Jazzy low-key speakeasies and colossal venues fit for thousands: Minneapolis has an impressive amount of variance among the best places for live music.
The city’s music scene keeps it moving all year long, from sunshine-doused summer festivals to big-name shows that have fans lining up to enter in subzero winter temperatures. A thriving local hip-hop scene, along with Minnesotan talent in every genre, should put Minneapolis on all music lovers' radar.
When in the home city of Prince and Bob Dylan, make time for live tunes at some of these 12 music venues.
Best for Minneapolis’ top musical talent in a variety of genres
Industrial and stylish, the all-brick Icehouse was built in the former loading docks of a vendor that used to harvest upwards of 75,000 tons of ice per year, hence the venue’s name.
Often chill – pun intended – but not always, shows here range from low-key jazz to high-energy hip-hop. Performers on the rise often take the stage, along with some of the city’s most established musicians. With such variety on display, Icehouse transforms into a different venue depending on the night you visit.
First Avenue & 7th Street Entry
Best for experiencing an iconic Minneapolis institution
Arguably the most famous music venue in the Twin Cities, First Avenue & 7th Street Entry is quite literally marked by the famous performers who have graced its stages. It’s unmissable from the exterior, a jet-black building covered in more than 400 silver painted stars with the names of notable musicians who have played here – Prince being perhaps the best known.
Not only does the venue support up-and-coming artists of nearly all genres, but it also hosts nationally known musicians on a regular basis. This well-loved institution is more than a music venue – it’s a full-on city icon. Even if you don’t have tickets for a show, stop by to take a gander.
Best for a laid-back and local experience
Up in Northeast, a well-loved neighborhood known for its art community, 331 Club has been a local favorite for decades. Musicians from around the city take turns onstage, while other activities like bingo and trivia keep the calendar busy. With a tin ceiling and cozy-sized space, this mellow dive bar makes it easy to mingle with a craft beer in hand.
Best for big-name shows in a grand venue
Formerly a venue for civic happenings such as political and sporting events, the Armory has always housed big crowds. Nowadays it hosts some of the city’s biggest name acts, and you’ll find shows of every genre, from electronic dance music to classic rock.
Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, the impressive space has a staggeringly tall arched ceiling with room for 8400 concert-goers. It’s not uncommon to see folks lined up outside waiting for events to begin, making a fun guessing game as to who’s playing in town that night.
Best for rock and hip-hop in a laid-back venue
A fusion of worlds with just about every type of person in the crowd, the Cabooze dates back to 1974 and has been a staple in Minneapolis’ music scene since then. It’s right outside of downtown in Cedar Riverside, a neighborhood bordering the University of Minnesota that's home to East African communities. While primarily a rock club, hip-hop artists and others also take the stage regularly, including Minnesota’s own Atmosphere. Bob Dylan once played here as well.
Best for time-traveling to the past with a craft cocktail in hand
After knocking on an alley door and descending down a flight of stairs, this loungey speakeasy whisks you away to decades gone by. Smooth jazz and elegant piano tunes – sometimes ragtime – waft through the space, lending to an experience that feels frozen in time. While there isn't a calendar online, the Emporium’s Instagram offers a clue of evening events from week to week. The craft cocktails are just as on point as the space’s imaginative decor.
Skyway Theatre and the Loft
Best for high-energy raves, rock music and everything in between
What was once a downtown movie theater has since been repurposed into two of the city’s most popping music venues. No stranger to raves and rock, the main room at Skyway has two stories with an amphitheater-like layout that can hold up to 2500 people. It’s typically busy as can be, with massive crowds jamming out and dancing to various genres.
The Loft, commonly blasting ground-shaking beats, is a single-level space just next door, its smaller capacity offering a sweet way to get up close and personal with the acts onstage.
Best for jazz with dinner and drinks
Right on Nicollet Mall, a popular strip in downtown Minneapolis, jazz lovers convene at the Dakota, a cabaret venue that blends classic American cuisine with melodic tunes every night of the week. Although jazz is the clear star of the show, R&B, funk, hip-hop and even Celtic grace the space from time to time, among others.
Best for craft beer and cozy pub vibes
On top of the live music, an extensive selection of craft beers and pub food make Acadia an enticing pick. Featuring local bands and musicians, someone’s on stage every night of the week in front of a loyal crowd of regulars. Set in what used to be the New Riverside Cafe, one of the city's cultural landmarks, Acadia has kept up the tradition of fostering cultural connection and providing live entertainment for the people in the West Bank neighborhood – and the rest of Minneapolis too.
Best for bigger-name shows in the heart of downtown
In the industrial-chic Warehouse District, the Fine Line has hosted just about every type of live music in its two-level venue since opening back in 1987. The crowd varies as much as the genres: Prince, John Legend and Lady Gaga have graced the stage, as well as local artists producing rock, R&B, blues and funk.
The Cedar Cultural Center
Best for music from all over the world
Featuring local and international acts, the Cedar is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that puts on more than 200 shows per year. Through a broad range of global music, the center works to promote intercultural understanding through the arts, connecting local communities in Minneapolis to each other and the rest of the world and embodying the diverse nature of arts in the city.
Beyond music alone, the cultural center also holds workshops, comedy events, dance performances, poetry and other community events. While in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, try some East African cuisine at one of the many restaurants in the area.
Best for party-goers looking for a busy scene
With 22,000 sq ft of space for dancing and a wraparound upper level, not to mention a VIP lounge and full restaurant and bar, the Fillmore Minneapolis is always ready for crowds. From electronic dance music to alternative and indie, the show calendar often features nationally known acts, keeping it busy on a regular basis. Because it’s right in the popular North Loop neighborhood, you won’t be pressed to find somewhere to grab a bite beforehand or to party post-show.
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