We’ve lived in the Midwest, and we know that major cities like Chicago, Cleveland and Indianapolis get all the attention. But the thing we discovered on our recent visit to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area is that it’s the underrated, sleeper Midwest hit that’s waiting to be discovered. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are referred to as the Twin Cities, but locals know they’re less like Mary Kate and Ashley and more like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. The cities offer distinctly different vibes — Minneapolis is the ultra-hip, cosmopolitan twin, while Saint Paul is the charmingly historic, elegant twin. But don’t let the sibling rivalry fool you. As the saying goes: “The best thing about Minneapolis is Saint Paul, and the best thing about Saint Paul is Minneapolis.” In short, you get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
You may be wondering how it was, exactly, that we ended up at an alpaca farm on a hilltop in Westchester County, smack-dab in the historic Hudson Valley region of New York State. Well, we’d tell you, but we know you wouldn’t hear a word. Your eyes have likely already jumped to those cute alpaca faces. We get it, we really do.
When we showed up at the new CitizenM Bowery Hotel for our tour of the Museum of Street Art, the chipper front desk clerk showing us the way asked, “Do you know about 5Pointz?” We excitedly proclaimed that we’d actually visited the original (which returned such a big WOW that we felt like we’d just confessed to being present when electricity was discovered). It shouldn’t be surprising. The walls of 5Pointz were whitewashed less than five years ago, but its loss was felt amongst street art lovers worldwide. It’s a local legend, and treated as such.
In the earliest days of our relationship, food was common ground. And Lynn was far and away the more experienced gastronome. She turned me on to Malaysian cuisine. She explained that the Chinese food I had been eating–and genuinely liked–was, in fact, American food, promptly taking me out for the real thing. Lynn even gave me my first bites of sushi (or should I say “attempted” bites, as I struggled mightily with chopsticks back then). There was one food, however, that needed no cross-cultural exchange, clarification, or introduction: chocolate. When it came to chocolate, we were on the same footing from the start. It’s the foodie version of a universal language, after all.
There’s a saying that goes “Ask no questions, and you’ll hear no lies”. Being duped isn’t generally what one considers a positive experience, but the Museum of Illusions might be able to convince you otherwise. Optical illusions play with motion, color, patterns and space to create images that, when processed by the brain, create a perception that doesn’t match the true image in reality. Remember the viral phenomenon of 2015 where millions of people saw a black and blue dress as white and gold? (And if you do, have you made up with all the friends and family you disagreed with?) Well, that’s just one of many examples where the eyes can deceive.
So here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve never been a fan of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, but I’ve become mildly obsessed with a scripted satirical series derived from similar reality shows called UnREAL. The series ended its run recently, which made it a perfect candidate for binge watching. UnREAL isn’t easy to digest, and it features some pretty despicable characters. But it forces us to confront something we’ve all been complicit in: allowing truth and fiction to meld together to create an entertaining narrative.
We do a lot of walking when we travel. And we do so with purpose. We love architecture, urban green spaces, and the serendipity of discovery, whether that’s a neighborhood coffee shop or a bistro at the end of a nondescript alleyway. But first and foremost, we’re on the hunt for street art. There’s no better way to get a finger on the pulse of a city. Street art is an expression of a city’s past, the issues it grapples with present day, and its aspirations for the future. Through incredible initiatives such as MuralsDC, an organization collaborating with the city’s Department of Public Works and Commission on Arts and Humanities, DC has created a veritable cornucopia of street art. The goal is to replace illegal graffiti with artistic revitalization projects, and in this endeavor they have been very successful.
So whether you’re looking for the perfect backdrop for your #OOTD or you’re looking to discover some great local artists, here are some of the best places to find street art in Washington DC.
Washington DC is likely somewhere you visited on a school trip, or during a summer when your parents thought it was important to teach you a civics lesson. You visited the Washington Monument and took your requisite photo in front of the Capitol Building. If the thought of visiting Washington DC generates the same yawn your Social Studies class did, then it might be time to refresh that view. There is, and always has been, a distinct culture in DC beyond the history, the towering monuments, and all the political drama.
I’m not a car guy. I don’t collect watches or chase the newest technology. I’m not a smoker and a rare drinker. I only have one significant vice–if it even qualifies–and that’s coffee. I have a deep, visceral, obsessive love for coffee.
“Back home we toss a horseshoe in the pot. Stands up straight, coffee’s ready”
-Frank Hopkins, Hidalgo
Lynn and I have been married for a number of years. When we started this blog, we really had no idea what kind of journey we were embarking on. The path has been one with many surprises, but one of the unexpected happy side effects is that we get to go on a lot of dates. Coffee dates, museum dates, let’s-try-something-new dates. Dates where we jump in a car or hop on a plane. Some dates still end up being duds, but when an event is going to check off a lot of boxes, we know the odds we’ll have a good time improve significantly. And Photoville checks off a lot of boxes.