You won’t find Minneapolis highlighted in as many travel guides compared to the uber-famous US cities, but that’s a sore mistake – this city is seriously underrated. With arts, music, global culture, an award-winning restaurant scene, Minneapolis has a magnitude of top-notch activities and attractions that’ll rival anyone’s favorite coastal cities.
With dramatically less of the congested crowds yet all of the same metropolitan energy, it’s no wonder that Minneapolis has remained a hidden gem of the Midwest. While you’re in town, be sure to check off a few of Minneapolis’ top things to do.
Take a stroll across Stone Arch Bridge
An iconic emblem of Minneapolis, Stone Arch Bridge is one of those non-negotiable “must visit” places in the city. This former railroad bridge turned pedestrian haven crosses over the mighty Mississippi River from St. Anthony Main into downtown, with giant archways made from limestone and granite. Here, everyone convenes – spandex-clad cyclists, older folks out for a leisurely stroll, college students – it’s like a little microcosm of the city on one 2,100-foot-long bridge.
Grab a beer at a craft brewery
At this point, craft beer is to Minneapolis as red wine is to Bordeaux. A bold statement, but true: the local brewery scene has rapidly blossomed in the past decade, and it’s only continuing to grow. It’s hard to narrow down all of the glory into one paragraph, but you’ll find breweries in droves in the Northeast neighborhood, which is chock-full of craft beer, dive bars and lots of art. Take your pick between the bright and airy interior of Bauhaus Brew Labs, city-spirited pours at 612Brew or a grand variety of ciders at Sociable Cider Works. Outside of Northeast, just west of downtown, a visit to the Latin-influenced brewery La Doña Cerveceria is also well worth your while.
Visit Minneapolis’ art museums and galleries
Between immersive modern art installations and galleries furnished with antiques that’ll transport you back decades, the art scene in Minneapolis is both broad and full of depth. The Walker Art Center is one of the more well known of the lot, with an impressive selection of contemporary art. Only five minutes southeast by car, the Minneapolis Institute of Art has more than 90,000 works that span 5000 years of history. With cozy interiors and a seemingly endless array of rooms to meander about, it’s pretty unbeatable.
Don’t snooze on the smaller galleries, either. The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District is teeming with artist lofts and open house events, an ideal way to get a feel for the local art scene.
Walk around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden wows with some of the most postcard-like views around town, plus the giant Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture that has become a symbol of the city. It’s what Minneapolis locals would describe as touristy, though well-loved, and with good reason. Amid the garden, you’ll also find a strikingly large blue rooster sculpture, a smattering of funky geometric installations and ample footpaths for perusing the area. Turn it into a full-day arty excursion by popping into the Walker Art Center while you’re there. It’s right next door.
Experience Somali culture and cuisine
Minnesota is home to the largest population of Somali residents in the United States, and you’ll find an abundance of culture and cuisine in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis. Enticingly fragrant dishes – such as rich curries and sambusas – can also be found around within the Midtown Global Market or Karmel Mall, both indoor marketplaces with myriad vendors. Further south on Lake Street, the Somali Museum of Minnesota holds a gallery of nomadic artifacts from Somalia, community events and immersive educational experiences.
One thing that sets Minneapolis apart from other US cities is, quite simply, that it’s a lot easier to take a break from. With pristine nature both within and just outside of the city, it’s a breeze to pack up a tent, say “catch you tomorrow” and roam off into the (surprisingly close) wilderness for a night. With both the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers at your doorstep, plus a mind-boggling amount of lakes, you can find campsites less than an hour’s drive away – some even as close as 20 to 30 minutes. Snag a tent and some camp supplies to kick it old school or rent a fully outfitted campervan from a locally based rental company like Voyager Campervans. The city’s energetic buzz will await your return.
Hang out by lakes, rivers and waterfalls
Lakes are a lifestyle around Minneapolis, and locals make the most of them in every single season, even when it means wearing four different layers to stay toasty. Regardless when you visit Minneapolis, its lakes and waterways are central to experiencing all that the city has to offer.
In the summer, everyone flocks to the freshwater beaches, hopping on kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to revel in the summer sunshine. The Mississippi River comes alive with activity, inviting people to hike and bike along the shores. Few things compare to an autumnal stroll around Bde Maka Ska or Lake Harriet, two of the city’s most popular lakes. When winter blankets the scene, a visit to the frozen version of Minnehaha Falls is a perfect reason to bundle up and roam around.
Get fancy with fine dining
Beyond a wildly high volume of cheese curds and Minnesota’s classic hotdish, Minneapolis is home to a thriving fine-dining scene. James Beard Award-winning classics like French-inspired Spoon & Stable and Young Joni, a woodfire pizza staple, have drawn much-deserved attention to Minneapolis’ dining scene. Sumptuous, candlelit restaurants and strikingly minimalist architecture only add to the experience. To dine out in Minneapolis is much more than consuming food alone.
Snag tickets to see live music or theater
As the birthplace of the legendary Prince, Minneapolis has earned a reputation for having a solid local music scene. It only makes sense. Catch a show at First Avenue & 7th Street Entry –the city’s most famous venue – Skyway Theater or The Armory, all of which are downtown and popping on the weekends. You’ll encounter plenty of big names visiting year round, alongside up-and-coming local performers. Theater buffs should head to the Guthrie Theater, a futuristic-looking performance venue right on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Hit the town after sunset
You might not expect it before visiting, but Minneapolis’ nightlife scene is like the gift that keeps on giving – and no, that’s not only alluding to hangovers. During the warmer months, plentiful rooftop bars reveal sparkling views of the city’s skyline, the ideal place to kick off a Friday or Saturday night. Post sunset, socialites can choose between loungey speakeasy-type bars, rowdy clubs, gritty dive bars, live music joints and a lot more. It all shuts down around 2am, but post-bar house party culture is bountiful around here, if you make some friends and are feeling particularly rowdy.
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