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Land of cold and nice: Super Bowl visitors' impressions of Minnesota follow a familiar theme

From left, New England fans, John Bilodeau, Kent Haney, and Stephen Schendel watch players in the interview area at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., Feb. 2, 2018. Bilodeau, Haney and three others left Massachusetts at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday night and drove 1420 miles in 22 hours in a Kia Sedona. (Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press)1 / 2
Patrick O'Neill, followed by his son, Ryan, talks to family members back home in Haddon Heights, N.J., and relays what's going on in the player interview area at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., Feb. 2, 2018. They drove a 2011 Toyata Tundra pickup 1,200 miles, about 15 hours. (Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press)2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS—Kent Haney and his friends left Haverhill, Mass., at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, in a Kia Sedona minivan headed for Minneapolis.

Nearly 1,500 miles and about 22 hours later, they reached the city where they'll watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

And he's not sure what to think of Minnesota.

"I don't know what I expected. I've never been out in this part of the country before," Haney said. "So far so good. All the locals have been pretty nice to us."

The St. Paul Pioneer Press asked Haney and several other football fans visiting Minnesota for the big game about their stay so far. They almost all agreed on two things: Minnesotans are great, but the cold weather has them yearning for a warmer climate for a Super Bowl.

What do you think of Minnesota so far?

• "It's just a tad cold. We woke up this morning and it was -8," John Brennan, Philadelphia

•"It exceeds expectations. I thought: 'Minnesota, snowy and cold.' It's been a little cold, but it's been great," Cameron Helm, Pittsburgh

•"It's a little—a lot—quieter (than Philadelphia.) It definitely is less of a downtown city life than Philly is," Dustin Helm, Pittsburgh (born and raised in Philadelphia)

•"I don't really know too much about it yet. We just got here, drove 19 hours," Ray Romano (not the actor), Manhattan, N.Y. (Patriots fan)

•"It's a bigger city than I expected it to be. The airport is massive, and it's a lot more spread out," Kevin Carter, Maine

•"Good. Cold. I lived in Boston for a few years, too, so it's not a huge deal. We've had negative 10, too," Israel Medina, Texas (Patriots fan)

Is Minnesota Nice a real thing?

•"Our (rental host) is so nice. She keeps checking in on us and texting us to ask if we need anything," Brianna Brennan, Philadelphia

•"I'll tell you what, the people here are wonderful. The guy we're staying with—a nephew of a friend—is the nicest. Salt of the Earth people, just genuine people," Romano

•"Everyone's been very cordial and everything in the city has been taken care of pretty well," Helm

•"Everybody but Philly fans have been great," Greg Carter, Maine.

•"Yeah, I mean everybody so far has been really nice, really welcoming. Nothing really to write home about that's negative," Kent Haney, Massachusetts. (In contrast, "They're not nice fans in Massachusetts," he said.)

•"So far, yes, the people are great, very receptive. My wife and I went to Pittsburgh for a Patriots game last year and they weren't very receptive to us," Medina

Besides Super Bowl activities, what else will you do here?

•"I need to find one of those Jucy Lucys. Then I'll be all set," John Brennan

•"We're from Pennsylvania and we're seeing every step in the (Mall of America.) We're going to make every turn. I'm in shock of this place, especially coming from a place that doesn't have that big of malls," Helm

•"I don't know. We've never been to Minneapolis. I know there's a lot of concerts and stuff going on. I've asked some locals and they tell me to go to Matt's Bar and the Crooked Pint, check out the Mall of America," Medina

•"We really just want to enjoy ourselves, have some good food. We're doing this (NFL Experience) today. We're staying at a friend's house—a suburb about 20 minutes away—enjoying the experience," Romano

Is Minneapolis a good place to host the Super Bowl?

•"The atmosphere and everything here is great. If it was a little warmer, I think it would be perfect," Shane Brennan, Philadelphia.

•"It's great for the football fans because we'll go anywhere. The problem is the family, because no one wants to come. In warm places, families of four, five, six are coming because there's all this other stuff to do. For a town that's hosting the Super Bowl, you want to have as many things as possible. I don't think there's enough inside to do," Helm

•"I'm going to have to say no on that. I just don't think they have enough accommodations. They have the Mall of America, but if you come out here for a week, besides the Super Bowl, what else is there to do?" Haney

•"I think so. You have to change the scenery," Medina

•"No. We've been to four previous Super Bowls, and it's rough that it's going to be this cold, from a standpoint of it usually takes an hour and a half to get in and people are going to be standing out in the cold. And no offense to Philly fans, but they tend to get out of control, and it's not good to be passing out in -21 degree weather," Carter

•"So far it's been great. The traffic is not crazy here," Romano

Photographer Jean Pieri contributed to this report.

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