Weekend Tourist // History, antiques and easy gifts in Anoka

More than 150 years ago fur traders were the first shoppers in what became named “Anoka.” Today the quaint bustling town is filled with shopping opportunities with a healthy dose of local history.

The name “Anoka” was derived from a Native American word meaning “on both sides.” The Rum River begins its journey 145 miles north at Mille Lacs Lake. The town of Anoka straddles the Rum as it empties into the Mississippi River. In 1844 a trading post opened at the confluence of these two rivers. Native Americans and French Canadian fur traders brought their furs and animal skins to trade for pots, pans, blankets, beads, tools or overnight accommodations. Travelers on the nearby Red River Oxcart Trail also stopped there as well as many of Minnesota’s early explorers including Pierre-Esprit Radisson, Daniel Greysolen Sieur du Luth, Joseph Nicollet and Father Louis Hennepin. Today Peninsula Point Two Rivers Historical Park has a nice pavilion, towering cottonwood trees, walking paths and a dock available in summer.

So, what about the easy gifts you might be thinking. In my last column I revealed that my seasonal gift-buying is complete. I shop year-long. I can’t help it, I love buying gifts. Since I’m all done, and don’t have anyone left to buy for, I want to help you with some handy gift-giving tips. This week’s tip — antique shopping.

With a little creativity, an afternoon of antiquing, and a quick trip to the superstore you can cross many people off your list, especially those you don’t know too well. An antique store is essentially a department store; they have nearly everything. But the key to a great gift is the thought put into it. Finding items in an antique store and combining them with something else shows you put some thought and effort into the gift. But it’s still easy. Here are some suggestions for pairing easy-to-find items:

Neil Diamond vinyl record
iTunes download card

vintage cookbook
rubber spatula

filigree metal picture frame
a photo print or original drawing

old board game
pre-paid digital game card

floral tea cup
earl grey teabags

fishing lures
can of salmon

ceramic bear cookie jar
a box of oreos

1960s Life magazine
subscription to any number of   

silver plated footed compote
a box of truffles

depression-era glass juicer
a dozen oranges

advertising bar glasses
a 4-pack of Surly beer

cut crystal goblets
   Spring Grove Soda Pop

kitschy salt & pepper shakers
pizza delivery gift certificate

rhinestone-encrusted Christmas
tree pin — well, you get it . . .

Downtown Anoka has several antique stores, a wonderful gallery of fine art and craft, and plenty of purses, clothing and sportswear too. Frankly, I couldn’t get to all the stores in one afternoon, so head out early. Then, if you have any time to spare, catch a performance of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” musical at the Lyric Arts of Anoka community theater, showing until Dec. 18 (tickets available at www.lyricarts.org).

Send your shopping tips to [email protected]

Lunch break

Anoka’s own Eat Street is one block north of Main on Jackson Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Tex Mex and burgers rule.