Northern Vineyards is a shared winery owned by the Minnesota Winegrowers Cooperative, a group of winemakers who own 1- to 15-acre vineyards across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Members grow Frontenac, Prairie Star, and other grape varieties that perform well in the region; since the region has a cold climate and short growing season, grapes grown here must tolerate lower temperatures, ripen early, and be able to knit their own woolen mittens. In the fall, growers lug their mature grapes to the main winery in Stillwater, where award-winning winemaker Robin Partch transforms them into 30 kinds of wine.
The winery?s barrel room hosts wine tastings seven days a week at a glossy, wooden tasting bar. There?s also an outdoor deck that overlooks a historic lift bridge along the St. Croix River. In nice weather, visitors can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with a glass of wine on the deck.
The menu at Café Cravings, sister restaurant to Cravings Wine Bar & Grille, is in essence an encyclopedia of classic American cuisine. There are the sandwiches, which run the gamut from crisp BLTs and triple-decker clubs to the sizzling, strawberry-kissed Monte Cristo. There are the soups, which fill sourdough bread bowls, and the rotating selection of quiches. But most impressive has to be the breakfast. The 25-strong selection is served all day, ensuring that even those who wake up late or have their watch on backward get a bite of fluffy, ham-stuffed Denver omelets and apple-walnut pancakes topped with maple butter.
The eight-page dessert menu is no slouch either. Those who call ahead get their pick of whole cakes, tarts, cobblers, pies, cheesecakes, and other sugar-laden delicacies, which they can pick up inside or at the convenient drive-through window.
A Minneapolis fixture since the glaciers receded and left early Minnesotans with the desire for a strong, strong drink, the 8,000-square-foot Broadway Avenue Merwin houses more liquid libations than Dionysus's former home, the Alpha Sigma Sigma fraternity house. Globetrot through German, Belgian, Irish, and domestic craft beers; $10 six packs of New Grist gluten-free beer are also available. Merwin adds elegance to candlelit evenings with a wine selection more diverse than the types of mold that grow on an old set of dentures. Harder stuff such as $10 1-liter bottles of Black Velvet whiskey and Clan McGreggor scotch ($14 for 1 liter) warms any chilly evening. With Bombay Sapphire gin ($26.99 for 1 liter), Casa Noble's two-year anejo tequila ($55 for 750 ml), and Grey Goose vodka ($34.99 for 1 liter), Merwin has 10 times the selection of even the swankest bar and usually fewer fistfights, so it’s an excellent alternative to a night on the town, especially since your bed will always drive you home safely.
Pump It Up's Inflatable Party Zone balloons kids’ excitement with an enormous playspace that welcomes open-play sessions and private parties. Tots 34" and taller run and leap in huge bounce houses, soar down an inflatable slide, and practice for future zero-gravity triathlon events in a bouncy jousting arena and basketball court. Various open-play sessions give kids of all ages free rein to the fun zone while accompanying parents stand by to officiate bounce-house property-line disputes. Pump It Up also boasts myriad celebratory and special-event shindigs, with friendly staffers supervising jumpers, and serving pizza and favors in a vibrant party room.
Corralling groups for a night on the town can be difficult, as partygoers must wait for everyone to finish their drinks and grab their stuff before moving on. The team at Amsterdam Pedals helps smooth out such roadblocks with their 16-person pedal bar?a group bicycle outfitted with comfortable, inward-facing seats, a table, a cooler for BYOB drinks, and a driver to steer the whole rig. The trips cruise around the easy slopes of three signature routes, which can hit a variety of hot spots downtown, pubs and restaurants on 7th Street, or parks, where passengers can uproot and steal valuable trees. Guests can adjust their seats to suit their leg span, accommodating heights of 5 feet and taller, with three bench seats available for shorter clients. Tours can meander about St. Paul until 2 a.m., when the pedal bar must be returned to Amsterdam Bar & Hall.
Although it’s known for comedies such as the two-man, 24-character A Tuna Christmas, Actors Theater of Minnesota also places a significant emphasis on education and corporate training. At The Creative Institute, the ensemble trains students how to work theatrical media such as improv and writing into their everyday problem-solving skills.