My post yesterday about buying paint reminded me that I live in one of the last bastions of the old-fashioned hobby shop. It’s true that a number of old hobby shops have closed their doors, but compared to some urban areas, the Twin Cities have more than our share of outstanding hobby-related stores. I’m not just talking about a couple of places that sell plastic kits, I’m talking about world-class, destination type places which you actually, could, if you were so inclined, make into a vacation destination.
No, I’m not kidding.
It’s true that this part of the country is COLD in the winter (so I don’t recommend planning to visit between November and April) but it’s nice and warm (often TOO warm) in the summer. I can imagine the kind of guy who would travel to Minneapolis/St. Paul in order to visit the hobby stores, and I’m telling you that your secret is safe with me.
Just to make this clear– I’m not suggesting that MInnesota is a vacation wonderland. It ain’t. There are no aviation or military museums to speak of (there may be a few, but they are WELL hidden). The cities have all the stuff you’ll usually find in cities, only less. Like crime. But we LIKE it that way. The only really world-class “attraction” is the Mall of America and you should visit that, but if you’re like me, you need to visit the REAL attractions. So here, then, is my Minnesota Travel Guide for those of us who follow a somewhat “geekier” path. Note–few (if any) of these places are handicapped accessible. You have to go down a LONG stairway to get into Scale Model Supplies, for example.
Yeah–it doesn’t look like much from the street, but click on the link to see what an Aladdin’s Cave looks like. It’s also not a “military” hobby shop. It’s run by train guys and they are really into, you know, TRAINS. But I’ve been to here and there in this universe and this is one outstanding hobby store. Worth visiting just for the MASSIVE stock of old collectible kits.
Two locations, and both of them are worth seeing. Again, not run by plastic model fans (I don’t think a place like that exists here) but for what it is it’s outstanding. These stores are trying to stay in business by having something for everyone. So they have a little bit of EVERYTHING.
Now, it’s important to understand that these are the last of the “old time” hobby stores that have plastic kits in abundance, but they are not the only hobby stores in town. I want to recommend two other OUTSTANDING examples of hobby stores. Specialized and not really “plastic kit” stores, but outstanding anyway.
This place is all RC all the time. I know you might not be “into” RC but you have to SEE this place to believe it. It’s in an out-of-the-way strip mall in a residential neighborhood near the airport. It looks like something out of a dream. It’s worth the visit so you can tell other people about this far-out store you visited in Minnesota where they have every RC related thing in the universe.
Again, it’s not a “plastic kit” store per se, but so what? It’s store that’s dedicated to minatures, games, war games, etc.
And comics. Anyway, even if you don’t like that stuff it’s worth seeing it. I read that this store is over 10,000 square feet. Listen– ALL of these stores are over 10,000 square feet. There isn’t a tiny “hole in the wall” in the bunch. They are all big, giant hobby stores that will blow you mind.
Each of these “shops” is a trip. So budget your time wisely, spend few moments at the Mega Mall and then get down to business taking inventory at these fine Minnesota establishments. Don’t tell them Dan sent you because they have never heard of me. Hey, these are HOBBY stores!
I forgot, in my original post, to mention one other “must see” attraction here in the land of sorta-nerdy-and-lotsa-lakes.
If you came all the way to Minnesota and didn’t stop into see this place, you would not forgive yourself, or me, if you ever found out. So the one guy who already read my post, flew out to the twin cities for a whirlwind tour, and missed Ax-Man due to my negligence–I’ll have to settle up with you later.
For the rest of us, DO NOT SKIP THIS PLACE. It’s full of stuff that is impossible to describe so you have to see it in person. WARNING: Park on the street, around the corner or in back. The parking lot across the street (or any parking lot nearby) is off limits.
Finally, you MAY wish to walk a couple of blocks east on University to the Midway Bookstore, but I’m not creating a special entry just for them. I would have a few years ago when they had an amazing collection of old scale model magazines in the basement, but that went away (somebody bought it? All of it?) so I’ll just mention them in passing.