See our sights

Where do you take your out of town guests?

A sampling of the author's homemade guidebooks. Photo by Linda Koutsky

What do you look up before visiting a new place? Museums? Restaurants? Shopping destinations? Parks?

We all have our interests. Going somewhere new makes us more aware of the environment and creates a connection to place. Everything’s new and different so we pay closer attention.

But in our daily routines we often blindly go from point A to B. We pass places that might actually interest us if we were traveling. This column has been my excuse to pull over.

November marks the 17th year of my writing for this paper. I started out as the “Lunchtime Tourist” in what was then called Skyway News. I covered art and architecture and cultural curiosities inside of buildings and on the streets and sidewalks of Downtown.

I took some time off for a while to work on other projects but came back onto the pages of Downtown and Southwest Journals as the “Weekend Tourist.” My geographic boundaries enlarged, but I still explore the neighborhoods, cultural attractions, businesses and aspects of what makes us who we are in this area.

Several times over the course of writing this column I’ve been asked to give a tour. I’ve done walking tours, bike tours, car tours and even a bus tour. I often wonder if I should have been a travel agent or professional tour guide or concierge at a big hotel.

I love showing people the city. I’ve given tours to an Art Deco architectural historian, a model railroad enthusiast, a group of museum friends, a college marketing student and my sister’s boss and his wife from California who were interested in Minnesota culture and Bob Dylan and Prince.

This summer I had the honor to give a tour to people from all over the world who were in town for the 14th International F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference. We went from downtown St. Paul, up Summit Avenue and over to the fairgrounds — the setting of Fitzgerald’s story “A Night at the Fair.”

The six-hour tour (with lunch and a stop at Dairy Queen) covered general Minnesota places such as the Pillsbury A Mill, Stone Arch Bridge, Minnehaha Falls and the Mary Tyler Moore house, as well as many literary sites, including Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Books.

Every good tour needs a guide map. Mine have ranged from one-page handouts to pamphlets. For my own vacations, my simple lists from years ago have evolved and enlarged and gotten rather extravagant.

Since I believe the vacation actually begins when I start doing the research, I tend to compile a lot of information. My last big trip was accompanied by a 60-page bound booklet filled with points of interest and images — all keyed to maps.

People I’ve talked with over the years of writing this column say that they’ve always meant to go to a destination I’ve pointed out. Or they say there are places here that they like, but they only go there when they’re showing guests the city.

Personally, I believe in being a tourist in your own city. Since the holiday season is upon us, I thought I’d compile a map of places where you readers all take your visitors. Send me your list and I’ll make a map.

What is your ultimate Minneapolis experience? Let’s see if we can combine all our ideas into a great showcase of our lives and interests. I’m excited!

Send your list to


One of my new favorite places is Eden Prairie’s Rustica. The popular South Minneapolis bakery opened this second location about a year ago. Located in the historic Smith-Douglas-Moore house, it’s a modern cafe seemingly plucked from Little House on the Prairie. The home was built in 1877. Pick any of the Instagram-worthy rooms on the first or second floor and settle in for a while. Choose from salads, soup, hot sandwiches and plenty of baked goods, including adorable (and delicious) Minnesota-shaped cookies.