For those hoping for a hip, fast-paced vacation in the Midwest, Minneapolis is the place to visit. It’s part of the Twin Cities, which includes St. Paul, the state’s capital, to the east. Whether you’re seeking to enjoy the bustling nightlife, view historic architecture, or enjoy a Broadway-worthy theater performance, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Minneapolis. Here are 20 must-visit attractions to incorporate into your trip.
While its name may be eyebrow-raising to some, the Electric Fetus is known as the pre-eminent indie record store in Minnesota. Since opening its doors in the 1960s, it’s 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.
This Roman Catholic minor basilica, constructed in the early 1900s and ranked by Pope Pius XI, was the first basilica established in the U.S. It sits on its own block in downtown Minneapolis. It’s a must-see attraction for those interested in historic architecture. Today, the Basilica of St. Mary acts as a gathering place for the local community. In addition to its Catholic services, its leaders host concerts and music festivals, are aggressive with local outreach, and display local, national, and international artwork.
The Mill City Museum, built into the ruins of 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.
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 ingredient in 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.
Explore a former military fortification at 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.
The Twin Cities are the proud home of the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The Walker began as the private art collection of lumber baron Thomas Barlow Walker in the late 1800s and is one of the most visited (in the top five) modern and contemporary art museums in the country. More than 700,000 people visit the Walker and its neighboring Minneapolis Sculpture Garden each year. 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 it has become a beloved symbol of the Twin Cities.
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, 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 two acres of plant life, including ferns, orchids, seasonal flowers, and bonsai trees.
People visit Minnehaha Park for many reasons, though its biggest draw is the 53-foot (16-meter) Minnehaha Falls. The park is one of the oldest in Minneapolis and also features beautiful 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. It’s named after the famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Today, its programming 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.
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.
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.
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 there was like. The iconic pop star would, at times, open the doors at his home for spontaneous performances. Tickets range from $40–160.
Founded in the 1880s, the Minneapolis Central Library was the city’s first public library building. The modern, 353,000-square-foot facility, known for 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.
Since its opening in the early 1990s, the Mall of America has been a big draw to the Twin Cities. The outer ring of the mall features multiple floors of shopping, and the center is home to Nickelodeon Universe, a theme park. In terms of total floor area, the mall is the largest one in the U.S. and the 12th largest in the world. There’s enough space inside to fit seven Yankee Stadiums, according to the City of Bloomington.
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 artifacts. More than half a million people visit each year. Aside from its museum, MIA is one of the largest arts educators in Minnesota.
This Minneapolis neighborhood is a hip, 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 fashionable 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 his songs.
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 15 miles (24.1 kilometers) 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.
St. Paul is known for being the home of famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and literature lovers can visit a number of his old homes and haunts. You can see the home that he was born in, and the place where he wrote his first novel, This Side of Paradise. To the west in Minneapolis, fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show can drive by the mansion made famous in the show’s credits. The show’s main character, Mary Richards, supposedly lived in the home’s third-floor apartment. Located on Kenwood Parkway, the 9,500-square-foot Victorian mansion was built in the early 1900s and features seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms.
The Guthrie’s unique exterior and world-class performances draw thousands of people each year. The $1.25 million facility, built in the 1960s, houses three theaters and puts 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.
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 like the “Midtown Writers Group.” More than 1.5 million people visit Midtown Global Market each year.