By Forbes Travel Guide Editors, published February 2, 2018
Though Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs gave it their all, the Minnesota Vikings came up just short of becoming the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
But even with the Vikings falling short of reaching Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles fans venturing to Minneapolis for the big weekend will be in for a treat. From tailgating events near the action to cook-offs and concerts all around town, the Bold North is buzzing with cool opportunities over the next few weeks.
Here’s our game plan to cheering, toasting and sightseeing the right way in the Twin Cities.
If you’re going to Minneapolis in February, you know you’re going to have to bring your puffy coat. Instead of making a fuss about the frigid forecast, the NFL is embracing the chill this year. You’re going to see jerseys frozen in ice, life-sized snow globes and skating rinks at Super Bowl Live (January 26 to February 4), a sort of footballapalooza that will stretch six downtown blocks.
In addition to the aforementioned wintry-themed attractions, you’ll find music acts on the Verizon Up Stage (Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Idina Menzel), live ESPN broadcasts, Native American drum and dance exhibitions, and much more.
When you need to warm up, sprint a few blocks over to the Super Bowl Experience, an interactive theme park taking place at the Minneapolis Convention Center from January 27 to February 3. Fans of all ages will love the virtual reality action, autograph sessions with gridiron legends, clinics and photo opportunities with the Lombardi Trophy.
When you need a break from football, the Twin Cities has you covered there as well. The early-February sports calendar is loaded with excitement. The NHL’s Minnesota Wild will face off with the upstart Vegas Golden Knights on February 2 at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
Across the Mississippi River, the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves will get in on the action, too. Jimmy Butler and Co. will battle the Milwaukee Bucks (February 1) and New Orleans Pelicans (February 3) at the Target Center, a venue that’s just an eight-minute Uber ride from the Super Bowl Experience.
The first week of February is also a rousing time for the creative set. Minnesota Institute of Art will welcome “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty: Concept and Design by Robert Wilson” from February 3 through May 27. Through a combination of mystic teachings, shifting lights and Wilson’s visionary theatrical background, the Qing dynasty will literally come to life before your very eyes.
To really immerse yourself in Minnesotan culture, partake in The Great Northern, a 10-day winter festival. Instead of hibernating during the freezing season, Minnesotans believe in layering up and enjoying the cold.
The Great Northern (January 25-February 4) celebrates subzero weather with active outdoor events like ice sculptures and an ice bar, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival (check out an amazing 70-foot tall ice palace and a parade with marching band and floats), FrogFest (where you can learn curling), the Columbia Sportswear Skate Marathon (an urban ski competition) and much more.
In that same brave-the-cold spirit, take tour with the knowledgeable guides at Experience the Twin Cities. They will lead tours of Minneapolis and St. Paul on an open-air bus.
Of course, Super Bowl weekend is traditionally a great time to catch live music as well. This year’s festivities will prove no different. No matter if your flavor is top 40 (Gwen Stefani, February 4), hip hop (Ludacris, February 3), English pop (Ellie Goulding, February 2) or country (Florida Georgia Line, February 3), if you’re looking for a show, you’ll likely find it somewhere in the city the first week of February.
Food and Drinks
Because we’re always thinking about our next meal, we’ve had Taste of the NFL circled on our calendars for some time now. Taking place on February 3 at Saint Paul RiverCentre, the gourmet gathering will pair respected chefs from the 32 NFL cities with past and current football players for a fund-raising good time (Kick Hunger Challenge) in front of 2,500 hungry fans.
While we’ll happily sample from every station at the Andrew Zimmern-hosted event, we’re confident we’ll be grabbing seconds from New Orleans toque Susan Spicer’s (of Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Bayona) and Atlanta chef Kevin Rathburn’s tables.
Just shy of a mile from the stadium, Four-Star Hotel Ivy, A Luxury Collection Hotel is sold out during Super Bowl weekend, but you can still go there for a fine meal. Monello will warm you up with hearty coastal Italian cuisine. But if you want to feel toasty with a libation, head to the subterranean Constantine bar and have a well-made Old Fashioned. The gorgeous Gothic space, whose décor pay homage to the hotel’s former life as a church, is a local hot spot.
For party central, visit downtown’s Lumber Exchange Building, which is also nearly a mile from the stadium. Tao Group’s Big Game pop-up will take over three spaces in the historic structure from February 1 to 4. The packed lineup includes Afrojack, DJ Diesel (better known as Shaquille O’Neal), Dimitry Mak, DJ Irie, Jamie Foxx, Kaskade, Lil Jon, Mix Master Mike, Nick Cannon and Rick Ross. Miami’s LIV on Sunday party will make its way north and cap off the revelry on February 4.
Among the Lumber Exchange’s three venues, The Pourhouse is the place to hit. The massive, cavernous bar is outfitted with a 25-foot HD projection screen and 50 TVs, so you don’t miss a single play. While you watch, tuck into a pile of habanero beer-battered cheese curds and sip the Wanderer’s Punch, a potent, secret-recipe rum punch.
Also at The Pourhouse, former Viking Esera Tuaolo will host a meet and greet and an Inclusion Party (January 31) to raise money for diversity and anti-bullying groups. Then NFL Hall of Famer Carl Eller will bring along some famous friends for a pancake breakfast (February 1). Mingle with more pros at the Retired Players Association happy hour (February 2), where Tuaolo will perform (the multitalented defensive tackle was a contestant on NBC’s The Voice).
For a more sedate but still sports-focused spot, try The Loop in the city’s North Loop, an up-and-coming downtown neighborhood. The newly renovated bar is modern and airy, but your eyes will be glued to the 13 flat-screens affixed to every wall in the exposed-white-brick space.
Don’t miss the buffalo chicken wontons. The creaminess of the chicken-and-cream-cheese eggrolls gets offset by the heat from the sauce doused on top. Or opt for the diner-favorite Fulton-beer-battered chicken strips. Either way, go up to the O-shaped bar and order a Surly Furious, a smooth local IPA, or Loon Juice, a Minneapolis cider that will leave the taste of apples lingering in your mouth.
A five-minute walk from U.S. Bank Stadium, Grumpy’s Bar and Grill is a no-frills spot, save for some pool tables and a jukebox, but it’s a local staple for its 18 beers on tap and typical pub fare, including Minneapolis’ famed Juicy Lucy — cheese-stuffed burgers.