It's hard not become enamored with Minneapolis, thanks to the abundance of cultural venues, amazing (and hearty) food, and plenty of outdoor activities during the summer and winter months. As half of the Twin Cities, along with neighbor St. Paul, the Mississippi River set metropolis embodies the best of the mid-west attitude with a warm, welcoming demeanor towards visitors.
Tourists will find plenty to do in Minneapolis. Sports fans can take in a Twins baseball game, shop-o-holics will adore Minnesota's tax-free policy, art lovers will get lost within the exhibits at the Walker Art Center, and athletes are bound to find a heart-pumping activity among the dozens of parks and lakes.
The Minnehaha Falls are a 53-foot tall waterfall set amid the greenery of Minnehaha Park. The natural wonder stems from the Minnehaha Creek, which flows through the city from the lakes in the southwest until the water plunges over an unexpected precipice creating Minnehaha Falls. It's one of Minneapolis' most popular parks in the summer, and worth a visit in the winter when the falls freeze into a dramatic wall of ice. To capture the sensation of leaving the city, you can take a gentle hike downstream, through woods and wildflowers, to the Mississippi River.
First Avenue is a veritable icon of Minneapolis. Once the downtown Minneapolis Greyhound bus depot, the building was remodeled in 1970 into a live music venue by ripping everything out, adding a stage, a sound system, and painting the whole place black. The venue has legitimate music cred— Prince performed here in the early days of his career.
Pop, rock and indie music acts perform, but it is not only emerging musicians as even bands with big followings will play two nights at First Avenue versus than one night at a larger venue. Major talents that have graced the stage include the Indigo Girls, Tina Turner, The Black Eyed Peas, Cheap Trick, Phish, and more. A photograph with the wall of stars in the background is a must-do souvenir of Minneapolis.
From hip kids to wealthy professionals, the cool stores in Uptown Minneapolis hosts the establishments they like to frequent. Chic bars, restaurants, and trendy stores are gathered around the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street, the heart of Uptown Minneapolis. If people-watching is the goal, grab a seat at one of the local coffee shops and enjoy the parade of fashionistas passing by. The area is a couple of blocks from Lake Calhoun, where the beautiful people go to sunbathe in the summer, and run or rollerblade around the lake.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a free art park near downtown Minneapolis. The green space is a joint project between Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department and the Walker Art Center, a modern art gallery that's just over the road from the Sculpture Garden.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has several colossal works of art, including the "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture, an unofficial icon of Minneapolis and a great place for a photo opportunity.
The home for the Minnesota Twins is at Target Field in the western side of downtown Minneapolis. The stadium is an open-air ballpark and received praise from ballplayers and spectators for the seating, views, atmosphere, and concessions options. Attending a game is a perfect way to spend a balmy summer evening in the city before grabbing a drink or bite after the ninth inning in nearby downtown Minneapolis.
Minneapolis' origins were as a mill town, first processing timber, and then becoming the largest flour-producing city in the nation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today the flour mills stand idle, have been razed, or converted to chic lofts, but you can see a glimpse of that time at the Mill City Museum on the bank of the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis.
Originally operated by General Mills, the mill exploded and caught fire several times during its working life. Once abandoned, an almost catastrophic fire destroyed much of the mill. The Minnesota Historical Center finally took charge of the remains, which were stabilized and a museum was built inside the ruins. The museum is one of the best places to explore the history of Minneapolis.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is the major art gallery in Minneapolis, with pieces spanning several millennia from all over the globe. Works from antiquity through modern art fill this vast space, where it's easy to get lost for a whole day. The gallery has a variety of special programs, ranging from drawing classes for children to a weekly cocktail and art evening each Thursday.
It's always free to visit though some special events and exhibitions may have an admission charge.
One of Minneapolis' top contributions to world cuisine is the Juicy Lucy burger, a cheeseburger with the cheese stuffed into the middle of the meat. The cheese becomes super-heated when the burger is cooked so servers will vehemently warn customers to avoid scalding their mouth. (Regardless of the danger, it's a neat idea, since the cheese keeps the meat from drying out.)
The Juicy Lucy—also known as a Jucy Lucy—was invented sometime in the 1950s by either the 5-8 Club, or Matt's Bar, both in south Minneapolis. The rivalry between the two bars, who both claim to have invented the Juicy Lucy, adds to the appeal. True meat lovers will need to taste of the contenders' burgers for credibility when debating who makes it best with the locals.
The Mall of America is one of the biggest in the country—and one of the largest in the world. In addition to the hundreds of retail shops, there are also restaurants, a theme park, movie theater, an aquarium, a wedding chapel, and several events with local and national celebrities. When the weather turns frigid, the Mall is a where many locals head to avoid the cold.
Spend Time at the Lakes
Minneapolis' nickname is the "City of Lakes" for good reason. There are 22 lakes in the city, with the largest found in south Minneapolis. The Chain of Lakes (Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet) are the most popular for canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, sunbathing, running around in the summer, and for ice skating, ice fishing and snow sports in the winter.
Lake Nokomis is another large lake in the cities, bisected by a road bridge, but still a popular venue for the swimming part of triathlons. Almost all the lakes in the city have a running or cycle path around them.
If you are traveling with children—or are just a kid at heart—the award-winning Children’s Theatre Company has performances of classic shows and new works all year. This winner of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre focuses on plays and musicals like "Matilda," "The Hobbit," and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" that are sure to delight younger audiences.
Additionally, the shows are accessible for all and include performances with audio descriptions, American Sign Language, and some that are sensory-friendly.
Sitting and enjoying a fancy cocktail is good—learning how to make that fancy cocktail at home is even better. The experts behind the bar at the Norseman Distillery reveal their secrets of the trade during classes at their Cocktail Lab each month. The sessions come with hands-on instructions, recipe cards, and three tastings.
If you'd rather watch than learn, belly up to the bar in the public cocktail room from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. during the week, and 3 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, for a charcuterie platter and seasonal libations like the Gin Fizz, Old Fashioned, and Black Manhattan.
Bowl a Game
Few activities can appeal to the entire family, couples on a date, or just a group of friends out for a fun night—but bowling is a blast for everyone. Minneapolis is a hub for great bowling spots, each with a unique vibe. Go retro at Town Hall Lanes, which was refurbished to maintain a 1950’s design aesthetic, and boasts its own brewery. Head over to Elise's for the "cosmic bowling sound and light show" and stay for the full-service restaurant attached serving prime rib, steak, and seafood.
For foodies (and those with food allergies) Bryant Lake Bowl offers locally sourced grub and a gluten-free menu. Looking for an activity before playing a game? The attached theater to Bryant Lake also hosts everything from plays, local musicians, and even a weekly church service.
Located within the Mall of America, the Nickelodeon Universe is the worlds largest indoor amusement park. The grounds have more than 50 rides, suitable for young and older kids—from looping coasters, like Shredder's Mutant Masher, to more mellow classics, like an antique horse carousel.
There is also an adventure obstacle course, blacklight mini-golf, and live shows featuring characters from the television network's line-up, like Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. The facility is open Monday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Furry friends—and a stunning array of greenery—await at the Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. From anacondas to zebras, the Como Zoo has one of the largest varieties of animals on view in the country. Special programs, like a penguin meet-and-greet and Creepy Creature Confessions, bring visitors closer to the action. The Conservatory spans across two acres and hosts a multitude of over 700 gorgeous plants.
Admission is free, but there is a requested donation of $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for children.