesota Nice”, but it’s true. We are.

Hockeytown

Amateur Hockey at Xcel

Adult amateur hockey at Xcel

People here are born with skates on, and of course there is the Wild. In addition to professional hockey games, they do have organized scrimmages for adults. There’s not much better of a feeling than playing hockey on that big sheet of ice, albeit in front of about 12 fans making up of spouses and children.

Now, think hockey meets obstacle course meets skiing and you have Crashed Ice. They have a professional course every year that starts on Cathedral Hill and ends down the hill towards downtown. Literally the best in the world qualify to compete in this event with over 100,000 celebrated fans in attendance lining the course. It’s exciting, thrilling and admittedly impossible to get home as everyone leaves at once.

Here’s what it looked like a week before the event after a rainfall. Yep, the temp did drop in time.

Crashed Ice Track

Crashed Ice track a week before the event

And during the event.

Packed Crashed Ice

Packed Crashed Ice

Around the Capital City

  • Go to St. Thomas and catch a Div. III football game at O’Shaughnessy Stadium in the perfect environment and cheer amongst the most loyal of fans.
  • Catch a Juicy Lucy at The Nook. Everything about this place is Minnesotan, including the burger with cheese oozing out from the inside.
  • The Minnesota State Fair. Technically, Falcon Heights. It only happens once a year, but if you’re here during that time, just go. Go and naturally create your own wonderful story to tell. My favorite treat? Snowii Shaved Ice. It’s Minnesota-based, and it’s sweaty-hot in August.
Snowii Shaved Ice

Snowii Shaved Ice at the State Fair’s West End

Getting Around the TC

East Bank Light Rail Station

East Bank Light Rail station

Take a Nice Ride bicycle. The Twin Cities is one of the most friendly bicycle cities in the U.S. Take a bike for an hour or a day at one of over 200 local stations. Here’s a station full of bikes on St. Anthony Main.

Definitely buy a Metro Transit pass or fare and take the Light Rail back and forth to Minneapolis, St. Paul and the airport. While on the trains, check out the public art at each station.

If on the Blue Line, hop off at the Cedar/Riverside station and walk across the street to Currie Park. There may just be a good soccer game being played.

On your way back to the airport, hop off the Bloomington Central Light Rail stationand take the walkway to Urbana Craeft Kitchen and Market, inside the Hyatt Regency. Ask for Nick the Bartender and have him serve you up a locally-sourced bison burger, house-made chips and a local, craft beer.

That’s a perfect end, and you’ll now leave happy. Wave as you leave and thanks from the Twin Cities for sharing your experience with us!

LocalMN Interactive Google My Business

Setting your Google My Business Hours for Thanksgiving

Fast, easy, painless, and it literally takes 5 minutes or less. It’s surprising how many local businesses do not take the time to change their Thanksgiving hours of operation in Google, but understandable. Many may just not realize how easy it is, or maybe don’t do it because they don’t want to have to remember to set the hours back after the holiday. Straight from Google,

Set special hours

For days when your business has an irregular schedule, like holidays or special events, you can enter special hours in advance. If you schedule special hours, your regular hours remain in place for all other days.

They make it really easy to let you know and guide you as well. Here’s an email I recently received.

Holiday Hours

Click “Go to my holiday hours” (or go to your Google My Business account), follow a few easy steps including the ones below to confirm and you’re done.

Closed HoursAdd Hours The best part, the hours automatically revert back to normal after Thanksgiving. No worrying about remembering to set the hours back.

Questions? Ask away! We’re more than happy to help.

Maps View of Early Morning Walk

Time Saving Ways to Add Info To Google Maps

Whether you’re a Google Local Guide, community advocate, like maps, photography and improve how people navigate around your neighborhood, this is a way to help showcase your area. All you need is a smart phone that takes the Google Maps app.

For me, I’m passionate about Ward 3 in Minneapolis. It contains 10 unique neighborhoods, although we hope to strive them to make friendly enough as one. We do have an election coming up and that factors in for my vote. These photos are from a small early morning walk down the street in the Downtown West neighborhood.

Just by walking around, I was able to find different businesses, parks and local areas of interest. On the skyway and vibrant streets of Downtown West lies Washington Square.

Washington Square

Within Washington Square is Penny’s Downtown, open since the latter half of 2016.

Photo taken for Google Maps

This above maps image is one I did on the smart phone and it took just minutes. Photos, review and all just took minutes out of my day.

But I digress and off to others.

Washington and Marquette lies one of 190 Nice Ride Bikes stationed across the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. As a whole, Nice Ride a local independent 501(c)3 non profit created to operate the bike share system. It has a board of directors and they’re always open to questions or feedback. See their FAQ page.

Nice Ride Bike

This bike has a customized sticker by the handle bars. No plans to bike to the St. Paul Farmers Market today but can be done for the adventurous.

This again can be submitted to Google in minutes.

A relatively unknown park is the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor Park, next to their headquarters on Washington Ave and Nicollet Mall, They do have a local page for their corporate presence, but not for the park itself. The park is really nice for people watching, lunch and just laying out to catch some rays. It even showcases events such as dance and yoga classes and in the photo below, a round of Kubb played during the 2017 Kubb Krawl.

Kubb at Cancer Survivor Center

I haven’t created a maps review or photo(s) just because the park itself doesn’t have a local page. Just their corporate office does under Marquette Plaza. In the meantime I could take a few minutes to add a missing place for them.

Nonetheless, the park has a nice view, wouldn’t you say?

View from Cancer Survivors Park

Just down the street, Whole Foods have certainly made an impact. Many folks have made reviews for them, and it fits well in the newly constructed condo and luxury apartment community and the higher pedestrian traffic. As Washington Ave construction is nearing completion with wider lanes and sidewalks, a bicycle lane and improved safety as vehicle and pedestrian/bicycle traffic often share the same area with vehicles.

Whole Foods

Apples at Whole Foods

A review I wrote a few years ago.

Whole Foods Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Nice Ride Station, right in the neighborhood at Gateway Park.

Gateway Park Nice Ride Station

Nontheless, it doesn’t take much time at all to do these. Try it for yourself, showcase your neighborhood to the world and even enhance your SEO a bit.

LocalMN 101 – Google Photos for Businesses

Google Photos can be used best when thinking as a user. You can use it on its own, for Google products such as Maps, or an organizer to distribute your photos to Apple Maps, other local portals or social sites such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

And,  you can use all of this solely for SEO reasons. Please don’t.

As mentioned in the video, it can take awhile to set up and customized to your liking or needs. An organized Google Photos account can be like a switchboard. Once it’s ready and you need a photo, you can pretty much pick it, then title, describe, tag it and place where you need it.

 


LocalMN Interactive provides years of local search experience, including Google Trusted Street View Photography. Ask for a quote for a website redesign, marketing and photography services through our contact page, phone or your social media portal of your choice.

LocalMN 101 – Google Photos in Maps

By now, you’ve hopefully read and organized your Google Photos, which is the backbone for this. You’re now ready to add your favorite ones to Maps. There’s something very important you need to do first, though. It’s really easy, but it’s a must.

With your Google Account and/or your Gmail address, just create a Google My Business (GMB) account. As stated by Google themselves…

Get your business hours, phone number, and directions on Google Search and Maps — with Google My Business.

This is indeed the #1 things folks look for when searching for your business.

Once you enter your basic info online, check the “by mail” verification method. It usually takes a few businesses days to receive and just keep a lookout for a postcard that looks something like this.

Google Postcard

Open it, verify the 5-6 digit pin provided and you should be good to go, almost immediately. This YouTube video provides perfect basic insights on it all.

For photos, real pics are compelling, and the #1 thing people look for? Directions. Here’s an description example of cross streets to give customers a visual on where a business is.

The NE Bulldog Cross Streets

Before looking at the photo above, did you have a general idea where the NE Bulldog is? And after reading the description, do you now know EXACTLY where the NE Bulldog is?

This is just one example of how you can use your photos and descriptions in each photo to help entice visitors to come to your door.

Tip: Anyone can add photos to your business and most of them are customers, not photographers. This is fine. Showing “real” photos shows people being social and most of the time, that’s what we want. Combine these with the quality photos you take and describe, the photo presence in your Google listing enhances that much more.


At LocalMN Interactive, we specialize in local search and are listed in Google as a Trusted Street View Photographer. Contact us for services and mention this post when you do.

 

LocalMN Google Photos 101

Many people have photo tools they use for their business. Some are for Photos for MacOS users, some are Windows-based. For this series, we’re going to stick to Google Photos. One, it’s really easy to set up and organize, and it’s sharable either one-on-one or to the public.

Getting Started

You should have this anyway, but create a Google Account. If you already have a gmail address, you’re good to go.

The YouTube video below is 20+ minutes. You’re busy doing what you do so I’d recommend chopping away at it here and there.

Or, if you want the short and sexy version.

This covers Google Photos (and videos) as a consumer, or, your customers. The next two posts cover how to upload info you learn to Google Maps and other local and social portals.

According to Wikipedia

Google Photos is a photo sharing and storage service developed by Google. It was announced in May 2015 and spun out from Google+, the company’s social network.Google Photos gives users free, unlimited storage for photos up to 16 megapixels and videos up to 1080p resolution.

Setting this up is like putting together the umbrella. It looks like a lot of work, but everything in the next two post will fall from it.

A few final notes for this post. As mentioned in the YouTube video, Google auto-detects some of these and creates relevant albums for you such as your spouse, home, favorite ski area, etc. I would then recommend creating albums (either with photos or just shells) of photos you think your customers would find interesting.

Google Photo Albums

Example of Google Photo Albums

By now, you may have a visual list of all your albums, editable to you. Create a duplicate of these and place them in the same labeled albums but under their “shared”. At a later date, you can then allow/disallow other folks to edit these.

All three of these posts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding photos and how to use these on your business maps, but it’s a really good starting point. Next, we’ll talk about how to use these photos for Google and other mapping solutions.