If Minnesota doesn’t come to mind when you think of a city-weekend escape, you must not be familiar with the City of Lakes. Minneapolis is an arts and culture hub that surprises most with its style and spirit—Bob Dylan, a Minnesotan himself, marveled at the ahead-of-the-times music scene he saw in the 1950s in Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul.
“The Twin Cities, they were rock and roll towns,” Dylan said. “I didn’t know that … The Twin Cities was surfing rockabilly, all of it cranked up to ten with a lot of reverb.”
That pleasant perplexity about Minneapolis is even more common now, as it emerges as a U.S. travel destination. The City of Lakes is having a moment thanks to its famed art, live music, an eclectic food scene, and the Super Bowl. Here are the top reasons to give into the Minneapolis travel trend.
11 Reasons to Visit Minneapolis:
This Minnesota hub produces an eclectic array of craft beer, from sours to stouts—which means it has something for beer nerds and newbies alike. Choose from dozens of locally loved breweries, from downtown brewpubs like Day Block Brewing (try the pickle flights) to massive beer halls across the Mississippi River, like Surly Brewing, which is a favorite for food pairings.
Some of the biggest craft beer producers in the Twin Cities litter Northeast Minneapolis: Bauhaus Brew Labs, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, and Dangerous Man Brewing, for example. But you’ll also find plenty closer to downtown, like Lakes and Legends, Modist Brewing, and Fulton Brewery. And all of these options are just a small sampling of the smorgasbord of breweries this relatively small city has to offer.
Perhaps the biggest advocate of Minneapolis travel was Prince, the late Minnesotan rock star. After growing up in the city’s jazz scene and filming Purple Rain at famed First Avenue nightclub in the 1980s, Prince carried a dedication to Minneapolis everywhere he went. You can visit his home and studios, Paisley Park, in nearby Chanhassen, or stop at some of his favorite spots in Minneapolis, like Electric Fetus record store and his childhood home in North Minneapolis. Odes to Prince and Bob Dylan punctuate the downtown art scene in Instagram-worthy street art like giant murals, and a stop at First Avenue’s Seventh Street Entry mural is a must for any music lover.
The Twin Cities are a two-for-one destination if you’re up for it—there’s even more nature, beer, outdoor activities, and music to uncover in St. Paul, just a 20-minute drive to the east. Hike and bike the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, meander historic Fort Snelling, and marvel at the Cathedral of Saint Paul—modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
If the image of a bright red cherry resting on an oversized spoon comes to mind when you hear “Minneapolis,” it should come as no surprise that the city is a haven for modern art and architecture. Claes Oldenburg’s Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture is an iconic symbol of the city and sits at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden outside the Walker Art Center. The Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota is another popular spot for art lovers, and strikes a dramatic shadow on the campus with its wonky, Frank Gehry-designed architecture.
Minneapolis is first and foremost the “City of Lakes,” which means it comes alive in warmer months—when the Minnesota winter isn’t keeping people inside. Take to one of the 13 sizable lakes in the city’s borders for water activities like kayaking, paddle boating, sailing, and swimming. In the Chain of Lakes, try Lake Calhoun for beaches with skyline views, or Lake Harriet for bird watching, concerts, and festivals. To the south, Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha are also favorites for water activities and walking paths.
The history of Minneapolis lies in its once-burgeoning flour industry. The Mississippi River helped make Minneapolis home to many water-powered mills, and signs for Pillsbury, Ceresota, and Gold Medal Flour still mark where these mills once stood. The best remaining example of a flour mill is now the Mill City Museum, which displays in the ruins of the Washburn “A” Mill what a working flour factory looked and sounded like in the 1900s. Learn about the competitive mill industry that built up Minneapolis, and get a sprawling view of the city and the Mississippi River waterfall that powered the mill from its top-floor observation deck.
The Mississippi River
Aside from shaping this Midwest metropolis, the Mississippi River is at the center of some of the best views Minneapolis has to offer. For the best skyline view, walk or take a public NiceRide bike down the river’s bike and pedestrian-only Stone Arch Bridge, which stretches 700 yards to the Mill District.
U.S. Bank Stadium
If you like your vacation with a side of sports, Minneapolis is home to a brand new indoor stadium that’s taking the world stage as the host of the Super Bowl in 2018, as well as the X Games for both 2017 and 2018: U.S. Bank Stadium. Catch a Vikings game or concert while you’re in town, or simply head to Medtronic Plaza for a glimpse of the behemoth structure, which is within walking distance of the historic Mill District and some beloved local institutions, like Day Block Brewing and the historic Guthrie Theater.
Minneapolis is home to 197 green parks that serve as respites on a hot summer day and offer unique glimpses into some historic corners of the city. Gold Medal Park is one of the best places to take in Minneapolis’s vintage signs, modern architecture, and artistic charms, thanks to its sculptures and a raised, grassy observation knoll. Venture to Minnehaha Park for a break from downtown and a rushing waterfall nestled inside a sprawling green picnic area. The city’s Japanese-inspired Lyndale Park Peace Garden and Rose Garden are a favorite among locals and visitors alike, and home to the second-oldest rose garden in the U.S.
Chefs in Minneapolis are bringing the heat. Stumble upon eclectic restaurants and diverse cuisines with every meal, from classic-American indulgences like the Bloody Mary bar and brunch at famed Hell’s Kitchen, to the Midtown Global Market‘s world-class international vendors. The latter is home to Somali, Mexican, Indian, Palestinian, and Vietnamese food stalls primarily run by immigrant business owners. You can also (of course) enjoy an in-house taproom and microbrewery, Eastlake Craft Brewery, and specialty Minnesota items like honey and farm-fresh cheeses.
It’s no secret Midwesterners are friendly, but the diversity of the friendly faces you’ll find in Minneapolis might surprise you. Home to the largest population of Somalis in America, Minneapolis boasts authentic East-African food and crafts in both the Midtown Global Market and “Little Mogadishu“—located in Cedar-Riverside. The Twin Cities also have strong European roots represented in food and festivals, thanks to the many Germans and Polish ancestors that settled here generations ago.
Minnesotans and transplants alike are likely to chat you up over a beer (a trend I welcomed, being solo in my Minneapolis travel experience). A unique mix of American-heartland traditions and new international perspectives, Minneapolis will surprise you with its eclecticism.
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