Three Things the Press Coverage of RNC Didn’t Show You about the Twin Cities

I’ll admit, I was a bit excited that the Republican National Convention was held in Saint Paul. Not for any political reasons, but because the Twin Cities (where I’ve lived on and off throughout my life) might get a bit of positive press while in the national spotlight.

But it was not to be. Downtown Saint Paul became a “Green Zone” with most residents and visitors forced to remain outside. Things were noticeably tense elsewhere around town as well. The news coverage of events outside the Excel Energy Center was focused on the widespread protests and the heavy handed response of the police. That’s not good press for the cities’ tourism industry.

Trust me, most autumn days in the Twin Cities are quite pleasant. There are no men in helmets spraying mace and tear gas indiscriminately. Usually, Saint Paul’s finest are busy enjoying the stereotypical pastry, accompanied by the appropriate hot beverage. As it should be. Here is what the coverage of the RNC didn’t show you about St. Paul and Minneapolis.

1. They didn’t show you a theater scene that goes well beyond Garrison Keillor’s snooze-inducing A Prairie Home Companion. In fact, Minneapolis has more theaters per capita than any other place in the US, except New York. On a given weekend, there is everything from a big budget Broadway-style show to several experimental works to performances of classic American plays.
2. Prince isn’t the only musician in town. The Purple One just started getting AARP Magazine, but the next generation of talent will continue to heat things up. Underground hip-hoppers Atmosphere have started a scene that has turned into something heavy on music and lyrics and light on thuggery (call it rap for people who don’t like rap).
3. Sure, there is the Mall of America. It’s what Minnesota is most famous for, besides the accents in the movie Fargo. But it’s the coffee shops, neighborhood restaurants and lakes of South Minneapolis that really feel like an urban vacation spot.

So there. The Twin Cities are a nice place to visit. Just give them a miss next time a political convention comes to town.

What happens in Orlando?

Orlando and Las Vegas have long been two of our nation’s tourism capitals, but for very different reasons. Orlando is the family-friendly destination of Mickey Mouse and Shrek. Las Vegas on the other hand, is Orlando’s more hedonistic friend, with a reputation for Blackjack tables, topless revues and 24-hour nightlife.

But as Jaunted points out, apparently the good people at the Orlando tourism office don’t think the differences are vast enough. When the Travel Industry Association came to Vegas recently for their annual meeting, Orlando couldn’t resist a “friendly shot” at their rivals, placing the above billboard near the McCarran airport. I think they were trying remind travel industry visitors about the squeaky-clean good times to be had in Orlando, but they may have missed the slogan’s unintended double entendre for Vegas visitors.

Orlando stays with you forever? Yikes.

The NY Times Travel Show takes off Feb.29

Honestly, I have never been to a travel show before. I have no idea if I should exect just a bunch of travel agencies advertising their services or if you can actually learn something interesting; something you would have a hard time locating online. I think I might try going this year.

The New York Times Travel Show takes place from Feb.29 to March 2, 2008 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Hopefully, it is going to be at least a notch above a bridal show….cheese-factor wise. Otherwise, I could conceivably quit traveling forever.