Central Business District - Theater District

This area is typically where the party starts and ends in downtown Minneapolis. Buckle up, because there’s a lot of options.

You’re in the middle of it, the heart of downtown—and lucky for you it’s not all office buildings and government centers. The Central Business District has high-quality dining options, a thriving nightlife that includes a whole block of theater venues, and of course the famous skyway system that’ll make you forget all about the subzero temperature outside. Conveniently, some of downtown’s best hotels are here in the thick of it, meaning many days of amusement can be planned without stepping a toe into a car.

Things to Do

first avenue concert
First Avenue, Photo by Jason Tesauro @themoderngent

There’s no shortage of live entertainment in the Central Business District. Hennepin Avenue’s historic theater district hosts top-shelf national and international productions and artists. The Orpheum, State, and Pantages theaters are where a number of touring Broadway plays, musicals, comedians, and concerts make their stops. The legendary Brave New Workshop is the longest, continuously running sketch comedy and improv theater in the country and hosts many variety acts throughout the year. 

First Avenue had already cemented its legacy as one of the top live music venues in the country before Prince used it as a location for key parts of his 1984 film “Purple Rain.” The incredible history of this club is literally written on the outside walls of the building. Since 1970, artists including Tina Turner, Ray Charles, BB King, The Cure, The Replacements, U2, REM, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, The Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Coldplay, The White Stripes, and virtually any other popular artist you can name have rocked out on the First Ave stages. (Looking for something more intimate? The neighboring 7th Street Entry is First Ave's smaller, live music sister venue.)

The Dakota Jazz Club is a historic music venue/restaurant combination on Nicollet Mall, with a reputation for hosting a wide variety of artists including Lucinda Williams, Bob Mould, Cowboy Junkies, Angelique Kidjo, Mavis Staples, Mike Doughty, Anoushka Shankar, Aimee Mann, and Ronnie Spector. Prince liked to frequent the Dakota as both guest and as performer, which is about as high praise as a place can get. Just down Nicollet is Orchestra Hall, home to the distinguished, Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, who stage roughly 175 performances each year

Less than a 10 minute walk away you'll find the historic Foshay Tower, the tallest building in the midwest for 48 years (now home to the W Hotel). Head up to the 31st floor observation deck for some breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and visit the museum to learn about the skyscraper’s history and its quirky architect.

Minneapolis Skyway System

skyway in ids center
Photo by @caleb_of_reese

Getting lost and un-lost is rarely as fun as in the covered bridges known as the Minneapolis Skyway System. The Central Business District is the epicenter of the skyway system, which connects 80 city blocks and provides indoor access to an incredible number of food and shopping options. Some highlights include Sushi Takatsu, Green + the Grain, and Brothers Deli. For shopping stroll through the City Center building and find retail stores and restaurants, including Marshalls and Fogo de Chao. Lastly, don’t forget to stop into Minneapolis’ pride and joy, Target’s flagship store located along Nicollet, or take the Skyway to Target Center for a game or a concert.

Where to Eat and Drink

breakfast at hell's kitchen
Hell's Kitchen

The Central Business District has many extravagant dining options, especially when it comes to steaks! Try Murray’s Steakhouse for lovingly prepared cuts of beef and classic cocktails. The Hennepin Ave outpost of The Capital Grille offers classy décor, classier service, a great wine list, and dry-aged, hand-cut steaks. (Local tip: their Signature Cheeseburger is among the best in the city.) Manny’s Steakhouse is loved by locals and is a go-to for special occasions of all kinds. While The Oceanaire Seafood Room excels at seafood, it also serves up steaks with flair and an impressive wine list. Seven Steakhouse Sushi & Rooftop overlooks one of the busiest intersections in downtown and offers steaks, sushi boats, and smoked cocktails.

Right in the heart of Hennepin's theater district, CRAVE’s American-Japanese combo menu manages to do justice to both cuisines, including some epic sushi platters. In the warmer months their rooftop seating fills up fast.

For all day breakfast options venture over to Hen House Eatery or to a place that’s all about perfecting Minnesota local foods, the iconic Hell’s Kitchen. Think State Fair cheese curds, beer-battered Walleye bites, bison Benedict waffles, and an award-winning Bloody Mary.

Where to Stay

room at marriott city center
Marriott City Center

The Radisson Blu is upscale but casual and their in-house restaurant, Firelake Grill House & Cocktail Bar is one of the pioneering downtown hotel restaurants that’s good enough to attract locals. The Westin Minneapolis is a strong three-star option housed in the historic Farmers & Mechanics Bank building. Loews Hotel is a decorative, yet comfortable option right across the street from Target Center’s entrance and a short walk to Target Field. The Marriott City Center is located at roughly the geographic center of downtown’s entertainment options.

The Hampton Inn & Suites is a relatively new three-star option literally one minute from both the theater district and Target Center. The Embassy Suites by Hilton is housed in the landmark Plymouth Building and offers complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, evening receptions and in-room fridges and microwaves. Boutique property The Chambers Hotel sits just steps from all the theaters in the district and just down the street, AC Hotel by Marriott, is a strong contemporary option, with complimentary Wi-Fi and easy access to Target Center, US Bank Stadium, and the Theatre District.

How to Get Around

downtown bus
Metro Transit

If you're driving, be aware large number of downtown Minneapolis’ streets are one-way. Double check you’re going the right way before making a turn. Also, it is forbidden to drive on the Light Rail tracks or on Nicollet.

Free parking is rare, but possible. Some meters in downtown aren’t monitored after 6 p.m. on weekdays, or at all on weekends, however most are monitored until 10 p.m. or later seven days a week. Each meter will clearly state hours of enforcement. Be aware that a flat $25 rate is enforced for certain events (Twins and Vikings games, etc), no matter how long you plan to park. For detailed information, check the interactive Minneapolis Street Parking Map.

The Central Business District should be wholly walkable for the most part. If you want to get off your feet for a bit, several buses, including the Bus Route 18, run up and down Nicollet. Keep an eye out for the “FREE RIDE” buses that travel back and forth on this section of Nicollet as well.

You may prefer to bike or scoot your way around the city. Nice Ride and electric scooters, Lime and Bird are out in full strength during the warmer months, especially in the Central Business District. It’s an easy way to get from point A to point B and be surrounded by bustle of downtown living.

Your perpendicular option, the Light Rail Blue and Green Lines, run roughly east-west through downtown on 5th Street. A ride within the downtown zone is only $0.50.

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