Dinkytown/University of Minnesota Area
Class and Character, On and Off Campus
There’s absolutely nothing dinky about Dinkytown—with the exception being its square footage compared to other neighborhoods. But in its relatively small footprint, expect to be amazed by the cultural and culinary offerings here. Rubbing shoulders with the University of Minnesota, Dinkytown features a vibrant mashup of college-town coffee shops, plus refined dining and lodging for when the parents come to visit. During Gophers sporting events, the neighborhood amps up the excitement at sports bars and restaurants. Arts lovers find plenty to engage with, too, at cultural meccas Northrop Auditorium, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum and the iconic Varsity Theater.
Things to Do
Since the opening of TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, Dinkytown has aptly taken on the role of being one giant college football tailgating party during Minnesota Golden Gophers games. Fans hit up neighborhood restaurants and bars before packing the 50,805-seat venue, the first college or pro football stadium to receive LEED certification for its environmentally efficient construction and design. If you have a ticket to a game or concert here, don’t miss The T. Denny Sanford Athletics Hall of Fame on the stadium’s southwest end. Here, you’ll find images, artifacts and interactive kiosks that celebrate 25 of the U of M’s athletic programs. Just across the street, you can catch a Gophers basketball game at Williams Arena and Sports Pavilion or a hockey match at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Arts and cultural offerings abound on and off campus, with some of the biggest events taking place at Northrop Auditorium. Masterfully restored in 2014, the main theater seats nearly 2,700 people for concerts, dance performances and lectures. Past guests have included everyone from Bruce Springsteen to The Dalai Lama. Once housed within Northrop, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is now a shimmering multi-angular showpiece that overlooks the Mississippi River. Inside the Frank Gehry-designed building, a permanent collection of more than 25,000 works highlights modernist works and ceramics as well ancient Native American pottery and traditional Korean furniture.
Back on the streets of Dinkytown, the cultural tour continues with a live show at the art deco Varsity Theater. With its intimate, eclectic vibe, rich history and superb acoustics, the Varsity has become one of the most sought-after music venues in the Midwest. World-renowned artists such as Janelle Monaé, Brandi Carlile, and Mumford and Sons have played gigs here. Just around the corner, the Kitty Cat Klub is lesser-known but equally funky, thrilling the 21-plus crowd with live tunes, wine and beer. Visit during Happy Hour from 4-7pm to snag a $12 bottle of red or white.
Just east of Dinkytown, the Como and Prospect Park neighborhoods hum to their own tune with a variety of bars, breweries and distilleries drawing the young adult crowd. Favorites include Surly Brewing Company, Insight Brewing & Taproom, and Norseman Distillery. You’ll know you’re getting close to Prospect Park territory when you see the historic water tower dubbed the “Witch’s Hat” for its prominent triangular cap.
Where to Eat & Drink
The dining offerings around Dinkytown are about as diverse as the more than 50,000 students who attend the U of M. In other words, there’s literally something for everyone.
The line to get into 14-stool Al’s Breakfast is more than worth the wait. Their eggy and affordable breakfasts (including a unique New Orleans omelet with shrimp, almonds and capers) are a big draw for college students and locals alike. Above the Kitty Cat Klub, Annie’s Parlour has become an institution for its heaping portions for fresh-cut, crispy fries and massive malts. Neighboring Loring Bar & Restaurant makes for a classy date night. Admire the eye-catching interior of wrought-iron staircases and Baroque-style accents while diving into plates of goat cheese ravioli and coffee-crusted lamb. Looking for a quick, filling lunch? Order a fresh-baked pasty filled with steak, potatoes, rutabaga and onion from Lands End Pasty Company.
If you strategize your portion sizes, you can easily take a world tour of Dinkytown eats in one afternoon. Start with a couple crispy falafel, samosas or stuffed grape leaves at Mediterranean Wally’s Falafel, Hummus and Bakery, then make your way to the authentic Chinese Sidewalk Kitchen for an order of pan-fried pot stickers or steamed Shanghai pork sliders. The sweet plantains at Afro Deli & Grill (featuring a delightful mix of African, Mediterranean and American eats) make for a not-too-heavy and low-sugar dessert.
Still not enough options for you? The list goes on and on, from apple strudel waffles at Black Coffee and Waffle Bar to zereshk polo (barberries and onions with basmati rice and chicken breast) at Middle Eastern Caspian Bistro and Marketplace.
Where to Stay
No diploma required to stay on campus at Graduate Minneapolis. The character-filled boutique hotel showcases Gophers pride and Minnesotan touches throughout, including headboards and lamps printed with fishing scenes. A Topgolf Swing Suite allows guests to get their golf game on, and on-site The Beacon pours creative cocktails like the Minnesota Nice with gin, white peach puree and lemongrass simple syrup.
Warm hospitality and Old World charm greet visitors to The Wales House, a 10-room guest house on the northwest end of Dinkytown. Affordable stays include your choice of a private or shared bathroom, plus free WiFi and a continental breakfast that features a number of organic items.
University Inn caters to those seeking both short and extended stays, offering kitchenettes and mini-fridges in every studio apartment-style room. Guests also love the free parking and 24-hour fitness center.
Getting to and Around Dinkytown/UMN
(Starting point of Meet Minneapolis Visitor Center on Nicollet)
Metered on-street parking is usually your best bet around Dinkytown. Meters run $1.25 per hour with a 2-hour limit and are enforced daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m (credit cards accepted). If you’re planning to linger longer than two hours, opt for the 4th Street Parking Ramp (1625 4th St SE) for around-the-clock covered parking.
Bus routes 3 and 6 serve the area from downtown. It’s a quick jaunt: just 10 minutes or so.
If you don’t mind a short, scenic stroll through campus before reaching Dinkytown, take the Metro Transit Light Rail Green Line and hop off at the East Bank Station.