8 Ways to Travel Sustainably in Minneapolis
Leave a minimal carbon footprint behind by planning a green vacation to Minneapolis.
One of the best things about Minneapolis is that you don’t need a car to see all the sites. The city is walkable, but there are several more options for getting around that will save your feet and the environment.
- Use Evie Carshare. Evie is an all-electric carshare service with over 150 shared vehicles in the Twin Cities. It’s easy to use, and you pay only for the time you use Evie. Charging, parking and insurance is covered by Evie. Renting an electric car does require some planning – submit your application on your mobile phone or computer (you’ll need to submit photos of your driver’s license) and it will be processed in a couple of days. Once you’re approved to drive, you can reserve any car and get going. Download the Evie app for iOS or Android.
- Take a Segway tour. What better way to learn about popular Minneapolis sites than on a guided HumanOnaStick tour? Public Segway tours are available every day from March 1 to November 31 (it would be very difficult to power through Minneapolis snows on a Segway). We recommend starting with a Minneapolis History Tour – a three-hour exploration of both sides of the Mississippi River and Minneapolis’ downtown historic district. Don’t worry, you’ll stay on paved bike trails for most of the tour.
- Explore on two-wheels. Bring your bike to Minneapolis and you'll cover a lot of ground exploring the city. Minneapolis is known for its extremely bike-friendly streets. We have 98 miles of bike lanes plus 101 miles of off-street bikeways and trails if you're just looking for a fun and scenic activity. No bike? No problem! Try a bike rental from Tangletown Bike Shop.
Plan to do some shopping during your trip to Minneapolis? Make sure to bring your own reusable bag. Retailers, like clothing, bookstores, or other shops, charge a five-cent fee per carryout bag – paper or plastic. Wondering where to shop? Stellar Handcrafted Goods near Northeast Minneapolis sells handmade mittens, sweaters and gifts all made locally in Minnesota. Most of their creations are made using upcycled wool sweaters and other materials. Homespun is a gift shop selling greeting cards, jewelry, puzzles and home goods, where everything is made by Minnesota artists. Visit Northland Visions, a Native owned gallery and retail space for art and gifts made by Native peoples from the Woodland and Plains tribes of the upper Midwest (what is now Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Canada). Northland Visions also sells craft supplies and traditional foods, like wild rice and syrup and jellies made from berries and plants not found in traditional grocery stores (chokecherry, hawthorn, rose hip, and wild plum).
Also check out Tare Market in the Nokomis neighborhood for home, personal care and grocery products that are either zero-waste or have plastic-free packaging. The Zeroish Company is another option for sustainable living goods. Here you can also find plastic-free products (bamboo toothbrushes, beeswax food wraps and metal straws to name a few) and refills for laundry, cleaning supplies, and personal care necessities, like bodywash and shampoo.
Farmers markets are also a chance to peer into a city’s people, culture, and food. The Minneapolis Farmers Market on Lyndale is a favorite of visitors and locals, the Mill City Farmers Market has over 100 vendors and sits between the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis’ Downtown East neighborhood, and the Four Sisters Farmers Market (in partnership with the Native American Community Development Institute) increases access to affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate foods to the surrounding Phillips neighborhood, which has the third largest urban Indigenous population in the US. There are several more exciting farmers markets around the city, so read our complete list.
By eating at farm to table restaurants, spending your dollars locally, taking care to properly dispose of any takeout packaging, and bringing your own water bottle, you’re several steps closer to becoming a sustainable traveler.
We are proud to have several farm to table restaurants in Minneapolis. Sourcing ingredients from local farms makes for great-tasting food and a happier environment since local ingredients have fewer miles to go. Tullibee at the Hewing Hotel is a great option for special occasions and Farmers Kitchen + Bar serves up some of the best brunch in town. If you’re craving something sweet, The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen bakes delectable desserts using local eggs, butter, and dairy products. Take a look at our full list of farm to table restaurants.
Not only do we have great farm to table options, but Minneapolis has a thriving restaurant scene in general. There are countless award-winning and delicious spots to visit across all corners of the city to give you a local taste of Minneapolis. By supporting the local restaurant scene, you’ll enjoy a unique culinary experience, support local hospitality workers, and the local economy.
Good to know: If you’re taking your food to go, the City of Minneapolis’ Environmentally Acceptable Packaging Ordinance – known as Green to Go – requires that food and drinks be put in containers that are reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
Let’s talk water bottles! In our opinion, bringing a reusable one with you on your Minneapolis adventures is the way to go. Not only will you save a few bucks, but you won’t have to worry about disposal. If you’re attending an event at the Minneapolis Convention Center or a game at Target Field or Target Center, empty, clear-plastic, reusable water bottles are allowed in and can be refilled at any fountain inside. Need a refill while exploring the outdoors? Our parks have more than 20 hand-pump drinking wells and 150 outdoor drinking fountains. Don’t worry – if you do buy a plastic bottle, there are recycling bins across downtown.
You don’t have to choose between all the comfort and amenities you’re looking for in a hotel and sustainability. Minneapolis has plenty of hotels that make sustainability a priority so you can feel good about your footprint. They're also on top of their game in terms of water usage, recycling, and composting.
Radisson Red Minneapolis, Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, and Loews Hotel Minneapolis have all earned Energy Star certification for their efforts to implement energy efficient solutions that protect the climate. And some hotels take it a few steps further. The Four Seasons is committed to eliminating single-use plastics and using biodegradable and compostable packaging for takeout containers. Their sustainability efforts also include reducing energy and water consumption and sourcing locally for organic wine vendors. The spa at the Four Seasons preserves natural and physical resources through seasonal, flora and fauna-inspired therapies. And the Radisson Blu Mall of America is the first hotel in the world to install a carbon-capture technology unit, CarbinX™, developed by CleanO2. This innovative system captures greenhouse gas emissions from heating equipment.
Alma, a favorite boutique hotel, is also a restaurant and apothecary in Minneapolis. All their bath items and décor are made by local artisans and the food served in the café and the restaurant is seasonal and sourced locally and through close relationships with farmers and suppliers.
A few hotels in the area offer visitors complementary bike rentals. With more than 200 miles of trails to explore throughout the city, this is a fantastic benefit! Ask for rentals at the Hotel Emery or The Graduate Hotel Minneapolis.
A great way to maintain sustainable travel is by visiting attractions in the city that are working hard to keep their buildings sustainable. Whether they have refillable water bottle stations for visitors, use energy efficient systems, or robust recycling systems, these places are doing all the right things for the environment. Maybe you check out an event at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which monitors its HVAC and lighting systems around the clock to save energy and has installed 2,613 rooftop solar panels to produce renewable electricity. Or see a baseball game at Target Field which was awarded an LEED Platinum award (“America’s Greenest Ballpark") and is made up of nearly 20% recycled materials.
If you go to the Mall of America, you'll be interested to know it doesn’t have a heating system and instead relies on heat from lighting, skylights and the masses of people. It also doesn’t waste food, any leftover food from restaurants gets picked up daily by a local hog farmer. Downtown, the Minneapolis Central Library has a green rooftop and low growing plants to reduce cooking and heating loads and improve air quality. Finally, when the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was reconstructed, landscape architects worked in partnership wit the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization to envision ways the area could be used to support art, plants and wildlife, while also more responsibly managing storm-water as a resource.
So if you have the time, try to seek out attractions that align with sustainability efforts.
In Minneapolis we are proud of our parks and green spaces. When you come to this great city you are usually never more than a 10 minute walk away from a park. As the self-proclaimed City of Nature, parks are very important to us and help promote outdoor recreations and active lifestyles in addition to protecting our biodiversity. Take a moment to visit our breathtaking waterfall, Minnehaha Falls, the famous Chain of Lakes, impressive parks, stunning gardens, and the many miles of biking and running trails.
Don’t be scared off by Minneapolis’ cold reputation. We actually have four full seasons and plenty to do during all of them. Visit in early fall and you might catch some beautiful fall foliage on a few 70-degree days. Winter months don’t slow us down, instead they offer one-of-kind experiences and activities. And our springs have been known to bring people out of hibernation to welcome back the best of the City by Nature.
Visiting Minneapolis during these off-peak periods helps create more balanced tourism for the city. By delaying your trip until these times, you contribute to stabilizing the city’s economy and workforce. Businesses can keep their doors open and their workers on the payroll year-round. It also takes pressure off the environment and helps it restore its resources. So, consider spending time in Minneapolis during these off-peak times — you’ll have more space to roam around and many more authentic experiences.
When visiting new cities or even our old favorites we are guests of that city. And to be a good guest we should always make an effort to respect the local culture. You can do this by trying to discover different communities and getting to the know the locals that live there. For example, in Minneapolis, visit museums or cultural centers like the Somali Museum of Minnesota, African American Heritage Museum, and the American Indian Corridor. Dive into Hispanic and Somali culture all along East Lake Street where you’ll find an abundance of restaurants, shops, and murals. Or try the endless variety of foods and flavors that make up Minneapolis, including Nordic, Southeast Asian, and Native cuisines.
Learning about the history of a city can also give you some insights and perspective into how the city was developed and became what it is today. Take some time to discover the people who have made significant contributions to the area. In Minneapolis, some of our most important historical stories begin with our Indigenous populations. And that can be seen in the many of the names of our neighborhoods, parks and lakes that come from the Dakota and other Native languages. Understanding a city’s history can help you make a fundamental connection during your visit.