Written by Katie Chang, published January 22, 2018
In case you didn’t know, there’s far more to Minneapolis than extreme cold, Prince, and the city’s most famous culinary contribution: the Juicy Lucy. Because instead of running from and shunning the winter, locals fully embrace what nature's given them. So while many Americans are hunkering down at home these months, Minnesotans are bundled up, and happily out and about: eating, drinking, exploring, and forging new ways to find happiness in the sub-zero temps. Here, a handy guide on how to make the most of a wintry getaway to the beautiful and ever-charming City of Lakes.
Exploring and Events
Located in Lowry Wood, Walker Art Center is one of the country’s most respected contemporary arts destinations. In addition to an impressive private collection clocking in over 13,000 pieces, there’s always rotating exhibitions dedicated to mediums beyond visual art (like performance and design). In short, you’ll discover something new every time you visit. There’s also a smartly-curated shop on the ground floor, which sells everything from eye-catching jewelry to locally-made scarves. Even better? Proceeds from all sales benefit the center’s educational and artistic programs.
As the name implies, the American Swedish Institute pays homage to all things Swedish. Spread out over the historic Turnblad Mansion and contemporary Nelson Cultural Center, the center serves as a lively cultural hub, with a wide of range of programming including art exhibits, language courses, and kid-friendly workshops. Don’t forget to drop by FIKA, the on-site cafe doling out Nordic treats such as gravlax, Swedish meatballs, and open-faced sandwiches.
If you need proof that locals truly embrace their wintry environs, look no further than The Great Northern, which will be held January 24 through February 4. This ten-day festival proudly features all-outdoor experiences, like the Saint Paul Chef’s Experience – where celebrated chefs Adam Eaton of St. Paul hot spot Saint Dinette and Thomas Boemer of Minneapolis’ Corner Table whip up a feast in a farmer’s market – on Monday, January 29, and Surly’s Ultimate Winter Feast on January 31. (Just imagine a cozy gathering under the twinkling night sky with craft beers, hearty grilled meats, and live DJs.)
Al's Breakfast is a local institution, with just 14 seats and a cash-only policy.
For the most famous breakfast in the area, head to Al’sBreakfast. The narrow, cash-only, 14-seat space in Dinkytown is always packed, so be prepared to wait and get cozy with the other customers. (The legendary blueberry-walnut pancakes are a must.) For a slightly more refined start, beeline to Alma, the beloved restaurant, cafe, and boutique hotel helmed by chef Alex Roberts, where you can tuck into quiches, bone broth, and assorted signature pastries. Birchwood Cafe and The Lynhall are equally satisfying alternatives for the first meal of the day, but if you’re short on time, check out Cardigan Donuts in Minneapolis’ City Center. The space is cheery and colorful, as are the whimsical treats (hello, Churro Roll and Boson Cream Bismark).
If you’ve got a hankering for hearty Southern comforts, the Tennessee hot fried chicken, pimento cheese, and collard greens at Revival will cure what ails you. But you can’t visit Minneapolis without sampling a Juicy Lucy, a local specialty. Though countless versions of the burger with an oozy, cheesy core can be found throughout the city, the original can be found at Matt’s Bar, a humble, cash-only spot that packs in the crowds.
Acclaimed chef Jamie Malone is making magic at The Grand Cafe with her elegant, but approachable French cuisine. The space feels soft and decidedly feminine, thanks to lush wallpaper, thoughtful pops of blush, and mismatched, vintage china. But it's Malone's thoughtful, considered approach to ingredients – for example, letting pristine seafood shine with a simple poach and showcasing humble vegetables like leeks – that's keeping both locals and critics abuzz. Newly-opened, Martina in Linden Hills has the city happily humming with chef Daniel del Prado’s wood-fired seafood and toothsome pastas in a chic, vaguely industrial space. Even though it opened in 2014, Spoon and Stable by chef Gavin Kaysen is still one of the toughest reservations to nab. To honor his hometown roots, Kaysen sources many ingredient from the Midwest, as evidenced by his bison tartare, grilled pheasant breast, and American venison. The Bachelor Farmer also showcases local meat and produce, but it's the famous signature toast spreads with fresh cheeses and charcuterie you'll want to kick every dinner off with.
Though Lyn 65 is one of the city's most popular restaurants, it also happens to tout a top-notch cocktail program, too. House favorites include the Hisbiscuits, a spirited concoction of hibiscus-infused mezcal, velvet falernum, and lime, and the Iron Range Beach Club, a smooth blend of aquavit, creme de fleur, lemon, and ginger bitters. If you're feeling peckish, a full food menu is available. (The fried chicken, diner burger, and Neopolitan pizzas are all solid drinking partners.) Tattersall Distilling is a cutting-edge distillery and welcoming bar in one, but what makes this a must-visit for serious tipplers is the use of its award-winning house spirits (like the gin, Orange Crema, and aquavit) in all the creative cocktails. Even though the Back Bar at Young Joni is at street level – you have to walk around the restaurant, and through an alley until you see a red light – once you're in, it's akin to hanging out in a secretive, yet cozy basement. Kitted out with vintage wallpaper, lots of raw wood, and working record players, the space is ideal for lingering with a well-crafted drink in a chill, hushed environment.
Fitness and Well-Being
Sometimes, bigger isn't always better. Need proof? Then check out Embury spa at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel. The facilities air on the snug side, but the service and treatment offerings are nothing short of world class. And if there's a treatment you shouldn't miss, it's the 80-minute Sticks and Stones massage. Your therapist – request Sherilyn, she's out-of-this-world talented – will combine birch massagers, warm stones, and flowing movements to not just relax, but revive you. (This is one of the few times I've left a spa feeling light and invigorated, instead of ready to hit the sheets.) Ivy Spa Salon & Fitness Club is a sparkling, full-service facility, complete with a gym, spa, salon, sauna, steam rooms, and pools. Beyond classic European facials and Swedish massages, there's more specialized offerings, like Lomi Lomi massage, Collagen Booster Therapy, and Botox – all of which are delivered with exemplary care. When you're ready to break a sweat, it's The Firm that'll have you covered. The multi-floor fitness center features a state-of-the-art gym, alongside high-intensity classes like spinning, crossfit, and vintage aerobics, led by bubbly industry veteran Doug Melroe.
Where to Stay
There's no hipper place to decompress in the city than The Hewing Hotel in the North Loop. With 124 rooms and 13 suites, the former warehouse now sports a rugged, handsome design throughout. Upon entering, you'll notice how cozy everything looks and feels. Toasty fireplace? Check. Original pine timber beams? Check. Plush armchairs to sink into? Check. That warm feeling extends to the spacious, well-dressed accommodations, the bustling all-day restaurant Tullibee, and even the rooftop – where you can kick back with a cocktail or detox in the Finnish sauna, with the city skyline as your backdrop.
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