Bountiful lakes, ever-changing weather forecasts, local pride in being “Minnesota nice” – the city of Minneapolis has an extensive list of local quirks that give it loads of personality. As the late singer-songwriter Prince once said, “I like Hollywood. I just like Minneapolis a little bit better.” If you’re wondering whether Minneapolis is worth visiting, remember that endorsement.

Before you visit, read our tips for everything you need to know before you arrive in Minneapolis, from how to thrive in inclement temperatures to navigating the city’s social scenes.

A bike rider climbing up the frozen Minnehaha Waterfall in Minneapolis
During the colder months in Minneapolis, pack a winter coat before exploring sites like the Minnehaha frozen waterfall © Per Breiehagen / Getty Images

Pack plenty of walking shoes and clothing you can layer

Experiencing all four seasons in one day is an ongoing point of humor among locals in Minneapolis. During the cold months, from November through March, expect to bundle up heavily – a fluffy winter coat, hat, gloves, the works. Spring and fall are a total toss up, meaning it could snow or feel like summer at any given point. Summer is typically balmy – and everyone makes the most of it – but the occasional breezy day might have you reaching for a light sleeved button down.

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Don’t worry too much about the neighborhood you stay in

Regardless of where you stay, it’s easy to get around Minneapolis thanks to an extensive public transportation system including buses and the Light Rail. Downtown Minneapolis typically draws business travelers, although the area also has plenty of nightlife. The neighborhoods of Uptown, North Loop and Northeast are popular picks because of their enticing restaurant and social scenes. If visiting in the warmer half of the year, it’s wise to book accommodations at least a month in advance to have a wider selection of choice.

Make reservations when dining out

Award-winning restaurants with art-worthy dishes are a pride point in Minneapolis, where the food scene easily rivals the nation’s biggest cities. To ensure you get a table – and help restaurants prepare for their evening rush – book ahead of time. Tables are usually available for same-week reservations, but walk-ins at the city’s upscale spots aren’t advised. Restaurants get busy between 6pm and 8:30pm and then everyone migrates over to the bars.

Download the Metro Transit app for public transportation

Simple and efficient, the Metro Transit app allows you to buy bus and Light Rail tickets right from your phone. Rides cost $2 ($2.50 during rush hour), and the app is an easy way to save money and get where you need to go. Simply pay by card via the app and show your digital ticket to the bus driver or Light Rail operator. If you don’t want to use the app, you can still buy tickets in cash on the bus or with cash or card from most Light Rail stations. 

A tribute to Prince at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis
Minneapolis is known for its music scene and local legends like Prince © Steve Quinlan / Shutterstock

Check out which shows and performances will be in town

Minneapolis is no stranger to a hyped-up, sold-out show. Whether concerts or theater performances, the city gets big name visitors all the time, and you should find out who will be rolling into town during your visit. Check the calendars of popular music venues such as First Avenue, The Armory and Skyway Theater. Theater buffs should have Orpheum Theatre and the Guthrie Theater on their radar, where Broadway shows and classic plays are onstage.

Minnesota doesn’t charge sales tax on clothing

Save a little room in your suitcase because Minnesota doesn’t have sales tax on clothing or accessories. With the Mall of America only 25 minutes from downtown, it’s worth your while to at least allow your mind to be boggled at the over-the-top size of the nation’s biggest shopping mall. Between an aquarium, theme park and too many restaurants to count, it fully transcends the typical idea of a shopping mall.

Understand the concept of “Minnesota nice”

Minnesotans pride themselves on being “Minnesota nice,” a cultural concept asserting that the locals are courteous, friendly and willing to help. Most will agree: Minneapolis is an undeniably friendly city. Don’t be surprised when strangers smile and say hello walking down the street – Minnesotans are big into greetings. When asking for directions, it’s not uncommon for a full-on conversation to blossom. 

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to be respectfully direct. While Minnesota nice is a wonderful way of being, it can make confrontation a bit tricky. East coasters who are comfortable with brisk words and telling it like it is will surely notice the differences. 

People standing at the end of a river at Jay Cooke State Park in northern Minnesota
Casual dress is fine in Minneapolis if you're jumping from outdoor activities to dinner at a restaurant © emholk / Getty Images

Dressing casual is super common

Casual wear is widely accepted across Minneapolis. People love to get dressed up for dinners and events, but it’s pretty common to see folks wearing sweatshirts and cozy duds while running errands or hanging out in low-key settings. Even on the weekends, jeans with a nice shirt is perfectly acceptable for a dinner and night out on the town. Again, just remember the layers.

Join in the much-appreciated art form that is patio culture

As soon as winter’s freeze drops its grip from the city, it’s patio season. While it might seem like a normal way to dine out or grab a beer, Minneapolis locals take their patio season seriously, seeing as it’s only feasible for about half the year. A discernible buzz around town begins as soon as spring’s first few warm days appear. If you’re in town at this time, head to the bars and restaurants with patios for the most socially buzzing experiences.

The Skywalk connects many downtown buildings in Minneapolis
The skyway corridors of Minneapolis make it easy to get around without bundling up © Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

Use the skyway system when it’s cold

Minneapolis’ skyway system is made up of many above-ground corridors that connect buildings downtown. It’s an impressive feat of engineering, not to mention a complete lifesaver when the low temperatures make your face hurt during winter. Throughout downtown, 9.5 miles of skyway corridors connect 80 different city blocks, making it easy to get from A to B without bundling up. Even in the warmer months, it’s an interesting way to walk around.

As with every city, common sense is key

Minneapolis has been through a lot in recent years. Between the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the city has mourned one tragic loss after the next. After seeing international news coverage, many around the world began to view Minneapolis as scary and dangerous. As with any mid to large-sized city, using common sense is key. Remaining aware of your surroundings when out at night and sticking with friends after hours are always good ideas. Ask locals or at your accommodations for guidance and updates on the latest in the city.

Minneapolis’ skyway system is made up of many above-ground corridors that connect buildings downtown. It’s an impressive feat of engineering, not to mention a complete lifesaver when the low temperatures make your face hurt during winter. Throughout downtown, 9.5 miles of skyway corridors connect 80 different city blocks, making it easy to get from A to B without bundling up. Even in the warmer months, it’s an interesting way to walk around.

As with every city, common sense is key

Minneapolis has been through a lot in recent years. Between the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the city has mourned one tragic loss after the next. After seeing international news coverage, many around the world began to view Minneapolis as scary and dangerous. As with any mid to large-sized city, using common sense is key. Remaining aware of your surroundings when out at night and sticking with friends after hours are always good ideas. Ask locals or at your accommodations for guidance and updates on the latest in the city.

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