For those hoping for a hip, fast-paced vacation in the Midwest, Minneapolis is the place to visit. It’s one of the Twin Cities, the other of which is St Paul, the state’s capital, to the east. Whether you’re seeking to enjoy the lively nightlife, view historic architecture or enjoy a Broadway-worthy theater performance, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Minneapolis. Here are 25 must-visit attractions to incorporate into your trip.
The Electric Fetus is known as the pre-eminent indie record store in Minnesota. Since opening its doors in 1968, it’s been a gathering place for music lovers and counter-culturists. Aside from CDs, DVDs and LPs, Electric Fetus has one-of-a-kind gifts, custom local jewelry, tobacco accessories and boutique clothing. It also once had a Streakers’ Sale, in which customers were allowed to take all they could carry for free – as long as they shopped nude.
Basilica of St Mary
This Roman Catholic minor basilica, constructed in the early 1900s and ranked by Pope Pius XI, was the first basilica established in the US. It sits on its own block in Downtown Minneapolis, and is a must-see attraction for those interested in historic architecture. Today, the Basilica of St Mary serves as a gathering place for the local community. In addition to its Catholic services, its leaders host concerts and music festivals, perform local outreach and display local, national and international artwork.
Mill City Museum
The Mill City Museum, built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, lies on the historic Mississippi Riverfront in Minneapolis. Today, the Minnesota Historical Society runs it, teaching visitors about the histories of the flour industry, the river and the city of Minneapolis and how they all intertwine. Free exhibits that change two or three time a year are found on the former packing floor, now called Mill Commons.
Minnesota Children’s Museum
Serving half a million visitors each year, the Minnesota Children’s Museum is consistently rated as one of the top children’s museums in the country. It offers immersive exhibits and programs and emphasizes play as a critical part of every child’s development. Since the 1980s, the museum has taught families how a hands-on and stimulating environment can lead to astounding exploration and discovery.
Historic Fort Snelling
Explore a former military fortification at Historic Fort Snelling and experience human history 10,000 years in the making. The stories of those who passed through Fort Snelling are endless – the Dakota and other Native Americans lived and worked there, while slaves, immigrants, fur traders and soldiers passed through. Its location on the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers made it a place of social, cultural and historical significance.
Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The Walker Art Centre began as the private art collection of lumber baron Thomas Barlow Walker in the late 1800s, and is now one of the top-five most visited contemporary art museums in the country. The garden opened in the 1980s and is one of the nation’s largest urban sculpture parks. Its centerpiece is called Spoonbridge and Cherry, by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and has become a beloved symbol of the Twin Cities.
Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory
The Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory offer free animal and plant exhibits alongside educational classes and youth camps. The zoo, which aims to create memories and inspire an appreciation of the natural world, features a seal island, a large cat exhibit and a variety of aquatic life, primates, birds and African hoofed animals, along with a world-class polar bear exhibit. The indoor conservatory is a popular cold-weather hangout for locals. Here, guests will find 2 acres (0.81ha) of plant life, including ferns, orchids, seasonal flowers and bonsai trees.
People visit Minnehaha Regional Park for many reasons, though its biggest draw is the 53-ft (16-m) high Minnehaha Falls. The park is one of the oldest in Minneapolis and also features incredible limestone bluffs and river overlooks. The park attracts about 850,000 visitors annually who enjoy performances at the bandstands, biking along the paths, disc golf, walking through the garden and taking children to the playground and tot lot.
Minnesota Public Radio’s Fitzgerald Theater is a 1,000-seat theater in St Paul, and is named after the famous author F Scott Fitzgerald. Today, its programing reflects the audience and mission of MPR, and until recently, it was the home of American Public Media’s A Prairie Home Companion. The building, constructed in 1910, is the oldest surviving theater space in St Paul.
St Paul Grand Avenue
Grand Avenue is a St Paul street that’s known for its fantastic shopping, restaurants, bars and events. It’s 25 blocks long, stretching from the Mississippi River to downtown. Local independent shops include Bibelot, a retail outlet known for curating a wide-ranging assortment of unique items including jewelry, stationery and home accents. Another popular store is Irish on Grand, filled with everything Irish: products, jewelry, clothing, music, crystals and more. For the kids, there’s the Mischief Toy Store, a place packed with science kits, art supplies, pop culture items and more.
Weisman Art Museum
The Frederick R Weisman Art Museum lies on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Named after a Minneapolis native, entrepreneur and noted philanthropist, the teaching museum’s glimmering exterior was designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Frank O Gehry. The museum offers free admission in an effort to make the arts accessible to the University and nearby communities.
Prince’s Paisley Park
Located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Paisley Park was the late musician Prince’s private estate and production complex. Its construction began following the success of Purple Rain in the 1980s. Prince created, produced and performed inside this private sanctuary. It’s now open to public tours, providing fans the opportunity to experience what his life here was like. The famous pop star would, at times, open the doors at his home for spontaneous performances. Tickets range from $45–160.
Mall of America
Since its opening in the early 1990s, the Mall of America has been a big draw to the Twin Cities. Situated in Bloomington, 11mi south of Downtown, the outer ring of the mall features multiple floors of shopping, and the center is home to the Nickelodeon Universe theme park. In terms of total floor area, the mall is the largest one in the US, with enough inside space to accommodate seven Yankee Stadiums.
Minneapolis Central Library
Founded in the 1880s, the Minneapolis Central Library was the city’s first public library building. The modern, 353,000-sqft (32,800-sqm) facility, known for both its striking exterior and stunning interior, was built in 2006 with a sustainable design, thanks to public feedback, and today serves as a vital civic and cultural center. The library is the centerpiece of the third-largest per capita public library collection of any major city in America, according to the Hennepin County Library system, with a collection of more than 2.4 million items.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
This fine art museum, admired by both local and visiting art lovers, is nearly 140 years old. Admission is free, and guests can browse masterpieces by famous artists from around the world, in addition to 40,000-year-old artefacts. More than half a million people visit each year. Aside from its museum, MIA is one of the largest arts educators in Minnesota.
Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis
This Minneapolis neighborhood is a trendy commercial district, known for its high-energy nightlife, and sits along the popular Chain of Lakes. The streets are lined with inviting gastropubs, modern restaurants and independent boutiques with items ranging from designer clothing to locally made gifts. Indie movies and foreign films are screened at the historic Uptown Theater. The district’s status was cemented when Prince wrote about it in some of his better-known songs.
The Guthrie’s unique exterior and world-class performances draw thousands of people each year. The facility was built in the 1960s, housing three theaters and putting on classic and contemporary plays. The theater began with a summer season featuring four productions and now has enough performances to employ more than 500 people, including a full-time production team.
Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park
This park is one of the most beloved destinations in the Minneapolis park system and part of the Chain of Lakes district lining the Uptown neighborhood and the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Visitors can lounge in the sun and explore the shorelines of Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake, with nearly 15mi (24.1km) of trails that connect them all to Lyndale Park, which has plenty to offer no matter the season. Other amenities include cross-country ski trails, boat docks, a biking path, hockey rink, fishing pier, bandstand and garden, with free movies and music in the summer.
Famous homes of the Twin Cities
St Paul is known for being the home of famous author F Scott Fitzgerald, and literature lovers can visit the home in which he was born in and wrote his first novel, This Side of Paradise. On Kenwood Parkway in Minneapolis itself, fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show can drive by the Victorian mansion made famous in the show’s credits. The show’s main character, Mary Richards, supposedly lived in the home’s third-floor apartment.
Midtown Global Market
The Midtown Global Market brings guests a global experience. The internationally themed public market features unique gifts, cultural experiences and world-class food. Home to about 45 businesses spanning 22 cultures, it’s a vibrant economic and cultural center and a gathering place for local groups such as the “Midtown Writers Group.” More than 1.5 million people visit Midtown Global Market each year.
Stone Arch Bridge
Built between 1881 and 1883, the Stone Arch Bridge is the oldest crossing in Minneapolis and is acknowledged to be one of the finest stone viaducts on the planet. Originally a railway bridge connecting industries on both banks of the Mississippi, it was renovated in 1980 and is now exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a great spot from which to survey the city’s skyline and, during summer, to enjoy local festivals and firework shows.
Shop at Nicollet
Nicollet, formerly known as Nicollet Mall, is Minneapolis’s premier shopping destination – a mile-long stretch of boutiques, big brands, bars, restaurants, art and greenery. The mall is also part of another unique Minneapolis feature – the futuristic Skyway System. Connecting 80 city blocks and running for 9.5mi (15km), it’s the largest network of enclosed, second-floor bridges in the world, and provides an ideal retreat from the bitter cold of winter.
Cedar Lake East Beach
Hidden Beach, as it’s colloquially known, is the most famous secret stretch of sand in Minneapolis, and is reached by paths cutting through dense greenery. Officially called Cedar Lake East Beach, it used to be the Twin Cities’ only nudist beach, and also had a reputation as being an alternative lakeshore hangout, due to its popularity among counter-culturists. This tranquil spot also boasts a mud bath (slightly to the east) and is dog- and kid-friendly.
Minneapolis City Hall
Dating from the late 19th century, Minneapolis City Hall presents a striking contrast with the modern, glass-fronted buildings that surround it. When inaugurated, it was said to have the biggest four-sided clock in the world – even bigger than London’s world-famous Big Ben. The bell tower was also the city’s tallest structure until the 1920s. Notable interior features include the Father of the Waters statue – rubbing the big toe of which reputedly brings you good luck.
St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral
Located at 1701 5th Street NE, St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral is one of many Orthodox churches in St Paul and Minneapolis. The original wooden structure was built for the city’s Slovakian, Ukranian and Carpatho-Russian immigrants at the end of the 19th century, but was destroyed in a fire in 1904. The church built to replace it remains to this day, and was elevated to cathedral status in 1971. An on-site gift shop sells trinkets made out of copper that once belonged to the original rooftop dome.
Additional reporting by Mark Nayler
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