Andy King  /  AP file
A long line snakes in front of the new Guthrie Theater at the Community Celebration on June 25, which was part of the opening weekend for the new home for the Theater near the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
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updated 8/14/2006 12:26:12 PM ET 2006-08-14T16:26:12

Cold and cool -- that about sums up Minneapolis to those in the know. Yes, the city reaches arctic lows in the wintertime, but with a heat-generating fine arts scene, nearly as many theaters as New York City, top music clubs, fine restaurants and the largest system of skywalks in the world … well, people here barely even notice the weather. There’s just too many great things going on indoors. Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be impressed by the sophistication and piercing intelligence of the people here, in what is arguably the hippest city in the country. Try the itinerary below, and you’ll see what I mean.

8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.: If you didn’t know that folks in Minnesota are known for their twisted senses of humor, you will after you’ve breakfasted at Hell’s Kitchen . Founded long before that inane reality show of the same name, it serves comfort food in a setting that is most, well, discomforting. In fact, it’s decorated to look a bit like the ninth circle of Hades, with blood red walls and stuffed buzzards perched here and there. Breakfast is as creative as the décor, with such unusual offerings as bison benedict, wild rice porridge and scrumptious lemon-ricotta hotcakes. A funky, fun way to start the day.

10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Leave Minneapolis proper for Bloomington, a 20-30 minute trek from the center, home to what some consider the most tempting (and others the most horrifying) place in the country, the Mall of America .Over 40 million people a year come here -- remarkable in a state with fewer than five million residents. At 2.5 million square feet it’s not the largest mall in the world (you’ll find bigger ones in Asia), but it has more than enough to keep you busy—and strip your wallet bare—for hours, if not days. Along with more than 400 stores, it boasts an indoor amusement park, a wedding chapel (for shopaholics in love?), an aquarium, a Nascar simulator and many other time fillers.

You’ll understand how the Midwest earned its nickname “breadbasket to the world” after you’ve visited the city’s absorbing Mill City Museum . Set in the former Washburn Mill, once the world’s largest -- 12 million loaves of bread were made from the wheat milled here between 1880 and 1930 -- it tells the story of how geography, technology and natural resources all came together in an explosive manner, fueling a boom that, in its own way, was as intense as the gold rush. By the late 19th century 70% of the farms in Minnesota were planted with wheat (some 4.5 million acres) and Minneapolis was rising like dough -- literally -- the yeast being the profits that came from grinding that wheat along with the wheat of some 23,000 farms in neighboring areas (from west to the Rockies all the way into Canada). The museum may sound dry, but the clever interactive exhibits, compelling photographs and oral histories keep the story compelling.

1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.: If you choose the mall, of course, you can eat there -- the food courts are jammed with options and there are dozens of sit-down restaurants as well. Or join the power lunchers at Mission American Kitchen , a sleek, contemporary American eatery set on the ground floor of the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis.  You’ll choose between such classics as deviled eggs, fried catfish, pastrami on rye, roasted chicken and the like, but all seasoned to a T and prepared with only the finest, freshest ingredients. 

2:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Head next to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and join in the ongoing celebrations surrounding the creation of the museum’s newest wing, which opened in June of this year. Designed by Michael Graves to complement the original, neo-classic 1915 McKim, Meade and White building, it’s added a full 40% more space allowing the MIA to open the most expansive exhibit of Chinese and Japanese art in the United States. Along with these Asian treasures, the museum has impressive holdings--10,000 of them in fact-- covering every important movement in both the fine and decorative arts. You’ll see prints by Rembrandt and Durer, sculptures by Modigliani and Moore, an ancient Egyptian mummy, important Arts and Craft-era furniture, and more and more and more.

Or take in the new wing of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from the outside and then stroll to see the other cutting edge buildings that have transformed the Minneapolis skyline in just the past twenty years, making it a showplace for contemporary architecture. There’s Frank Gehry’s undulating, tubular, reflective design for the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum , which Progressive Architecture described as “like a Marcel Duchamp painting made real”. If you have the time, step inside to view its small collection of modern art, which includes paintings by Warhol and Lichtenstein. Take in the newly opened Central Library , designed by Argentinean master Cesar Pelli, and now one of the largest libraries in the US. It’s become famous for the sweeping “birds wing” roof that juts out from the front. Or wander over to the new Guthrie Theater and have a look at Jean Nouvel’s $125 million creation.

5 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.: If you enjoy trying the latest thing, dine at Cosmos , where the Executive Chef Seth Bixby Daugherty was named one of the top new chefs in the nation by Food and Wine magazine last year. A master of blending international ingredients and cooking techniques into the most luxurious of meals imaginable, he will tempt you with tempura fried oysters sided by corn nuts; or Hudson Valley Foie Gras with enoki mushrooms and pomegranate; a complex and rich celery root tart; or cod with a dill foam and shellfish ragu. For those going to the Guthrie (our next suggested activity, see below), there’s a pre-theater menu available at a reasonable $35/person for several courses (or simply choose from the a la carte offerings).

8 p.m. - 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.: You’ll really be missing out if you don’t take in a show at the Guthrie Theater. Widely considered one of the finest (if not the finest) repertory theaters in the country, it’s been enthralling audiences since it was founded in 1963. This year, it imported the acclaimed DruidSynge, an ambitious many hour production spanning the cannon of Irish playwright John Millington Synge (it later went on to be the centerpiece of the Lincoln Center Festival in New York). Its own productions range from classic works such as The Merchant of Venice and Major Barbara to new plays, sometimes commissioned for production at the theater.

11 p.m. (or earlier) - 1 a.m.: Prince, the Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du all emerged from the Minneapolis music scene  which is still a force to be reckoned with. So spend the next two hours (since most clubs close at 1pm) at First Avenue which hosts stadium-level music acts in its intimate, rather grungy theater. Though First Avenue has been around since the 1970’s (it was known back then as the Depot), it remains the best live music venue in the city.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which debut in bookstores this summer.

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Hell’s Kitchen, 89 S. 10th Street; phone 612/332-4700; Open Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m.- 2 p.m., Sat-Sun 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Mall of America, in Bloomington at the crossroads of Highway 77 and Interstate 494; Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. and Sun 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Mill City Museum, 704 S. Second Street; phone 612/341-7555; Open Tues-Wed and Fri-Sat 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thurs 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Sun noon - 5 p.m. Admission is $8/adults, $6/seniors.

Mission American Kitchen, 77 South Seventh Street; phone 612/339-1000; Open Mon-Fri 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. (until 11 p.m. on Fridays), Saturdays dinner only 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Avenue South; phone 888/MIA-ARTS; Open Tues-Wed and Fri-Sat 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thurs 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Sun 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, 333 East River Road; phone 612/625-9494; Open Tues-Wed and Fri 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thurs 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Free admission.

Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall; phone 612/630-6000;

Guthrie Theater, 818 South 2nd Street; phone 612/377-2224;

Cosmos, 601 First Avenue North; phone 612/312-1168; Call far in advance for reservations.

First Avenue, 701 First Avenue North; phone 612/332-1775; Advance booking also comes in handy here, as popular bands will sell the place out.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which debut in bookstores this summer.

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Photos: The Mini Apple

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  1. Minneapolis & the 'Miss'

    View of the Minneapolis skyline over the Mississippi River, the second-longest river in the United States. The longest is the Missouri River, which flows into the Mississippi. Together, they form the largest river system in North America. ( Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Guthrie Theater

    An evening view from Stone Arch Bridge of the new Jean Nouvel-designed Guthrie Theater. The Guthrie Theater opened on May 7, 1963 with a production of Hamlet directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie, the theater's founder. (Amanda Ortland / Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Mall of America

    Mall of America's is the nation's largest shopping and entertainment complex. There are more than 520 stores, a 7-acre amusement park, a walk-through aquarium, a 14-screen movie theater and numerous restaurants. ( Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Metrodome

    The Metrodome is home to the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins, and is serviced by the city's light rail. (Explore Minnesota Tourism) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Mill Ruins Park

    Mill Ruins Park the centerpiece of the revitalization of Minneapolis' historic West Side Milling District. The park gives visitors a glimpse into an era when Minneapolis was number one in flour milling; when waterpower ran industry and the labor of immigrants hand built the city. ( Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Golden capital

    This gold-leafed copper and steel statuary group, 'Progress of the State,' sits atop the Minnesota State Capital in St. Paul. Sculpted by Daniel Chester French and Edward Potter, the four horses represent the power of nature: earth, wind, fire and water. (Explore Minnesota Tourism) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Minnesota State Fair

    The Mighty Midway at the Minnesota State Fair, one of the nation's largest and best-attended agricultural and educational events. The fair consists of 12 days of fun, Aug. 24 to Labor Day, Sept. 4. (Minnesota State Fair) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Weisman Art Museum

    A visit to the Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, will treat your eyes to artists including Georgia O'Keefe, Alfred Maurer, Marsden Hartley and many diverse contemporary art pieces. ( Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Mississippi River

    A view of the Mississippi River. The city is in the southeast portion of the state and sits along the Mississippi River. There are also 24 small lakes in the city. ( Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Walker Art Center

    The Walker Art Center expansion, designed by Herzog & De Meuron, nearly doubles the size of this highly acclaimed museum. Features include new galleries, gardens, performance space, educational facilities, rooftop terraces and a restaurant (20.21) by Wolfgang Puck. (Walker Art Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Minneapolis skyline

    The Minneapolis skyline at sunset with the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in the foreground. (Richard Hamilton Smith / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
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