A Million and One Good Things About Downtown Minneapolis

All About the Center City and What It Has to Offer

IDS Building Reflecting the Wells Fargo Building, Downtown Minneapolis
••• IDS Building Reflecting the Wells Fargo Building, Downtown Minneapolis. Clara James

The city of Minneapolis, established in 1856, originally grew up around sawmills processing the forests' abundant timber, then by flour mills powered by St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. But by the middle of the 20th century, other industries had overtaken milling, and the west bank of the river remained the commercial center of the city.

Today, office buildings and other skyscrapers dominate the skyline, along with modern apartment blocks, shopping centers, theaters, restaurants and all kinds of first-rate entertainment.

The Borders of Downtown Minneapolis

Downtown Minneapolis is divided into two neighborhoods: Downtown East and Downtown West.

  • Downtown West has skyscrapers, Nicollet Mall and the warehouse district.
  • Downtown East has the historic mill district, the Metrodome and a mix of residential and commercial buildings.

The official division between East and West is a zigzag down Portland Avenue, Fifth Street South and Fifth Avenue.

The term "Downtown Minneapolis" usually means all of Downtown West, and the western half of Downtown East. This area covers all of the skyscrapers and most major attractions of the Downtown neighborhoods.

Downtown Minneapolis Businesses

Downtown Minneapolis is one of the major commercial and finance centers of the Midwest. Fortune 500 companies with operations and headquarters in downtown Minneapolis include Target (1000 Nicollet Mall), Ameriprise Financial (IDS Center at 80 South Eight Street), Wells Fargo (90 South Seventh Street), Xcel Energy (414 Nicollet Mall) and Quest (224 South Fifth Street).

The tallest buildings in the city are all in Downtown Minneapolis. They include the IDS Tower, usually considered the tallest at 792 feet, followed closely by 225 South Sixth at 775 feet tall and Wells Fargo Center at 774 feet tall.

Downtown Minneapolis Arts, Theater and Opera

Minneapolis is rich in cultural amenities.

The trailblazing Guthrie Theater is on the Mississippi in Downtown East. The Hennepin Theatre District has three historic theaters: the Pantages, State and Orpheum Theaters, plus the modern Hennepin Stages, all on Hennepin Avenue.

The Minneapolis Central Library is a stunning modern building designed by Cesar Pelli and definitely worth a look inside.

Orchestra Hall is home to the Minnesota Orchestra. The state-of-the art technicolor building is also known as "the place with the big tubes outside" to non-operagoers.

The Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are not technically in Downtown, but they are only a couple of blocks southwest.

Shopping in Downtown Minneapolis

Shopping is centered around car-free Nicollet Mall. Chain stores line the mall, including a two-level Target store and a Macy's store that was once the flagship Dayton's store. People often call this store "Dayton's" even though the chain doesn't exist anymore.

Gaviidae Common is a shopping center divided between two adjacent buildings on Nicollet Mall. Gaviidae I and II house exclusive department stores and specialty retailers.

There are two summer-only farmers' markets in Downtown Minneapolis: the Nicollet Mall Farmers' Market on Thursdays and the Mill City Farmers' Market next to the Mill City Museum on Saturdays.

Sports in Downtown Minneapolis

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Downtown East is the home of the Minnesota Vikings football team. Target Field is the Minnesota Twins's new ballpark to the west of Downtown.

The Target Center in Downtown West is home of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx basketball teams.

In the winter, ice skaters can use the historic Depot's enclosed ice rink.

There are many attractive places to stroll in Downtown Minneapolis, including the Mill District, the Historic Theatre District, and anywhere along the banks of the Mississippi and across the Stone Arch bridge.

Eating and Drinking in Downtown Minneapolis

Downtown Minneapolis has many restaurants and bars. Several restaurants are located on the skyway system in Downtown Minneapolis, and they cater to the thousands of office workers there.

Nicollet Mall is home to many restaurants and bars, such as Brit's Pub, and so is the Warehouse District

Nightlife in Downtown Minneapolis

Downtown Minneapolis doesn't go to sleep once the office workers have gone home. The Warehouse district on the western edge of Downtown West has several nightclubs and live music venues, such as First Avenue, the Aqua Nightclub and the Karma Nightclub.

Block E is an entertainment mall in Downtown Minneapolis with a Kerasotes movie theater and several nightclubs and restaurants.

Transportation in and Around Downtown Minneapolis

Walking: The easiest way to get around Downtown Minneapolis is usually by foot. Downtown Minneapolis is quite compact, and the skyway system connects many major buildings and attractions.

Driving: Parking ramps are plentiful, but they can be expensive, especially during busy periods.

Almost all street parking is metered. A rechargeable Parking Card is convenient if you park often at meters.

Bus and Train: Downtown Minneapolis is a public transportation hub. Many bus routes serve Downtown, and the Hiawatha Light Rail Line runs through Downtown.

Living in Downtown Minneapolis

Homes in Downtown Minneapolis come in the form of apartments, studios, lofts and condos. There are new high-rise condo developments, and old warehouses and commercial spaces have been converted into modern apartments and lofts.

Apartments in buildings on the skyway system are more expensive. Parking a car adds substantially to living costs.

About 40,000 people, mostly young urban professionals, live in Downtown Minneapolis.

Attractions near Downtown Minneapolis

These are all within a half-mile of the boundaries of Downtown Minneapolis.

  • The Basilica of St. Mary: A century-old church, this is the co-cathedral of the Diocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
  • The Walker Art Center, Loring Park and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A world-renowned modern art gallery
  • The Minneapolis Convention Center: It hosts sporting events and shows all year round.
  • Nicollet Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River, is home to pretty houses, parks and horse-drawn carriage rides in the summer.
  • Minneapolis Riverfront District covers the east and west banks of the Mississippi River. The East Bank includes St. Anthony Main and the Old St. Anthony Business District, with historic homes, happening restaurants and galleries.
  • The Weisman Art Museum is an amazing modern building designed by Frank Gehry.
  • The University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium stages plays, concerts and ballet performances.
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a large museum with art from all around the world.
  • The Children's Theatre Company puts on plays and has workshops for children and teenagers.
  • The American Swedish Institute is a museum and gallery that celebrates and preserves the Swedish culture in Minnesota, which has the largest percentage (10 percent) of Swedish Americans in the US. If nothing else, go here for lunch at Fika, an award-winning café that embraces the Swedish fika, the traditional break that allows workers to socialize and de-stress over coffee and treats or light food.