BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

The American Legion is returning to Minneapolis, the site of its first national convention in 1919, for the organization’s 100th national convention. Running from Aug. 24 to 30, it kicks off a centennial celebration that concludes in November 2019.

Minneapolis convention visitors can stop by Peavey Plaza, where two plaques mark the site of the Legion’s first national convention and the founding of the American Legion Auxiliary. Located at 1100 S. Marquette Ave., the plaza is an outdoor public space at the southern end of Nicollet Mall between 11th and 12th streets. Convention-goers should also expect to see history re-enactors, World War I military vehicle displays and more.

Minneapolis showcases its own unique history for guests, too. Technically in St. Paul, Fort Snelling was an outpost originally constructed by the 5th Infantry Regiment under Col. Josiah Snelling. Visitors will learn about Minnesota’s connections to the Civil War, which began when Gov. Alexander Ramsey pledged 1,000 troops for the Union army; they trained at Fort Snelling. When the United States entered World War II, Fort Snelling was an induction point for more than 300,000 servicemembers. Today, visitors can bike or walk its two dozen miles of trails.

The Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., is “the most explosive museum in the world,” a reference to the Washburn flour mill explosion in 1878 that killed 18 people and damaged a large portion of the mill district. Minneapolis – nicknamed both
Mill City and Flour City – remained the nation’s leader in the production of flour for the next 50 years, until the mills were dismantled. In 1991, the building was gutted by fire, but was later partially restored and opened as the museum.

10 things to know

Not a shopping mall  Nicollet Mall is a newly revitalized 12-block portion of Nicollet Avenue running through downtown, less than a mile from the Minneapolis Convention Center. Sidewalk cafes, restaurants, rooftop bars and art installations are all within walking distance. On Thursdays during the summer, a farmers market is open. 

Look, skywalker  If August’s heat is a bit too much, the city’s skywalk system offers some refuge. Nearly 10 miles of glass-enclosed walkways connect the convention center, hotels, shopping, sports and entertainment venues, restaurants and parking ramps. 

Say cheese  Downtown offers all styles of restaurants for all types of palates: Irish pubs, classic Italian fare, vibrant bistros, food trucks and more. Perhaps the city’s most unique culinary creation (and spelling) is the Jucy Lucy, a burger that’s basically a ball of American cheese stuffed into two thin patties. The cheese gets gooey and melts – or explodes – in the diner’s mouth. Matt’s Bar, located on Cedar Avenue in southern Minneapolis, is credited as the creator. Other restaurants offer their versions of Juicy Lucys – same burger, correct spelling – and Hell’s Kitchen offers the Juicy Lucifer.

Art museum  The Minneapolis Institute of Art displays 83,000 works spanning more than 5,000 years of history. The collection includes European masterpieces, modern and contemporary paintings, as well as Native American, African and Asian art. Admission is free. 

Purple reign  Legendary entertainers are honored in Minneapolis: a large mural of native Bob Dylan, the iconic Mary Tyler Moore statue and, of course, the former private estate of singer Prince. Paisley Park – in Chanhassen, just outside Minneapolis – is a tribute to Prince’s music, career and life. If you are interested in touring the 65,000-square-foot museum, plan ahead; tickets must be purchased online at officialpaisleypark.com. For group and private tour inquiries, email info@officialpaisleypark.com.

All aboard  It’s easy to get around the Minneapolis Metro light-rail system. Plan a trip, check routes and times, and more online. www.metrotransit.org

Shop ‘til you drop  The Mall of America, located 10 miles from the convention center but accessible via the Metro, boasts more than 520 stores. In Minnesota, there is no sales tax on clothing or shoes.

Play ball  American Legion Baseball alumni square off as the Minnesota Twins (infielder Brian Dozier, manager Paul Molitor) host the Oakland Athletics (manager Bob Melvin, catcher Josh Phegley) during Legion Family Night on Aug. 25 at Target Field. Go to www.legion.org/convention/resources to learn how to order tickets.

Tee time  Minnesota has more golfers per capita than any other state. In Minneapolis, there are seven public courses and 170 more nearby.

Stay up to date  Follow The American Legion’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for a daily countdown of “100 Things to Know” leading up to the convention. Also, the convention app will be available for download later this summer.  


NATIONAL CONVENTION TOURS

Experience the Twin Cities is offering several opportunities for Legion Family members to explore Minneapolis and the surrounding area during the national convention. 

“We are excited to be hosting a variety of tours for The American Legion’s 100th National Convention, and honor those who have served,” says owner/founder Rebecca Pfeiffer. “Come enjoy our experiences in Minneapolis, and $1 of each ticket purchased will go directly back to The American Legion.” 

Craft Brew Hop Brewery Tour ($48) – Aug. 23, 24, 27
This tour will visit three different local craft breweries, with a pint of beer provided to participants at each stop. At least one brewery will craft a special beer just for the Legion.

“Hands On” Minneapolis Public Art Walking Tour ($34) – Aug. 27, 28, 29, 30
This 90-minute walking tour, starting from the Minneapolis Convention Center, will give participants a taste of the abundance of public art in Minneapolis. They’ll also have the opportunity to create brass rubbings of the historic plaque commemorating the first American Legion national convention in 1919.

Historic Fort Snelling Tour/Defending Minnesota ($75) – Aug. 23, 24
Fort Snelling occupies a strategic location at the junction of the the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Hear the diverse stories of the women, men and children who crossed paths here, and discover connections between the past and present through themes like family and community, power and relationships, training and service, and more.

Historic Stillwater Experience/Food, Wine, Beer and More ($115) – Aug. 31
This guided tour will stop at one winery, one brewery and one “especially sweet place” in the Stillwater area, with a full pint and glass of wine each, and a casual lunch at a historic venue.

Mall of America Shopping Shuttle ($29) – Aug. 25, 27, 29
What trip to Minnesota would be complete without a stop at one of the largest malls in the world? Participants will receive a special shopping bag and coupon book. 

Minneapolis History and Theater Tour ($65) – Aug. 24
Visit two iconic Minneapolis institutions: the Guthrie Theater and the Mill City Museum. A catered lunch at Bushel & Peck Cafe in the museum is included. 

Minneapolis Landmark Sightseeing Tour ($37) –  Aug. 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31
This one-of-a-kind multisensory narrated experience will share the highlights of downtown Minneapolis and the surrounding area. Weather permitting, an open-air bus will be the mode of transportation.

Mystic Lake Casino Gaming Shuttle ($33) – Aug. 24, 27, 29
Mystic Lake is the largest casino in Minnesota, and offers slots, blackjack, bingo, pull tabs and more. Participants will receive a special gift.

Paddleboat Dinner Cruise ($99) – Aug. 24
Paddleboat Lunch Cruise ($79) – Aug. 27
Departing from the Bohemian Flats residential area on the Mississippi River, these cruises aboard an authentic paddle-wheeler will show participants the best the river has to offer, from trails to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus to the downtown Minneapolis skyline and more.

Tour registration is open online. Attendees can also register onsite at the Minneapolis Convention Center. www.legion.org/convention/resources

Henry Howard is deputy director of media and communications for The American Legion.