Grand Weekend!

Alas, we are back from a wonderful weekend from the Twin Cities! You’ll find our reviews of “The Grand Meander,” “Swingin’ Nutcracker,” “2008 Hollidazzle Parade,” “Hyatt,” and “India House” restaurant below!

Destination number 1: The Grand Meander
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Despite a late start (it began snowing the night before and the city that we live in hasn’t heard about the 1979 Mayoral race for re-election that Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic lost because of failing to getting the city moving with snow plows!), we made it to the Grand Meander by 11AM. One gets the impression that the people of Saint Paul are so proud of their city. Such a spirited, cultured group. The sidewalks were a buzz with holiday shoppers taking advantage of the deals and free samples offered to those that ventured out to meander. We shopped and shopped at Wonderment. Ashish and I really enjoyed creatively picking out toys for the boys so, Nishad especially, wouldn’t see what we were purchasing. It helped that as soon as we picked something out, the lady that works their would take it and gift wrap it for us. This is a mother owned toy store that offer natural toys. It’s definitely worth a visit- or two! Just one visit will explain to you why they are a ‘different’ kind of toy store. If you bring your children, be sure to check out the big tree in the back of the store! For those of you that don’t live near Wonderment, you’re in luck! Through Wonderment’s web site, you can purchase the best holiday toys for your little ones and have them shipped direct. We at lunch, Nishad rang the Salvation Army bell for the Saint Paul Fire Department (a highlight for him!), we weaved in and out of people while pushing the double stroller through the snow as kinda, friendly people smiled… This was our second year attending. We first went in 2006, and then missed last year because I had to ‘work’ our city Santa Day event. I was really happy when I found out that the two events didn’t conflict this year!

Destination number 2: “Swingin’ Nutcracker”
Location: Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis

Much to our delight and luck, we were given four, main floor tickets to the 2PM for the “Swingin’ Nutcracker” only this past Tuesday! Originally, I entered us in a drawing (the only way to see the show, that is suppose to be one of the hottest children’s holiday tickets in town!) and we didn’t get tickets. I received an e-mail early on in the week with instructions to respond if I would be interested in some “partial view” seats. I thought, “Anything is better than nothing!” And, being that we will be in the area anyway, it would work out wonderfully! I sent off my confirmation e-mail, only to receive another e-mail back, explaining that they were able to seat us with our 1 year old and 3 year old on the main floor! What an awesome surprise! Pre-show they have musical activities that were such a hit. The show itself was AMAZING! Even Arun enjoyed it. A live orchestra, and the best dancers combined with a spirited audience…this is what the holidays are made of! The show is only an hour long as well- perfect for a dose of culture for children- and those children at heart. Nishad is already such the little theatre-goer! He’s an audience member that makes me proud. He is quiet, listens, pays attention and applauds promptly when the music or dance is over. My little gentleman!

Destination 3: Hyatt
Location: Nicolette Mall, Minneapolis
Upon walking into the Hyatt, you immediately notice the water, marble and beautiful Christmas displays and decorations. Nishad had fun checking out the HUGE Gingerbread house and Santa’s sleigh display. Our room wasn’t ready (However, we were technically checking in early.), but they gave us another room of equal of better quality. Our room was nice. It was one of the few that actually have a balcony that let’s you open up your room and sit and watch the pool. This would be a great spot, especially if you have older kids. However, at night and early in the morning, it was nosy. This is “the” location for the Hollidazzle parade. We walked out of our room at 6:20PM, literally walked through the parade (lined in front of our hotel), crossed the street, had a curb-side spot next to Eyewitness 5 News, waited less than 5-minutes and the parade started! It was cold, however, we were prepared with plenty of blankets. The best part was that we were the last ones to come out to the parade, the first ones to leave (as we were viewing the parade at the start) and it was a short walk back to our snugly, warm and cozy beds! The following morning, we headed downstairs to Taxxi for the breakfast buffet. The buffet was $17.95 per person. Children 5 and under are free. A heads up- parking is $17 a night. (That’s still better than $50 a night while we were in Chicago while staying at The Avenue .)

Destination 4: Hollidazzle Parade
Location: Nicolette Mall, Minneapolis

I have to admit that the 2008 Hollidazzle parade sponsored by Target was a bit lack-luster. It wasn’t exactly a fairytale for all. A few our our personal favorites were the train and the soldiers, but overall, it lacked “sparkle” despite being lit up. Nishad seemed to enjoy it though, so maybe I just need to view it through the perspective of a child. After all, it’s our children’s perceptions that really count. So, C- from this Mommy and a solid B from Nishad.
Location: Minneapolis

Hands down, Ashish and I both agree, this is THE best Indian restaurant we have eaten at since Chicago. This out ranks Taste of India in St. Louis Park- which use to give us our Indian fix when we were in a pinch or didn’t want to actually make it. Merely two blocks away from our hotel, I walked in and placed an order for carryout. Our order consisted of vegetarian samosas, alu gobi, chicken vindaloo and rice biyrani. The total came to $40. They also supplied plates and plastic cutlery. The wait time was about 15-minutes. The food…excellent! Note: One Friday nights they now offer live classical Indian music.