11 Best Rainy Day Things to Do in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Bridge of Minneapolis/St Paul

Claire Gentile / Getty Images 

When the rain starts to fall on your trip to the Twin Cities, there's no reason to spend all day in your hotel room. In fact, the rain may just be the perfect excuse to explore the great indoors and dive deep into the cultural scene of the area.

From the arts to natural history, both cities have plenty to offer in the way of museums, but even more to offer in the way of food. With local cafes serving midwestern fare and food stands at the Midtown Global Market providing an international variety, it's easy to find a restaurant to satisfy any craving. And if the rain has got you feeling antsy and cooped up, you could always burn a little energy by going bowling.

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Go Bowling

Bryant Lake Bowl

Tom / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If you're looking for a place to stay active even when the weather prevents you from going outside, Minneapolis-St. Paul is home to a number of bowling alleys perfect for an afternoon of recreation. Open daily, and well into the night, these popular alleys are spread out across the Twin Cities.

  • Memory Lanes: Located in the southern Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, this popular bowling alley features homestyle American food, cocktails, live entertainment, and trivia nights.
  • Bryant Lake Bowl: A popular spot for hipsters and fans of "The Big Lebowski," this eclectic alley is the place where the movie's directors got the inspiration for the movie. It's a lively scene that features theater, DJ music, a cocktail bar, and American bar food in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.
  • RanHam Bowling Center: This St. Paul alley is known for its cheap bowling rates, drinks, and bar food as well as the upstairs Nook Bar, which boasts the "best Juicy Lucy burger in St. Paul."
02 of 11

Explore the Minneapolis Institute of Art for Free

A statue of an angel with the sun peaking over the head in front of the Minneapolis Institute of Art

TripSavvy / Kaan Avci

Located just south of Downtown, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is home to over 90,000 pieces of artwork that represent over 5,000 years of world history. The permanent and rotating exhibits of the Institute range from ancient to modern works of art, and there's almost always something new to discover on a trip through the galleries. Open Tuesdays through Thursdays year-round, but closed on July 4, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve and Day, the Institute of Art is always free to enjoy. However, some special exhibitions, classes, talks, and special events do require tickets to attend. For parents with kids, there's also a small playroom to run around in if your little one is still a little too small to appreciate the art.

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Visit a Conservatory or Greenhouse

The main walkway in the sculpture garden

TripSavvy / Kaan Avci

Although Minneapolis and St. Paul are known for their plentiful parks and lush, natural landscapes, rainy days can put a damper on your plans to discover the great outdoors during your trip. Fortunately, the Twin Cities are also home to a number of nature conservatories and greenhouses where you can enjoy all of the wonders of nature from the comfort of a covered area.

  • Marjorie McNeely Conservatory: Located in St. Paul's Como Park, this steel-and-glass building is one of the last glass-domed Victorian-style gardens in the United States. Rainfall on the ceiling makes the experience even more rainforest-like on a rainy day.
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: This 11-acre park connected to the Walker Art Center has a smaller greenhouse that's also free to attend and features a gigantic Frank Gehry-designed glass fish sculpture—one of 40 installations in the garden itself.
04 of 11

Take Some Pictures

Gold Medal Park, in front of Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Midwest, USA

Barry Winiker/ Getty Images

A rainy day provides the perfect backdrop for beautiful pictures of the Twin Cities, and there are plenty of places indoors and outside where you can safely snap a photo without getting too wet. Meanwhile, Downtown Minneapolis has plenty of great indoor locations for photoshoots, either of the buildings themselves or of loved ones in iconic locations. The Guthrie Theater has huge windows overlooking the city while Union Depot's large main hall makes for an epic backdrop for a family photo. Additionally, the James J. Hill Library and the Landmark Center both offer stunning architecture and elegant decorations that show off the city's storied past.

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05 of 11

Wander Around the Midtown Global Market

Midtown Global Market, Minneapolis

Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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More than just a shopping destination, the Midtown Global Market is a giant, internationally-themed public market that features varying cuisines, cultural experiences, and plenty of festive events throughout the year. It's always fun to browse by yourself or bring your family to all the interesting stores and restaurants. During the week, it's a nice place to bring the kids and enjoy the market's play area, and on Wednesdays, the Midtown Global Market holds Wee Wednesday Toddler Morning, which features singing and dancing.

06 of 11

Take the Kids to a Toy Store

Choo Choo Bob's Train Store

Courtesy of Choo Choo Bob's Train Store 

Whether you're traveling with children or you're just young at heart, there are several local toy shops in the Twin Cities where you can spend the afternoon playing with the latest in kids' entertainment. Local shops often welcome children with events and in-store activities, in the hope that the kids will refuse to leave without some new plaything.

Every day of the week, Choo Choo Bob's Train Store in St. Paul has six Thomas the Train tables and gladly invites anyone to play with them, and as a bonus, it's close to Izzy's Ice Cream, where you and your family can grab a delicious cone without getting too wet on the journey there. Other great toy stores in the Twin Cities include Mischief Toy Store in Summit Hill, kiddywampus near Minnetonka, Lakeshore Learning Store near St. Louis Park, and Hub Hobby in Edina.

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Get a Caffeine Kick

Child playing at Sovereign Grounds coffee shop

Courtesy of Sovereign Grounds 

Coffee shops can be a great place to pass some time, and if you have little ones, there are shops with playrooms to keep the kids entertained. Sovereign Grounds in Minneapolis is a favorite with local parents for its unique indoor playground, and Dunn Brothers Coffee in Linden Hills features a small space with a chalkboard and shelf of toys for kids to play with as well. Meanwhile, the Riverview Cafe in Minneapolis has a carpeted nook filled with fun toys for toddlers and young children while Ginkgo Coffeehouse in St. Paul has a little space for kids tucked between some shelving near the back of the shop.

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Warm Yourself With a Bowl of Pho

Lotus Restaurant Exterior

Courtesy of Lotus Restaurant

A bowl of pho, a steaming hot Vietnamese soup filled with spicy herbs and seasonings, meat or wontons, and noodles, makes for great comfort food on a rainy day, and you'll find plenty of spots to grab a bowl in the Twin Cities. Trieu Chau is one of several Vietnamese restaurants on the west end of University Avenue in St. Paul, which serves a great bowl of pho for a bargain price with friendly service. Meanwhile, you can't go wrong with Lotus Restaurant in Downtown Minneapolis or Pho 79 and Pho Tau Bay in Lowry Hill East, just southeast of the city.

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09 of 11

Uncover Patterns at the Textile Center

Vintage manual weaving loom with unfinished textile work
dani3315 / Getty Images

Whether you're a fan of fashion or fiber art, the Textile Center in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis is a great destination for a rainy day. With galleries of all kinds of fabrics from Moroccan rugs contemporary tie-dye, you can admire the textiles or get inspiration for your next craft project. Additionally, the Textile Center offers classes throughout the year as well as special exhibits and events during the holidays.

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Get Hands-on Knowledge at the Children's Museum

Minnesota Children’s Museum exterior

Courtesy of Minnesota Children’s Museum

The Minnesota Children's Museum is a classic rainy day destination and thus gets busy on bad-weather days. While admission to this non-profit learning center is a little pricey, you and your family can spend the full rainy day exploring the hands-on exhibits spread out over three floors of fun. Features of the museum include a pretend town, a giant spiral slide, a laser maze, a maker space, and a build-your-own ball launcher station.

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Learn About the Past at the Bell Museum

Exhibit at the Bell Museum of Natural History

Courtesy of Bell Museum of Natural History 

The Bell Museum of Natural History is another favorite for little children on rainy days. Kids can get hands-on with real fossils and live specimens at the Touch and See Lab, which could keep most little ones entertained for hours, providing mom or dad are not scared of spiders, snakes, and the other creepy crawlies they'll see. Located at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus, the museum also features a planetarium and several exhibits dedicated to the natural history of Minnesota.

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