Friday, August 31, 2007

WCHA Roadtrip Town No. 4 – Minneapolis

About one month ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA towns make for the best roadtrips. For my list, I’m basing this off five criteria (Access, Bars, City Experience, Hotels, and Ticket Cost / Availability). For a detailed list of what these five items mean to me, click here.

Here is a list of the cities the preview has previously covered up until today:

10. Houghton
9. Grand Forks
8. Mankato
7. St. Cloud
6. Madison
5. Anchorage

This week, its city No. 4: Minneapolis, Minn., which is home to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.


This review as a whole is a bit different for me since I’ve lived in the Twin Cities area my whole life and therefore have never had a chance to ‘visit’ the area. However, as I’ve stated before, I’ve been to all the other WCHA towns, so I feel that I can compare the Minneapolis area to these towns.

Minneapolis is probably the easiest city to get to in the WCHA. It’s about an hour away from St. Cloud and Mankato, two hours from Duluth, and a little over four hours from Madison and Grand Forks. The drive from most of these areas is pretty painless, although the Twin Cities area can certainly generate its share of traffic as you get closer to either downtown.

With the 35W bridge disaster, it’s a little tougher to navigate the area around the Minnesota campus, but it’s still manageable, especially at night (when hockey games generally are) as opposed to rush hour.

The Twin Cities also features an international airport with several flights a day to the Denver / Colorado Springs area, among others.


As is the case with most big schools in major cities, there are plenty of options for having some fun before and after the games. There are obviously many bars in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area, but I think you’ll find that you won’t need to leave the U of M campus to find a good time.

Before the games, there are three places that most fans venture to that are all in the same general area. Sally’s Saloon and Eatery is the biggest hangout of the three. Like the others, it’s just a few blocks from Mariucci Arena and is a typical sports bar. It gets very busy before the games but is big enough to accommodate the hockey crowd. However, it can get very packed if the campus has another event going on that day. The menu is limited on gamedays but is still very solid. It’s a tad spendy, but the atmosphere is what keeps people coming back over the years.

Down the street a bit you’ll find Big Ten Restaurant & Bar. This place gets packed as well, but mainly because it’s very small compared to Sally’s. Big 10 is known for their subs, which are excellent. They have a much better selection of beer on tap, if that’s your thing.

Stub and Herbs is the other of the mainstays for pregaming. Featuring both an upper and lower level, there’s nothing overly special about it, but they have a lot of room and your traditional bar food.

If you’re looking to have some fun at night, The Library is the most popular bar on campus after dark. It gets very packed with the ‘hip and trendy’ crowd, but they have good specials on the weekend and the “scenery” is nice. And yes, it’s about two blocks away from the infamous Blarney Pub and Grill.

Finally, if you’re looking for a late-night snack after your do some bar-hopping, Burrito Loco, which is adjacent to The Library, is where you’ll want to go. They are open well past bar close and it is the place to go for after hours food.

City Experience

There are quite a few things to do in the Twin Cities area. In the fall, Viking and Gopher football games could kill some time on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The Wild start up in early October, which would make for a good time in St. Paul on a Thursday or Sunday. Out-of-towners like to frequent the Mall of America as well if they’ve never been to the Twin Cities area.

Click here to visit the official visitors guide to the Twin Cities.


There are not too many options near Mariucci Arena. The best bet for visitors is the Radisson that is right by the three bars / restaurants I mentioned earlier. It’s well over $100 a night though, which could be problematic.

There is a Days Inn down the street a bit that could be a more viable option for the money-conscience.

If readers have other suggestions here, please feel free to chime in via the comments section, since this is one area that I don’t deal with too often in Minneapolis.

Ticket Cost / Availability

As anyone who has visited the Twin Cities to watch a Gopher game, you know that this is a potential issue. Gopher games are all essentially sold out before tickets go on sale to the public. Scattered single seats and standing-room tickets can be had when tickets go on sale in mid-September each year.

However, buying tickets from scalpers out front has always been a popular route of attack, and now that scalping tickets is legal in Minnesota, this is likely to be an increased course of action for folks looking for seats. The standard ticket is $30, but unless the Gophers are playing someone like North Dakota or Wisconsin, you can likely pay under face-value from scalpers to get in if you play your cards right.

As with any roadtrip though, it’s nice to have tickets in-hand before leaving.


As I said before, I’ve never “visited” Minneapolis since I live here, but I think it has all the ingredients to be a great roadtrip town: the hockey will almost always be good because of the quality of Minnesota’s teams each year, it’s easy to get to the area and it’s centrally located, and there are plenty of places to hangout around Mariucci. Lodging could be a slight issue if you don’t want to have to drive at all, but finding a decent place isn’t an issue at all. And finally, tickets to Gopher games aren’t going to fall into your lap, but with some many resources online to find tickets, it really shouldn’t be too tough to have them with you before you depart.

Overall Grade: B