Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 31, 2010

#1 – In Pursuit of Christmas Spirit

I used to be sort of a Christmas junkie.  For someone without kids, I had more decorations, Christmas-themed movies and sets of Christmas lights than sanity (or common-sense) dictated I should.  But I loved the season – the apple cider, the sparkly lights, and even the carols.  I always was able to feel the magic of the season, the (relative) goodwill towards men, and there was always this little part of me that really wanted to believe that perhaps Santa was real.  But this year, I felt like a non-hostile but still hollow Grinch.  Where was the glow, the anticipation?

I decided to search for my Christmas spirit in the midst of a few mini-adventures that I will bundle up into my first Mini-Misadventure…  Perhaps some of you will discover a few ideas for things you can do next year to pursue your own Christmas spirit.  And keep in mind that even if they didn’t work for me this year, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a shot for yourself.  Perhaps I just had an off year.  It happens.

First Stop – Thanksgiving Night, Ely
As mentioned in my last posting, on Thanksgiving night, Ely stores open up their doors for Christmas shopping, replete with sales and cookies and good cheer.  After a day of stuffing your face, it seems like a healthy option to head over to Ely and walk up and down the hills of mainstreet.  From Wintergreen to Pebble Spa to Mealey’s Gift and Sauna Shop, there are a lot of opportunities to score some great deals plus a free ice-cream cone at Northern Expressions on Main if you’re so inclined.  With Ely’s Winter Festival and Art Walk coming up at the beginning of February, you’ll have a good opportunity to head up there to enjoy snow sculptures, yummy food (of course I’d mention this) and a little taste of an odd world where the mining past and the tourism present blend together.

Second Stop – Weihnachtfest, Biwabik
Weihnactfest was one of the first unique Iron Range events that I was exposed to when I moved up here.  Fireworks for Christmas?  Why not?!  For a split second while watching the fireworks, you almost forget that it’s freezing out because you’re so programmed from a lifetime of 4th of July fireworks.  Kinda’ like when clear Pepsi came out.  Your brain really really thought it should taste like Sprite, but instead, “what’s this? cola?! egads!”  So yeah, it’s pretty neat.  They block off the main highway running through town, sing Christmas carols and light up a bunch of large evergreens in the city park.  Earlier in the day there are craft sales too.  It’s a nice fit for a town with a Bavarian feel.  So next year, hit the trails at Giant’s Ridge, grab dinner at one of the local restaurants (can’t go wrong with Vi’s, but don’t wreck my chances of scoring a table!) and enjoy some fireworks on the first Saturday of the December! 

Third Stop – December Blizzard, downtown Minneapolis
As (bad) luck would have it, my mom and I planned a trip to Minneapolis the 2nd week of December to go Christmas shopping and visit a few museums.  Unfortunately for us, the adventure turned into a misadventure as the “December Blizzard” hit Minneapolis and effectively shut the city down.  City buses stopped running at 1:30 Saturday afternoon.  Barnes and Noble closed at 1:00.  Marshall’s kicked everyone out at 3:30, thereby saving me a large quantity of money.  The Minneapolis Institute of Art didn’t even attempt to open their doors that day.  Luckily for us, we were staying at the Crowne Plaza, which is connected to the Skyway system so our day wasn’t a complete bust.  Plus we discovered this wonderful restaurant on the top floor of Macy’s called “The Oak Grill” that had incredible food with even more incredible service!

We entertained ourselves watching all of the people who apparently thought they should be out driving.   Even this northern Minnesota girl with a 4×4 truck stayed put that day, so why oh why would someone think that driving any car with limited clearance down an unplowed road would be a good idea?  No offense to those of you who got stuck that day, but just to let you know… if you were in downtown Minneapolis, there were more people than my mom and me cheering you on from the skyway system. 

We also were lucky enough to get down there early enough on Friday night to see the Holidazzle Parade (it was cancelled on Saturday because Nicollet Mall had people snowshoeing down it). It was definitely dazzling and worth taking children to, even if they are 32-years-old.   There’s nothing like being trapped in downtown Minneapolis and the skyway system to test your mother/daughter relationship.  We passed – even after facing the challenge of finding a source of dinner in the evening when all the restaurants were closing down early and the skyway was prematurely locking doors!  Thank goodness for room service (and an easy-going, low-maintenance mom)! 

Fourth Stop – Shopping, Canal Park; snowshoeing, Lester Park; Christmas lights, Bentleyville
I discovered my Christmas spirit in Duluth.  Not a big surprise as it’s my favorite place in probably the whole world.  The joy of Christmas to me personally, I discovered, is found in searching out unique gifts for those I love.  Things that can’t be purchased in chain stores and that are unexpected.  Things that you find in stores such as the ones down at the DeWitt-Seitz building in Canal Park as well as the the stores lining the main thoroughfare of Canal Park (start a few doors down from the ‘Toga though).  Next year, I’m heading down there first thing in December to start my hunt for fun gifts that make people say “oh wow! Cool, where the heck did you find this?  I love it!”  That’s my resolution (one of many). 

We followed up our shopping adventure with snowshoeing in Lester Park.  One of the reasons I love Duluth as much as I do is that it has these little parks following the creeks/rivers in town where you can duck into the park and completely forget you are in a decent-sized city.  In addition to snowshoeing, Lester Park has a wonderful x-country ski trail system, including lighted trails (which seem like a necessity when it’s dark at 4:30!).  After wearing ourselves out a little, we decided we had been on our feet long enough, so we headed downtown to grab a beer and some mini-appetizers at the Dubh Linn Irish Pub before heading over to Bentleyville via the Skywalk system (smart people in Minnesota doncha’ know, we may live in the cold, but we plan for it).  Bentleyville is an experience, but I have to be honest and say that I preferred it when it was at his home.  Feels too commercial now and generic.  I miss the oddness of some random person having this absolutely amazing Christmas light display at his home.  Felt a lot more authentic, but there’s always the home on Park Point to make me smile!

Fifth Stop – Snowshoeing, Side Lake
Is there anything more peaceful than crossing a frozen lake alone in the dark on snowshoes, snow floating down and no sound but your own breathing (heavy as it may be)?  Walking past homes with lit-up trees in the window and feeling silence and calm (and sweaty)?  Time away from chaos to reflect on the year that had gone past and hope that next year won’t be as much of a challenge.  Just one more step, one more step, one more step. 

One more step into 2011 – Happy New Year’s!

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