By Thrillist Travel
We’ve all been there, sitting at work as Thursday afternoon rolls around and that inevitable itch creeps up: the impulse to just sod off and leave all responsibilities behind. To take a break from “the real world” and try on a different city for a few days, with new faces, new sights, sounds, and foods you can’t get at home.
Reader, we’ve got you covered. There are cities all over the country brimming with energy just a short flight, road trip, or train ride away. Pack your carry-on and in a few hours, you’ll be surrounded by distinct American cultures, iconic dishes, and live tunes. We know what it takes to have a damn good time in a new place, which is why we tapped our crack staff of writers and editors across the country to whittle down 300-plus American cities (with populations over 90k) to the absolute 25 best for a three day weekend trip. Plus, Thrillist has fully-loaded travel guides to the best of ‘em, like NOLA, San Diego, Miami, Austin, and Vegas (spoiler: all on this list).
Of course, reasonable people can (and should!) disagree on what makes a good weekend trip. What we look for is a unique sense of place, great food and drink, distinct walkable neighborhoods, bang for your buck, and a welcoming, hassle-free immersion to the best of what a town has to offer. A great weekend city is like jumping into a pool where the water is just right.
18. Minneapolis, Minnesota
You don’t have to head to suburban traps like Mall of America and Valleyfair to have a good time in the Twin Cities. The restaurant scene in Minneapolis has been exploding in recent years -- check out Hi-Lo Diner, or Hai Hai (one of 2018's best new restaurants), a vibrant space serving bright, flavorful dishes from southeast Asia. And there’s more great local beer than you can shake a loon at. Head to Northeast and crawl between breweries like Indeed, Able, Bauhaus, and 612 Brew. Or hoof between Modist, Fulton, Inbound, and Clockwerks in the North Loop just off Downtown Minneapolis.
If the outdoors are more your speed, kayak in the Mississippi or take advantage of the many trails along the river. You may have heard the state's motto: Minnesota Got Lakes. Hit a beach to swim, sail, or, in the winter, play shinny hockey without leaving the city. Those Minnesota winters are brutal and long, but it shouldn’t surprise you that Minneapolis has more fun winter activities than you’ll find anywhere. Plus, Downtown has a skyway system so you can still walk the city protected from mother nature’s fury.
Neighborhood to check out: Uptown and Downtown Minneapolis are popular haunts, but don’t sleep on Eat Street in Whittier. It’s not just a clever name. Grab a banh mi or bowl of noodles to-go at Jasmine Deli, or get a high-five worthy meal at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. Swing by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, then play pinball at Tilt Pinball Bar, while choosing from its solid lineup of local brews. Just like anywhere in the city, there are local coffee shops on every corner, so stop by Spyhouse to caffeine-up, grab a gourmet donut at Glam Doll Donuts, go record-shopping at Cheapo (record stores still exist!), and finish with late-night eats at Little Tijuana’s.
Must eat & drink: The juicy lucy is undeniably great. Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club both claim to be the original, and either is worth a visit. Matt’s does away with frills like, ahem, plates, but give yourself some time. There are lines on the weekends and molten cheese that needs time to cool.
Don’t leave without: Spending an afternoon at Surly Destination Brewery, a complete multi-level beer destination with a large beer hall, beer garden, great food, and an upstairs space serving New Haven style pizza. The tap list is big and constantly rotating, so get a pour of a classic like Todd the Axe Man, or one of the taproom exclusives. -- Dustin Nelson