Not-So-Obvious Minnesota Bests

By Taylor Hugo / Inspired by Louie Anderson's My North

Raised by an avid garage-saler, Louie Anderson knows that sometimes you need to hunt a bit to find real gems, and that oftentimes the best experiences are found in the unlikeliest of places. In that spirit, we’ve cultivated a list of not-so-obvious—and gotta-visit—spots that highlight the unique spirit of Minnesota.

Can Can Wonderland, St. Paul

Can Can Wonderland_Caitlin Abrams
Can Can Wonderland / Caitlin Abrams

Why wouldn’t you fill an abandoned warehouse with artsy mini-golf and even artsier cocktails? Swing through Louie’s hometown of St. Paul and stop by this new hot spot to enjoy fresh, chef-made mini donut creations alongside color-changing cocktails and wild cereal-themed milkshakes. Then, play 18 holes among giant pink elephants and handmade robots. Just because.

Matt’s Bar, Minneapolis

Don’t let this Minneapolis spot’s facade fool you—this hole-in-the-wall almost always has a line of people waiting for a table, and for good reason. (Even Obama had lunch here!) Matt’s Bar serves up legendary “Jucy Lucy” cheese-stuffed burgers from a one-man grill, but it’s up to you to decide if their cheese-oozing patty is truly the original. An ongoing feud with the neighboring 5-8 Club makes this meal legendary in more ways than one.

Brave New Workshop, Minneapolis

A comedy institution in Minneapolis since 1958, BNW boasts an impressive list of alumni, ranging from Mo Collins to Louie Anderson to Al Franken and Tom Davis in their pre-“Saturday Night Live” days. Whether your interest lies in sketch comedy or improv, there’s a show nearly every week to satisfy your laugh quotient.

Largest Ball of Twine, Darwin

Ball of Twine Museum DarwinWhat’s more hilarious than the world’s largest blackduck? (Yep, Minnesota is home to one.) The world’s largest ball of twine, of course. A journey down Highway 12 to the little dot-on-the-map town of Darwin to see this mother of all twine balls is a must. In the name of total accuracy, it’s actually the “World’s Largest Ball of Twine Rolled by One Man”—due to a rival twine ball in Cawker City, Kansas. Francis A. Johnson finished the twine ball, weighing in at almost nine tons, in 1979. And as if you need more evidence that this twine ball is legit, Weird Al Yankovic wrote a song about it.

"'Cause I've been all around this great big world
And I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather go to 
Than the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota" — Weird Al Yankovic

Spam Museum, Austin

New Spam MuseumArguably as iconic as Paul Bunyan and his sidekick Babe, the mystery of what exactly is in a can of Spam has been on Minnesota minds since the brand started in 1937. To celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2016, a new museum dedicated to the food opened in its hometown of Austin. Admission is always free.

Junk Bonanza, Shakopee

Not much of a garage-saler, but still love the thrill of the hunt? Then add Junk Bonanza to your calendar. This ever-evolving Instragram-worthy junker’s paradise has been the go-to source for purveyors and thrifters for more than a decade. Don't miss the eclectic mix of vintage, antique, and artisan-repurposed goods at the twice-yearly pop-up at Shakopee’s Canterbury Park in April and September.

My North is a weekly video series created in partnership with Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Explore Minnesota. If you missed Louie Anderson's story, view it here.

>See more My North itineraries