Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Can Can Wonderland: A Cure for the Winter Blues

Some of you have read my prior posts professing my love of mini-golf and my exploration of new activities throughout the Twin Cities (again, many of which involve mini-golf). It was fitting, then, that within the first month of Can Can Wonderland opening in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, I counted myself among the visitors. This most eclectic of entrepreneurial ventures is certainly heating up the winter.

Can Can Wonderland is housed in the former American Can Company, which—you guessed it—manufactured tin cans. The factory (approximately 20,000 square feet) has been converted into an artist-designed amusement park and boardwalk.

Its crowning achievement is an 18-hole indoor mini-golf course, with holes of every type imaginable (or not) designed by artists from around the world.  My husband thought it was the coolest mini-golf course he had ever played – and he has a lot of mini-golf experiences to draw upon.  I won’t spoil all of the surprises, but the holes range from a St. Paul Saints-themed batting cage in which you hit your ball off a tee, to a floor-to-ceiling rotating tornado, to the hole formerly known as the world’s longest mini-golf hole, to holes with all manner of hydraulics to transport your ball.

As if the stimulation of the mini-golf isn’t enough, Can Can Wonderland also features a wall of old school pinball and arcade games, a State Fair-esque menu of grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, hot dogs, and mini donuts, an ice cream parlor, a plethora of specialty cocktails, and Thursday evening variety shows.  

Can Can Wonderland is a playground for all ages. In an entrepreneurial-spirited way, it is also successfully linking the arts and business worlds.  According to its website, Can Can Wonderland is the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota.  Its social purpose is to be an economic engine for the arts. Its location within St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone puts it in close proximity with other artists, architects, entrepreneurs and manufacturers. According to Jennifer Pennington, one of the venue’s founders, “we provide ongoing paid opportunities for artists of many different mediums and skill levels and we grow new audiences for the arts by engaging them in full, playful participatory art activities as well as providing an arts-immersive environment.” The founders of Can Can Wonderland are also responsible for other well-known and longstanding area arts projects, such as the Walker’s artist-designed mini-golf course and the Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement.

Without doubt, Can Can Wonderland should be on your short list of to-dos this winter. A few tips: regular admission for mini-golf is $12 per person for ages 12 and up. However, when I visited, three of the 18 holes were still under construction and had modified tee boxes and greens, so the admission was discounted a couple of dollars. Also, the place is popular: I initially visited at 8:30pm on a Saturday evening and was told I wouldn’t be able to play mini-golf that night – the line was over three hours’ long!  My second attempt was on a Sunday morning at 10am, and there was no wait time and plenty of room to move about and explore the offerings.

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