Every summer for as long as I can remember I've left the hot, humid Nebraska summer monotony for cooler nights in Minnesota. My brother has lived up there since 2001, my aunt and uncle even longer. This past weekend we ventured to the greater Twin Cities and it was really lovely. When my brother told us he had a free hotel-stay we jumped at the opportunity to head out of town earlier than originally planned. While I was rushed to leave work Thursday night, I knew going up halfway the night before meant I would finally get to take Cooper to one of the best places in Ames, and maybe the world - Hickory Park.
Hickory Park is filled with retro relics, candy, families and a lot of noise. During our hour-long visit we got to hear the lucky Hickory Park staff member sing their version of "Happy Birthday" to three different patrons. Though, the promise of a free shake might be worth the small amount of embarrassment, after all Hickory Park's ice cream menu is not to be messed with. Seriously, check it out.
Finally it came time to eat. I ordered the Swiss, Bacon & Guacamole Hickory burger and a heaping side of fries. While I love perusing a great burger menu, I almost always wish I would have just kept my order simple - a medium quarter pound burger with lettuce, onion pickles, mustard and ketchup. Yes, the guacamole was a nice additive and it especially went will with the bacon, but about half-way through I found myself scraping off some of the toppings so I could focus more on the delicious burger patty taste. Lesson Learned.
Cooper, always the more adventurer eater, opted for the Pepperoni & Mozzarella Hickory burger. It came with a side of marinara and two layers of mozzarella and pepperoni. Not really my taste, but Cooper ate it up before I could even make a joke about how odd it is to order a pizza burger in public.
Hickory Park's BBQ sauces are simply the best. The smaller bottle packed a lot of heat and both Cooper and I ended up slathering all over our burgers and plates to dip our fries in. Some people don't care for BBQ sauce but holy hell do I love it.
After dinner we headed down to Main Street. I used Yelp to try to find the local "hip" dive bar, but it wasn't easy. First we went to Whisky River which sounds pretty promising right? While the ladies behind the bar poured a stiff drink, the music which ranged from Carly Rae Jepson to Lynyrd Skynyrd definitely wore on us. We walked a half block down the street and found the London Underground which was much more our speed. For one, there were people our age in the bar. After another drink we retired to our hotel room and enjoyed having access to cable (we haven't paid for cable in about five years). Though we definitely regretted not bringing our swimsuits when we saw the hotel's hot tub.
So if you're ever in Ames or your travels take you north on I-80, make a quick pit stop to Hickory Park and remember - come hungry and don't leave without dessert.