It's almost here--Minnesota Vikings Training Camp. Every year swarms of fans descend on Mankato, Minnesota to watch the Vikings train at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and this year is no different.
Over at the Daily Norseman's Facebook page we've been getting excited about Training Camp and asking veteran fans for their best tips to enjoy the event without bursting into a flame or breaking the bank. We figured the best way to find out how best to enjoy Vikings Training Camp would be to share our experiences and our Daily Norseman Facebook friends came through for us in a big way.
What follows is a long guide of various information, some of it provided by our friends on Facebook, other information from the Vikings Training Camp page and other sources. If you like, go ahead and read the whole thing, but it's probably easier to just read the section that relates to you. Don't see something you think should be in here? Please add it in the comments below. However you use this guide, I hope it's helpful and that you have a great time in Mankato. See you there!
Dog days of summer
Minnesota weather has a well-deserved reputation for changeability except during Training Camp. During Training Camp the weather is remarkably consistent--it's stinking hot and humid. Vikings fans have a tragic reminder of how dangerous hot weather can be, with the anniversary of Korey Stringer's heat-related death during Camp. As much as we love Vikings football, there is nothing at Training Camp that is worth incurring heat-related illness.
- Skin deep. There isn't a lot of shade available for the crowds watching the Vikings practice, so fans get a lot of sun during Camp. While people are getting more sun wise, it doesn't hurt to adopt the mantra of the internationally recognized sun protection campaign from Australia, "Slip-Slop-Slap-Seek-Slide." The campaign encouraged people to Slip on a shirt, Slop on 30+ SPF sunscreen, Slap on a hat, Seek shade or shelter, and Slide on sunglasses. Since there isn't much shaded shelter available during Vikings' practices, fans will have to rely more heavily on sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and UPF-rated clothing. Training Camp lasts only a couple weeks, skin cancer could last a lot longer.
- Hydrate. It isn't groundbreaking news or something you haven't heard before, when it is hot you need to drink plenty of water. Your body is trying to cool itself through sweat and needs to replenish the fluids it loses. If sweating heavily, you might need more than water--sports drinks can help replace the electrolytes people lose in sweat. It might not be convenient to drink lots of water at Training Camp, but it is an important way to fend off heat-related illness.
- Kids. Children are at a higher risk than adults for heat-related illness because they produce more heat when they are active, but sweat less. They can suffer heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and, in extreme cases, heat stroke which can lead to death. Dressing kids in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and keeping them hydrated can help prevent heat-related illness. Also, make sure your child gets into the shade or air-conditioning as often as possible to get a break from the heat in Mankato. Know the signs and symptoms for heat-related illness so you can protect your child's health. For more information on heat-related illness in children check out this information from Children's National Medical Center.
- Seniors. Children aren't the only ones at greater risk from heat-related illness, seniors are also at an increased risk. This increased risk is frequently related to medications. Many medications for blood pressure work by opening the vessels, the problem of extreme heat is that it can also open vessels and lead to serious drops in blood pressure. Prevent heat-related illness by staying hydrated, wearing light, loose clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and seeking shade and air-conditioning whenever possible. Be aware of the possible heat side-effects of the medications you are on and of the signs of heat-related illness. For tips and guidelines about how to be heat smart, check out this link for the Centers for Disease Control's section on heat and seniors.
- Best family restaurants. On our Facebook page people reccommended lots of good choices for family dining just blocks from the campus on Warren Street: Jimmy John's, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Cold Stone Creamery, and Noodles & Company. As chains, you and your family know what you're getting from those places and, after sitting in the sun watching practices, that predictability might be what you need. Weggy's On Campus, also right there on Warren Street, received a popular review too. When it came to pizza readers were split, raving about both Jake's Stadium Pizza and Dino's New York Style Pizzeria. For more dining options as well as other useful information for trip-planning, consider checking out the Visit Mankato website.
- Best bars for fans. While some of our Facebook readers suggested that after a day out in the sun watching the Vikings practice in Mankato any place that serves cold beer is good, we managed to get a few specific suggestions too. Tav on the Ave boasts that it, "guarantees quality that is unsurpassed, rather than the usual bar food" and our Facebook readers agreed. In addition to food, Mettler's Bar & Restaurant offers "adult entertainment". Johnny B's is located on Warren Street, close to campus, as is Boomtown--both recommended by our readers. And, if you want to try more bars and pubs, check out the Visit Mankato website for more options.
- Best coffee. On our Facebook page Jon Burris recommended Coffee Hag, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant and coffee shop where you can get a good cup of coffee and support a local small business. It is hard to beat Starbucks for consistency and drip coffee so strong it will make your armpits sweat. If you'd like to enjoy the consistency of a coffee chain, but still get your buzz from a regional brand, then Caribou Coffee could be the choice for you.
- Best ice cream. After a long afternoon watching the Vikings practice, you can shuffle over to Cold Stone Creamery to get your ice cream fix, just minutes from the campus. Or, our Facebook friends Chance Dale and AJ Hanson suggest you can venture to Mom & Pop's Ice Cream Shop in Mankato's Old Town area. There are also two Culver's Frozen Custards in Mankato and a Dairy Queen to help you get your ice cream fix. Browse Visit Mankato's Desserts section for other ways to feed your sweet tooth.
- Kids. Vikings Training Camp has a lot of activities for kids besides heat stroke. There's the Junior Training Camp, a Youth Cheerleading Clinic, and Punt, Pass, & Kick. Most of these events take place on Family Football Day and, while these events are free, you do need to register for them so sign up as soon as you can. Family Football Day (August 3) is also the day of the Night Practice at Blakeslee Stadium, Team Introductions, and fireworks.
- Fans. A lot of the fan events at Training Camp are geared toward families and kids, but Fan Appreciation Day on August 14 knows no age. During this last Training Camp practice fans will have the opportunity to win lots of prizes.
- Us. If you don't already have it, there is a Daily Norseman app available for your mobile devices. This will give you access to DN content whether you're waiting for autographs or waiting for some shade. The DN writers attending Camp will also be posting Twitter updates so make sure to follow @DailyNorseman and the individual staff members (@eric_j_thompson, @ArifHasanDN, @skolgirldn). Also "Like" the Daily Norseman on Facebook.
- Other sports people. All along the sidelines during practice at Training Camp, all the sports journalists are updating their Twitter accounts. Out-of-state Vikings fans may be unfamiliar with some of the local news outlets and journalists, so here's a short list to get you started: St. Paul Pioneer Press (Ben Goessling, Brian Murphy, Tom Powers, Bob Sansevere), Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Jim Souhan, Chip Scoggins, Dan Wiederer, Mark Craig, Sid Hartman), KFAN FM 100.3 (AJ Mansour, Dan Barreiro, Paul Allen), 1500 ESPN (Judd Zulgad), KARE 11 (Dave Schwartz, Eric Perkins), 5 Eye-witness News KSTP (Joe Schmidt, Chris Long), 4 WCCO (Mark Rosen, Mike Max, David McCoy), Fox 9 KMSP (Jim Rich, Dawn Mitchell). This list isn't meant to be exhaustive, just something to get you started--Twitter will take over from there and start suggesting people for you to follow. If someone isn't on the list and is too good to be left to chance, please add their name in the comments below.
- Vikings. You can download the Vikings mobile app from the App Store. It will give you a running list of Vikings news and Twitter updates. Since a lot of those updates come from the Vikings' official blogger Mike Wobschall, he's a good person to follow on Twitter. Also, make sure you're following your favorite players (and Eric Sugarman) on Twitter because their feeds might give you hints where they will be so you can get autographs.
- Weather. Like we said before, weather in Minnesota can be changeable. For that reason, no matter how hot it might be, it doesn't hurt to bring a sweatshirt and a rain jacket with you to Mankato. That is also the reason why it is a good idea to have a weather app on your mobile device. If the weather takes a turn for the dangerous, it's good to have the most current weather information at your fingertips. I like The Weather Channel app, but there are lots of choices. Find one you like and be prepared for whatever Minnesota throws at you.
- Movies. In between all that quality time watching the Vikings practice and watching the Vikings practice, you might find yourself looking for something to do, preferably something in air-conditioned comfort. So add a movie app to your mobile device and hit the cinema during the mid-day break or in the evening. My movie app is Fandango, if you have one that you think is great, list it below in the comments.
- Food. Yelp or UrbanSpoon can help you find a place for a nosh anywhere in the United States, making them handy to have on your mobile device on your way to or from Mankato, and in Mankato. Food Network On the Road is also an option and there are more foodie apps too.