"Don’t Miss" Things to Do in Minneapolis

By the time you leave, you'll already be planning your next visit.

Minnehaha Falls

Forget whatever snarky blurb you read about Minnesota being colder than Mars in winter. First of all, not true (usually), second we don’t care. Minnesotans play outside year-round. If you come in winter, you’ll likely be lured outside at some stage for merriment. Don’t worry, someone will lend you a parka.

1. The Food Scene

We had had 8 chefs and 3 restaurants qualify as semifinalists for James Beard Foundation awards in 2019. Needless to say, a carefully planned eating itinerary is strongly recommended. You can find eating inspiration in our “don’t miss” Minneapolis eating experiences page.

2. The Scenic Biking Trails

Minneapolis is the most bike-friendly city in the country. Borrow a bike or hop on a NiceRide bike and see where fate takes you. A lazy cruise along the Mississippi, down parkways or around one of the city’s 13 lakes is a good way to absorb the city. Or, for the serious cyclists, do a circuit on the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, a 51-mile loop composed of parkways, boulevards, trails and lakes. It’s the only scenic byway in the country located entirely within an urban area. Another option at your fingertips is to bike the World-Famous Midtown Greenway, a 5.5-mile long biking and walking trail located in the heart of Minneapolis, connecting the Chain of Lakes to the Mississippi River.  It's plowed in the winter, lit at night, and open 24/7. The Midtown Greenway Coalition has produced a series of Greenway maps, which you can view or download for free. Take a tour of the cultural destinations and public art near the Greenway, or stop by a restaurant for some tasty local food. Another bike rental option is through the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center.

Winter Biking, Photo Courtesy of Midtown Greenway Coalition

3. Our Park System

No Minneapolis resident lives farther than six blocks from a park. If you’re downtown, your best bet is the Mississippi River Boulevard, though a quick ride on light rail will bring you to Minnehaha Park, Hidden Falls Park, Fort Snelling or any number of other marquee green spaces in the city.

4. The Creative Community

Mia, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, has been the city’s art keystone for over 100 years. Their collection is composed of a staggering 89,000 objects, including world-famous works representing about 20,000 years of history across all continents. Admission is free (excluding special exhibits). A little over a mile away is the Walker Art Center a Minneapolis institution since 1940 and one the most visited modern and contemporary art museums in the country. Across the street is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the largest urban sculpture park in the world, featuring some 40 works of contemporary art, including the city’s iconic “Spoonbridge and Cherry.” 

Mia Exhibit, Photo Courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art

5. Our Music and Nightlife

First Avenue is unquestionably the city’s most famous live music venue. It had had already cemented its legacy as one of the top venues in the country before Prince used it as a location for key parts of his 1984 film “Purple Rain.” The incredible history of this club is literally written on the outside walls of the building. Since 1970, artists that performed here have included Tina Turner, Ray Charles, BB King, Iggy and The Stooges, The Cure, The Replacements, U2, REM, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, The Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Moby, Coldplay, The White Stripes, and virtually any other popular artist you can name. The neighboring, intimate 7th Street Entry is its smaller, live music sister venue.

Minneapolis knows how to rock
First Avenue exterior, Photo Courtesy of First Avenue

6. Our Craft Brews

The craft beer scene has landed on Minneapolis, hard. Breweries, distilleries and even the odd cidery are conveniently clustered in a few neighborhoods. North of downtown is Fulton Brewing Taproom and Boom Island Brewing Company. Across the river Northeast Minneapolis has 612 Brew, Bauhaus Brew Labs, Indeed Brewing Company and Sociable Cider Werks. Around nearby Lake Street are Du Nord Craft Spirits, Lawless Distilling and Urban Forage Winery & Cider House. Interested in a more in-depth look at the Minneapolis brewery scene? Look no further.   

7. Our Historical Side

The genuinely fascinating history of Minneapolis and its flour milling industry can be absorbed at the Mill City Museum. It’s full of great historical exhibits recounting Minneapolis’ 50-year run as the flour milling capital of the world, most memorably (and noisily) presented in the multimedia “Four Tower” show, staged inside a rumbling freight elevator. Just outside are milling-era legacies Mill Ruins Park and the Stone Arch Bridge.

The Mill City Museum, Ruins Park and Stone Arch Bridge

8. The Performing Arts

Founded in 1963, the crown jewel of the Twin Cities’ distinguished theater community is the Guthrie Theater. The Guthrie stages performances year-round in its three-theater complex on Mississippi River Boulevard, where it relocated in 2006. Other nationally renowned theaters in the area include the Children’s Theatre Company, the Orpheum Theatre and the Jungle Theater

9. Our Brunch Menus

Twin Citizens do not mess around when it comes to brunch. Weekends are planned around it. If you’re downtown, check out Key’s Café, where breakfast means giant omelets and items from their in-house bakery. Hen House also boasts an amazing breakfast and bakery. Hell’s Kitchen, an eclectically decorated, basement joint, serving “damn good food” all day, has a popular weekend brunch menu, featuring a spectacular Bloody Mary bar and live music.

10. The largest, contiguous system of enclosed, second level bridges in the world

The Minneapolis Skyway System is composed of roughly 11 miles of pathways connecting 80 city blocks. Take some time to explore and get lost in this incredible system, which connects corporate offices, bars, restaurants, bakeries, hotels, government services, retail, gyms, grocery stores, liquor stores, banks, doctors, dentists, masseurs, pharmacies, hair and nail salons, dry cleaners, live theaters, three pro sports facilities, a church, art exhibits and, well, you get the idea. 

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