While some of Minneapolis’ landmarks are internationally known, others are as unique as the city itself. Here are a few of those places to map out, from the city’s historic Near Northside to its’ breathtaking Chain of Lakes south of downtown.
Landmarks are the sites and signs of a city’s bright, rich history. They can represent the hallmark of a popular place or the legacy of people. Finding that century-old fountain, neighborhood bar or street mural could open the doorway to hearing the most legendary sounds in Minneapolis music or experiencing the city’s hippest arts district. While most cities boast about their magnificent markers, Minneapolis holds its landmarks in quiet reverence – anointed as local sacred sites, with residents as their self-appointed ministers who love to share almost mythic tales about the artist who created it, the celebrities who visited and the people who helped add to the landmark’s lore. Experience all the sites that have made Minneapolis famous:
This 52-foot-long spoon and 1,200-pound cherry duo is a sculptural symbol of Minneapolis. As the first commissioned piece for theMinneapolis Sculpture Garden – located across the street from the Walker Art Center – in 1985, Spoonbridge and Cherry was created by Claes Oldenburg, a key voice in the 1960s Pop Art movement, and his wife and artistic collaborator, Coosje van Bruggen. Considering the fountain-sculpture’s placement in Minnesota, it was designed to be reminiscent of the prow of a Viking ship or a duck bobbing in a lake. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is free, allowing for unlimited selfies with Spoonbridge and Cherry and other sculptures on display.
Dating back to 1925, the West Broadway building was home to a drug store, barber shop and a 500-seat movie theater with a pipe organ. By 1932, it became an Art Deco showplace known as the Paradise Theater, boasting a 21 thousand-watt, 837 lightbulb marquee and ceiling lit with twinkling lights to resemble stars. It was 1965 when the Paradise became the Capri Theater, and eventually became the home to legendary funk bands like The Time and the one and only Prince. The Capri became a community arts and education center through the ‘90’s, but it’s renaissance came in 2007 when its new owners launched a plan to “bring the lights up” on West Broadway. Phase two of the $700,000 revival was completed with a Grand Re-Opening in October 2021, making The Capri the jewel of the Near North neighborhood.
After 50 years and 10 million fans, First Avenue is still “the musical epicenter” of the Twin Cities. It is not your average nightclub – this is where stars are born, skills are tested and memories made in front of a crowd of peers, critics and celebrities. Not only was Purple Rain filmed at First Ave., but Prince was a regular – taking a royal seat in the sound booth to catch his favorite local and national acts. The club’s evolutions are as legendary its stories: The near riot when the Ike and Tina Turner River took the stage an hour and a half late with an overpacked room, or Iggy Pop writhing on the stage in peanut butter when it was The Depot; The death of disco and rise of rock when The Ramones screamed into the mics and Uncle Sam’s became First Avenue. And how the city shut down 7th and first avenue for the thousands – including groups like Atmosphere and singer Lizzo – who flocked to the music mecca for an unbelievable impromptu celebration of Minneapolis’ superstar son at his home away from Paisley Park. From livery stable to Greyhound bus station and musical loadstone, First Avenue will always be an attraction, and not just for tourists.
Fun fact: Psychics have claimed the club’s powerful energy is popular with ghosts. A number of former employees say the bathrooms and basement are haunted.
As the first skyscraper built in Minnesota, the Foshay Tower has been an iconic part of the downtown skyline since its construction in 1929. Made of reinforced steel and concrete, the Foshay is mathematical, monolithic, but also artistic. Elaborately embellished doorways with cathedral style light fixtures, carved chevrons – and Foshay’s name carved in 10-foot-high letters on all four sides of the limestone pyramid embraced many of the features of progressive Art Deco design. At the top of the 32-story structure is a must-visit museum and observation deck. And, the Foshay is now the W Hotel, so you can experience a historical night's stay, too.
5. Mary Tyler Moore Statue
A beloved attraction by fans, tourists and locals since it first arrived on Nicollet Avenue in 2001, the statue captures the iconic moment Mary throws her tam in the air during the opening credits of the 1970s hit TV sitcom, the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Her character, Mary Richards, was looked up to by many for her independence, humor and spirit. For many people who don’t live here, the TV show created the image of Minneapolis they have in their head – the downtown streetscape, our lakes and parks, the Crystal Court, Jolliet House (formerly Basil's) and the Kenwood house with the apartment everyone loved. Mary Tyler Moore and her most famous character are forever tied to Minneapolis. The statue is easy to find and is only two blocks down from the Nicollet Mall METRO station.
Owamniyomni, the Dakota name for St. Anthony Falls, have been a meeting place for thousands of years since the glaciers melted and poured into the Minnesota Valley. The Dakota, Ho-Chunk and Ojibwe people made their camps by the falls along the Mississippi River, seeking the waters’ spiritual power, creating trade routes and harvesting maple sugar. During the 17 and 1800s, the falls became the main source of power for the many lumber and flour mills built by European settlers around the area. St. Anthony Falls suffered severe damage in the late 19th century caused by overuse and poor engineering of water power systems. The US Army Corps of Engineers made improvements to the falls in 1937 to help stabilize them.
Entrepreneurs like the Pillsburys flocked to the falls and Mississippi – first for logging, later to harness its power for flour milling. When the first ‘A’ mill was built by tycoon Cadwallander Washburn in 1874, it was the called the largest flour mill in the world. Four years later, it was reduced to rubble by an explosion caused by a spark of dust. The Great Mill Disaster left 22 people dead, five additional mills destroyed and led to reforms in the milling industry. Today, the ruins are the site of an historic museum, park and bike path leading to West River Parkway.
Named for railroad baron James J. Hill, the 2,100 ft. long, 24 foot high bridge was built in 1883 to carry the Minneapolis Union Railroad over the Mississippi River just below St. Anthony Falls (Owamniyomni). Originally designed with 23 limestone arches, stone pylons and black granite, the bridge was converted in 1962 to accommodate boats using the Upper Lock and Dam, the again in 1982 when the bridge was updated for pedestrian use and became part of the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. The National Historic Engineering Landmark is a destination for art fairs, marathons and a sought-after location for the city’s Fourth of July fireworks on the riverfront.
Hamlet was the first production to take the stage at the new, residential Guthrie Theater in 1963. First located at Vineland Place (near the Walker Art Center), the theater outgrew its space over the next 20 years and the new – and blue – Guthrie opened by the Mill City Park in 2006. It is a striking addition to the urban view from the Stone Arch Bridge, and houses three state-of-the-art stages. Equally iconic is its amber glass box that’s cantilevered 15 feet from the face of the building. You’ll see a stunning view of the historic surrounding area so it’s no wonder the Guthrie is a popular spot for the Instagram-worthy pictures of visitors and locals alike.
Another name for Minneapolis could be Land of 10,000 Murals, but this tribute to one of the state’s most favored sons stands out. Commissioned in 2015 by an investment firm, the five-story images of Dylan through the years as folk hero, rock rebel and seasoned statesman were envisioned and created by world-renowned Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra. His brilliantly colored ribbons and spray-painted diamonds of Bob Dylan overlooking downtown Hennepin Avenue have made it an instant Wall of Fame for tourists and fans, and easily the most Instagrammed landmark in Minneapolis.
Fun Fact: Kobra’s mural of Dylan is just four blocks north of another landmark the singer’s linked to: the Orpheum Theater. Dylan and his brother David bought the historic building in 1979, saving it from demolition. The Dylans sold the Orpheum to the city in 1988.
11. Newest Prince Mural
Unveiled in June of 2022, the 100-foot-tall mural on Parking Ramp A near First Avenue and Target Center has already made its stamp on Minneapolis as its newest landmark dedicated to Prince. Making the mural a reality took seven years of planning and approval in collaboration with Paisley Park. Instead of having community members submit designs, the committee took nominations from various people across the world to find a muralist who could do large-scale, photo-realistic portraiture who also was from a community of color. Hiero Veiga, a street painter from Florida, was handpicked by the Prince estate out of 60 artists considered for the project.
The Lakewood Cemetery is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the US. Completed in 1871, the grounds were modeled after Pere-Lachaise, Paris' 19th century necropolis on the Rue de Repose. Its chapel, built in 1908 by noted local architect Harry Wild Jones, was a nod to Istanbul's legendary Hagia Sophia mosque in Turkey. Some of Lakewood's famous denizens include Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, US Senator Paul Wellstone, candy bar magnate Forrest Mars and Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller. The Uptown neighborhood cemetery isn't the oldest in the Twin Cities, but is the most popular with locals and tourists, who are invited to Sunday summer concerts in the acoustically immaculate chapel sanctuary or to stroll from the cemetery’s tranquil reflecting pool to Bde Maka Ska to see acclaimed Dakota artist Angela Two Stars’ public installations. Lakewood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in October 1983.
Minnehaha Falls is one of the oldest and most striking sights in Minneapolis. The crash of the water and the cool air rising from the basin, contrasted by an urban atmosphere makes it one of the most popular destinations in the city. Peer over the ledge from the top of the 53-foot waterfall or take the staircase down to the bottom and explore from a different angle. Farther down the path is a natural wading pool and then slightly further, the Mississippi River and an off-leash dog park. And we know it’s cold, but it's so worth it to see the falls frozen in the winter! Looking for other activities in the area? We have a guide of everything to do at Minnehaha Park.
14. Grain Belt Beer Sign
The Grain Belt Beer bottle cap sign is one of the largest freestanding neon signs in the Midwest. It was built in 1941, and it features the logo of the Minneapolis Brewing Company – the biggest brewery in town back then. The sign is situated on Nicollet Island, but the best view is from the west side of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge (at night, if you want to see the neon in action). The huge bottle cap has faced threats of multiple tear-downs decades back, but ultimately, it has been preserved and restored multiple times to honor Minneapolis’ extensive brewing history and culture.