Minneapolis, Minnesota with 3rd Ave. bridge.

Your Trip to Minneapolis: The Complete Guide

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One half of the Twin Cities (paired with St. Paul), multi-faceted Minneapolis offers arts-driven cultural attractions, world-famous shopping venues, recreation, sports, tempting restaurants and verdant green spaces to explore.

Once the lifeblood of Minneapolis's earliest mill-fueled industries, the Mississippi River remains a centerpiece of the city founded in 1856 , splitting the downtown region into East and West districts with Nicollet Island in between. Over time, contemporary skyscrapers have populated the west bank, growing into the beating commercial and financial heart of this appealing, easy-to-navigate metropolis. Meanwhile, Downtown East is home to the historic Mill District, along with residential and mixed-use development.

Minneapolis represents big business — Target, Land O’Lakes, Wells Fargo, General Mills, Best Buy and a number of other Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here . But beyond the strength of its booming economy, the city also boasts a unique arts scene anchored in music, museums, attractions and a deep wealth of cultural diversity. For sports enthusiasts, Minneapolis houses pro teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and WNBA franchises. In short, there’s something here for everyone! 

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: Minneapolis winters can be harsh for the uninitiated, although the hardy local residents tend to embrace the cold weather and don’t shy away from getting outside to ice skate, ski, ice fish and attend seasonal holiday events. With daytime temperatures averaging in the 70 to 80-degree range and comfortable evening lows in the 60s, the summer months offer much more tolerable conditions in which to explore the regional great outdoors, making June, July and August the most appealing months to pay a visit. May and October are temperate during the annual transitions from cold to warmth and back again, providing the added respective charms of blooming spring flowers and colorful fall foliage. 

Read more about the weather in Minneapolis.

Language: English is the most commonly spoken language in Minneapolis. However, this melting-pot city is also home to vibrant Hispanic, Asian, African, Scandinavian, Hmong, German and Arabic communities.

Currency: The standard U.S. Dollar is the main currency used in Minneapolis. All major credit and debit cards are widely accepted as well.

Getting Around: Most Minneapolis visitors choose to rent a car to get around the city; parking is available at metered street spots or in pay garages and lots. Rideshare options are plentiful, and public bus routes and the METRO Blue Line Light Rail also provide reliable service to the downtown area and other points throughout the city. It’s easy to explore the compact downtown area on foot, and the Nicollet Skyway System that connects many of the major buildings and attractions certainly comes in handy when the weather’s unpleasant. Another bonus, the climate-controlled skyway lets guests get around downtown without the bulky inconvenience of a winter coat. 

Here’s what visitors need to know about navigating the METRO Blue Line in Minneapolis.

Travel Tip: With hundreds of stations scattered across the greater Minneapolis area, the Nice Ride bike sharing system proposes an easy and affordable way to get around the city on two wheels between April and October. 

Things to Do

Whether you’re a live music fan, a museum buff or a budding fashionista, you’ll find plenty of fun ways to occupy your time in Minneapolis. 

Live Music

It’s impossible to visit Minneapolis without paying tribute to the city’s most well-known musical son. Born and raised here, Prince Rogers Nelson put Minneapolis on the musical map with his funky, one-of-a-kind style, and he remained a devoted resident until his untimely death in 2016. Guided tours of Prince’s Paisley Park recording studio reveal an intimate look at the life and legacy of the enigmatic artist.

With a reputation for fostering a wide variety of independent musicians, the First Avenue nightclub took a star turn in “Purple Rain” as the home-turf performance venue of the Revolution, as well as Morris Day and the Time. The storied spot continues to be a trailblazer on the Minneapolis music scene, booking local, regional and national acts for an ever-evolving lineup of live shows and events. 

Minneapolis also claims ties to Bob Dylan, the Replacements, Semisonic, Soul Asylum, Bob Mould and other artists, further bolstering its reputation as a music mecca. 

Minneapolis Institute of Art

The encyclopaedic Minneapolis Institute of Art (“MIA” if you want to sound like a local) wows culture seekers at first sight with its handsome Neoclassical façade. The facility first began to take shape back in 1883 under the direction of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, setting up shop in its current location in 1915, where its happily resided ever since. Today, the museum houses a permanent collection of more than 90,000 objects sourced from around the globe and exhibited across seven curatorial areas. Best of all, there’s never an admission charge to visit.

Mall of America

Each year, more than 40 million visitors pass through the Mall of America, cementing its ranking as the largest shopping mall and entertainment complex in the country. Pace yourself — with more than 500 retailers, 60 restaurants and family-friendly attractions like the Nickelodeon Universe theme park (complete with indoor roller coaster) and the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Map out a strategy before you go according to what you most want to see and do. Or, heck, feel free to just spend the whole day exploring.

Check out more ideas with the top things to do in Minneapolis.

What to Eat and Drink

Pack your appetite! Minneapolis sets a welcoming, diverse table for guests with delicious local eats and drinks to discover. 

  • If Minneapolis had to choose one signature dish to represent the whole city, it’d have to be the Juicy Lucy. A decadent burger composed of two beef patties stuffed with melty cheese in the middle, you’ll find the quintessential local sandwich on menus all over town. Locals often cite rivaling establishments Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club as two of the best. Why not sample both and make up your own mind?
  • With so many ethnicities at home in Minneapolis, visitors do themselves a disservice if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity to taste some of the city’s international cuisines. At the Midtown Global Market, food vendors and on-site eateries serve up the flavors and dishes of their homelands all under one roof, from Vietnamese rice bowls and street tacos to sushi and exotic camel burgers. 
  • Beer drinkers will be thrilled to learn that Minneapolis is home to a buzzy collection of microbreweries. Surly Brewing, Dangerous Man Brewing Co., Barrel Theory Beer Co. and Bauhaus Brew Labs are all solid choices if you want to sample some of the local suds. 

Whet your appetite for more by brushing up on the best burgers in Minneapolis

Where to Stay

Most Minneapolis visitors opt to book accommodations in the Downtown East or Downtown West areas for their proximity and easy access to so many of the city’s attractions, shopping areas and restaurants. Bleeding into Downtown West, the Warehouse District is also a convenient choice for sports fans in town to catch a Twins game at Target Field, while across the river, Dinkytown lives and breathes a friendly, collegiate energy thanks to its location near the University of Minnesota campus. 

Learn more about the best Minneapolis hotels. 

Getting There

For those driving in, I-35 and I-94 are the main highways that lead to Minneapolis. Just be aware that rush hours can quickly back up the interstates and time your arrival accordingly.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is the major air travel hub for visitors arriving into the Twin Cities and is serviced by most major commercial airlines. Downtown Minneapolis lies 11 miles west of the airport, and it’s easy to reach via the METRO Transit Blue Line light rail, taxis and rideshares.

Money-Saving Tips

Most business and pleasure travelers generally find Minneapolis to be a fairly affordable destination, but there are a few ways to make your money go even further while in town. 

  • Save money by skipping the car rental and relying instead on public transportation. The METRO Transit Blue Line light rail runs from the airport to downtown for just $2, $2.50 during peak rush hours.
  • Make the most of the great outdoors in Minneapolis, even within the city limits. It doesn't cost a thing to walk around the downtown region to admire the Riverfront District, architecture, parks, historic sites and landmarks like the Capitol Building or the Cathedral of St. Paul.
  • During the summer months, Minneapolis comes alive with street markets, festivals and live music to enjoy for free or at a nominal charge. The Minneapolis Institute of Art is always free to visit, and many other museums and cultural institutions like the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Center also offer free entry on specific days each month. Check events calendars to find timing that coincides with your trip. 

Make the most of a trip to Minneapolis without breaking the bank by checking out this list of free things to do in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Article Sources
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  1. City-Data. "Minneapolis: History."

  2. Twin Cities Pioneer Press, "Minnesota’s Fortune 500 companies: These are the largest companies in the state."

  3. Mall Of America. "Fact Sheet."