Things to Do Around Minneapolis Convention Center
The Minneapolis Convention Center, sitting on the south side of downtown, hosts meetings, conferences, sporting events, shows, expos and more in its 475,000 feet of exhibit space and 87 meeting rooms. Unlike many convention centers, often located in a dead area on the edge of town, the Convention Center is only a few blocks from all manner of activities and food during your lunches, breaks and hard-earned dinners.
Where to Eat & Drink
When hunger strikes and you can get away from your event, there are several eating options to race to. Outside the Minneapolis Convention Center, you've got plenty of choices and most of them are within a 10 minute walk or less.
Open 24 hours and always serving the full menu, Nicollet Diner has breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, shakes (spiked and unspiked) and other family-friendly food. Warning: the portions are large. Pings serves (and delivers!) Szechuan, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Hunan dishes. They have a full-service bar and a buffet for lunch.
Key’s Café is a Twin Cities institution, housed in a funky art-deco space just off Nicollet. They serve the usual American fare, but breakfast is where they really stand out, with their giant omelets and in-house bakery. They also have a great happy hour. The Hen House Eatery also boasts an amazing breakfast and bakery. They do lunch and a limited small plate/happy hour menu till 8pm. Weekend breakfasts and game days are packed here, but if you don’t mind sitting at the great, winding bar, just skip the line at the host podium, waltz over and plop yourself down.
Downtown’s most (in)famous spot for food and drink is Hell’s Kitchen, an eclectically decorated, basement joint, serving “damn good food” all day. On weekends, they have a renowned brunch menu, a spectacular Bloody Mary bar and live music.
Fondue chain, The Melting Pot, offers the interactive experience of dipping food into a variety of cheeses and broth, such as beef, lobster, duck, shrimp, chicken, and mushrooms. There are, of course, chocolate dipping options for dessert. The menu caters to all budgets. Latin American tapas, tacos and quesadillas are on hand at Barrio, best known for their large happy hour menu. If you’re in the mood for steak and chops, Ruth’s Chris Steak House never disappoints. Even promising that at Ruth's Chris, your last bite is just as good as your first!
Brit’s Pub has evolved into a kind of English Pub attraction as much as a place to get a bite and a pint. Soccer and rugby games bring in a specialized audience of passionate sports fans and the massive rooftop English Garden Park has a 10,000 square foot lawn bowling green and can be a pretty good spot to catch some sun. Just a few steps down Nicollet is the Irish answer to Brit’s, The Local. The long, mahogany bar that greets you is the first sign you’ve hit Irish pub. The menu is a treat of traditional Irish food and make sure you try the bar’s signature drink, The Big Ginger (Jameson and ginger ale).
Zelo serves upscale, contemporary Italian food with style. The atmosphere is largely business meals, date nights and special occasions, though the patio is less formal. Their bar is a cozy place for post-work drinks. Monello serves wondrously refined Italian dishes, exceptional seafood and craft cocktails. Weekend brunch includes unlimited mimosas. Finally, there is Manny’s Steakhouse, located on the ground floor of the iconic Foshay Tower, home to the W Hotel. It's a little pricey, but absolutely worth the money. Eye-watering cuts of beef are joined on the menu by lobster, king crab, salmon and, yes, even chicken if you want to ruin your server’s day.
For a quick bite
If you only have a few minutes to spare, or just want to get off your feet, Craft Bar and Lounge, conveniently located inside the Convention Center, has a wide variety of small plates and delicious snacks like fresh deli wrapped sandwiches, a variety of flatbread pizzas, and fresh salads. Minnesota-made beers rotate through the lounge, including Surly, Lift Bridge, Big Wood and numerous seasonal options. Caffeine spikes and snacks can be picked up at the Convention Center’s Dunn Brothers outpost.
For fast and fast-casual food, there are tons of options—mostly down the main street of Nicollet, these include Chipotle, QDOBA, La Belle Crepe, and Panera Bread. As well as a Jimmy John’s just around the corner along 9th street. Popular Minneapolis staple, Lotus sells budget-friendly, counter service Vietnamese, like fried rice, noodles, egg rolls and pho that you can eat in or eat on the run.
In the skyway
In less inviting weather, the Convention Center is connected to the marvelous Minneapolis Skyway System, the largest, contiguous system of enclosed, second level bridges in the world. It stretches for roughly 9.5 miles and connects 80 city blocks of downtown. The system connects the Convention Center to innumerable hotels and places to eat, shop and drink. To get anywhere for food through the skyway may take a bit longer (or a lot longer if you lose your way), but if staying warm and dry is a priority, it’s worth it.
For snacks and emergency shopping, the two-level, flagship Target Store at 9th Street and Nicollet has become the one-stop destination for downtown workers and residents to satisfy virtually any need. The grocery section has grown to stock a variety of items to fuel a quick family lunch or hotel room breakfast.
The skyway has many dining options as well. The closest spots to the Convention Center are Café Patten in the International Centre, Caribou Coffee and Dave's Downtown in the Oracle building and Hot Indian, Naf Naf Grill, Ah Sa Wan Chinese Food Restaurant and Ginelli's Pizza in the 121 South 8th street building.
If you wander further down the skyway system you'll run into many shopping destinations including Brooks Brothers, Allen Edmonds (shoes and leather goods), Hubert White(clothing), St Croix Shop (men’s clothing), Union 73, Pacifier (children's clothing), Marty Mathis Direct (men’s suits), Juut Salonspa, Lindskoog Florist, Haskell’s (wine, beer, alcohol), and Cocoa & Fig (boutique bake shop).
Things to do
While walking a few loops inside the Convention Center itself would probably get you to 10,000 steps, you can also get out for a little fresh air and greenery. One of the better strolls from the Convention Center is down the Loring Greenway, a landscaped walkway with places to sit or art and fountains to relax near. The Greenway starts just a block west of the Convention Center, leading to the famous Loring Park.
From Loring Park you can cross over the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, which is an Instagrammer's dream photo-op. This pedestrian bridge connects you to a Minneapolis must-see the Walker Art Center's Sculpture Garden. Here you'll discover around 40 works of contemporary sculpture art, including the iconic "Spoonbridge and Cherry." Don't forget to make a stop inside the Walker Art Center where you can browse through contemporary visual arts and design exhibitions, and sit in on film screenings, or dance, theater, and music performances.
Nearby, is the very first Basilica in the United States, the Basilica of St. Mary. Known for its ornamental and detailed Beaux-Arts architecture, The Basilica of St. Mary is more than a place of worship; it’s a gathering spot for the community to come together to appreciate diversity, art and culture. It's home to several art exhibits and galleries, and concerts are held there throughout the year.
If you're looking for a more adrenaline pumping adventure, check out Escape the Room Minneapolis. Test your smarts and puzzle-solving abilities in one of three exclusive escape room experiences. You'll find these mystery filled rooms along Minneapolis' Main Street, Nicollet.