By Tressa Versteeg
The Twin Cities are undoubtedly cool. With some of the best museums, the friendliest people, many bountiful markets, an intoxicatingly vast variety of music, beautifully landscaped parks and a world class theater company to boot, why wouldn’t they be? With winter approaching rather quickly, don your winter jacket and explore your neighborhood cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis before the temperature drops any further.and cool takes on a new meaning. Art Museums The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) is the only Russian art museum in North America. Displaying unique artwork and artifacts that most westerners have never been exposed to, the museum provides a rare glimpse of an artistic side of Russia that is not always prevalent in western media. Housed in a gorgeously renovated historic building with subtle lighting and provocative displays, the traditions and history of this rich and mysterious culture come to life. Currently on exhibition is a fascinating photographic report of the Silk Road commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II. Students: are free, but donation requested.Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is more of a study in architecture than art. Designed by the famous Frank Gehry, the museum is difficult to describe. Imagine a bunch of shiny, contorted, giant blocks glued together by a three-year-old. Come here if you haven’t (or have) seen Gehry’s more famous works, including the Experience Music Project in Seattle, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The Museum itself has an impressive collection of American modernism pieces. and, of course, traditional Korean furniture. Admission is free.Minneapolis Institute of Arts has an expansive collection, housed in an enormous neoclassical structure. With one of the premier Asian collections in North America, and an exhaustive collection of other works spanning 5,000 years of world history, the MIA is not meant to be seen in a day. Pick and choose your area of interests. Current exhibitions include works from the Louvre, which the MIA uses to explore why some artworks are considered masterpieces and why others are not. Another exhibition celebrates the prolific life of the architect Michael Graves by examining everything from his famous Target products to his 2006 addition to the MIA building. Admission is free.Considered one of the “big five” modern art museums in the country, the Walker Art Center is a sight to behold. With its towering, gleaming facade, the Walker is home to works by the most famous, and some of the lesser known, modern artists. Across the street is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, with the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry and the Cowless Conservatory, which welcomes visitors in from the cold with a year-round display of verdant palms and fragrant orange trees. Students price is $6, Sculpture Park is free.Music and Plays The Dakota Jazz Club is not only Minneapolis’s best, but also one of the premier jazz clubs in the nation. Drawing big name acts and serving spectacular food, what better way could there be for jazz aficionados to while away a cold fall evening. Looming large on the horizon is the world-renowned Dave Brubeck Quartet, coming to the club in early November (price varies hugely depending on artist). 1st Ave. opened its doors in 1970 with a performance by Joe Cocker. Since then, it has been a cornerstone of the Twin Cities’ music scene; nearly every band to come out of Minnesota has roots in the First Ave., and it also draws many musicians across the nation and the world. Friday and Saturday nights provide an escape from campus to dance and listen to music. The price varies depending on act, but generally around $10. The Guthrie Theater, a building synonymous with Minneapolis, has been called “a 21st century dream factory.” This dream factory, winner of the Tony Award for best theater, is home to one of the most renowned acting companies in America. Not only is the acting sublime, but the building itself has won architectural accolades from across the country. Encased in dark-blue steel, the Guthrie is both intensely modern and intrinsically elegant. The cantilevered bridge that juts out towards the Mississippi is open to the public for free, and provides some of the best views in Minneapolis. Over fall break three different shows are playing at the Guthrie, including the well received “Importance of Being Ernest.” The price varies, generally around $ o20 for students. MarketsLate October provides a chance to peruse the fall harvest at one of the three well-appointed markets in the Twin Cities. On a brisk fall day, strolling among the many vendors selling gourmet chocolate, roasted corn-on-the-cob, hot coffee, just-baked bread, candied nuts and tons of fresh produce is a welcome respite from Café Mac, even if your plate of pasta is being doled out by Brandie. St. Paul Farmer’s Market, at Fifth and Wall St. in downtown St. Paul, is of a manageable size and easy to reach from Mac (Saturday from 6 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.). In Minneapolis, the Nicollet Mall Market (Thursdays, 6 a.m.- 6 p.m.) runs down the fashionable and car-free Nicollet Mall between Fifth and Twelfth Streets. The Midtown Global Market is a community effort that has brought together 50 locally-owned businesses under one roof. Modeled after Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, the “Global Market” is chock full of ethnic grocers, restaurants and booths selling specialty food and other paraphernalia from around the world, reflecting Minneapolis’s multicultural heritage. Notable is the Café Finspang, purveyor of Scandinavian goods, including delicious homemade chocolates and candies. The market is located in Minneapolis at Lake St. and Tenth Ave. RecreationIf after going to one of the Twin Cities’ markets, you find yourself at a loss for what to do, take a walk. On the bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, Mills Ruins Park gives the visitor a well preserved look at the epicenter of Minneapolis’ now vanished grain industry, when the whole park would have been filled with factories. Cross the old Stone Arch Bridge to the opposite side of the Mississippi, and marvel at the views of downtown. For those who have not yet ventured into St. Paul, check out the gentrified downtown Rice Park, which is surrounded by handsome historic buildings. The luxurious St. Paul Hotel (where the doormen were top-hats) and the whimsical Landmark Center castle provide a stunning backdrop to the redbrick plaza and fountain. This serene locale is watched over by the sculpted bronze Peanut characters of Charles Schulz. Wander out to terrace next to the Science Center for a view of the river boats moored at Harriet Island.