Warm up in the Twin Cities at these hot spots

Categories: Lists
Thumbnail image for Snowflake lovely.jpg
Photo by AMagill
The Twin Cities are a pretty decent place to live thanks to our thriving art and performance scenes, our lakes and parks, and our cutting edge fried food at the Minnesota State Fair. Unfortunately, in order to enjoy these treats you must also survive our never ending winters of despair.

But take heart! Minnesotans are a hearty bunch, so we have just enough summer preserved -- pickled, canned, or just plain faked -- to get us through sub-zero days likes today. Looking to warm up? City Pages tracked down some toasty businesses and events that promise to turn up the heat and humidity (and some may even involve some garishly fake tropical plants).

Third Thursday: Urban Oasis
(Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.870.3131; www.artsmia.org)

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Urban Oasis may sound like a bungled reference to Jay Z's "Wonderwall" performance, but it's actually the name of the free Third Thursday event today at the MIA. The front lobby of the museum has been revamped to have the atmosphere of a Doris Day or Elvis Presley beach flick. Dubbed the "Pop-Up Park," the space it now loaded with bold and kitschy elements from faux grass, to phony palm and banana trees, to animatronic parakeets.

"It's not like we're trying to fake nature, we just want to create a space that's fun and inviting," says park designer Shawn McCann. The only "real" nature is the fresh mulch that makes it smell like spring.

The "Pop-Up Park" will be in the MIA's lobby through April 15. Tonight's Third Thursday will be the official opening. From 6 to 9 p.m., guests can get down to the big beats of St. Paul electronica rockers Apollo Cobra, sip signature MIA-tai cocktails, and take pics in a tropical photo booth so you can send your pals postcards wishing they were here.

Linders Greenhouse
(270 W. Larpenteur Ave., St. Paul; 651.488.1927; www.linders.com)

If you're looking for something a little more eccentric, try taking a trip to niche greenhouse Linders. The 100-year-old family-owned store specializes in miniatures, fairy gardens, and terrariums. Pick up the supplies needed for your indoor gardening project, and be sure to stop and have a conversation with the parrot, Baby. He may even say, "Hello, hello, hello!" back. Linders is open seven days a week, and if you're extra lucky, they'll have cookies and coffee out.

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Photo by lucky7s
Como Conservatory
(1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul; 651.487.8200; www.comozooconservatory.org)

The Como Zoo Conservatory is familiar to many Minnesotans, and for good reason. This winter, take a break from our tundra and enjoy the spicy, cocoa-nut scent of the North Garden, the Conservatory's living pharmacy and grocery store. Or, bask in the sunlit glasshouse like a cat. There are plenty of nooks and crannies where you can set up camp, thaw, and relax. The suggested admission is a donation of two bucks, and the greenhouse humidity alone is worth it.

W.A. Frost & Company
(374 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.224.5715; www.wafrost.com)
 
The basement of W.A. Frost is certainly a cozy spot for wintertime. The atmospheric restaurant and bar is housed inside a Victorian-era building on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul. The basement has easy chairs and private cubbies perfect for hanging out with a friend. 

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Photo by Rachel Zack
Interior Gardens: Customer Appreciation Day
(1620 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.870.9077; www.interiorgardens.com)
 
Saturday, February 18 is the first customer appreciation day at Interior Gardens, a northeast Minneapolis shop based around gardening indoors. The party will feature beer, raffles, and samples for beginners. It's always sunny and 75 degrees in the store, and employees even sit under sun lights on occasion in order to get their Vitamin D fix. The bohemian staff grows tons of food in the store, including tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, basil, cilantro, and parsley. Their enthusiasm is catching on. "We've heard about neighborhoods collaborating, starting an indoor garden in one house, and then feeding their whole block fresh vegetables," says employee Emily Strand.

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