The must-see Twin Cities attractions you've never heard of

Elizabeth Foy Larsen's "111 Places in the Twin Cities That You Must Not Miss" is released on Nov. 23.

Even if you've lived in a place for a long time, it's nice to know it can still surprise you.

That's what Minnesota-based author Elizabeth Foy Larsen is hoping for with her new book, 111 Places in the Twin Cities That You Must Not Miss, which will be released on Nov. 23.

It can obviously be used as a "what you need to know" guide for non-Minnesotans, with shout-outs to well-known local landmarks like Paisley Park, the Foshay, the State Capitol and the Stone Arch Bridge.

But Foy's well-researched book also contains attractions some natives may not have heard of either.

Before you say "but I have heard of these things," we concede that some of you are so well-versed in local knowledge that not a pop-up shop opens without your hearing about it.

But for those of you still learning about the wonders of the Twin Cities, we've picked out five of the lesser-known choices that feature in Larsen's book.

The Dairy and Meat Salesroom in St. Paul

Did you know the U of M has a side gig as a produce retailer? Well it does, as the U's Department of Food Science and Nutrition sells dairy and meat produced at its pilot plant and meat lab, respectively.

It opens to the public every Wednesday between 2-5 p.m., giving locals the opportunity to buy some seriously hyper-local food including cheese, ice cream, meat and honey made during students' science projects.

Based in Room 166 of the Andrew Boss Laboratory of Meat Science at 1354 Eckles Ave., St. Paul. You can find out more about it here.

Stuffed wildlife at Isles Studio

This takes browsing a store to the next level, as Jeff Bengtson's recently-opened gift and home decor store off of Hennepin Ave. in East Isles Minneapolis is not just populated by tasteful furniture, but also a bevy of stuffed wildlife.

As Larsen's book explains, Bengtson is a high-end taxidermist and his suite of home decorating options includes a five-foot sarus crane valued at $6,500, as well as a zebra, peacock and myriad other birds, insects and reptiles.

The self-confessed nature lover is at pains to stress, however, that all the animals featured died of natural causes and new additions arrive as nature dictates. You can find out more here.

Historic Milwaukee Avenue

This two-block stretch off Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood is unusual for many reasons, not least because it's a fully pedestrianized residential area in a city still dominated by the car. 

That's owing to a community effort by residents who in the 1970s saved it from demolition by getting it added to the National Register of Historic Places. They closed it off to traffic and assumed responsibility for maintenance of the common area, as detailed by the Star Tribune here.

With tear-downs now a common site in the Twin Cities, a visit to Milwaukee Avenue's line of modest town-homes, built between 1884 and 1890, is a real step back in time.

The Needle Doctor

Turntables have come, forgive the pun, full circle as the vinyl records pushed out by the advent of CDs are enjoying a renaissance among musical purists.

And The Needle Doctor is the Mecca for Twin Cities vinyl lovers, but while it's know nationally among audiophiles (80 percent of owner Jerry Raskins' business is mail order), the store remains a bit of an uncovered gem in the Twin Cities.

He moved recently to Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park after 30 years in Dinkytown, with his store stocking turntables, needles and hi-fi stereos, as well as headphones, receivers and speakers galore. Find out more here.

Nature in an urban setting at Swede Hollow Park

While Rice and Mears are the first names you think of when someone says "St. Paul parks," this park bisecting the Payne-Phalen and Dayton's Bluff neighborhoods offers an escape from bustling city life a stone's throw from downtown.

An arched bridge beneath I-94 heralds the entrance to the winding, valleyed park, which was formerly home to the city's immigrant community, until the neighborhood was razed in the '50s due to appalling sanitary conditions.

Now its tree-lined surroundings offer a piece of tranquility, and the location of Flat Earth Brewing Co. at the Minnehaha Avenue end of the park can offer a thirst-quenching end to a brisk walk. 

About Elizabeth Foy Larsen

The Minnesota native moved back to Minneapolis in 1984 after dropping out of college and is now a well-known author and freelance writer.

She's written for The New York Times, Mother Jones, Slate and Travel + Leisure, and co-authored the Unbored series of family activity books.

111 Places in the Twin Cities That You Must Not Miss is part of an international series of 111 Places books of more than 250 titles, which have sold more than 1.5 million print copies worldwide.

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