So You're Coming to Minneapolis for the BIG CENTRAL Regional Barista Competition!

The big news is out there, the Big Central Regional Barista Competition is being held October 25th-27th 2013 at the historic "Uppercut Gym" in the Arts District of NE Minneapolis. 

We couldn't think of a more epic location for the region that the current world barista champion calls home.  Baristas competing with the backdrop of a boxing ring is going to be unbelievable.  

In addition to the normal awesomeness that are regional barista competitions, we at Cafe Imports wanted to up the game for this major coffee event by incorporating some awesome companies that aren't specifically involved with coffee.  We have local merchants that are leather makers, boutique shop owners selling Minnesota made Red Wing Boots and funky custom neon soles, and local furniture and home furnishing retailers that are selling some of the most beautiful and progressive heritage Minnesota goods you have ever seen.  All of the companies involved embody not only what makes Minnesota awesome, but also what US manufacturing and "American Made" stand for and are capable of.  

In addition to these local merchants, we also have secured Andrew Zimmern's (of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Food") food truck, AZ Canteen.  Andrew is a huge supporter of the coffee industry, and we couldn't be more pumped to have his level of culinary excellence providing the food for the event.  Indeed Brewery will be providing beer for enjoyment during the event.  Prepare yourselves for some amazing stuff.

In addition, we will be hosting a big bad shindig with Colectivo Coffee Friday evening at Architectural Antiques.  Event details to come!

So, you have now read this, you of course wouldn't miss this event for anything and you want to travel to Minneapolis for the weekend.

Here are some tips: Stay tuned to Sprudge for more guides to the Twin Cities.

*Some hotels that we list can be a bit pricey.  However, various discount hotel finders can usually get you rooms at top rated hotels for amazing prices.  Please reserve hotels ASAP, as the Green Bay Packers are playing the Vikings the weekend of Big Central.

Holiday Inn Express Roseville - This is the official hotel for the Big Central Regional Barista Competition and will feature special rates for anybody attending or competing. ** CLICK HERE to reserve through the agent Par Avion, as that is the only way to get their discounted rate. 

Graves - Downtown Minneapolis, across from First Avenue and the Target Center

Nicollet Island Inn - Between Northeast and Downtown Minneapolis, on an island in the Mississippi River!

W Hotel - Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis in the historic Foshay Tower

Marriott City Center - Downtown Minneapolis, close to the Theater District, Target Center and the Nicollet (pedestrian and transit) Mall

Radisson Plaza - Downtown Minneapolis, close to the Theater District, Target Center and the Nicollet (pedestrian and transit) Mall

Holiday Inn Express - Downtown Minneapolis, near the Convention Center

Hilton Minneapolis -Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, you will be close to everything

Hilton Garden Inn - Downtown Minneapolis, near the Convention Center

Hyatt Regency - Located at the end of the Nicollet pedestrian and transit mall in Downtown Minneapolis, this hotel has easy access to Loring Park, and also has a fitness center and pool.

The Marquette - Located in IDS Center in Downtown Minneapolis, this hotel is connected it all, via the Skyway system

The Depot Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel - Located in downtown Minneapolis, this hotel is just a few steps from the Mississippi River.  The hotel also has a small indoor waterpark.

Ramada Plaza - Located near 35W on Industrial Blvd, the hotel is less than 10 minutes away from Uppercut Gym.  You will need to drive to most attractions.

LeBlanc House B&B - Located just blocks from Uppercut Gym, the LeBlanc B&B is located the William LeBlanc Victorian home.  This would be a very unique experience for visitors.

Courtyard Marriott - Conveniently located by the Metrodome and University of Minnesota, you will be one of the first guests to stay in this newly renovated hotel. 

Radisson Waterpark of America - This is the hotel for the visitor that wants to be close to the Mall of America.  It's a bit of a trek from Uppercut Gym, but there is a waterpark inside the hotel.


First Avenue & 7th St Entry - First Avenue, made famous by Prince and Purple Rain, is a must-see when visiting Minneapolis.  Rolling Stone ranked it the #3 "Big Room" Venue in the US.  Rolling Stone readers ranked it the 2nd best venue in America, period.  Catch a large show in the mainroom, an up-and-coming or local act in the Entry, or dance the night away in the Record Room.  Take some time to check out the stars on the outside.  Many bands beg First Ave to paint their names on the wall, but only the greats pass the secretive selection process. 

Triple Rock Social Club - First Avenue is not the only venue in town that has stolen the hearts of musicians.  The Triple Rock, located in the eclectic Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, is owned by members of the Dillinger Four, and has been mentioned in songs by Motion City Soundtrack, Limbeck and Fat Wreck Chords.  While many know the venue for its punk and metal roots, it hosts gigs of all types.  The Triple Rock's bar serves up some pretty mean dishes too.  Don't worry if you vegetarian or vegan, they've got you covered. 

Varsity Theater - The Varsity is a relatively new venue in Minneapolis, but has become a real contender in the music business.  Its location in the heart of Dinkytown (the University area hotspot and onetime home of Bob Dylan) provides a vibrant atmosphere for the space.  Owner Jason McLean has transformed the interior of this former vaudeville showplace into one of the most unique and elegant venues around.  It's a magical place to catch a concert, which explains why the venue is also a favorite spot to host weddings and corporate events.

Chain of Lakes - Find out why Minneapolis is the City of Lakes, buy checking out five of our state's 10,000 lakes!  Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet are attached by 12 miles of walking and biking paths (IF YOU ARE A RUNNER OR BIKER, BRING YOUR GEAR FOR THE CHAIN OF LAKES).  If you're in a car, have no fear!  You can drive around the chain as well.  As you travel around the lakes, you'll see breathtaking views of downtown and some of the most impressive homes in the city. 

Minnehaha Falls - Located in Minnehaha Park, the sight not only causes one to laugh while saying the name, but it attracts over 850,000 visitors annually.  The park is accessible by bike, foot or car.  The path leading visitors to the 53-foot waterfall provides great photo ops, as it is lined by limestone and sandstone formations.  Minnehaha Falls is perfect for hikers and photographers.

Loring Park - Loring Park, located just west of downtown Minneapolis, is one of the largest parks in the city.  This park plays host to some of the city's biggest celebrations (including Pride) and has some great views of the city.  There is a small lake, a series of walking and biking paths, shuffleboard courts, basketball courts, tennis courts and wonderful spots for picnicking.  Occasionally you can even watch a cricket match.  Be sure to check out the dandelion fountain, as you wander through this lush park.  Recommendation: Take a stroll through Loring Park on your way to the Walker Art Museum and Sculpture Garden.  There is a pedestrian bridge over 94 that connects Loring Park with the Sculpture Garden. 

Stonearch Bridge - The Stonearch Bridge connects Downtown Minneapolis with the city's oldest Neighborhood, Marcy-Holmes.  This is a pedestrian-only bridge and spans 2100 feet across the Mighty Mississippi.  While crossing the bridge, take a moment to stop and enjoy the views of St. Anthony Falls.  On windy days, visitors are able to take the Mississippi along with them, as the wind splashes the water of the falls onto bystanders.  Bike or walk, just don't drive.  If you're looking for a real adventure, detour down toward Mill Ruins Park or over to St. Anthony Main.

Mill City Museum and Ruins - The Mill City Museum is a great stop for visitors of all ages to learn about the history of our great city.  The museum is built into the ruins of the old Washburn A Mill, which...well... we won't ruin the surprise.  Visitors should start with the Flour Tour, an 8-story elevator ride that tells the history of the mill as you travel.  The museum is great for those who like to move about at their own pace.  Visitors can mill around the main exhibit area, which includes a baking lab, a history of Betty Crocker and a hands on demonstration of how river locks work (it's for kids, but what adult doesn't like to play in water?).  Be sure to check out the 9th floor observatory, as well as comedian Kevin Kling's humorous 19-minute history of Minneapolis.

Guthrie Theater - Minneapolis has a truly rich theater scene.  Top Broadway productions find their way to the Hennepin Theater District downtown.  However, Minneapolis has its own contribution to the theater world, the Guthrie.  You may think that Downtown has a very interestingly shaped IKEA, but don't be fooled, that's the Guthrie.  Its Endless Bridge, is a 178-foot cantilevered bridge that looks out onto breathtaking views of the Mississippi River.  The theater also serves as a training ground for actors, and has been a part of the careers of some of the greats, including William H. Macy, Kelsey Grammer, Val Kilmer, Julianne Moore, Sir Ian KcKellen and even Morgan Freeman.  In addition to hosting world class productions, the Guthrie does public tours on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 10:00 AM.  Whether you are catching a show or just roaming around, we highly recommend that you stop at Sea Change for a meal or a drink.

Mary Tyler Moore statue - The infamous Mary Tyler Moore show took place in our fair city.  And how could we forget Mary throwing her hat up in the air (see link for this scene and others shot around the Mini Apple)?  Visitors can recreate the scene alongside a bronzed Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis.  The statue is located in front of Macy's, on the corner of 7th Street and Nicolet Mall.  Bring your beret and camera!

Foshay Tower - Modeled after the Washington Monument, Foshay Tower was the tallest building in Minneapolis until the 1970s.  Wilbur Foshay dreamed this building up during his economic successes in the Roaring 20s, and completed the tower just before the stock market crash of 1929.  It is now the home of the W Hotel.  The observation deck is located on the 30th floor, and includes a small museum dedicated to the history of the building.  The views are amazing!  There is a bar on 27th floor called Prohibition.  The drinks are pricey, but the views and atmosphere are worth the effort to get dolled up.  John Philip Sousa even wrote and performed "Foshay Tower-Washington Memorial March" for the building's dedication ceremony!

Weisman Art Museum - The Weisman is located on the East Bank campus of the University of Minneapolis and overlooks the Mississippi River.  The building itself is a work of art, having been designed by the legendary Frank Gehry.  The museum has been used as a teaching museum for the U, and is host to some amazing contemporary exhibits.  The best part?  The Weisman is always FREE.

Walker Art Museum - This museum, with a building face of a robot alien, is located between Downtown and Uptown.  It is considered one of the big five contemporary art museums in the US.  The front of the museum boasts some impressive views of downtown (it also looks like an alien robot).  The museum is home to a permanent outdoor exhibit - the Sculpture Garden.  Take your photo in front of the famous cherry spoon, for the real Minneapolis tourist picture.  The Walker museum is free on Thursday evenings from 5-9pm, and the Sculpture Garden is always free.

MIA - The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is one of our cities slightly hidden gems.  The museum is located across from Washburn Fair Oaks park near Uptown.  There is a great mix of traveling and permanent collections, including works from Rembrandt, van Gogh, Monet and Matisse.  Most impressive is the time span of the museum's collection - 5,000 years of world history!  MIA's galleries include a large collection of African art and "one of the finest and most comprehensive Asian art collections in the country".  If you get tired, take a break in the Arts of Africa and the Americas gallery, and challenge your mates to a game of Mancala.  Admission is free every day, while special exhibitions have a fee. 

American Swedish Institute - Did you ever wonder why Minnesotans sound so Minnesoootan?   The American Swedish Institute is a museum and cultural center that is dedicated to contemporary Swedish and Nordic culture and their role in our state's history.  The building housing the ASI is reason enough to visit.  The castle-like mansion was originally the home of a Swedish immigrant family.  It's not all old news though.  In 2012, the LEED Gold certified Nelson Cultural Center was opened as a 34,000 square foot addition, allowing the museum to exhibit more collections and offer spaces for partner organizations and a large studio and crafts workshop.  Check out the Scandinavian goodies in the gift shop before you leave.

Soap Factory Haunted Basement - This is not your average haunted house.  The Haunted Basement is set in a 120-year old basement and is so terrifying that you have sign a waiver to enter it.  Don't let the $25 weekday/ $27 weekend ticket price scare you away.  The month-long run is designed by Soap Factory artists, and is haunted by a team of volunteer demons.  Proceeds go to fund the art gallery that hosts it.  We have two recommendations if you are brave enough to enter: 1) Buy your ticket early!  The Haunted Basement sells out quickly.  2) Dress for a mess.  Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you don't mind getting messy.  Wear covered shoes - heels, flip-flops and other inappropriate shoes are checked at the door.  Enter if you dare.

Brave New Workshop - Chicago has Second City; New York has the Upright Citizens Brigade; Minneapolis has Brave New Workshop.  The theater recently changed locations, moving from the dodgy-looking Uptown building to a more central location Downtown.  BNW has been performing original sketch comedy and improve longer than any other theater in the US!  Notable alumni from this group include Al Franken (former SNL writer/performer and current US Senator), Mo Collins (MADtv), Louie Anderson, Lizz Winstead (co-creator of The Daily Show) and many more. They're celebrating their  55th year in business with Attack of the Best of the Brave New Workshop, a hodgepodge of fan-favorite sketches from the 70s to the present. 

Huge [Improv] Theater - Huge is a new addition to the Minneapolis comedy scene, but it is not inexperienced.  Started by five veteran improvisers, this artist-led nonprofit theater opened its doors in 2010.  The theater hosts long form improv shows almost every night, at bargain prices.  This is a great place to catch the up-and-coming talent in Twin Cities comedy.

Minneapolis Farmers Market - Minneapolitans, like any hip group of urbanites, love them some farmers markets.  The Minneapolis Farmers Market is not a newcomer to the scene, having opened the Lyndale Market in 1937.  It's open 6:00 AM to 1:00 PM every day, but the smart browsers arrive early.  This market is huge!  They have 170 stalls of local produce, meats, and vendors of all types.  Gnaw on a loaded bratwurst or fresh ear of corn on the cob, as you pick up some fresh fruits, local hot sauces and a hacky sack for your stay in Minneapolis.  Be prepared for some serious crowds if you go on Saturday or Sunday.

Top of Target Corporate - You may know Target as the shop where you buy everything.  In the Twin Cities, Target is also a major benefactor of the arts community.  They sponsor free nights at various museums and the Aquatennial fireworks in July.  Their corporate offices in downtown Minneapolis serve as one of the largest, most colorful canvases of art in our city.  Target Plaza South is an unassuming skyscraper by day, but at night, the company's offices transform the skyline into a dazzling work of art that is truly unique to Minneapolis.  The company teamed up with fellow Minnesotans 3M to create a platform to host light designs by artists from all over.  These designs change with seasons, holidays and even Walker Art Center exhibits.  You may see an underwater world swimming across the city, fireflies peppering the night sky or a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes.  The best part about this sight is that you can see it from just about anywhere the downtown skyline is visible.

Breweries! - When you think of beer in The Big Central, you probably first think about our friends in Milwaukee.  However, you'd be crazy to glaze over the booming brew business in the Twin Cities!  Since the hoptastic team at Surly fought to change the state's liquor laws to allow breweries to sell their beer for consumption on their premises, microbreweries have been popping up left and right.  Lucky for us, the beers are fantastic!  Some local favorites are 612, Fulton, Harriet, Indeed, Summit and Surly.  Most have tours AND taprooms for sampling these local treats.  Brewery taprooms have also helped to cultivate the food truck culture here, providing a place for crews to sell their foods to a very...uh...receptive audience.  Twin Cities brewery adventures await you in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

St. Paul
Landmark Center - Minneapolis is hosting the Big Central, but let's not forget that we are a part of the Twin Cities!  The Landmark Center is located in downtown St. Paul across from Rice Park.  It originally served as the Federal court House and Post Office for the Upper Midwest and now is home to many of St. Paul's premier arts and cultural organizations.  There are five gallery spaces located around the five-story indoor courtyard.  While strolling around the building, be sure to read the plaques by the office doors.  They provide a peek into Minnesotan and US history that you may have not known. 

Como Park - Located conveniently close to our offices, Como Park is a great place to spend an afternoon.  Whether you're driving, walking, biking or skating around on rollerblades (perfected by a couple of Minneapolitans), this park has plenty to do!  Spanning 384 acres, there are 2.3 miles of trails and even a golf course.  Check out conservatory, amusement park and Como Lake.  Did we mention that the park has a zoo?  Bring your camera and pack a picnic for your Como Park outing.

Grand Avenue - Who knew that the Twin Cities had shopping outside of the Mall of America?!  Grand Avenue, in historic St. Paul, is a popular weekend destination for shoppers and street meanderers alike.  The street is home to a wide range of boutique shops, along with a few names you may have heard.  You will also find some of the Twin Cities' best restaurants on Grand.

Turf Club - When you can't decide if you want to go out in Minneapolis or St. Paul, you find yourself at the Turf Club.  While it opened up in the 40s as a two-steppin' country bar and changed directions (but not atmosphere) a bit throughout the years, it has always been dedicated to local and independent music.  They do get touring acts in, but the Turf Club's magic truly lies in the local gigs.  Only the Turf Club could stand the test of time on a block with a pawn shops, liquor stores and a military surplus store.   There is a reason why Mark Mallman chose the Turf Club as the setting for his 52-hour marathon gig.  It is truly a rock club.

MN Wild Game (Thursday vs. Carolina Hurricanes) - St. Paul, Hockeytown, USA, is home to NHL team, Minnesota North Stars Wild.  Our beloved mascot, Nordy, is a mysterious animal.  No one is quite sure which species this mullet-bearing, tattoo-faced giant is.  Despite the fact that most of our pro sports teams are below average, the Wild are actually quite good.  Find out what the puck all of this hockey nonsense is about.  Make sure to live out your Mighty Ducks fantasies by stopping for a bite at Mickey's Diner before/after the game.  


Bachelor Farmer-
Marvel Bar-
Dakota Jazz Club-
Butcher and the Boar-
Borough and Parlour-
Hell's Kitchen/Angel Food-
The Local-
Depot Tavern-
Sea Change-

Dinkytown/University Area:
Kitty Cat Klub-
Al's Breakfast
Hardtimes Café
Seward Café-
Annie's Parlor

Uptown/South Minneapolis:
Pizzeria Lola-
Midtown Global Market-
Herkimer for the GB - Vikings game (ONLY FOR PACKER FANS, THIS IS A PACKER BAR)-
Burch Steakhouse and Pizza Bar-
World Street Kitchen-

Sen Yai Sen Lek-
Taco Riendo-
Nye's Polonaise-

St Paul:
Happy Gnome -
Everest on Grand-
Mickey's Diner-

Jucy Lucy
Matt's Bar-
Blue Door-
5-8 club-
The Nook-

Dangerous Man-
612 Brew-
Great Waters-
Summit -


Nice Ride-Nice Ride is a subscription-based bike rental service with bike stations located throughout the Twin Cities. Users pay a flat fee for a one-day subscription, and can then rent bikes at any of the city's 170 bike stations for an hourly rate (free for the first 30 minutes). Renting a Nice Ride and exploring Minneapolis's abundance of bike trails is a great way to get to know the city. Helpful tips: Nice Ride will put a large hold on your credit card.  The day subscription is $6.00.  The stations are, for the most part, less than 30-minutes away from each other.  If you dock the bike up every 30 minutes, you will only end up paying $6.00 for the 24-hour rental.

Stillwater - On the way there, stop at Aamodt's for apples and St. Croix Vineyard wines. Stillwater itself is known for an abundance of antique stores, bed and breakfasts and a beautiful view of the St. Croix River. If you're feeling adventurous, meander across the river to Hudson, WI, and get a taste of our eastern neighbors.

Winona-  Worth it as much for the destination as for the journey, highway 61 features some of the most beautiful terrain that Minnesota has to offer. Stop in Red Wing to pick up some boots, and continue on to Lake Pepin, keeping a lookout for bald eagles along the way. Finally, arrive in Winona and go on a hike where you'll be exposed to beautiful bluffs, trails and fall colors.

North Shore- Start off in Duluth and walk along the waterfront, taking in Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world. On your way out of town, be sure to pick up a few growlers from Fitger's and a quality backpack from Duluth Pack. Leave Duluth and head north along Lake Superior, grab a slice of pie from Betty's Pies just outside of Two Harbors, and head to Gooseberry Falls State Park and/or Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Gooseberry Falls provides great camping opportunities with beautiful trails throughout the falls, and is a quick walk to Lake Superior. Split Rock Lighthouse provides fascinating historical background on the North Shore region and is also surrounded by extensive camping and hiking areas. Heading further north on highway 61 provides for even more camping and hiking opportunities around Lutsen and Grand Marais, as well as great kayaking and canoeing.