If you’re headed to Minnesota’s northern lake country this summer, take a couple of days to explore Minneapolis along the way. This proud city provides an excellent immersion in Midwest urbanism. The more “outgoing” of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis offers visitors a surprising array of attractions, a strong commitment to arts and culture, fine dining based on the bounty of the Midwest, and a never ending connection to nature, reflected in the city’s extensive parks, lakes and trail system.
For Art’s Sake
Minneapolis is chock-a-block with museums of all varieties. But to check the city’s commitment to culture, first timers would be wise to take in one or two of these unique facilities.
The grand dowager is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which houses more than 80,000 works of art that span more than 5,000 years. Whether you’re interested in ancient Egyptian artifacts or European masterpieces by artists such as Titian and Monet, this museum has what you need to get your fix.
A brief stroll through the Walker Art Center is worth a few hours. It’s famous for its collection of modern American and European contemporary art. One of the Walker’s biggest draws is the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the largest urban sculpture garden in the country and home to the renowned Spoonbridge and Cherry, which has become somewhat of an iconic symbol for Minneapolis. For a spectacular view of the city, take a stroll across the nearby Irene Hixon Whitney Footbridge.
Designed by famed avant-garde architect Frank Gehry, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is the place to go to see some of the country’s most renowned contemporary art. Artists represented here include Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe and Roy Lichtenstein in addition to notable touring exhibits. But you might just want to look at the building itself, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
Where Shopping is Huge
Boasting the largest indoor shopping mall in America, Minneapolis has become a shopping vortex with the giant Mall of America serving as the “great attractor.” And with more than 500 stores it’s easy to see why it’s become one of the top tourist destinations in the country.
Downtown Minneapolis is alive and is considered the traditional shopping district by the locals. Here you’ll find Target’s flagship store and Nicollet Mall where the latest fashion trends are available on the street made famous by Mary Tyler Moore.
Just north of downtown is the North Loop, which has transformed from an industrial neighborhood 20 years ago to the Minneapolis version of hipster haven Brooklyn today. Shop stores such as Atmosfere for men’s clothing, women’s boutiques like C’est Chic and D.Nolo, then end up at Ph Orem for soothing massages and high-tech facials. Dunn Bros Coffee can be a quick stop for a pick-me-up after all that shopping.
A Global Marketplace
For a figurative buffet of international tastes head south of downtown to the Midtown Global Market, where more than 50 vendors sell food and items ranging from local produce to Somalian pastries, Middle Eastern olives and Asian spices. There are also cultural events—from musical performances to Irish step-dancing lessons.
A Chain of Lakes
Minneapolis is the capital of the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” and a few of them are right in the city limits. Each of the five bodies of water that encompass the Chain of Lakes Byway District has something different to offer: Lake Harriet features live music during the summer, not to mention a bird sanctuary, rose gardens and two family-friendly beaches, while Lake Calhoun draws a more active crowd with plenty of boat and bike rentals and paths for jogging and biking. Though not as popular, the Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake are great backdrops for a picnic or a stroll. If you visit during the summer, you’ll find a plethora of sporting and live music events at the Chain of Lakes, particularly during July’s festival. minneapolisparks.org
This is a Mill City
Minneapolis exists because of the agricultural bounty of the surrounding region and the city’s role in flour milling. The Mill City Museum downtown tells the history of Minneapolis located in the remains of an actual flour and grain milling facility on the Mississippi River.
Shakespeare Lives Here
The Tyrone Guthrie Theater is one of the nation’s most renowned and one of the city’s most beloved treasures. Opening in 1963 with a production of Hamlet, the original thrust-stage auditorium was replaced in 2006 by the current building downtown containing three theaters. Aside from its three individual stages, the theater also boasts a full-service restaurant, two casual eateries, a cocktail lounge and some of the best views of Minneapolis from the banks of the Mississippi River. Juno and the Paycock is the current production running through June 28.
If you find yourself in the city on July 13, you might want to join hundreds of locals and visitors for Play Day on the Plaza. The day begins with a mass yoga experience on the open plaza, and all day long participants can enjoy other mind/body programs, such as meditation, electronic (!) hopscotch, speed chess and Scrabble. At end of day, a stage hosts performances varying from competitive rap to write fights and dueling banjos.
WHERE TO DINE
112 Eatery — This small, chic eatery is the perfect setting for James Beard award-winning chef Isaac Becker. The former upstart is now a local legend drawing eaters late into the night with compelling plates that are consistently good. The burger is legendary, the foie gras meatballs a new classic. 112 N. 3rd St., 612-343-7696
Bachelor Farmer — In a restored warehouse equipped with a rooftop garden in the North Loop, The Bachelor Farmer turns heads with modern Scandinavian décor and fresh interpretations of Nordic cuisine. The downstairs Marvel Bar is a top contender for best cocktails in the city. 50 2nd Ave. N., 612-206-3920
Heartland — This is the place where visitors from the coasts come to say “aha” about the bounty of the Midwest. Chef Lenny Russo runs a singular spot that supports local farmers in a spectacular fashion. 289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536
Lucia’s Restaurant — For 30 years this local institution has thrived on freshly prepared, simple food, serving as a reminder of how elemental seasonal cooking can be. 1432 W. 31st St., 612-825-1572
World Street Kitchen — The food truck that became a quick-serve walk-in eatery is one of the most exciting places to eat in town, where a rock ’n’ roll ethos has led to a Middle Eastern chef putting out Bangkok burritos stuffed with curried chicken or Korean short ribs. 2743 Lyndale Ave. S., 612-424-8855
WHERE TO STAY
Aloft Minneapolis A great value and location near the Guthrie Theater. Sleek design and friendly staff make this a winner. Double room from $169/night
The Commons Hotel Located on the campus of the University of Minnesota, The Commons offers easy access to all downtown attractions. Double room from $251/night.
The Grand Hotel The name says it all. Everything is simply grand from the luxurious furnishings to the attentive staff and the great downtown location. Double room from $349/night.
Loew’s Minneapolis Hotel Newly renovated and located in central downtown and in walking distance to Target Field. Double rooms from $284/night.
TownePlace Suites In the perfect location in downtown’s North Loop and a good option for family travelers. Suites from $199/night.