East Town – Downtown East and Elliot Park Neighborhoods
One MILLion stories
Until recently, Downtown East was mainly a business district, quiet on nights and weekends except during events at the old Dome Stadium. Its rapid residential and entertainment transformation, along with the opening of the new U.S. Bank Stadium, makes this neighborhood one of the most exciting areas of the expanding downtown. Numerous eateries, entertainment options, a weekend farmers market and a healthy grouping of new condos have turned this corner of downtown into a thriving neighborhood.
Things to Do
The gleaming U.S. Bank Stadium is East Downtown’s defining landmark. Minnesota Vikings games are held there, of course, but it’s also becoming the go-to venue for sporting events such as the Minneapolis Summer X Games as well as concerts for the big-name artists. Only a few blocks away, is the historic Minneapolis Armory. Once home to the Minneapolis Lakers and the backdrop for Prince’s “1999” music video, the Armory has been turned into a mid-sized music, club and events venue.
Making a museum about the history of flour milling into a fascinating, worthwhile attraction sounds virtually impossible, but the Mill City Museum has done exactly that. The museum is built into the ruins of the Washburn A Mill, once the largest flour mill in the world, which was demolished by an explosion and ensuing fire in 1878, destroying five other mills in the process. The mill was rebuilt in 1880 and thrived until it was shut down in 1965. A fire nearly destroyed it again in 1991 – dramatic, we know. The eight-story, Flour Tower exhibit/ride is a thrilling, explosive trip through history, immortalizing Minneapolis as the former “Flour Milling Capital of the World”.
Just down the street is the crown jewel of the Twin Cities’ distinguished theater community, the Guthrie Theater, staging performances year-round in its three-theater complex on Mississippi River Boulevard. It also has irresistible photo opportunities out on the 178-foot cantilever known as the “Endless Bridge” and yellow-filtered, wide views up in the “Amber Box.”
If you’re looking for green space to let the kids play or to kick back with a picnic basket and a pal, Gold Medal Park, adjacent to the Guthrie, is a 7.4 acre park with a 32-foot mound at its center, providing views of the Mississippi River, the Stone arch Bridge, the Guthrie and parts of the Mill District. In front of U.S. Bank Stadium is The Commons; a 4.2 acre park with seasonal playground items, game cart, a “Splash Pad,” and numerous public events, including the weekly Mill City Farmers Market.
Then, of course, there’s West River Parkway (this particular section is designated as a regional park), with stellar views, bike and walking paths, the St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center, and the highly Instagrammable Stone Arch Bridge. The river boulevard is a key link on the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, a 51-mile loop composed of parkways, trails and lakes. It’s the only scenic byway in the country located entirely within an urban area.
What to Eat & Drink
Many of the neighborhood bars reflect the fact that they’re a short walk from an NFL stadium. Just follow the sounds of TVs blasting sporting commentary. Dan Kelly’s Pub has a strong selection of beer, whiskeys, burgers and an attractive happy hour (3-7 p.m.).
The long-awaited, 6,000-square-foot Finnegans Brew Co. taproom opened strong in spring 2018, with 16 beers on tap, a giant patio, foosball, board games, and a rotating schedule of food trucks outside. Day Block Brewing Company doubles as a brewpub with a full bar and live music venue. The menu offers snacks, sandwiches and pizzas.
A downtown staple, Sawatdee has been in the neighborhood since 1986 and is the pioneer of Thai in the Twin Cities as the first Thai restaurant. While they now boast multiple Minnesota locations, their flagship shop is a Minneapolis favorite. Come by Sunday through Thursday for happy hour or enjoy their lunch specials every day from Monday to Friday. Long-time gay bar and nightclub, eagleBOLTbar, has broadened its appeal with a menu featuring a wide range of burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and apps, plus happy hour specials Monday through Friday, including 2-for-1s on all drinks. Sushi, sashimi, ramen and other Japanese comfort food is available at Zen Box Izakaya. For a cozy night out, check out Smith & Porter. During the warmer months head out to the laid-back patio area and in the colder months seek out a spot near the fireplace. Offering modern twists on American classics, Smith & Porter is the perfect neighborhood spot.
The Mill City Farmers Market draws in people from around the Twin Cities for local, seasonal produce Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (May-October). It’s a family scene, with live entertainment, cooking classes, the Power of Produce kids vegetable tasting stall and several prepared food options for immediate snack attacks. Their indoor winter market happens on select Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (November-April) inside the Mill City Museum. There’s also a Tuesday night market at nearby Commons Park (3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.) for about eight weeks, July through September.
The Radisson Red caters to a younger crowd with art, music and fashionable décor. It’s skyway-connected and less than two blocks from both the stadium and the Guthrie. Also exquisitely placed for theater and sports fans is the modern, boutique-style Aloft Minneapolis, with a pool, bar, restaurant and a 24/7 gym. The Normandy Inn & Suites is a strong three-star option with an on-site restaurant that attracts locals, particularly for breakfast and happy hour. They offer shuttle service to the convention center and Target Field, among others places. Recently renovated Hyatt Place offers free breakfasts and Wi-Fi, indoor pool, 24-hour gym and a skyway connection – all just a few of its features. Moxy Minneapolis Downtown is a hip hotel designed to fit your lifestyle. Just across the street from U.S. Bank Stadium, Moxy has a beautiful open lobby with indoor and outdoor seating plus a cozy fireplace in their library, a 24-fitness center, free Wi-Fi, flat-panel TVs and decor that will make you jealous. Be sure to check out Bar Moxy, which offers a barista station and fresh pastries in the morning and wines, local beers and apps in the evening.
Getting to and Around
(Starting point of Meet Minneapolis Visitor Center on Nicollet)
Most of East Downtown and the Mill District is walking distance from most points in downtown. The Metro Transit Blue and Greens line run right through the area. U.S. Bank Stadium station is the most central stop.
Free parking is rare, but possible. Insider tip: Some meters in this part of downtown aren’t monitored after 6 p.m. on weekdays, or at all on weekends. Alas, the rest are monitored until 10 p.m. or later seven days a week. All meters are enforced for larger U.S. Bank Stadium events (e.g. Vikings games), for a flat $25 rate, no matter how long you plan to stay. For detailed information on block-by-block hours of enforcement and rates, check the interactive Minneapolis Street Parking Map.
To pay, note your parking space number then go to the nearest pay machine, which accepts cash and credit cards. You can also download the MPLS Parking app, which allows you to plug the meter without leaving the office or restaurant. There are pay parking ramps every block or two, if you just want to park and be done with it.