Ah Minne, my home through and through. Though I’ve been living here for almost all of my life, I’ve noticed in the last few years a significant increase in Minnesotan pride and as I’ve traveled outside of the state and talked to other Americans, I can see that Minnesota truly possessed something unique apart from the rest of the US that I never realized was there before. Bitterly cold in the winters, muggy in the summers, and just perfect for about two weeks of the year, obviously the weather doesn’t keep us but everything else does.
Artsy and yet rugged, we embody the Bold North mentality and embrace our Midwestern roots like no other. Minneapolis truly offers something special by having some of the most kindhearted people in a growing city that’s embracing a new identity.
First off, let’s talk about getting here. Perfectly driveable from Chicago, Omaha, even the Canadian border, Minnesota roads are kept in great condition despite the incredible variations in weather (hello taxpayer dollars). We don’t have any toll roads so keep your extra cash for a good cup of coffee when you get here, and parking is mostly abundant except for a few pockets in the heart of the city.
If you’re flying into Minnesota, then you’re in luck because our airport has been voted best airport in the US for the last few years running, and both terminals are well-stocked with healthy food options, fun shopping, and plenty of crafted drinks. Plug-in outlets and seating are wiggled into every corner so don’t worry if you’re found without battery. Also, the Minnesota Nice mentality starts at the airport! Our TSA people are nicer than the rest, aside from my obvious bias.
If you don’t have access to a car once you land, don’t worry! You can take the Lightrail Train to both Minneapolis and St. Paul where buses, Ubers, and rentable bikes are all abundant for alternate transportation options. We even have Birds now, so if scooters are your preferred mode of transport you can do that too…
A quick note about bikes, Minneapolis has been voted one of the most bikeable cities in the nation for the last few years. We have well-structured bike lanes, plenty of paths and a beautiful landscape so even if you’re not a confident city biker, you’ll do fine here.
If you are easy and just like your feet to get around, there’s a cool option for you too. No matter what the weather is outside, Minneapolis has developed an ingenious system of Skyways to connect almost all buildings, making it possible to walk virtually the entire city without ever having to go outside!
Like any city, Hotels and AirBnbs are abundant but my recommendation for something swanky is either the Hewing Hotel or the Hotel Ivy. For something cheaper, I love our downtown Mariott, otherwise, use your favorite hotel search engine to find something in your price range.
Things to Do
Now here comes the fun part… the stuff to do while you’re here! This first section is mainly places/ neighborhoods you should go to and explore, with sections down below for entertainment and food. Plus, see the very bottom of this post for a quick blurb about St. Paul (it is the Twin Cities after all…)
Mill City Park/ Stone Arch Bridge/ St. Anthony/ Guthrie theater
All located next to or near each other, Gold Metal Park is my favorite place in the city. In the summertime you can catch tons of bikers, dog walkers, and joggers, and on Saturdays there’s even a farmers market that pops up. Mill City is not only beautiful because of the greenery and Mississippi River, but it is also a historic part of the city with all the old flour mills. The Guthrie Theater is the most modern addition to this part of town, but is well worth the visit! Open to the public, this theater is an archetectural feat and has the most beautiful overlook of the river and Stone Arch Bridge. Just across the walking bridge is the neighborhood of St. Anthony, with its own Main St and boutique shops, it’s a place worth exploring in itself. During the summer months plenty of festivals and concerts happen on this side of the river too!
U of M and Dinkytown
The University of Minnesota is one of the most unique schools in the Big Ten because it is located in the heart of the city. With over 50,000 undergraduates, a law school, medical school, and vet school, this is truly a college pocket. Not only is the University equipped with a beautiful student center, theater, and common grounds, it is also equipped with it’s own art museum (Wiseman), farm land, and hospital. Dinkytown, Stadium Village, and Como are the three “neighborhoods” where most students live, but Dinkytown is by far the most popular. I highly suggest going to either Al’s breakfast (bring your cash) or Annie’s for some food and keep in mind that the Campus Connector buses are free fro everybody so hop on/ hop off as you please.
Uptown and the Urban Lakes
The sweet thing about Minnesota is that it’s the Land of 10,000 lakes, so inevitably there will be some that land within city limits. Calhoun, Harriet and Lake of the Isles are all full of beaches, boat rentals, trails, and ice cream spots that make for a dreamy summer day. The surrounding “Uptown” area (even though it’s south of the main city) has amazing food, vintage shops, and tattoo parlors that are also worth exploring. Be warned however, parking here is bad.
Mall of America
The biggest Mall in the nation is conveniently located just south of the airport and can also be accessed by the Lightrail train, If you go here, plan for a whole day because the size of this mall is no joke. Five floors and four wings, there’s everything from a movie theater, bowling alley, concert space, amusement park, laser tag, a ropes course, an escape room, and of course every store or restaurant you could ever imagine. There’s even an Ikea across the street to complete the giant shopping adventure. My favorite thing to do here is visit Lush Cosmetics, get a Cinnabon, and just people watch as I wander.
North East and North Loop
These two neighborhoods are the two spots with what I think to be the strongest Minneapolis identity. Northeast used to be the place to be back in my mom’s day, she has so many stories of nights out down there at dive bars and clubs. Now, North Loop (or warehouse district)is the place to be for millenials. Budding with potential, countless housing complexes, niche coffee houses, and upscale restaurants are flooding the area, making it the place to be seen.
Lowry Park Area
A bit grungy, Lowry area is much different than the rest of the city. The park there is pretty, but I mainly go for the Walker Art Museum (modern) and the Minneapolis sculpture garden. Ove of the most iconic things in the city is the spoon and cherry sculpture, so this is a must-see things if you’re new here. There’s an awesome French Meadow Bakery nearby as well that I frequent. I would time your visit here strategically though, if you get caught in traffic here, it’s a nightmare.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art
Another one for the arties, this museum is our hero. Located between downtown and uptown exhibits rotate through here quarterly, with constant exhibits featuring classical art, period pieces, and even a modern wing. One of the best restaurants are also wedged in here, Agra Culture, and with reasonable ticket prices, this is a must-see.
Downtown- Depot Ice Skating
Visiting Minneapolis in the winter? Visit the Depot downtown and rent some skates to do some romantic ice skating under the city lights. This indoor rink has windows everywhere and is a fun way to enjoy the wintertime, without actually being outside! Check the website beforehand to make sure no private events are going on, the space is completely rentable! Furthermore, if you want to spend some more time in the heart of downtown, you should also visit the Theater District (see below) and Nicolette Mall.
Personally, I only go here in the wintertime. The urban falls are much more impressive when they are frozen over and have huge icedrifts hanging off the edge. Located right at the start of Minehaha park, you don’t even need to hike anywhere to get to the base, making this a perfect pit stop for some awesome winter photographs. If you are here in the non-winter months, don’t worry the falls are still impressive, plus the trails that go back into the park are pleasant and easy.
For the historians in the family, Fort Snelling is a cool sight to be seen. Both a fort and a military cemetery, this place is full of stories from the past.
Go to Target and get a Caribou Coffee
Are you really in Minnesota if you don’t celebrate two of our biggest retail successes? Target is an obsession that we are not ashamed to admit, going maybe three times per week if not more. Caribou Coffee is the sweeter, more Northern cousin of Starbucks and I highly recommend their reindeer blend.
Entertainment and Music
Downtown Theater District
Minneapolis is one of the most theatrical cities in the nation for our size, and the Theater district will have you singing musical soundtracks all night long. Take a tour of the lights, visit a nearby brewery, and see any show you like. My personal favorite is the Orpheum theater, but all of them are good.
Are you a sports fan? Well good because we have a separate stadium for each and every sport we play. Football- US Bank stadium, Basketball- Target Center, Baseball- Target Field, Soccer- Under construction in St. Paul, Hockey- Excel Energy in St. Paul, College sports- there’s separate stadiums for each sport here too. There definitely is no shortage of event centers here for both watching and touring.
The original club in town, Prince played many of his early shows here. Now, it’s the classic venue that is a must-see for tourists and locals alike. Each artist gets a star on the building once they play here, and it puts on quite the party inside!
Dakota Jazz Club
For the more classic folks out there, Dakota Jazz Club is an awesome choice for some smooth sounds and a good drink.
The downtown location is right next to the Twins Stadium and has three levels and an outdoor rooftop bar that is crawling with people every Saturday night. Plus, with a bar on every level, you can choose which vibe you like better and stick to your tab. It’s always a good time so make sure you Uber.
Located in Dinkytown, this is the classic college bar that fills up pretty quickly on the right night. Equipped with a dance floor and plenty of drink options, this is a place to go if you want to meet new people. Definitely the cheapest for drinks, if you go on ladies night you might even drink for free!
Boujie place near the MIA, this restaurant serves up all the local vibes for brunch, dinner, or after work drinks. With a small, curated menu everything is done to perfection and is very instagramable.
Glam Doll Donuts
A loud donut shop with all the hot pink you can imaging. These donuts are glammed up in every way shape and form, and in just a few short years this place has already become a staple in the city.
Some people don’t think it’s worth the hype, but if it’s your first time in the area I think Spyhouse is a place you should definitely go see. But! Make sure you go to the original location on Broadway in North East because that’s where they also roast their own coffee. Some days you can smell the building from a few blocks away and it’s magical. This shop serves up all the hipster vibes and partners with an excellent local pastry shop. Come here to sit and chat for a while.
Connected to a co-op this restaurant is refreshing and zesty, using plenty of fresh produce and equipped with vegan options, this place is ideal in the summertime.
Spoon and Stable
More of an upscale place in the North Loop, this French restaurant is in an old horse stable (hence the name) and has lines out the door for brunch.
Like the name suggest, this place is heavy on the meat. Looks low key like a fancy butcher shop on the inside, but in reality has very tasty food. One of my favorite things to get there is actually the brussels sprouts.
This is the closest thing to authentic Italian pizza you will get in America. Thin crust and artisanal, these pizzas are simple but speak volumes. One of my favorite restaurants period.
A classic North East bar that recently re-opened, I had both the most expensive and best tasting Old Fashioned I’ve ever had here. Plus, the piano player in the corner set the tone in this small venue. Be warry of the bar-hoppers here though. If they come in a bus the place gets packed quick.
Matt’s Bar and Grill
The originator of the Juicy Lucy Cheeseburger, Matt’s is one of those cornerstone Minneapolis places that will never go out of style. Also, if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say Juicy Lucy, you need to look up a video, it will change your life.
Loring Pasta Bar
A fancy piano bar that is unexpectedly located in Dinkytown, Loring not only has a good happy hour, but has all the fancy vibes that the future CEOs at the U like to bask in.
Kieran’s Irish Pub
Who doesn’t love a good Irish Pub?! Now that I’ve actually been to Ireland and seen my fair share of pubs, I’m pleased to say our American version is not far off from the real thing. Not only does Kieran’s have great beer, they know their whiskey too, which passes the all-important test.
With a crazy name like Psycho Suzi’s it’s fair to create some assumptions about the place before you even walk in, and rightfully so. This place is crazy on Hawaiian aesthetic and has an amazing patio space out back. Her sister bar, Betty Danger’s is just down the street and has a literal Farris wheel and mini golf course in it’s front lawn. Both these places are expensive, and the food isn’t great, but the drinks are strong and the environment is fun.
Now who would I be if I didn’t at least acknowledge our capital city and twin, St. Paul? not even a fifteen minute drive away, St. Paul is definitely the older sister of Minneapolis. Not only does it have all the important government buildings, but it also has so much more history. With a whole slew of museums, old boutiques, and brush with 1920’s gangsters, St. Paul is a completely different feel from Minne and is worth being check out.
History buffs should go to the History Museum, James J Hill House, Ramsey House, and our Capitol and Cathedral for a lesson on all Minnesota was and had to offer. Mickey’s diner and a speakeasy bar should also be thrown in there because they’re just as much a classic part of the city as the official stuff is. For info on finding a speakeasy, just google it, but make sure you act professional when they ask you for the password at the door. It’s the real experience here. My personal favorite things about St. Paul are Colossal Café for brunch, Como Zoo (which is free and has the most amazing conservatory), Grand Ave for shopping, Excel energy center for a Wild game, and finishing off at Cosetta’s for some beautiful Italian desserts. It’s a super quick snapshot because St. Paul really deserves it’s own post entirely, but if your staying in Minne you get the picture.
In general, I think people underestimate how cool Minnesota actually is and don’t give us enough credit for all that we contribute. Not only are major companies founded here (like Cargill, Land O’ Lakes, General Mills, Pillsbury, 3M, Honeywell, Medtronic, Aveda, the Mayo Clinic and so much more) but we are also a leader in the creative arts and environmental initiatives. Give us a try and don’t let the weather scare you away. In the Summer and Fall, there honestly is not better place to be than here.
I’m so happy to call this place home!!!
If you’ve been to Minne or are also from here and feel I missed a place or two, let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow me!