I'm one of the reporters here in the Twin Cities ahead of the Super Bowl, and I could tell you all about that. But photos tell this story just a bit better. So while Inquirer/ Daily News photojournalists were dispatched across the region today as the Eagles and the Patriots prepare for Sunday's big game, I took the reins of the Philly.com Instagram account to bring followers along as I explored the city.
The day started out at the Mall of America, the largest mall in the country (well, except for King of Prussia, but that's a whole other thing), which has been transformed into a media headquarters of sorts. The mall has a roller coaster and a ferris wheel inside, but right now some of the most striking images are the media organizations set up at different points inside the mall. Most of the radio broadcasting you'll hear this week from Minneapolis is coming at you live from… the food court.
Scroll through the images below to see other shots of the Mall of America, or click on that awkward selfie to get to the Philly.com Instagram feed:
Speaking of the mall food court, I stumbled across "Great Steak," which boasts "America's premier cheesesteak" and features something called a "chicken Philly." I still don't really know what that is. Maybe later this week I'll be brave enough to find out. @seanmurf215 commented he'd "rather eat at a gas station." I prefer Wawa too, Sean.
I made my way into downtown Minneapolis, which was about a half-hour commute via train from the Mall of America, in search of a real sandwich. On my way, I hunted for Eagles fans to talk with. That's easier said than done, as most of the Super Bowl-related events are filled with locals who wanted to get in on the action before the Patriots and Eagles fans come to town.
But I was able to find John Ewing and Susan Omey, two Birds fans from Minnesota who were brave enough to sport their Eagles gear in downtown Minneapolis. Ewing is originally from Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia, and has season tickets for both the Vikings and the Eagles. He'll be at game this Sunday and says he sees the Eagles beating the Patriots, 27-20.
"I don't like the Patriots," he said.
By noon, the city's skyway system was filled with folks on their lunch breaks. Because it's, well, uncomfortably cold here for a decent portion of the year, downtown Minneapolis has a 9.5-mile network of bridges that connect its buildings to one another. This means pedestrians can essentially walk all around downtown without ever stepping foot outdoors.
Then, while I was reporting on a story about locals "leaning in" to the winter weather, I ran into Tom Rayburn and Ilana Budensky, who work with St. Stephen's Human Services, a nonprofit that supports the city's homeless population.
"Some people," Budensky, 23, said, "have to lean into winter."
It was getting close to lunchtime, and I was still in search of a palatable sandwich. I knew what I wanted: A Juicy Lucy, one of Minnesota's signature dishes. So I went to the Crooked Pint Ale House in downtown Minneapolis to get one. What I ate was essentially a cheeseburger, but instead of the cheese being melted on top of the patty, it's stuffed inside.
This particular Juicy Lucy was oozing with beer cheese and topped with onion straws. When the waitress set it down on the table, she said earnestly: "Be careful when you bite into that. It's filled with hot beer cheese." Yum.
I needed to walk off some of the damage I'd done to my arteries, so I made my way a few blocks to the "Truth Bar," where there's an anti-Eagles window I'd read all about. But here's the thing about the Truth Bar: It's not really a bar. The Truth Bar is a conference space operated by an advertising agency, and it isn't open to the public.
This afternoon, no one was inside. But that window…
Next, I wanted to check out St. Paul, where tonight's Super Bowl Opening night is taking place. It's also where there's an annual "Winter Carnival" that features a 70-foot ice palace, intricate ice sculptures, ice skating and other frigid fun.
Speaking of that "Opening Night," below is what the inside of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul looked like this afternoon. It's a massive set-up that includes a stage where players from both the Eagles and the Patriots will interact with each other and be interviewed live on the NFL Network. The fun — which includes both fans and thousands of members of the media — starts at 8 p.m. EST.