Travelers constantly yearn to explore different neighborhoods, try new foods, and see how people live. When you think about travel that way, you don’t necessarily have to travel very far to have a rewarding trip. Exploring the cultures within your country can also be an international adventure. Even small cities are globally connected if you know where to look.
With numerous travel blogs to choose from, information is easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Once off the beaten path destinations are now firmly on the path. You no longer need to depend on the cheesy brochures in your hotel lobby to know what to do. You can have exciting global adventures and avoid traveling like a tourist while staying closer to home.
Minneapolis is full of ways to learn about different cultures without a passport.
Here we go!
Explore the Somali Community
Wander around Karmel Mall and you will find colorful clothing, electronics, books, food, and countless other items related to Somali culture. Right away the gender division will be visible. On one side of the mall you will find women selling colorful textiles and clothing and on the other you will see men selling food, electronics, and tending barber shops.
Men also gather around in large groups chatting and eating off of shared platters of rice, meat, and bananas. You could spend hours inside Karmel exploring Somali products and trying different foods while talking with the friendly shop owners. For many in the Somali community, it is a place to connect with others and keep up with Somali traditions in American society.
Next, grab a coffee at Starbucks. If you are confused about why Starbucks is showing up in an article about exploring different cultures read on.
Baby, it’s cold outside, but Starbucks is warm and full of energy. I have never witnessed such a lively Starbucks.
Known to locals as the “Somali Starbucks”, Somali men gather at the Starbucks in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood (right next to the University of Minnesota) at all times of day. In Mogadishu tea houses are considered gathering places for men to discuss current events and socialize. Starbucks fills this need in the Somali community. Check out this article from Thrillist to learn more about it.
Feeling energized after drinking a latte and overhearing lively conversations at Starbucks? Head over to The Sisterhood Boutique, a store that helps young women in the Somali community gain professional experience. The girls sell second-hand clothing in the store to learn about business and marketing. So far, around 100 girls have gone through the program. Stop by to browse the clothing and chat with the girls about running the store.
A Taste of Asia
At United Noodles grocery store you will find items from China, Japan, Korea, and many other Asian countries. United Noodles is Minnesota’s largest Asian grocery store. Stroll around and explore all the wonderful products including produce, sauces, and desserts. You will find an entire aisle of canned teas and coffees just like in Japan. My daughter’s favorite snack discovery was seaweed flavored Dream Animals (similar to animal crackers).
After building up an appetite from staring at all the delicious food on the shelves, stop by Unideli, United Noodles’ in house restaurant for Ramen, Korean pancakes, or Char Siu (Chinese bbq pork).
Did United Noodles make you hungry for more Japanese food?
PinKU should be your next stop. Walk into PinKU and you will immediately notice the abstract and colorful artwork covering the walls. PinKU serves Japanese street food in a cozy setting. Even the menu is artfully displayed on wooden blocks from the moment you walk through the door. The quality of the fresh salmon and tuna in the hand rolls and rice dishes is unbelievable! The small sizes of the dishes make it so you can sample two or three items (or more!) per person making it a true culinary adventure every time.
Let’s venture outside of Minneapolis to its twin city, Saint Paul. The Hmong are an ethnic group originally from Thailand, Vietnam, and, Laos who came into the country as refugees settling in Saint Paul. The Hmongtown Marketplace is a great place to get an inside look into the not very well known culture. The indoor market has produce, music, clothing, and a food court. In the summertime, the area outside the market fills up with vendors as well. In the neighborhood surrounding Hmongtown Marketplace you will find plenty of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. Wander around and you will find some great ways to explore Hmong and other Southeast Asian cultures. Find out more about the Hmongtown Marketplace in this article from Saveur.
Midtown Global Market
If you feel like you still haven’t had enough international adventure on your trip to Minneapolis, stop by Midtown Global Market. This is your one stop shop for an international fix. According to their website, they are a “global experience close to home”. Often markets focus on local vendors, but this market specifically showcases food and products from around the world. There you will find Korean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Italian food stalls to name just a few.
International Adventures at Home is a new series on Globe to Go focused on exploring cultures in cities around the United States. Check back for guides on cities throughout the country to start your international adventure.