Out + About

Need a hot night out? Look no further.

Barrio Minneapolis
Photo by Stephanie Colgan

New Bar

Barrio. Did somebody say “tequila”? The brains behind Barrio (see Best New Restaurant, page 96) sure as heck did, 110 times. Yup, 110 tequila selections line the wall at this tiny bar, which is stumbling distance from The Local in the heart of Nicollet Mall. Not only will the drinks warm you, but so will the company of the twenty- and thirtysomethings who are packed into this two-level slip of a space. Must try: the tequila-accompanying compadre drinks and made-to-order guac. Spicy. 925 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-333-9953, barriotequila.com

Fairy Tale Date Night

Carriages Ride on St. Anthony Main. Many ladies have a Cinderella fantasy: Prince Charming sweeps her off her feet, takes her hand, and whisks her away in a romantic horse-drawn carriage. The next best thing? A nighttime carriage ride from the Hitching Company on St. Anthony Main. You’ll have the perfect riverfront view of Minneapolis’s majestic skyline, and the cold weather will offer one more reason to cuddle up to your cutie under a provided blanket. One hour, $105. Half hour, $55. Fifteen minutes, $30. Rides depart near Vic’s Dining & Cocktails, 201 SE Main St., Mpls., 877-338-7777, thehitchingcompany.com

Place to Chill

Barbette. Whether it’s the wine, the pommes frites, or the steam coming off the mussels (arguably the best around) that drag you in from the cold, Barbette is one of the “chillest” spots in town. In addition to killer food and a hefty wine list, the bohemian brasserie hosts a late-night music series on Mondays. But get there early; this intimate venue fills up quickly for bands such as Romantica and Kid Dakota. 1600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-827-5710, barbette.com

Nightlife Impresario

Richard MoodyRichard Moody. Chances are you’ve been to a Richard Moody–planned event in the past year. Ranging from small fashion shows at The Lounge to upscale boutique openings—OPM and Bumbershute used his services—to large charity events for organizations such as Dress for Success, Moody and his colleagues at IAmMoody know how to throw a party with all the right people in attendance. And even if he isn’t hosting the event, Moody’s probably mingling around, making connections, or chatting with friends—after all, it seems everyone’s friends with Moody. iammoody.com

Use of the Cold

Ice Chamber at Chambers. It might not be the place to wear your usual slinky Saturday-night number, but this glam Minneapolis spot is undoubtedly the “coolest” place in town on winter nights, not to mention a unique setting for sipping cocktails. Located among glistening lights in the hotel’s ground-level courtyard, the Ice Chamber’s bar is a sleek, 12,000-pound structure made entirely of ice. Behind it, bartenders clad in stylish winter coats, furry hats, and boots pour pricey martinis. Don’t worry about the chill—a large fire pit warms and illuminates the chic setting. 901 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-767-6900, chambersminneapolis.com

Too Much Love at First Avenue

Dance Night

Too Much Love. If you’ve had too much of typical TC nightclubs, First Avenue’s Saturday–night special, Too Much Love, could be your ticket to dancing-queen happiness. Local DJ SovietPanda leads the night, with the occasional guest DJ coming in to spin groove-worthy music—from dance-punk to electronica to house and rock remixes. This eighteen-plus party is for everyone but wall flowers. 701 1st Ave. N., Mpls., 612-332-1775, first-avenue.com

Happy Hour

Chino Latino. The people at Parasole Restaurant Holdings (Chino, Figlio, Pittsburgh Blue, et al.) know how to throw a happy hour. Good cheap drinks plus good cheap food equals a happy hour—or three. Chino reigns king among the happy hour crowd for its seven-day-a-week, 4:30–7 pm happy hour featuring drinks from $3 to $4 and food from $2 to $5. And don’t forget the late-night, Sunday- through-Thursday deals from 10:30 pm to midnight that include Mexican pizza, French toast, tacos, and more—all for under $4. 2916 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-824-7878, chinolatino.com

Taste of the Coasts

Epic. Some clubs try to evoke an LA or NYC atmosphere, but Epic goes one step further, bringing in acts that are no stranger to clubs on either coast—or Paris, London, or Tel Aviv for that matter. This year alone Epic has managed to lure Paul van Dyk, Kaskade, Ferry Corsten, The Crystal Method, and other acts that usually venture no closer than Chicago. 110 N. 5th St., Mpls., 612-332-3742, epicmpls.com

After-Hours Hangout

W—The Foshay. From Prohibition, the intimate space with amazing views on the Foshay’s twenty-seventh floor to the ultrasleek and lively first-floor W Bar to the Living Room, which boasts leather chairs and classic board games—the W nailed the nightlife thing. Deep lush couches, oversized chairs, plump pillows, and pretty people draw you in, while the creatively crafted cocktails and tongue-in-cheek snacks (we suggest the Thank-you Mom—four grilled cheese wedges) just might inspire you to stay the night. 821 Marquette Ave., Mpls., 612-215-3700

Fun and Games

Best Way to Get Frostbite

Polar Bear Plunge. How Minnesotan are you? If you’ve taken the plunge, you’ve probably earned your stay. Minnesota Law Enforcement presents the Polar Bear Plunge each year as a way to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota. At eleven sites across the state—including White Bear Lake, Eden Prairie, Minneapolis, and Maple Grove—brave men and women support the cause by putting on a swim suit and jumping into the frigid Minnesota waters. That’s hard core. Jan. 23–24. 612-604-1280, somn.org

Best Outdoor Ice Skating Rink

Wells Fargo WinterSkate. It wouldn’t be a Minnesota winter without a little ice skating, and for those brave enough to leave the comfort of an indoor rink, there’s no better place to lace up your skates and practice your double axels than at Wells Fargo WinterSkate. The artificially chilled public rink is free, situated in Landmark Plaza beside a seventy-five-foot holiday tree that’s draped with 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights. New this year: Fireworks light up the sky after the tree-lighting ceremony on November 29. Open Nov. 29–Feb. 1. Rice Park, St. Paul, 651-291-5608, capitalcitypartnership.com

Best National Amateur Sporting Event

us pond hockey championshipsUS Pond Hockey Championships. At presstime, 239 teams had registered for the chance to bring home the illustrious Golden Shovel, the ultimate trophy in this amateur sport. The tournament is only in its fourth year, but is already filled with fierce competitors who face the freezing cold in the search for glory. The tourney has already grabbed the attention of national outlets such as The Today Show and Sports Illustrated. This year, teams take to the ice on Lake Nokomis January 23–25. Uspondhockey.com

Best In-Town(ish) Ski Experience

Welch Village. Just a short trip south of the Twin Cities, Welch is a solid option for all levels of skiers. For the hard core, there are sixty runs, including twenty-three black and double-black diamonds. For the one-run-and-done crew, there is the Base Lodge with food and activities for families and the Madd Jaxx Chalet for more adult pursuits (read: a full bar). As good as it gets sans the five-hour drive north. 651-222-7079, welchvillage.com

Best Cross-Country Ski Event

Cross Country Skiiers at the LoppetThe Loppet. A must for any cross-country skier. This two-day skiing festival features eight cross-country skiing races that loop around the Chain of Lakes and other urban trails. Events include the Skijor Loppet, which combines cross-country skiing and dogsledding; the Caribou Coffee Luminary Loppet, during which Lake of the Isles is lit by candles; and the urban Freestyle Loppet. Jan. 31–Feb. 1. Online registration open until Jan. 29. Near the Chain of Lakes, Mpls., 612-604-5330 cityoflakesloppet.com

Best Place to Go Snowshoeing

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Many may think the arboretum is only for checking out blooming flowers, but come winter this 1,000-acre area becomes the perfect landscape for winter activities. Snowshoers can take advantage of three miles of trails or embark across the boardwalk and wetland areas. And except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the arboretum is open all winter for optimum outdoor time. 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska, 952-443-1400, arboretum.umn.edu

Best Dog Park

Minnehaha Dog Park. It might be chilly, but Fido doesn’t feel the cold. With 4.3 acres nestled along the banks of the Mississippi, this City of Minneapolis dog park with a large off-leash area is an urban retreat for your four-legged friend. Located off 54th Street and Hiawatha, it is the perfect location for both Minneapolis and St. Paul doggies. And in the summer, the easy river access makes for a really fun adventure for Fido and his friends. 612-230-6400, minneapolisparks.com

Best Way to Keep Up Your Golf Game

Country Air Golf Park and Golf Zone. Your swing doesn’t have to suffer this winter. Both Country Air Golf Park in Lake Elmo and Golf Zone in Chaska offer heated, covered stalls to keep your muscles (and spirits) warm while perfecting your swing. And Golf Zone has an eighteen-hole indoor minigolf course to keep your short game sharp. Country Air Golf Park, 404 Lake Elmo Ave. N., Lake Elmo, 651-436-7888, countryairgolfpark.com; Golf Zone, 825 Flying Cloud Dr., Chaska, 952-445-1500, yourgolfzone.com

Best Way to Get Your Nature Fix

Bears at the Minnesota ZooRussia’s Grizzly Coast at the Minnesota Zoo. If you think about it, there aren’t too many differences between Russia’s eastern coast and Minnesota on a bad day—blustery winds, cold temps, bears. OK, we have bears, but we don’t have grizzly bears, or sea otters, amur leopards, wild boars, or bubbling geysers. Which makes the Zoo’s new $24 million exhibit a treat even in the cold—or in this case, from the comfort of the heated monorail. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, 952-431-9500, mnzoo.com

Best Way to See Holiday Lights

Renee’s Royal Valet. Talk about sightseeing in style. Every year, this charter limo service scouts the Cities for impressive holiday light displays and updates its planned tours accordingly. Your party can choose an East Metro or a West Metro tour (Holidazzle optional) from the comfort of Renee’s various coaches and limos. And the limo service also provides glassware and ice in case you want to enjoy some holiday libations. 763-551-1919, reneeslimousines.com

Best Place to Escape the Winter Doldrums

Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. Despite the snow and freezing temps, there’s still a place in the Twin Cities to see spring and summer colors we crave come winter. The conservatory boasts two greenhouses and the Japanese Sunken Garden, all under a sixty-four-foot-high dome. To get in the Christmas spirit, check out the poinsettias at the Holiday Flower Show (December 6–January 19). Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, 651-487-8200, comozooconservatory.org

Best Indoor Tennis

Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center. With eleven indoor courts and year-round classes, Reed-Sweatt offers a winter fix for tennis fans. Bonus: Unlike at most indoor tennis centers, you don’t have to be a member to reserve a court (although membership offers court preference and cheaper fees). 4005 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-825-6844, rsftctennis.com

Best Public Place to Curl Up with a Good Book

Minneapolis Central Library. Not to be overlooked amid the sizzle of Cesar Pelli’s spectacular downtown media center is what good public libraries always provide: space to read. In addition to all the high technology, the Central Library offers great places to snuggle up with a favorite author, enhanced by comfortable seating, spot-on lighting, and a handful of fireplaces. Oh, and books—more than 160,000 works of fiction alone. 300 Nicollet Mall, 612-630-6000, mpls.lib.mn.us

Best Old-School Movie Theater

Riverview TheaterRiverview. Even without the real buttered popcorn, this Minneapolis landmark—a cultural mainstay since 1948—would be our favorite. What’s not to love? Two- and three-buck tickets, friendly staff, a cool modernist venue, updated rocker seats, and an intriguing mix of recent releases and big-screen sports presentations. And it’s easily accessible, with free on-street parking, in one of the city’s pleasantest residential neighborhoods. 3800 42nd Ave. S., Mpls., 612-729-7369, riverviewtheater.com

Best New-School Movie Theater

Theatres at Mall of America. The MOA has upped the dinner-and-a-movie game. With its twenty-one-and-over VIP theaters, moviegoers can lean back in plush new chairs and enjoy seatside food and cocktail services with their flick. 952-883-8800, theatresmoa.com

Best Indoor Water Park

Water Park of America. Minnesota’s biggest indoor water park is also its best. The park boasts a wave pool, water rides, and Minnesota’s only surf simulator. The park also features a mile-long, ten-story-tall family raft ride. Surfs up. 1700 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, 952-854-8700, waterparkofamerica.com



Holiday Show

Penumbra Theatre's Black Nativity. You have to admit it: Lots of holiday shows have their creepy side (ghosts, rats, grinches, et cetera), but Penumbra Theatre's Black Nativity is all about celebration. The show has continued to evolve over the years and now includes many of the Twin Cities' finest singers and dancers, all of whom know how to send audiences home smiling. Nov. 28-Dec. 28. Penumbra Theatre, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul, 651-224-3180, penumbratheatre.org


Minnesota Dance Theatre's Nutcracker Fantasy. For forty-seven years, Minnesota Dance Theatre has been pulling out the stops to present its annual feat of fantasy and magic. Featuring more than sixty dancers, the luscious choreography of Loyce Houlton, and a forty-two-piece orchestra conducted by Philip Brunelle, MDT's Nutcracker Fantasy has always been the undisputed king of Nutcrackers—and this year is no different. Dec. 19-24. State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-338-0627, mndance.org

Choral Show

VocalEssence's Welcome Christmas! It should come as no surprise that the best choral show of the season is being presented by the best choral group around: VocalEssence. The troupe's Welcome Christmas! concerts are special because in addition to familiar holiday songs, they introduce listeners to seasonal music no one's ever heard before. This year's special feature is the world premiere of "El Nino de los Andes," written for VocalEssence by Ecuadorian composer Diego Luzuriaga, as well as two new carols from the eleventh annual VocalEssence/American Composers Forum Christmas Carol Contest. Dec. 7-14. Various locations, 612-547-1451, vocalessence.org

Visiting Act

jazz-master-yusef-lateef.jpgJazz Master Yusef Lateef. Legendary Grammy-winning jazz master Yusef Lateef plays nine instruments (tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, and Taiwan koto) and is a virtuoso on all of them. It's been more than ten years since he visited these parts, so his concert with Twin Cities-based instrument builder Douglas Ewart and longtime Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell is a don't-miss affair. (Co-presented with the Northrop Jazz Series.) Dec. 6. William and Nadine McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-375-7600, walkerart.org

Orchestral Event

Minnesota Orchestra Bernstein Festival. For three weeks in January, the Minnesota Orchestra devotes itself to the legend of the man who made classical music more accesible to more people than anyone, Leonard Bernstein. The Bernstein Festival features a dizzying array of work, including his Broadway music, his Symphony no. 1 Jeremiah, his rarely performed Mass (which includes more than 250 performers), and, in a tribute to Bernstein's dedication to young listeners, a series of young people's concerts that only cost $6 a ticket. Jan 15-31. Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5656, minnesotaorchestra.org


Pure Confidence, Mixed Blood Theatre. Picking the best play of the winter season in advance is tricky, but Mixed Blood Theatre's Pure Confidence has more going for it than most. Written by local playwright Carlyle Brown and directed by Marion McClinton, Pure Confidence tells the story of jockey (and slave) Simon Cato, who was one of the finest jockeys ever. This isn't just a historical retelling, though—it's a delicate and sometimes humorous examination of the complicated relationship between slaves and their masters in pre-Civil War Kentucky, especially when a race is on the line. Jan. 15-Feb. 8. Mixed Blood Threatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-338-6131, mixedblood.com

A & E Trend

Anniversaries. This year, we learned that more than twenty-five local arts organizations were celebrating an anniversary during 2008 or the 2008-09 season. From the twentieth year of Spoon and Cherry to fifty years of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra to the Schubert Club's impressive 125th birthday, the Twin Cities arts scene has plenty to celebrate, and even more to look forward to. 

Hippest Concert for Kids

peter-himmelman.jpgPeter Himmelman's Family Show at the Cedar. The morning after his adult show at the Cedar in December, Minnesota's most prolific troubador, Peter Himmelman, will do a family show, drawing from his four award-winning children's albums. Whether he's singing or just talking, Himmelman is a first-class storyteller who knows how to make kids listen and laugh. Dec. 21. Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-338-2674, thecedar.org

Newcomer to the Arts Scene

Olga Viso, Director, Walker Art Center. The transition from the Walker Art Center's previous director Kathy Halbreich to its new chief, Olga Viso, could not have gone more smoothly. Viso has seamlessly inserted herself into the local arts scene and quietly taken charge of our most renegade arts institution. Her most significant achievement thus far: mending the relationship between the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts by forging a collaborative friendship with the MIA's new director, Kaywin Feldman.

Visit From Broadway

Spring Awakening. The winner of eight Tony awards in 2007, including best musical, Spring Awakening makes its area debut at the Orpheum in January. Slightly risque and even a little naughty, the musical is set in the 1890s, but features an indie-rock score by Duncan Shiek. The show includes some rather graphic teen sexuality and includes heavier themes of incest and rape, but has been hailed by critics for its daraing and innovation. Jan 27-Feb. 1. The Orpheum, 905 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-373-5600, hennepintheatredistrict.org

Best Local Albums 2008

first-communion-afterparty.jpgROCK: First Communion Afterparty, Sorry for All the Mondays and to Those Who Can't Sing
While it's important for any young group of musicians experimenting with neo-psuchedelica to spend time cultivating an air of languid, acid-drenched debauchery, it was unclear whether this one, FCAP, felt it was as important to, you know, actually make a record. After adding veteran guitar player Joey Werner, Liam Watkins's band of merry cranksters have capitalized on the promise of their stage show with an album of droned-out psych-pop, highlighted by the opening track, "2CB."

Doomtree albumHIP-HOP: Doomtree, Doomtree
Doomtree, a collective of ten (or more) deejays and emcees straight outta a shared crashpad in Uptown, released another of 2008's longtime-coming projects, their first full-lenth group effort, Doomtree. The beats are flecked with loops of jazz guitar, horns, and woodwinds. Each track serves as a minimalist showcase for the competing verbal personalities—Cecil Otter's smart-ass staccato, P.O.S.'s abstract smolder, Dessa's R-E-S-P-E-C-T me dignity—executing dexterous verse-to-verse handoffs.

new-roots-duo.jpgFOLK/ROOTS: New Roots Duo, Roots Run Deep
Finger-style guitarists Ben Woolman and Dan Schwarz traded in their traditional guitars for an acoustic baritone and lap-steel guitar, and the result was a new kind of acoustic music that seemed to grow organically out of these strangely paired instruments. By turns fiery and meditative, their first album was, we hope, a hint of even greater things to come.

kelly rossum familyJAZZ: Kelly Rossum, Family
Spiky-haired trumpeter Kelly Rossum (Out to Lunch Quintet, NOWNet) branched out on his own (sort of) this year, teaming up with the brothers Bates (JT on drums, Chris on bass) and pianist Bryan Nichols to produce a jazz album that respects, of all things, melody. Taking an almost old-fashioned approach, Rossum starts with simple pieces—two or three notes—and builds the edifice from there, capturing the whole thing with an equally spare use of recording gimmickry. Cool, unpretentious, and accessible, Family is a perfect cocktail-party CD.

minnesota-orchestra-beethoven.jpgCLASSICAL: Minnesota Orchestra, Beethoven's Symphonies nos. 2 & 7
The Minnesota Orchestra completed its epic Beethoven cycle with two recordings that are, if anything, crisper and tighter than the ones that got Osmo Vanska and crew so much attention from critics a couple of years ago. Simply put, the orchestra got better at Beethoven, and in classical musical circles, Vanska's Seventh is being hailed as quite possibly the best rendition of Beethoven's no. 7 ever recorded. Who are we to disagree?