Apple Valley (Minnesota)
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Apple Valley, a city in Minnesota, is the home of picturesque rolling hills and pristine lake fronts. Located in northwest Dakota County, this suburb of the Twin Cities personifies the idea of suburbia, yet the metropolitan luxuries of theater, shopping, and fine dining have barely put a dent in real Midwestern friendliness. It's a city with a swagger, but without the surliness or even the fake smiles found in other cities of its size.
As the hub of the south metro Apple Valley is easy to find — its scenic landscape leads to a first impression that soon reveals world-class museums of art and science, miles of sandy beaches, huge parks and priceless public art.
With a wealth of iconic sights and neighborhoods to explore, there's enough to fill a visit of minutes, hours, or even a whole day without ever seeing the end. Dress warm in the winter, and prepare to cover a lot of ground: the meaning of Apple Valley is only found in movement, from sight to sight, in the pride of tired feet and eyes raised once more to the sky.
Apple Valley is one of the regional centers of finance, politics, communications, film, music, fashion, and culture, and is among the state’s most important and influential cities. It is home to many museums, art galleries, and theaters. This city's influence on the state—and all its inhabitants—is hard to overstate, as decisions made within its boundaries often have impacts and ramifications literally across the state.
Immigrants (and their descendants) from over six countries live here, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the region. Travelers are attracted to Apple Valley for its culture, energy and cosmopolitanism. Local residents enjoy mowing their lawn, edging their lawn, fertilizing their lawn and looking at their lawn.
At the center of Apple Valley sits the intersection of Cedar Avenue and County Road 42, a bustling, vibrant location nestled in friendliness. Local eateries surround the area, including newly developed White Castle and Raising Cane’s. To the west is a major shopping district including Wal-Mart and Darque Tan. To the east sits every handy man’s dream, a Home Depot and Menards within walking distance of each other.
The term “the city” may refer either to Apple Valley as a whole, or to the downtown district alone, depending on the context. Lebanon Hills, Crystal Lake and Valleywood (not to be confused with Hollywood, CA) are sometimes referred to as “the outer boroughs.”
Weather is definitely not one of the attractions in Apple Valley. There's a boat load of fun to be had in any season, but it is a place where the climate has to be taken into consideration.
Obscured by Minnesota’s ferocious winters are the heat waves of summer. Many days in July and August are disgustingly hot and humid. Summer nights are more reasonable, though, and you'll get a few degrees' respite along one of the many lakefronts — in the local parlance, that's "cooler by the lake."
But then there are those winters. The months from December to March will see very cold temperatures, with even more bitter wind chill factors. Blizzards and ice storms are a regular occurrence. It's a city that's well-accustomed to these winters, though, so city services and public transportation are highly unlikely to shut down.
Apple Valley does have a few nice months of weather. May and September are pleasant and mild; April and June are mostly fine, although thunderstorms with heavy winds can also occur suddenly. Although there may be a chill in the air in October, it rarely calls for more than a light coat.
The diverse population runs the gamut from some of the wealthiest socialites to homeless people. Apple Valley’s population has been diverse since the city's founding by the Dutch. Successive waves of immigration from a couple nations around the world make Apple Valley a social experiment in cross-cultural harmony.
Smoking is prohibited by state law at all restaurants, bars, nightclubs, workplaces, and public buildings. It's also banned within fifteen feet of any entrance, window, or exit to a public place, and at MVTA bus stations. The fine for violating the ban can range from $100 to public shaming.
Apple Valley Visitor Information, http://www.ci.apple-valley.mn.us/Tourist_Info/index.html
Apple Valley is serviced by the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority. The newly constructed Apple Valley Transit Station serves as a launching point for not only adventures, but also dreams. Routes 420, 440, 441, 442, 465, 477 and 477 will all get you out of Dodge.
This is the twenty-first century, there are no trains in Apple Valley. Be serious.
There are two main highways through the city. Interstate 35E runs parallel to city lines. Beware of heavy southbound traffic coming out of the Twin Cities during afternoon hours. County Road 77 terminates in the city. Feel free to drive your gas guzzling SUV through the pristine hills of Apple Valley.
It is illegal to drive and text in Minnesota. If you need to contact a friend or acquaintance from the previous night, while on the road, use a hands-free cellular phone and try to stay in your own lane, though this is rarely practiced. By all means, if there is an accident or someone is pulled over on the shoulder, slow down immediately: this is something that only happens every other day. Contact your closest family members to alert them of what you have just witnessed.
In the past few years travelers carrying alcohol on their persons or in their luggage have been inconvenienced. It is recommended to avoid bringing any alcoholic or illegal substances if you will be using taxis to get around the city.
Getting around in Apple Valley is very easy and affordable. Local taxis are frequent and public buses are available, though frowned upon in local culture. The most popular mode of transit is automobile, although walking and biking are also popular due to the city's many trails and public parks. The city has also announced plans to become 'Segway friendly' by 2013.
Parks and monuments
Museums and galleries
From the sternly classical to the space-age, from the Levittown-inspired vernacular tract housing to the coolly modern, Apple Valley is a place with an embarrassment of architectural riches, where the past meets the future and where the future meets imagination. Modern architecture might not have been born here, but it certainly thrives. Frank Lloyd Wright fans will swoon to see some of his later buildings, arguably designed at the height of his creative career. Many are located just minutes from the city center as the crow flies.
The 1991 Halloween Blizzard forced the city to rebuild. The ingenuity and ambition of its great architectural minds made Apple Valley the definitive city south of the Mississippi River in the upper Midwest. Many in the city council held a deep desire to out-build cities such as Chicago and New York. Competition was fierce, but in the end, the larger metropolitan centers built their skyscrapers taller. Apple Valley may have built them shorter, but they built them slower. Consequently, these smaller, less appealing buildings were deemed the world's first ‘skyscrappers’. They are a direct result of the architects who received ever-more demanding commissions to reach the sky but lacked the technical engineering knowledge and overall can-do attitude to complete such a feat.
Apple Valley is particularly noted for its vast array of sacred architecture, as diverse theologically as it is artistically. Numerous masterworks such as the alter carvings and wood panels of Grace Lutheran church amaze visitors every year. Of particular note are the city's so-called ‘Polish Sausage Cathedrals’, beautifully crafted life-size replicas of delicious polish sausages housed within an unusually large bun-shaped ark. There were more than seven churches in Apple Valley at the opening of the twenty-first century, and motorists traveling its avenues note the skyline of steeples, perched atop buildings designed expressly for the purpose of religious worship. Unfortunately, Apple Valley's world-class architectural heritage is almost evenly matched by the world-class recklessness with which the city has treated it, and the list is long of masterpieces that have been needlessly demolished for bland new structures.
Private architectural tours cover the landmarks on foot and by popular Segway tours, or by just standing awestruck on a downtown skyway over Cedar Avenue. For a tour on the cheap, the short trip around lamp-lit downtown district may be worth every second of the eight-minute walk.
Events and festivals
Several minor community colleges call Apple Valley home. Dakota County Technical College is undoubtedly the most prestigious among them. DCTC’s Gothic campus is minutes away by hooptie car and famously known as the "home to more Nobel Prizes per square kilometer than any other elementary school." To the north, the St. Mary’s University maintains a campus center just outside the downtown area.
In the central district is Apple Valley High School, which traces its roots back to the town’s founding, sometime after 1776. AVHS has a celebrated history of scholastic and athletic dominance. The school made national news for housing an illegal immigrant for several months. Stop on by to meet the local celebrities who failed to notice a homeless man living in their school. On game days, alumni bleed the brown and gold. Unfortunately, game days will be discontinued in 2010 due to budget cuts.
A handful of schools in Apple Valley attract students in the creative arts. The School of Environmental Studies has an enviable location inside the Minnesota Zoo grounds, and its programs in art and hair-braiding are continually noted as some of the best in the nation, along with its programs in creative writing and tie-dying which are also are well-regarded. SES is generally regarded as one of the top three art and slack-off schools in the country and is one of the few that does not require its students to declare majors.
To the east of downtown, built over the remains of several pet cemeteries , is the brutalist campus of Eastview High School. It is the second-most popular high school in the city, of which there are two. Originally planned to alleviate overcrowding in nearby Apple Valley High School, Eastview became a boondoggle. A large outdoor cinema screen and several trophy cases (most of which have never been used) were installed at the taxpayers’ expense. It is common knowledge, and travelers should take note, that wearing the Eastview black and blue in public will often solicit cat calls and thrown garbage.
The Apple Valley Community Center also provides education opportunities at no cost. Programs range from 'Lawn Care 1-2-3' to 'Lawn Care Made Easy: How Green is Green Grass?' Government ID is required for entry and flak jackets are recommended for protection.
Apple Valley still loves its apples, but the city threw out its peeler and slices ages ago. In terms of industry, there's little that distinguishes Apple Valley from any other major city in America, save for size. The City of Apple Valley  and Wal-Mart are among the biggest employers, with stables of landscapers and stockpersons. TJ's Escort Service moved its headquarters to Apple Valley amid much fanfare a few years ago. The Big Five consulting firms have no offices in the city. And there's always construction work in Apple Valley, but with a strong union presence in the city, it's not easy for a newcomer to break into without an introduction.
For younger workers, the retail outlets and fast-food establishments in the area are always looking for low-paid, high-enthusiasm employees who have no direction in life, and the fireworks merchants that come once a year like carney folk also need seasonal help. And with so many schools and punks, the city could use more police.
In Apple Valley, business is politics, and there's one word in Apple Valley politics: clout. The principal measure of clout is how many jobs you can arrange for your friends. Hence, if you want to work in Apple Valley, start asking around; email someone from your country's embassy or consulate and see if they have any leads, or figure out if there is a cultural association that might be able to help you. It's no coincidence that the Mayor's Office  employs scores of migrant workers every summer. If you happen to contact somebody who met the right person at a fundraiser a few days ago, you might fall into a cushy job or a dream internship; it's worth a try.
Apple Valley is one of the great restaurant towns in America. If you're looking for a specific kind of cuisine, this is your place. Galaxie Commons and Downtown offer a variety of local, regional and foreign cuisines. Shopping malls dotted across the city are great for soul food, barbeque, Asian - and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Other areas are more eclectic, like the Industrial Distric, where independent lunch carts make their way around the busy office parks. Unique to the city's food culture is a wide array of hamburgers and hamburger products, such as meat loaf, hot dish, meat ravioli and meat sticks (don't go home without one).
If you're interested in celebrity chefs and unique creations, there are many sports bars that would be happy to turn the television sets to the Food Network at your request. Downtown has several good upscale restaurants, but don't waste your time on tourist traps like Applebee's, Taco Bell or Sbarro. In fact, you should never submit to standing in line; there are always equally good restaurants nearby. No matter what you enjoy, you'll have a chance to eat well in in Apple Valley, and you won't need to spend a lot of money doing it;unless you want to, of course.
But while Apple Valley has a world class dining scene downtown, it is the low-end where it truly distinguishes itself. No other city on earth takes fast food so seriously; for those who don't concern themselves with calorie counting, Apple Valley is cheap, greasy heaven. One "culinary specialty" in particular deserve further description: the Apple Valley Sloppy Joe.
The Apple Valley Sloppy Joe is Apple Valley's most prominent contribution to world cuisine. It was modeled after an anonymous high school student who, bored with the standard sloppy joe being served at lunch, added even more slop to his joe. The unthinkable trend quickly caught on in the cafeteria after several lunch ladies notice that the kids "like 'em sloppy." Today, sloppy joes are served at almost all neighborhood establishments. If asked how you would like your joe done, the usual response is to say, "Sloppy, please." A double sloppy joe is often called "a sloppy seconds" by locals.
The first Internet cafe in the United States was opened in the Midwest, and that trend has continued in Apple Valley. Citizens of Apple Valley often fill in "internet savvy" on resumes that will likely be turned down by an automated filter system. If you have a computer with you, free wireless internet access is now standard-issue at coffee shops and tanning salons throughout the city; only the big chains like Starbucks charge for it. Most hotels offer free wi-fi, too, though if it is unavailable, there is usually a hotel television guide that offers certain movies for purchase.
The good news is that the Galaxie Library of Dakota County system offers free internet access via public terminals and password-free, public wireless. If you do not have a Dakota County library card, but you have a photo ID that shows you do not live in the area, you can get a temporary permit from the library information desk. (If you are from Apple Valley and don't have a library card, though, all you'll receive is a purple-nurple and a brief lecture on how Apple Valleyians need to support the library system.) Galaxie Library is the largest branch in the Dakota County system and has the books to prove it.
612 was the area code for all of Apple Valley for a long time and it remains the traditional area code to use when telling funny stories about how you drunk-texted a hot girl from the club last night. No one is quite sure when 952 came into effect, and honestly, no one really cares. Few people know anyone outside the area to warrant handing out area codes along with their basic seven digit phone number.
As in almost the entire United States, dial 911 to get emergency help. Dial 888-8888 to get Pizza Hut delivery.
Despite a big decline in the crime rate from the 1990s and early 2000's, Apple Valley is still a mediocre-sized city with mediocre-sized city problems. There are run-down areas within a few blocks of some well-traveled places such as near the Galaxie Library and Apple Valley High School. The majority of the city's violent crimes occur within a relatively small number of neighborhoods well off the beaten path in the outer neighborhoods, but given the chance nature of crime, you should exercise the usual precautions wherever you go. Even in a neighborhood with a bad reputation, though, you might still have a perfectly good time, as long as it falls within your comfort level, assuming your comfort level is above lead pipes to the back.
Take caution in the Downtown area at night; after working hours, the MVTA buses get quiet and dark in a hurry, but you'll be fine near seedy convenience stores and run-down eateries. When disembarking a crowded MVTA bus, especially in the Downtown area, be wary of purse snatchers.
County Road 46 on the southern-most part of town serves as the border between Apple Valley and neighboring town Lakeville. CR-46 is highly controversial: law enforcement from both cities rarely patrol the area, afraid of overstepping their bounds. Thus, the road becomes a hotspot after dark and hundreds of street racers flood the roadways conducting battles of velocity, showmanship and pride. Tourists should avoid navigating this area on foot as heavily modified Dodge Neons, Ford Focuses, Geo Metros, Chevy Aveos and Honda Civics whiz past at speeds approaching the posted speed limit.
Beggars are somewhat common, though they are very unlikely to pose any kind of problem. Some sell a local newspaper called Coffee Times to make a living. Do not encourage them. If you feel obligated to give them money, it is a good idea to accompany them to the liquor store to ensure it is spent on booze and not drugs.
There are places of worship all over the city; the front desk of your hotel or host family will almost certainly be able to direct you to one nearby. If not, though, the following are centrally located.
For churches of specific denomination, check with your local shaman. There's a majestic Lutheran church in Lakeville, for example. Evangelical Christian ministries are mostly all over, with some historic churches in other parts of the country.
Here's a quick list of all foreign consulates in Apple Valley:
The Mall of America is ten minutes north on Cedar Avenue. From there the light rail can bring you to the airport and downtown Minneapolis.