Can Can Wonderland Mini Golf Hole
Hey, why don't we give a bunch of artists an abandoned warehouse and a liquor license?
Those who answered this in the affirmative—you are my heroes. Thank you ArtPlace America, who kicked this off with a grant, thank you Walker Art Center, who first had the very Minnesota idea of high-low artist-created mini-golf. And above all thanks to Chris Pennington, the local artist and former Soap Factory Haunted Basement guy who made this happen. Holy sweet purple golf balls. I barely have words for how spectacular Can Can Wonderland is.
First thing to know, it's in the middle of nowhere, due north of the Midway/University Avenue Menards, in the basement of one of those extra warehouses St. Paul is currently blessed with. You find it, then park in a place that looks like it's time to put on a hairnet and get to work smelting aluminum. You go through an industrial hallway, for the longest time, then another one, a staircase—it's a hike. You finally get to a hallway big enough to drive two forklifts through. There's a coatrack big enough for the coats of everyone you know. And then on the other side of double doors: A straight up pleasure dome fit for Kubla Khan in Xanadu, if Kubla Kahn liked mini-donuts, vintage pinball machines, seriously jaw-dropping cocktails, and perhaps had a couple of grade-schoolers to entertain. There's so much to digest in this sudden landmark, let's break it down.
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The Neon Wonderland
What's more significant here, the artsy golf or the artsy drinks? They vie for first place, but you know how I feel about drinks, so we may as well put them first. The drinks are by Bittercube, and here they've decided to go full carnival, filling the icee machines with tasty booze-slush, coming up with (organic) color-changing blue drinks, and the works. The one that blew my mind was a plastic flowerpot riff on Renée Redzepi of Noma's famed 'Carrot and Soil' dish—yeah, you read that right. For this madness, barman Marco Zappia makes a fun combination of sherry, pineapple, fresh carrot, and rum, and sets it in a flowerpot, lays a special 3D-printed screen on the top, inserts baby carrots, heaps on cookie crumbs—do you hear me? Just when you thought a squash was the craziest thing we would drink in 2017, Bittercube ups themselves. And it's a delicious drink—imagine a Mai Tai with a lovely pineapple upside-down cake aspect—but more than that, it's such delightful fun.
Also, ever had classic Midwestern ambrosia salad, that tumble of jello and whipped cream? Ever done a jello shot? Ever conceived of a fancy bartender-driven-booze-jello-ambrosia? Sweet, yes, but brilliant. The Neon Wonderland is basically a Sapphire gin and tonic with an edible silver-luster dried lime and tinted blue with pea flowers, but the blooms don't make a very stable dye, and as the drink sits in your glass it will turn lavender, and if you don't drink it fast, it will turn clear. If you are not charmed by this, you may be beyond hope. When you're golfing, waitresses will bring you one of these in a plastic-lidded cup with a straw, and each golf-hole has a place to keep your drink. Genius. I don't have space here to get in to every drink in sequence but do yourself a favor and bring everyone you know, then keep ordering till you find the one in the shark attack sculpture.
Can Can Wonderland Mini Golf
One caveat. If you're the competitive sort who will freak out because your golf ball won't get up some particular handmade ramp or other, stay home. When I did the course, a handful of the holes were not quite ready for primetime, and we stopped keeping score pretty soon into it all. We still had the best possible time. There were holes where your ball had to somehow navigate a wriggling tornado on sort of turf lazy susan, holes made of a thousand salvaged musical instruments welded into kinetic art, holes where you swapped your club for a whiffle-ball bat and tee. All of it was hilarious and remarkably ambitious and altogether so much fun, and if you want to be brainy, it also had much to say about the preposterous nature of human endeavor, and about the enormous accretions of material we assemble in the world. Hats off to all the artists. Seriously, you did amazing work. I have never seen such a large pink elephant.
Can Can Wonderland Food
What if standard bowling-alley foods were made just a little better, with fresh Jalapenos on the nachos, and good bread and cheese on the grilled cheese sandwiches? Better-bowling-alley is a good way of describing the eats here, which are totally solid and good, but basic. My kids were ecstatic to get hot mini donuts with sprinkles on them, and the snow-cones are easily the best in town; I was highly approving to see fresh cotton candy on sticks, and not wadded up cotton candy in bags, which is one of those modern developments that we've come to accept when we never should have.
Can Can Wonderland Pin Ball Macines
Who is going to teach the next generation about 25-cent flipper pinball if you won't? I can't tell you how happy I was to see the dozens of vintage pinball and other arcade machines—I don't even know the names for some of these things. Like that thing with a little mechanical golf-dude and you get twenty chances to get ball-bearings into a sequence of golf-holes? Anyhoo, calling all pinball wizards—go.
That's not all! There's a stage for variety shows, comics, polka bands—the works. There's an excellent local craft beer list, and good wine. There's a ping pong table, air hockey, and plans for all kinds of visiting artists. Best of all, there's so much of what's best about Minnesota to it—artsy, smart, unpretentious, welcoming, accessible, funny. This is one semi-abandoned warehouse party you don't want to miss.