Enjoy a Car-Free Weekend in Minneapolis
When it comes to getting around Minneapolis without a car, we’ve got plenty of options for the savvy traveler. Thanks to our stellar METRO light rail lines, extensive affordable bus service, and walkable neighborhoods with so much to explore by foot, bike, or scooter, it’s easy to enjoy a car-free trip to Minneapolis and take in the region’s main attractions and hidden gems.
Downtown Minneapolis & the North Loop
Best for Theatre and Sports Lovers
Perhaps the most obvious choice for a car-free weekend in Minneapolis, the Downtown and North Loop neighborhoods offer so many fun ways to get around without renting a car. If you’re in town for an event at the Convention Center, a Minneapolis Vikings game, or a Broadway show, Downtown Minneapolis is your best bet, thanks to the Skyway, frequent bus service, and access to the METRO light rail lines. There are also plenty of spots to rent a scooter or a Nice Ride bike in the warmer months!
Start your visit with a stop at the Meet Minneapolis Visitor Center, located on the corner of 5th Street and Nicollet, to get maps, directions, and personalized suggestions for things to do. From there, explore Nicollet (formerly known as Nicollet Mall), the heart of Downtown Minneapolis’s core—lined with sidewalk-level restaurants with bustling patios, the Mary Tyler Moore Statue, the modern Minnesota Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza, and the first-ever Target store. Cars aren’t allowed on Nicollet (only buses and bikes) so it’s a pedestrian’s dream. Look for buses marked “Free Ride” and pay no fare when boarding along Nicollet Mall, a convenient way to hop between downtown Minneapolis, the Convention Center, and the METRO light rail stations.
Pick a hotel located on the Minneapolis Skyway System for the most walkable stay, and you’ll be connected to attractions like the Hennepin Theatre District, U.S. Bank Stadium, Target Center, and some great dining without leaving the Skyway network (a real plus in winter). And since both the Green and Blue lines of the METRO Light Rail run through Downtown Minneapolis, you’ll also have easy access to the North Loop and Warehouse District, a growing hub of modern dining and shopping bringing new life to the sprawling warehouses from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Local favorites include Spoon and Stable (overseen by James Beard Award winning chef Gavin Kaysen), Bar La Grassa, Parlour, Kado No Mise, and Graze Provisions + Libations.
Like every other neighborhood in Minneapolis, Downtown and the North Loop both offer easy access to natural wonders—in this case we’re talking about the Mississippi River! Lined with lush parks, playgrounds, bike paths, award-winning restaurants, and historic sites, this section of the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park offers enough to spend a whole day exploring outdoors.
While Downtown Minneapolis is a fantastic place to anchor your visit, it’s easy to explore more of the coolest Minneapolis neighborhoods during your stay—even without a car.
Northeast Minneapolis Arts District
Best for Art and Beer Lovers
North of Downtown Minneapolis and east of the beautiful Mississippi River, Northeast Minneapolis becomes an enclave of former factory buildings filled with artist studios, award-winning restaurants, and more local breweries than you could sample in a single visit (which gives you a good reason to come back!). Thanks to the collaborative efforts of local artists and businesses, the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District is one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Minneapolis. While a bike is likely your best bet for easily moving around the neighborhood, buses criss-cross the area regularly.
For year-round interaction with and creative inspiration from hundreds of Minneapolis artists, head to Casket Arts, Solar Arts, the Northrup King Building, the California Building, and many other artist hubs that can all be found on the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association website. If you visit the neighborhood during the annual Art-A-Whirl arts festival the third weekend in May—which we highly recommend!—buses and retro trolleys offer free transportation between studios, galleries, and area restaurants.
The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District is also known for its excellent restaurants, including Southeast Asian street food and craft cocktails at Hai Hai, Mexican tacos and margs at Centro, Irish pub fare at Anchor Fish and Chips, and award-winning wood-fired pizza at Young Joni. No trip to the area is complete without a stop at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, a retro-fabulous riverfront tiki bar and restaurant decked in Polynesian decorations.
If a beer crawl is more your speed than an arts crawl, you’re in luck—the craft beer scene in Northeast Minneapolis is legendary. Head to 612Brew for 10 house beers on tap, Bauhaus Brew Labs for German-American beer hybrids, Indeed Brewing Company for their Day Tripper Pale Ale, IPAs, and experimental brews, and Sociable Cider Werks for hard ciders—all close enough to walk, bike, or bus from place to place. (Need to recoup after a long night of beer flights? Rub shoulders with local artists and creatives at Dogwood Coffee the morning after.)
Best for Food Lovers (and a Small-Town Feel)
One of the most walkable neighborhoods in Minneapolis, you could easily spend a long weekend in this cozy hamlet and forget you’re in a big city completely. Full of small-town charm, accessible trails around two lakes (Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet), and some of the best restaurants in Minneapolis, a car-free weekend in Linden Hills makes for a fantastic getaway or staycation any time of year.
While it’s not directly on the METRO light rail lines, it’s a short Lyft or Uber ride to Linden Hills from anywhere in the city—for a totally car-free trip you can get to Linden Hills from MSP by taking the Blue Line to the Warehouse District/Hennepin Ave stop, then hop on the 6 Bus. Once you arrive at the heart of the neighborhood (where Sheridan and Upton Avenues converge at West 43rd Street), you won’t need another vehicle for your stay.
If you love to anchor your trip around everything you’re going to eat, the extremely walkable Linden Hills is the neighborhood for you. From a scoop of handmade raspberry chocolate chip or salty caramel ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s to upscale wood-fired pepperoni pizzas at Rosalia to standout Pad Thai at Naviya’s—all within a few blocks—you certainly won’t go hungry around here. At neighborhood gathering spot Tilia you’ll enjoy a choose-your-own adventure, 3-course meal of elevated comfort classics, tip back oysters and killer cocktails at Martina, and tuck into a low-key brunch with local families at Zumbro Cafe.
With all the eating you’re bound to do in Linden Hills, it’s apt that the area also offers some wonderful outdoor adventures. Part of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park, Lake Harriet is a beautiful urban escape year-round. Stroll, bike, or roll on well-maintained trails around the lake, and explore the Lyndale Park Rose Garden, Peace Garden, and historic Lakewood Cemetery. The Lake Harriet Bandshell offers free concerts, movies, and yoga in the warmer months, but the lakeside fun doesn’t stop when the temperatures drop—the frozen Lake Harriet is a winter destination for ice fishing, snowshoeing, snowkiting, skijoring, and the annual Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival. In the spirit of car-free travel, Linden Hills’ Minnesota Streetcar Museum offers rides aboard the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line, a quick scenic tour between the lakes. For some indoor exploration, head to The Bakken Museum (the only Smithsonian-affiliated museum in the state) for family-friendly science and technology fun.
In the mood to shop local? Browse the Linden Hills Farmers Market every Sunday in the growing season, score gifts for kids of all ages at Wild Rumpus bookstore and Heartfelt, pick up something shiny at New Gild Jewelers, and take home some local art from Everett & Charlie, recently voted “Minnesota's Best Art Gallery” by readers of the Star Tribune
Hiawatha and Howe Neighborhood
Best for Shopping and Nature Lovers
One of the best areas to enjoy getting around Minneapolis without a car, this pair of neighborhoods in Southeast Minneapolis is easy to explore thanks to the METRO Blue Line running through it. The Blue Line trains stop at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of MSP, so flying in and getting to Hiawatha and Howe couldn’t be easier.
Nature lovers can anchor their stay around the great outdoors by exploring Minnehaha Regional Park, thanks to a METRO Blue Line stop just outside the park. Minnehaha Regional Park is the home of the stunning Minnehaha Falls, beachy Sea Salt Eatery, three well-tended public gardens, a new inclusive playground featuring wheelchair-accessible structures and activities for kids of all ages and abilities, free disc golf at Wabun Picnic Area, and arguably the best off-leash dog park in the city. You can even rent a family surrey and low-rider Chopper trikes at Minnehaha Falls from Wheel Fun Rentals to make sure you see every beautiful acre of the area.
For even more places to explore by foot, bike, or kayak, spend a day trekking or paddling along Minnehaha Creek, an urban watershed flowing 22 miles from Lake Minnetonka to Minnehaha Falls. You’ll discover woodlands, wetlands, picturesque neighborhoods dotted with cafes and local shops, and family-friendly parks along the wilderness trail.
When it comes to shopping, this area offers two ends of the retail spectrum: excellent vintage shopping along the very-bikeable Minnehaha Avenue, and the Mall of America, an internationally renowned shopping destination. Vintage and boutique lovers will have a field day exploring Turquoise Vintage, E’s Emporium, Paris Apartment Antiques, Carousel and Folk, and Fractal Cactus. For a totally different but just as awesome shopping experience, hop back on the METRO Blue Line and head to the Mall of America. The largest retail shopping mall in the United States, MoA is home to more than 520 stores, 60 restaurants, Nickelodeon Universe (a 7-acre indoor amusement park), SEA LIFE Aquarium, a comedy club, the LEGO Store, and so much more.
All that shopping and urban wilderness exploration is bound to leave you hungry. If you’re a fan of Ethiopian food, Hiawatha and Howe offer plenty of reasons to eat nothing else throughout your stay, thanks to a trio of excellent restaurants: Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, Meseret Ethiopian Restaurant, and Selam Restaurant. For more neighborhood eats and drinks, check out juice bar The Dripping Root, grilled cheese-focused All Square, the very dog friendly Howe Daily Kitchen and Bar, and bike-centric coffee shop One on One Bicycle Studio.