Minneapolis is one of the most severely underrated cities in the United States. The Midwestern city is a major cultural hub in the region. It is filled with restaurants, bars, cafes, museums, parks, art, theatres, lakes, stadiums, shopping malls and more. Minneapolis is a lively city both during the day and at night.
In today’s post, we will be exploring Minneapolis. We start by getting an overview of the city, finding out its history and what it is like living there. Then, we discover the top attractions and see what there is to do in Minneapolis. Finally, we share a list of some of the best places to eat, drink and stay in the city. Without further ado, let’s get started!
Minneapolis is the largest and most populated city in the state of Minnesota. It is located adjacent to the capital, St. Paul. Together, the two cities are referred to as the Twin Cities. The Mississippi River divides the two cities and Minneapolis is situated on the west side of the river. Together, these two cities act as the hub of cultural, social, urban and industrial hubs in Minnesota.
Minneapolis is located in Hennepin County and sits at an elevation of 830 feet. It has an area of 149 km2 and a population of around 429,000. This makes Minneapolis the 46th largest city in the United States.
The Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan area, however, has a population of nearly 4 million. This area has 11 counties in Minnesota and 2 counties in Wisconsin and has an area of 21,000 km2. This makes the Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan area, the 16th largest metropolitan area in the country.
Minneapolis is known for its lakes and water bodies and legends such as Prince. It is also infamous for its long, snowy and brutal winters. Winter usually starts in October and lasts till May. Average temperatures range between24°F (-4°C) to 8°F (-13°C). Summers, on the other hand, are shorter, mild and pleasant with average temperatures ranging from 83°F (28°C) to 65°F (18°C).
Getting to Minneapolis
Minneapolis is accessible by air, road and rail. The main airport of Minneapolis is the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport. There are two terminals served by 17 commercial airlines, connecting both domestic and international flights. This way, Minneapolis is accessible to various cities around the world.
An alternative to flying would be commuting on the Amtrak trains that connect various cities around the United States. The St. Paul – Minneapolis Union Depot station is just around 11 miles from downtown Minneapolis.
From both the airport and the Union Depot station, there are plenty of convenient ways to reach the downtown area. There is a highly efficient metro transit system comprising buses or light rail. There are also car rentals, taxi and cab services like Uber and Lyft, and car-sharing options on Zipcar.
To reach Minneapolis by road, one can either drive or use interstate bus services such as Greyhound Lines or Jefferson Lines. Depending on the route, the following highways may be taken: Interstates 94, 394 and 35 W; U.S. routes 52 and 12; and state highways 47, 55 and 65. Interstate 94 and 35 W serve as the main entrance to the city.
A Brief History of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Before European contact, Native American tribes were inhabiting the land we now know as Minneapolis for over 10,000 years. The tribes living in the area when the Europeans arrived, were the Dakota Sioux and the Ojibwe people. The Dakota people knew Minneapolis as Bdeota Othunwe, meaning the many-lake city. While the Ojibwe knew it as Gakaabikaang meaning, at the waterfall.
The first contact with the Europeans occurred in 1680 when French missionaries and explorers entered the region. Being the first to ‘discover’ the place, the French claimed authority over the land. The region was under French control until 1762 when authority was transferred to the Spanish. However, the Spanish returned the land to the French by 1801. The land remained under French authority until 1803. That is when it was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1819, the US built Fort Snelling at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. This marked the first major presence of the United States military in the area. It was the first step to establishing their influence there. The area around Fort Snelling and Saint Anthony falls began to develop and grow. On the east was the town of Saint Anthony and on the west was Minneapolis. Later, in 1872, the two towns merged into one city.
The city’s name, Minneapolis, was formed in 1852. Charles Hoagh, the city’s first schoolmaster, suggested combining the Dakota word for water, minne, and the Greek word for city, polis. Thus, the name Minneapolis was created.
Development of Minneapolis
Also in 1852, the Fort Snelling reservation was reduced, attracting European settlers to the town. A large population of these settlers were of Nordic and Scandinavian origin. The town grew quickly because of this settlement and thrived because of its timber and flour milling industries. Minneapolis’ economy initially relied on the timber industry. However, when it declined, it quickly saw success in flour milling. As the city was located on the banks of the Mississippi, the river was used to operate the flour mills. The industry boomed, leading to advancements in technology and attracting more residents to the city. Over time, the community also developed as churches, museums, art institutions, parks and the University of Minnesota were built.
By 1905, flour milling was the primary industry contributing to Minneapolis’ economy. It produced at least 10% of the country’s flour and was home to the biggest flour mill in the world. Minneapolis became a world leader in flour production and received the nickname Mill City. Over the decades, the flour milling industry declined but other industries such as business and banking thrived.
Minneapolis was incorporated as a town in 1856 and finally became a city in 1867.
Culture and Life in Minneapolis
Minneapolis is a cultural city where it is always buzzing with activities and events. It is home to numerous historical sites, heritage buildings, museums, restaurants, breweries, art institutions, theatres and parks. Its performing arts, visual art and music scene are lively. Minneapolis is sometimes known as the centre of funk, folk and alternative rock music. The city is, after all, home to or was home to influential celebrities like Prince, Bob Dylan, James Arness, Paul Westerberg and Lizzo. Minneapolis is overflowing with creative energy.
Minneapolitans are known to be some of the nicest people. In fact, the people of Minnesota as a whole, are considered the nicest in the country. The culture here is influenced by the large immigrant population from Europe, Africa and Asia.
Living in Minneapolis may not be easy due to its harsh winters, but many prefer to live here for its affordable cost of living. That is, compared to other major cities in the United States. The median rent per month is $1,139 and the average price of a home is $363, 656. Moreover, there are a wide range of industries to work for and the opportunity to receive high salaries. There are also a ton of nature spots like parks, gardens and lakes, which offer Minneapolitans plenty of outdoor activities. This also provides the perfect escape from a busy and fast-paced life.
Places to Visit
Minneapolis, as mentioned earlier, is a centre of culture, arts and recreation. Here are some of the top attractions to see in the City of Lakes.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an urban park and garden housing sculptures and art installations by artists around the world. It also features artworks from the nearby Walker art centre. Located just a mile southwest of downtown, the 11-acre sculpture garden is the largest urban outdoor sculpture garden in the country. The sculpture garden is a significant landmark of Minneapolis, one that combines both parks and culture. There are over 40 permanent installations and some seasonal ones. The pathways are also lined with colourful flowers. Its most iconic sculpture is the Spoonbridge and cherry, which is also the most photographed artwork in the garden.
The sculpture garden was opened in 1988 to the public. It is a partnership between the Walker Arts Centre and the Minneapolis Park and recreation board.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is free of cost to visit and attracts thousands of visitors every year. The park is open every day of the year from 6 am to 10 am.
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Located right next to the sculpture garden is the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. It is a pedestrian bridge from where the views of the city’s landscape are spectacular. The bridge is 375 feet long and around 12 feet wide. The main function of the bridge is to connect the sculpture garden to Loring Park. In the process, it allows pedestrians to cross 17 lanes of street and highway.
The bridge was designed by local artist Siah Armajani and built between the 1960s and 1970s. It was initially designed as both a piece of artwork and a functional bridge. Therefore, the bridge is built by combining features of three different bridge designs – beam, arch and suspension. Such a unique design gives it an industrial look, but, the choice of paint makes it look visually playful. Half of the bridge is painted in a pale blue colour while the rest is painted bright yellow. The bridge is named after Irene Hixon Whitney, a patron of the arts in Minneapolis.
Such an eye-catching structure makes the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge a landmark of the city.
Walker Art Centre
Also located near the sculpture garden is the Walker Art Centre. This is the modern art museum of Minneapolis. It has 11 galleries with over 13,000 modern and contemporary art pieces. Art pieces in Walker Art Centre include not only painting and photography but also books, costumes, live art performances, videos and other multimedia forms. Some of these exhibits are permanent while others are rotating. Today, Walker Art Centre is one of the most visited art museums in the United States.
The museum first opened to the public in 1879 as an art gallery. It wasn’t before the 1940s that it became the Walker Art Centre it is today.
The art museum is open from Thursday to Sunday and is closed from Monday to Wednesday.
Saint Anthony Falls
Saint Anthony Falls is a 49 ft waterfall on the Mississippi River. There is a lot of history surrounding the area and the falls themselves. The very foundations and development of Minneapolis are tied to Saint Anthony Falls.
First of all, Saint Anthony Falls is the only naturally occurring waterfall on the mighty Mississippi river. The waterfall and the area surrounding it have always been significant. Even before the Europeans found the land, the place held religious importance among the indigenous Dakota tribes. They knew the waterfall as owamniyomni, meaning three whirlpools. It was Father Hennepin who named it Saint Anthony. Father Hennepin was among the first Europeans to have arrived in Minneapolis back in 1680.
Since then, the falls have attracted many entrepreneurs, explorers and settlers. They realised the potential of the waterfall and used it to power the mills and production units. First, it powered the sawmills, then, in the 1800s, it powered the flour mills. The energy of the water was harnessed using millraces, waterwheels, gears and rotation shafts. As the mills performed well, they attracted settlers for better job prospects. Due to this phenomenon, the population of the town grew and it began to develop.
In the 1800s, several dams and canals were built on the falls for the purpose of extracting energy, needed for milling and other commercial interests. However, this caused damage to the waterfall, as it began eroding. This was not just a consequence of over-harnessing power, but also poor engineering of the water power systems. Temporary measures were taken to stop the erosion in the late 1800s. It wasn’t before 1937 when the US Army Corps of Engineers made permanent fixtures to add reinforcements to the waterfall, thus preserving it.
But consequently, Saint Anthony Falls visually appears to be made, despite it being a natural waterfall.
The Guthrie Theatre is an important cultural hub in the city of Minneapolis. It serves as the centre of not only theatre performances and production, but also training and education. Guthrie theatre brings world-class artists and the public together to present performances of both classical and contemporary plays. Based on both classical and modern literature.
The Tony award-winning theatre has 3 theatre spaces – the 1,100 seat Wurtele Thrust Stage, the 700 seat McGuire Proscenium Stage and the 199 seat Downling Studio. There are additionally public spaces, workshops, a shop and restaurants. It even features a 178 feet long cantilever bridge that stands 55 feet above the ground. The bridge provides a nice view of the city.
So, catch a show, get a tour of the backstage on certain days, shop, dine or, simply get a view of the city. The theatre is open all year round.
Guthrie theatre was founded by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in 1963. In 2006, the structure was rebuilt by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. It is located in the historic Mill District of Downtown Minneapolis.
First Avenue Nightclub
First Avenue nightclub is at the heart of the live music scene in Minneapolis. It is a venue for live music and entertainment. There are two performance spaces – the Mainroom, which hosts big artists and has a capacity to hold 1550 people, and the 7th St Entry, which hosts up and coming artists and can hold up to 250 people. This independently-owned venue strives to promote artistic expression for both experienced and smaller artists. The historic venue has launched the careers of numerous influential artists, such as Prince, Semisonic, Lizzo, Hippo Campus and Soul Asylum, among others.
Skyway Footbridge Systems
The skyway footbridge system isn’t an attraction per se but it can be regarded as one. This is a 9.5-mile walkway system that connects all the buildings in downtown Minneapolis. It is the largest of its kind in the world. This system exists because of the extremely cold winters in Minneapolis. Minneapolitans use this system to get to places around the city without having to go outside and face the harsh weather. The place feels like a maze but there are plenty of maps guiding people to their destination. A smaller walkway system also exists in downtown St. Paul but, the one in Minneapolis is the largest.
The American Swedish Institute
The American Swedish Institute is where one can learn about the Scandinavian, more specifically, the Swedish heritage of Minnesota, and the United States in general. In the 1800s, around 300,000 Swedes immigrated to the United States. The majority of them settled in Minnesota, which is more than there are in any other state. The American Swedish Institute aims to be a gathering place for people to understand and explore the Swedish migration. And, to trace back their Swedish heritage through art and culture.
The institute comprises a museum, a cultural centre, a destination store, a café and the historic Turnblad Mansion. The museum educates visitors about the city’s Swedish heritage through exhibitions and interactive programmes. The café, called Fika, serves coffee, tea, other beverages and classic Swedish dishes like salmon and meatballs.
Finally, the showstopper of the institute is the Turnblad Mansion, a majestic castle-like building. The mansion has a rich history related to the Turnblad family. The Turnblads immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s from Sweden. Swan Turnblad, the patriarch, owned and managed the largest Swedish language newspaper in Minneapolis – SvenskaAmerikanskaPosten. In the early 1900s, Turnblad built the house with the help of local architects, Christopher Boehme and Victor Cordella. Construction was carried on from 1904 to 1908 and cost approximately $1.5 million to build the structure at the time. The house was built in the French Renaissance style using materials from around the United States.
The mansion has 33 rooms each of its own style, 11 tile stoves imported from Sweden, stained glass windows, paintings, historic artefacts, ornate pillars and woodwork. After its construction, the Turnblad family did not reside in the house for long.
By 1929, the mansion was donated to the now American Swedish Institute, an organization founded by Swan Turnblad. In 1971, the mansion was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and since 1974, it has been eligible for Heritage Preservation by the City of Minneapolis.
Weisman Art Museum
The Weisman Art Museum is a fine arts museum located at the University of Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River. It exhibits over 20,000 pieces of contemporary artwork, which is why it is also known as the modern art museum.
The museum was founded in 1934, and named after art collector and philanthropist Frederick R. Weisman. It moved to the current building in 1993 and it was reconstructed in 2011. The present building was designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry. The exteriors of the galleries, shops and offices are covered in Cubist-style stainless steel shapes.
Weisman Art Museum offers major exhibitions, seminars, and tours and organizes both special and educational events. It is open every day of the year unless otherwise mentioned and admission is free of cost.
Varsity theatre is a venue for organizing concerts, performances and even private events, corporate events, meetings, ceremonies, film screenings, fundraising events, weddings, social events, trade shows, workshops and more. It has to be one of the most exciting venues in the Midwest as there is always something happening here. Anything from live music concerts to theatrical performances to dance performances. Varsity Theatre is one of the most highly rated venues for all sorts of events in the country. Previously, it has hosted artists such as Sia, Mumford and the Sons, Phoenix, Janelle Monaé, The Civil Wars and even Amy Winehouse.
Varsity theatre is located in Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota and next to Bob Dylan’s former apartment. A popular mural dedicated to Dylan can be found at the corner of 13th Avenue and 4th street.
See what events they’re hosting during your visit and catch a show or performance. Find the updated list of events and prices here.
Target Field is an open-air baseball stadium located in the north loop and warehouse district of Minneapolis. It has been the home ballpark of the Minnesota Twins baseball team since 2010, which is when the stadium opened.
In addition to major league baseball, the stadium also hosts local and regional baseball events. Apart from baseball, the stadium also organizes soccer, football and hockey matches and even hosts concerts.
The entrance to Target Field is through the Target Plaza, which is a gathering area just outside the stadium. There, stands a statue of a bronze glove, statues of players, a wall tribute to Minnesota ballparks and the Metropolitan Stadium flagpole.
The stadium has around 40,000 seats of varying kinds. The field is visible clearly from all types of seating. There is, for example, the famous Budweiser Roof Deck. It has a fire pit, a bar, 150 seats and standing space providing a spectacular view of both the field and the Minneapolis skyline.
There are plenty of restaurants, such as the Legends Club Lounge, the Met Club, the Town Ball Tavern, Taste of Twins Territory, Hennepin Grille, Senor Smokes and Frankie V’s Italian. Additionally, there are numerous restrooms, lounge areas and parking spaces. The stadium is accessible by car and public transit system.
The Cedar Cultural Centre
Cedar Cultural Centre, also known as The Cedar, is a music and performance venue presenting both local and international music. This cultural centre aims to promote intercultural understanding through music and dance.
The Cedar Cultural Centre hosts over 200 shows per year through its different programs, with the intention of promoting cultural appreciation through global music. By doing so, they support both established, emerging and independent artists. While they encourage various genres from around the world, the emphasis is on folk and world music.
Built in 1989, the structure was originally supposed to be a movie theatre before turning into a music venue. The venue can seat up to 430 people and 645 people if it is a standing concert. Whether standing or seated, either way, they provide an unforgettable musical experience.
The Cedar is located in the Cedar-Riverside neighbourhood. It is operated completely by volunteers.
Hennepin History Museum
Hennepin History Museum is a museum located in the historic Christian Family Residence in Lake Street, South Minneapolis. The Christian Family Residence was built in 1920 but it was only established as a museum in 1958. The museum was designed by local architects Hewitt and Brown.
Hennepin History Museum preserves the history of the most populated county in the state of Minnesota. It showcases the history and development of St. Anthony Falls and the flour milling industry through a series of more than 480 photographs. The museum also educates the public about the history of the land, people and events within Hennepin County over the years, through an extensive collection of exhibits on display. The exhibits are rotating and change every two to three months.
In addition to the exhibits, there is also a library, which contains records of photos, maps, atlases, genealogical records, city directories and other materials. Here, both visitors and scholars can conduct research, with or without the help of the on-site archivist. The library, however, is only accessible by appointment.
Visit to view the collections on display and participate in the many programs and social events organized by the museum. Or, to research in their library.
Basilica of St. Mary
Basilica of St. Mary is a Roman Catholic basilica located in downtown Minneapolis. It is known for being the first basilica in the United States.
The artistic building welcomes people of different backgrounds. Aside from offering religious services, the basilica welcomes people in need, those who need refuge or a shelter over their heads. It is also a popular centre of the arts where it promotes and preserves both visual and acoustic art. They have an extensive collection of acquired artworks, a gallery exhibiting religious artwork, and a collection of liturgical vessels and textiles. Plus, they host around 30 concerts every year.
St. Mary’s Basilica is built on the site of a former church known as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was founded in 1868. Then, in 1907, archbishop Ireland commissioned the construction of a pro-cathedral. The building was built between 1907 and 1915. Designed by French American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, designed the structure in the Beaux-Arts style. Taking inspiration from the style of late Renaissance and Baroque churches in Western Europe. In 1975, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors especially go to the basilica to admire and appreciate the architecture and design of the building.
The building remained a pro-cathedral until 1926 when it was finally made the very first basilica in the United States. Today, it serves both as a basilica and the co-cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
The Minneapolis Institute of Art is the premier institution of the arts in the country. It is also one of the largest. This three-storey tall building has numerous galleries displaying over 90,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, etc. Many of which are or were created by famous artists throughout history.
The exhibits come from various cultures around the world, collected over 5,000 years. They range from permanent and rotating. The ultimate goal of the Minneapolis Institute of Art aims to inspire its visitors through art. They are known to also organize various programs, workshops and classes around the year.
Located just south of downtown Minneapolis, the museum is free to enter. Its extensive art collection and free general admission attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Mills Ruins Park and Mill City Museum
Mills Ruins Park is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in the downtown east neighbourhood of Minneapolis. The park is named after the many flour mills that were once operational along the Mississippi River. Today some of those mills have been renovated and preserved to showcase the flour mills that were once the backbone of Minneapolis’ economy. Minneapolis used to be known for its production and milling of flour.
The once largest flour milling factory in the world, The Washburn A Mill, has been converted into a museum, preserving the history of milling and educating the public about the flour milling industry. This is the Mill City Museum. Built on the ruins of the factory, the exhibits there tell the story of Minneapolis, the flour industry and the industries that made use of the Mississippi River and the area around it. It also displays the history of the machinery used to generate energy from the river and the machinery used in the flour milling process.
The museum is located right next to the Mills Ruins Park on the historic Mississippi Riverfront. It opened in 2003 and has since been listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.
Stone Arch Bridge
Stone Arch Bridge, located next to the Mills Ruins Park, is a former railroad bridge structure in Minneapolis. The 2,000-foot-long bridge was completed in 1883 by the Minneapolis Union Railway, making it the second oldest continuous bridge across the mighty Mississippi River. Once the railway was no longer operational, it was converted into a pedestrian bridge in the 1990s.
Today, the bridge is used as a pedestrian and cycling bridge. This aesthetically industrial bridge allows the public to walk, bike and run to cross the Mississippi River. The bridge links Dinkytown, the neighbourhood near the University of Minnesota and the Historic Mill District. The pathway is always filled with pedestrians, bikers, and joggers at any given time of the day.
From the bridge, the view of St. Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River is magnificent.
Minnesota Streetcar Museum
The Minnesota Streetcar Museum is a transport museum that collects, restores and exhibits streetcars that once used to operate in Minnesota. These include streetcars from Minneapolis, St. Pail, Winona, Duluth, Iron Range and Moorhead. This museum has the largest collection of streetcars in the state.
The historical museum does not just display the streetcars on site, it also offers demonstration rides in these streetcars at certain times of the year. Mostly, in the summer and fall months, from May to November. There are two heritage lines where streetcar rides are available. The first is the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line, which operates a mile between Lake Harriet and Bde Maka Ska. The other is the Excelsior Streetcar Line, which operates between the former Minneapolis and St Louis Railways through the southern part of the Excelsior suburb. The Excelsior line stops at the car barn where visitors can look at the photo gallery of hotels, trains, steamboats and landmarks from the 1800s.
During the scenic rides, tour guides share stories about Minneapolis and about Minnesota streetcars.
The Minnesota Streetcar Museum was established in 2004 when the Minnesota Transportation Museum was being restructured.
Things to Do
Visit the various nature spots around the city of lakes in both summers and winters to do some outdoor activities. Or, go around the city to shop in some of the most unique markets and malls in the United States. Alternatively, hop around town tasting the Midwestern and international cuisines. Wind down in the evening for some drinks at any one of the 81 breweries or hotels in Minneapolis. Lastly, another option would be to take a road trip to nearby cities within Minnesota, or to cities near the state of Minnesota. There is just plenty to do here. Let us now explore these activities in detail.
Nature Spots in Minneapolis
Minnesota is a land of 10,000 lakes and many are in Minneapolis. Surrounding these lakes are parks and pedestrian walkways. Together, these places offer plenty to do throughout the year. Yes, even in the freezing winter months. Minneapolitans take full advantage of the warm and mild summer months to partake in as many activities as possible. In fall, the view of the colourful leaves is scenic and in winter, when the ground and lakes are frozen solid, ice skating becomes a popular activity.
There are three main lakes that are connected together by the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Together they’re known as the chain of lakes. These lakes comprise Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska and Lake of Isles. They’re connected by a network of channels and pedestrian pathways. Let’s see what each of them has to offer.
Located at the southern end of the Linden Hills neighbourhood, the 335-acre lake is surrounded by Lake Harriet Park. The park and the lake combined take up 470 acres of space.
The first of the chain of lakes, Lake Harriet, is situated south of Bde Maka Ska. The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway connects the park to Bde Maka Ska and the Minnehaha Creek.
In the park, there are nearly 3 miles of pedestrian and biking trails, gardens, two beaches, a fishing pier, boating docks, picnic areas, picnic areas, fountains, a playground and restrooms. It has all the basic amenities required to spend a great day outdoors. The lake and the surrounding park area offer activities such as hiking, jogging, biking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, boating, picnicking and paddle-boating in the summer. There are facilities for renting bicycles, paddleboats, kayaks and canoes.
There is also a bandstand, where concerts and movies are hosted during summer and fall. In winter, ice skating is the main activity.
The park and lake are named after Harriet Lovejoy, the wife of Colonel Henry Leavenworth, the man who founded Fort Snelling back in 1819.
Lake of Isles
The Lake of Isles is a109 acre lake, with a depth of 9 metres that is connected to Bde Maka Ska and Cedar Lake. The lake is second in the chain of lakes. It is surrounded by the Lake of Isles Park, which, combined with the lake, makes up 208 acres. The Lake of Isles is named after the islands located within the lake. Once upon a time, there were four islands, but now there are only two.
The park has around 3 miles of pedestrian and biking pathways, historic buildings, fountains, a fishing spot, a soccer field, an ice skating rink and a hockey rink, picnic areas and facilities for canoeing. It also serves as a quaint dog park. The Lake of Isles Park provides a scenic view of the city and is generally quieter than the other two lakes and surrounding parks.
Bde Maka Ska
BdeMakaSka, formerly known as Lake Calhoun, is the third lake in the chain of lakes. It is also the largest lake in Minneapolis. Like the other lakes in town, the body of water is surrounded by a park area. Together, the park and the lake offer a wide range of activities to do. In summers, one can do activities such as archery, biking, boating, fishing, picnic, soccer, softball, volleyball, sailing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boating. There are rentals for biking, sailing, paddle boating, canoeing and kayaking. The 519-acre park also has three beaches where the water can be enjoyed. In winter, popular activities include snowkiting and ice fishing, an activity that Minneapolitans love to do.
BdeMakaSka is the Dakota word for White Earth Lake. The lake is 401 acres and 87 feet deep. It is connected to the Lake of Isles, Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake and Lake Harriet as part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway.
Another lake in the city’s chain of lakes is Cedar Lake. Cedar Lake and the surrounding park, Cedar Lake Park, are best known for their urban beaches. Cedar Lake Park has three beaches – Cedar Lake East Beach, Cedar Lake Point Beach and Cedar Lake South Beach. The most famous is Cedar Lake East Beach, formerly known as the Hidden Beach. The 169 acre big and 51 feet deep lake and its surrounding park offer numerous activities for the public. For instance, there are under 2 miles of both pedestrian and biking trails, providing ample space for walking, jogging and cycling.
There is a fishing pier where northern pike, muskie and bass make up for the majority of the catches. There are also canoeing facilities in the 288-acre park. Moreover, there are grills and benches for a great picnic and barbeque. In winter, there is also a cross country skiing trail for ski enthusiasts.
Theodore Wirth Regional Park
The Theodore Wirth Regional Park is a massive 740-acre park near the neighbourhoods of Harrison, Willard-Hay, Bryn Mawr and Outside Minneapolis City Limits. Located west of downtown Minneapolis, the park contains several amenities and attractions. There are gardens, there is Wirth Lake and two golf courses. There are also facilities for activities such as archery, biking, skiing, fishing, golfing, hiking and picnicking. In addition to this, there is also a soccer field, a tennis court and playground areas. In winter, the park also offers special activities such as cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, tubing and sledging.
Theodore Wirth Regional Park initially started with 64 acres in 1889 but has expanded exponentially today. The park is named after the former superintendent of Minneapolis parks, Theodore Wirth. He was responsible for creating the first playgrounds in Minneapolis, shaping the shores of the city’s lakes, and building parkways.
Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary
Located within the Theodore Wirth Regional Park, is the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. It is situated near Bryn Mawr’s neighbourhood of Minneapolis, just west of downtown.
The 15 acre Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, has 12 gardens which are home to over 500 plant species and 130 bird species. The flowers are mostly native wildflowers growing in three different ecosystems. Each one creates a unique habitat and attracts a variety of plants, birds and animals. In addition to this, there are public art installations such as sculptures. Moreover, Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary have a walking path, a visitor shelter, plenty of restrooms, parking lots and a drinking fountain. There is also a visitor shelter where there are displays educating the public about the history of the region. Volunteers are present on-site to assist with any queries about the garden and its history.
Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary was founded in 1907. It is named after Eloise Butler, a retired botany teacher who was to take responsibility as a volunteer to establish the garden and later the curator of the garden.
Minnehaha Regional Park
MinnehahaRegional Park is one of the oldest and most popular parks in Minneapolis. The 193-acre riverfront park is famous for the 53-foot waterfall located right in the middle of the park. There is also the Minnehaha Creek that flows through the park, which connects the park to Lake Harriet Park. Minnehaha Falls and the creek are some of the most photographed sites in all of Minnesota. A waterfall right in the middle of a bustling city is what intrigues visitors the most and, therefore, attracts thousands every year.
In addition to the waterfall, there is also a popular hiking trail called the Minnehaha falls loop trail. It is a scenic trail offering the best views of the park. Plus, there are gardens, a disc golf course, restaurants and historical sites.
These historic sites and buildings are places of great significance. There is, for instance, the very first house built in Minneapolis, the John H. Stevens House. Moreover, there is the Longfellow house, named in honour of the poet Henry Longfellow. This house, in the Minnehaha Regional Park, is a replica of his house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There is additionally, the Princess Depot, an abandoned train station that was restored in 2001.
Loring Park is a fun park located southwest of downtown Minneapolis near the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the Walker Art Centre and the Basilica of St. Mary. It is one of the largest parks in the city with plenty of trees, plants, flowers and ponds. It is, however, the largest one in the downtown area. There is even a small lake within the park surrounding which are trails for walking and biking. The park includes other features such as public art, a playground, a fishing pier, gardens, picnic areas, a tennis court, an ice rink, basketball courts, a bandstand and both decorative and drinking fountains.
Loring Park is named after Charles M. Loring, who is known as the Father of Minneapolis parks. He was also the first president of the park board in Minneapolis.
The park is known for hosting some of the biggest events in the city.
Nicollet Island Park
Located in central Minneapolis, Nicollet Island and its surrounding 27-acre park is an island in the Mississippi River. The island can be found just north of St. Anthony Falls and is accessible by the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. This bridge connects downtown and northeast Minneapolis.
The island is home to less than 200 people and contains Victorian-era houses, and pathways for walking, jogging and biking. It also features gardens, an amphitheatre, drinking fountains, picnic areas and public artworks.
Nicollet Island and Nicollet Island Park are named after the cartographer Joseph Nicollet. He mapped out the Upper Mississippi back in the 1830s.
Tower Hill Park
Tower Hill Park, also known as Prospect Park, is the highest natural region in Minneapolis. The reason Prospect Park is also known as Tower Hill Park is because Tower Hill is the largest portion of the park. Tower Hill Park is best known for the witch’s hat water tower that stands on the hill. The tower stands at 110 feet; 60 feet consist of the body and the rest 50 feet make up the conical roof. It is this roof that resembles a witch’s hat, which is where the water tower gets its nickname. The view from the top of the tower is quite picturesque.
The witch’s hat tower was built between 1913 and 1914 and has since been listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to the tower, the park also has pathways for walking, jogging and cycling, making it a perfect spot for a day outdoors.
Boom Island Park
Boom Island Park is located just across the Mississippi River. It is connected to Nicollet Island Park and adjacent to B.F. Nelson Park. The 22.5-acre urban park offers fantastic views of the stunning city skyline. Boom Island Park is pet-friendly and has plenty of amenities to spend an afternoon there. There are playgrounds for kids, picnic areas, grills, drinking fountains, and restrooms. As for activities, there are facilities for boating, kayaking and swimming. Furthermore, there are pathways for walking, jogging and biking.
Boom Island Park, however, is best known for, however, is the mini lighthouse that is visible from the shore.
Shopping in Minneapolis
Mall of America
The Mall of America, located in Bloomington in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area, is the largest mall in the United States. Opened in the 1990s, the Mall of America is one of the biggest malls on the entire planet. It is considered large because of its size and the number of shops inside. The Mall of America is as big as 78 football fields or 5.6 million square feet. It contains 520 shops, both branded and local stores, 60 restaurants, 1200 parking spaces, and 3 hotels over 4 levels.
Additionally, there is a theme park and a massive aquarium inside the mall. The theme park, Nickelodeon Universe, is located right in the middle of the mall and features merry-go-rounds, miniature golf and rollercoasters. The aquarium houses over 4,500 marine creatures, making it the largest aquarium in Minnesota. The aquarium allows visitors to interact with the sea creatures, for instance, petting sea anemones.
Nicollet Mall is not a mall per se. It is but an entertainment, shopping and dining district located in the heart of downtown. Nicollet Mall is a transit mall comprising a 12-block portion of NicolletAvenue. The shopping district has numerous stores, such as the flagship Target store, street art, benches and a visitor’s centre. In this district, cars are not allowed, and only taxis and buses are permitted to operate.
An interesting fact about Nicollet mall is that it is the very first transit mall in the United States.
Midtown Global Market
Midtown Global Market, reflects the cosmopolitan nature of the city as many immigrants from around the globe have settled here. In this market, various items such as food and handicraft items from all around the world are available for sale. Purchase exotic items, clothing and other items from this international grocery store. There is also a food court located within the market. Here, cuisines from around the world are served; cuisines such as Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African.
Midtown Global Market is located just 2 miles south of downtown.
Minneapolis Farmers Market
Located in the north loop or warehouse district neighbourhood of Minneapolis, this was the first market to have opened back in 1876. The farmers’ market has over 170 stalls and 230 vendors. Here, one can find fresh and organic produce and handcrafted food items.
Shop for some bright and lovely flowers from Bachman’s, a local Minneapolitan florist. They sell the freshest seasonal flowers, plants and beautifully arranged bouquets all year round.
Hunt and Gather
Hunt and Gather is an antique and vintage goods store where one can find some really rare treasures for desirable rates. Find some rare, old and unique items at Hunt and Gather.
Participate in Events and Festivals
Twin Cities Pride Festival
The Twin Cities Pride Festival is an annual festival celebrated every June in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. It brings the community together to celebrate, empower and encourage the LGBTQ+community to be their true selves. They are valued for embracing their identity and living as they do.
This year the festival will take place from 25 -26 June at Loring Park. There will be a beer garden, music stages and food courts. Moreover, it will feature black, indigenous and people of colour vendors as well as LGBTQ+ vendors.
The celebration is free of cost to attend.
The Holidazzle Parade is organized every November and December since 1992. In 2021, the parade was held from 17th December to 19th December.
There is plenty of carnival rides, entertainment, floats, and marching bands. The objective is to gather the community together in the midst of winter to celebrate the holiday spirit. It has become a holiday tradition for families to reunite and spend a fun and entertaining evening together.
Minneapolis – Saint Paul International Film Festival
Held every spring since 1981, the Minneapolis – Saint Paul International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the Upper Midwest. Initially, it was known for showcasing Scandinavian films. However, today it exhibits films from more than 70 countries. Locally made films are highlighted in the film festival.
The event is organized by the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Film Society. This year, the film festival will be held from the 5th to the 19th of May.
May Day Parade and Festival
The May Day Parade and Festival takes place on the 1st or 2nd of May every year since 1975. It is sponsored by the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) as a way for them to engage with the community and thank them for their support. The parade is also a way for people to come together as the long and harsh winter comes to an end.
This year, the festival will take place on the 1st of May. This year, however, there will be no parade. There will instead be a block party where a cultural and political festival will be organized. There will be puppet shows, poetry and dance performances, art activities for children and teens, and food. The theme will highlight immigrant rights.
Basilica Block Party
The Basilica Block Party is a two-day music festival that takes place annually in July in Minneapolis. It is hosted by the Basilica of St. Mary and is the largest music festival organized in the city. In the past, the event has featured popular artists like Imagine Dragons, Panic! At the Disco, Ziggy Marley, Ryan Adams, Spoon and more.
Sommerfest is the largest classical music event in Minneapolis. It has been organized every year by the Minnesota Orchestra in July and August since the 1980s. During the 3 week festival, dozens of concerts are held in and around the vicinity of the Minnesota Orchestra Hall. The concerts feature the works of Beethoven, Mozart and Gershwin, among other classical artists. The event starts with the Macy’s Day of Music, which is a 24-hour musical event where 300 performers perform on different stages.
Wine and Dine in Minneapolis
Matt’s Bar and Grill
Matt’s Bar and Grill is known for being the original establishment to have created the Jucy Lucy. A Jucy Lucy is essentially a cheese-stuffed meat patty and it is a Minneapolis famous dish. The burger is handmade with fresh beef and served with fries. Upon taking a bite, hot molten cheese just oozes out of the burger.
Matt’s Bar and Grill was established in 1954 in southern Minneapolis. According to legend, sometime after Matt’s was established, a customer once came in and requested a slice of cheese between two meat patties. When he took a bite of the burger, he exclaimed ‘wow that is one juicy lucy!’ The name stuck and the burger became famous around town. Since then, Matt’s has deliberately dropped the letter ‘i’ from the word juicy. They claim that if a Jucy Lucy is spelt correctly, it is likely the burger is a rip-off. Matt’s is really proud of being home to the original Jucy Lucy.
Do note that Matt’s Bar and Grill is a cash-only establishment.
Anchor Fish and Chips
Anchor Fish and Chips is an Irish-British style eatery and pub serving the most authentic dishes. The eatery was established in 2009 and is located in the northeastern part of town. Their signature dish is, of course, the fish n chips, made with the freshest Alaskan cod and hand-cut fries. The dish is known for its large portion and freshness. Anchor Fish and Chips also serve staples such as meat and veggie pasties, grass-fed burgers, mushy peas and curry chips and shepherd’s pie. Additionally, they serve both Irish and local beer and cider, wines and prosecco. They have indoor dining, outdoor dining and take-away options.
Boludo is a chain of eateries serving Argentinean style empanadas, creative pizzas, flan and more. They are most famous for their heavenly empanadas, which are crispy on the outside and soft, fluffy and warm on the inside. The original eatery opened in the Kingfield neighbourhood in 2018 but has since expanded to various locations around the city.
Al’s Breakfast is a small breakfast restaurant located in Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota. It is the narrowest restaurant in town, as it is visibly squeezed in between two larger buildings. Nevertheless, the 14 stool restaurant is cosy and serves home-style comfort foods and classic breakfast dishes.
The restaurant was started by Al Bergstrom in 1950 and it has been serving fresh breakfast made from scratch. Some of their dishes include French toast, waffles, egg dishes and eggs made in different ways. Plus, there are beverages such as juices, teas, coffee and milk.
The restaurant opens at 6 am and closes at 1 pm sharp. The establishment only accepts cash or cheques.
Kramarczuk is an Eastern European deli that sells the best handmade sausages and Eastern European meals in town. It was started by Ukrainian immigrants Wasyl Kramarczuk and his wife, Anna Kramarczuk in the 1950s. To date, their sausages, breads and dishes are handmade from scratch using the freshest, locally sourced ingredients.
Afro deli is a casual restaurant serving Somali, American and Mediterranean inspired dishes. Located in the Cedar-Riverside neighbourhood Afro deli was established in 2009. The restaurant and the food, reflect the large Somali population in the city.
The restaurant serves fresh halal food in large portions and at affordable rates. Some of their popular dishes are beef sambosa, Somali steak sandwich, lamb gyros and steak chapatti wrap. There is both indoor and outdoor seating at the restaurant.
Pimento Jamaican Kitchen and Rum Bar
Pimento Jamaican Kitchen serves authentic Jamaican street food using the freshest ingredients. They use family recipes and apply French techniques to cook classics like Kingston style jerk chicken and braised oxtail. Established in 2012, Pimento’s was initially a pop-up tent. However, they established their first restaurant in 2016 on Minneapolis’ Eat Street on Nicollet Avenue. Their motto is quite aptly ‘Don’t Worry, Eat Happy’.
Martina located in the Linden Hills neighbourhood is an Argentinian restaurant. It serves Argentinian, Italian and Spanish fusion food, reflecting the background of the founder and chef, Daniel del Prado. They are known for their seafood and meats, which are cooked over a woodfired grill. They are also known for their cocktails, which are creatively crafted for the diners.
Martina is open every day of the week for dinner. On Saturdays and Sundays, they also serve brunch.
Bar La Grassa
Bar LaGrassa is known for its spectacular Italian food. It is an upscale restaurant founded by Chef Isaac Becker and his wife, Nancy St. Pierre in the North Loop neighbourhood. Bar LaGrassa serves traditional Italian dishes like bruschetta and a variety of pasta both dry and fresh. Some of their more popular entrees are the red wine spaghetti with nuts, pappardelle with veal and linguine with lamb meatballs.
The restaurant is open every day for dinner, except on Sundays.
Spoon and Stable Restaurant
Located in the North Loop neighbourhood, Spoon and Stable Restaurant serves Midwestern cuisine with a French touch. They serve seasonal dishes, allowing local flavours to shine. The restaurant is built on the site of a former horse stable dating back to 1906. Currently, it is owned by Chef Gavin Kaysen.
Bars, Pubs, Coffee and Dessert in Minneapolis
Minneapolis is home to at least 81 breweries. The nightlife and bar scene is lively, every night of the week.
Surly Brewing Company
Surly Brewing Company is a lively brewery and pub that serves craft beer and grubs. Based in Minneapolis, this brewery is known for selling its beer in cans instead of glass bottles. Their canned beers are currently distributed to 15 states. Surly’s is considered to be one of the best craft breweries in the city. They even provide guided tours and allow a peek into their brewery daily. This tour includes seeing the brewhouse, fermentation cellar, packaging area, and of course sampling their brews. Surly’s is surely worth a visit.
Rooftop at the Hewing Hotel
The Rooftop Bar and lounge on the top floor of the Hewing hotel is the most picturesque place to visit for cocktails. The entire skyline of the city is visible and the view is quite simply breathtaking. As for the drinks, they are known for their beautifully crafted cocktails. They also serve locally made beer and a selection of liquors from around the world.
Brit’s Pub has to be one of the best rooftop bars in the country. This British style pub has been open for 30 years. Brit’s Pub brings a small part of the United Kingdom to Minneapolis. Here, it feels like being inside a British pub, where the TV is turned on to a game of football, rugby or cricket. The pub is, of course, known for serving British-style beers. But it is also for serving classic British dishes such as fish n chips, bangers n mash and scotch eggs. Additionally, it is known for its lawn bowling area, which is operational from May to September. In winters, they are known for hosting evenings by the fireplace.
Dangerous Man Brewing
Dangerous Man Brewing is a local microbrewery and taproom located in northeast Minneapolis. They are known for serving a collection of craft beer. They have an extensive selection of dark and pale ale, lager, stouts and porters.
Five Watt Coffee
Five Watt Coffee is a chain of local coffee shops that was founded in 2014. They serve artisanal coffee and are best known for using bitters in their coffee. What makes it more special is that they make the bitters themselves. Five Watt is known for being extremely customer-focused as they believe in connecting with people and the community. In Minneapolis, they are located in Kingfield, Lyndaleand E. Hennepin. The one in Kingfield is the original coffee shop.
Uncommon Grounds Espresso and Chai is a coffee and tea house located in the uptown neighbourhood in Minneapolis. Housed in a renovated Victorian house from the 1800s, they are best known for their flavoured chai (tea). Some of their most popular flavours are mint, pumpkin, lavender, coconut, toffee and hazelnut, which they serve both hot and iced. In addition to tea, they also serve coffee, snacks and desserts.
Bauhaus Brew Labs
Bauhaus Brew House is one of the most highly recommended local breweries in Minneapolis. Established in 2014, the brewery creates German-inspired beers and sells them in colourful cans. Colourful, just like their interiors. Some of their beers include pale ale, India pale ale, Marzen, Dunkel, porter and pilsner. They also serve non-alcoholic beverages such as seltzers and non-alcoholic beers. The beer is paired with food from nearby restaurants and the Animals Burger Co food truck just outside.
The Uptown Lobby at Granada Theater
The Granada Theater is located in the Uptown neighbourhood in Minneapolis. Housed in a former historical theatre from the silent film era, the Granada Theater is now a spot for entertainment, dining and drinks. It also serves as a venue for events such as weddings, private events, public events and live performances. The Uptown Lobby at Granadaat the theatre is a restaurant and bar serving crafted contemporary cocktails and wines.
Sidebar at Surdyk’s
Located in northeast Minneapolis, Sidebar at Surdyk’s serves seasonal food and drinks. For drinks, they serve beautifully crafted cocktails, wines, beer, cider and seltzer. They pair well with their signature snacks such as green garlic fritters with creamy dipping sauce, cheese curds with hot honey, New York Strip with black garlic sauce and Minnesota cheeseburgers, among others.
Milkjam Creamery is the most preferred spot for dessert in Minneapolis. They specialize in making the most delicious and creamy ice creams. Milkjam Creamery sells unique flavours and combines the most unexpected flavours that pair well together. One of their items is the ice cream sandwich, for which they use a doughnut instead of biscuits to hold the ice cream. Another one of their signature items is a creamy and rich ice cream made of a mixture of cow milk, goat milk and sweetened condensed milk.
Take a Trip to Nearby Cities in and around Minnesota
Visit Saint Paul
Saint Paul is the capital of Minnesota and the other twin in the Twin Cities. It is located just across the Mississippi, only 12 miles east of Minneapolis. There is plenty to do and see here, such as the Science Museum of Minnesota, Como Park and Conservatory, which is a zoo, and Can Can Wonderland. Can Can Wonderland is a family-friendly entertainment zone for people of all ages. It features a mini-golf, an arcade, games, an eatery serving pizza and a bar serving beer and cocktails. There is something for everyone here. When in Saint Paul, also attend popular annual events such as the Minnesota State Fair and the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.
Paisley Park is the former home and studio of Prince. The building has now been converted into a museum of fashion, art and music. It reflects Minnesota’s culture of strongly appreciating Prince and his works.
Paisley Park is located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, just 22 miles southwest of Minneapolis.
Lake Minnetonka is one of the most popular lakes in Minnesota. It features a 14,000-acre lake, which is the largest in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The lake and its surrounding park, the Lake Minnetonka Regional Park, offer plenty of activities to do. Such as water sports, fishing, sailing, golfing, swimming, picnicking, biking, snowmobiling, and hiking and more. Visit any of the 14 cities surrounding the lake. The quaint city of Wayzata is, for example, nestled on the shore of the lake and is located just 13 miles west of Minneapolis.
Visit the Willow River State Park, which is just half an hour from Minneapolis. This popular park in northwest Wisconsin features the Willow Falls and the Willow River Gorge. It is ideal for hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, swimming, fishing and hunting in the summer. In winters, there are activities such as cross country skiing, traditional skiing, ice fishing, and sledging.
Sioux Falls in South Dakota
Take a road trip to Sioux Falls in South Dakota. Located just 4 hours southwest of Minneapolis, Sioux Falls is the most populated city in South Dakota. It is full of historic sites and parks where it is perfect for activities like rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Sioux Falls is a place of entertainment, culture, adventure and, of course, food.
Fargo in North Dakota
Fargo is the most populated city in North Dakota. It is located just 3 hours and 40 minutes northwest of Minneapolis. It is a place of Scandinavian heritage, culture, artistic events, concerts, golf courses, and shopping. Moreover, Fargo has a happening arts scene that is worth visiting.
Places to Stay in Minneapolis
Minneapolis offers a great range of hotels and accommodations. There is an accommodation facility to suit everyone’s requirements. The following is a list of the most highly recommended hotels and accommodations in the city of Minneapolis.
Best Time to Visit
From what we saw so far, the best time to visit Minneapolis has to be in summer and fall. In summers the climate is pleasant enough to enjoy all the museums, parks, gardens and lakes. Winters are infamously difficult and harsh. However, if you do decide to visit in winter, there is still plenty that Minneapolis has to offer.
Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below.