Best Things To Do in Minneapolis - St. Paul
You'll find Minneapolis to be trendier, and St. Paul to be quieter but no less interesting. Families will appreciate the Minnesota Zoo and Fort Snelling, while culture hounds can marvel at the distinct design of the city's hallmark buildings, including the Walker Art Center or see a show at the Guthrie Theater. Shopaholics can peruse the windows in the Mall of America or in downtown's Nicollet Mall. And last but not least, the Chain of Lakes, a scenic byway located southwest of downtown, is popular among athletic travelers who enjoy jogging or boating. If you still have more energy, hit the food spots on Nicollet Avenue for dinner, and later, check out the bars and live music scene in Minneapolis (First Avenue nightclub is a must).
Updated July 31, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in Minneapolis - St. PaulMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Sheltering more than 90,000 works of art that span more than 5,000 years, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is the place to go if you're an art aficionado. Whether you're interested in ancient Egyptian artifacts or European masterpieces by artists such as Titian and Monet, this museum has what you need to get your fix. Recent visitors attest the museum is well-suited for all ages, thanks to the kids scavenger hunt offerered by the museum. Along with the impressive collection of art, travelers are also complimentary of the museum's other offerings, including the Agra Culture Coffee Shop and Cafe.
Located south of the downtown area, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays) and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is free; special exhibits cost extra. Past visitors advised setting aside at least 90 minutes for your visit, though some recommended breaking up your museum tour into two days. Off-street parking is available in a parking ramp south of the museum. There are also surface lots on the northeast and southeast corners of the museum. If you're coming by bus, the museum is located on Route No. 11. For more information about current and upcoming exhibitions, visit the Mia's website.
- #2View all PhotosfreeChain of Lakes#2 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
No trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes is complete without a stroll around some of the metro's most popular. Each of the five bodies of water that encompass the Chain of Lakes byway district has something different to offer: Lake Harriet features live music during the summer, not to mention a bird sanctuary, rose gardens and two family-friendly beaches, while Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) draws a more active crowd with plenty of boat and bike rentals and paths for jogging and biking. Though not as popular, the Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake are great backdrops for a picnic or a stroll. If you visit during the summer, you'll find a plethora of sporting and live music events at the Chain of Lakes, particularly during July's Aquatennial festival.
Located about 5 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, the Chain of Lakes is open to visitors year-round. Access to the lakes is free, but parking and facility rentals may not be. Pricing can vary by lake.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Minneapolis - St. PaulEntertainment and Nightlife, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Named for founder Sir Tyrone Guthrie, the downtown theater is one of the nation's most renowned and one of the city's most beloved treasures. Opening in 1963 with a production of "Hamlet," the Guthrie Theater's repertory company has made a name for itself with its highly praised balance of classical theater and avant-garde productions. Aside from its three individual performance spaces, the theater also boasts a full-service restaurant, two casual eateries and some of the best views of Minneapolis from the banks of the Mississippi River.
Past visitors highly recommended seeing a show while you're in town saying there isn't a bad seat in the house. Others were impressed by the building's architecture and the outstanding river views.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Minneapolis - St. PaulMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Even if you're not incredibly passionate about art, a spin through the Walker Art Center is worth a few hours. It's famous for its collection of modern and contemporary art comprising paintings, sculpture and photographs from both American and European artists. One of the Walker's biggest draws is the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the country and home to the renowned Spoonbridge and Cherry (the piece has become somewhat of an iconic symbol for Minneapolis). For a spectacular view of the city, take a stroll across the nearby Irene Hixon Whitney Footbridge.
Recent travelers offered mixed reviews for the modern art showcased here, but reviewers are quick to recommend the garden. Visitors caution that young kids may not enjoy the museum, but do suggest a trip to the Walker for the garden alone.
- #5View all PhotosfreeMinnehaha Park#5 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Sprawling along the banks of the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Park offers respite from the fast-paced atmosphere of Minneapolis. Situated about 6 miles southeast of central Minneapolis, the 193-acre park is a popular spot all year round. And the park's renowned 53-foot Minnehaha Falls – made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Song of Hiawatha" – have played an important role in the city's history, from its status as a treasured site among Native American tribes to having powered a mill during the latter half of the 19th century. Today, the falls attract tourists from around the country, while the park itself offers active visitors a perfect venue for outdoor recreation, including bike paths, volleyball courts and a playground.
Past visitors raved about Minnehaha Park, describing it as "beautiful" and "relaxing." Many said the waterfall was the highlight here, but also recommended exploring the various hiking trails and bringing a picnic.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Stone Arch Bridge is a must-see for any architecture buff. This 2,100-foot granite and limestone bridge (featuring a total of 23 arches) was constructed in 1883 and was vital to the city's development by increasing movement of people and goods into and out of Minneapolis. Designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1971, it is the only stone arch bridge to have ever traversed the Mississippi River. Today, you can walk or ride bikes between Father Hennepin Bluff Park on the east bank of the river and Mill Ruins Park on the west bank. You might also visit for the bridge's impressive views of downtown Minneapolis (especially at sunset) from its perch over St. Anthony Falls. Thanks to the bridge's scenic perch, it's become a popular spot for marriage proposals and wedding photos.
Recent visitors recommend wearing comfortable shoes for your walk or ride and advise bringing a camera to capture the skyline views. If you want to make a day of it, you'll also find the Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theater less than a mile from the bridge's westside entrance. You'll also find parking lots and ramps located near both ends of the bridge. If you're looking for more to-dos in this area, check out St. Anthony Main. Situated across the Mississippi River from the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum, this area is home to several restaurants, including local favorite, Aster Cafe. Along with a handful of eateries and a movie theater, St. Anthony Main also hosts one of the Nice Ride bike-share stations – perfect for getting across the bridge. For more information about the bridge, visit the National Park Service website. It is accessible 24/7 free of charge.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Minneapolis - St. PaulMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Designed by avant-garde architect Frank Gehry, the Weisman Art Museum is the place to go for a glimpse at some of America's most renowned contemporary art. Here, you'll find pieces by such famed artists as Georgia O'Keeffe and Roy Lichtenstein, not to mention an impressive collection of ceramics and Korean furniture. This museum also hosts notable touring exhibits.
Some recent travelers found the museum too small, but others enjoyed its manageable size. A few reviewers said the collection wasn't worth making a special trip, but those who did stop by were impressed with its unique facade and scenic setting on the banks of the Mississippi River.
- #8View all PhotosfreeMall of America#8 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're facing a rainy day or simply can't bear the weight of your wallet, the largest shopping mall in the country is a welcome distraction. With more than 500 stores (2.5 million square feet of retail space), this is the place to shop till you drop. If you're not in the mood to shop, the Mall of America is also home to several family-friendly attractions, including the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park – complete with more than 25 different rides and attractions – and the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. Also make time for FlyOver America (a flight simulation ride) and XD Ride (part roller coaster, part video game) – you can even go to the movies. With so much to do, it's easy to make a trip to the mall a day-long activity. On the downside, the perpetual crowds and the sheer size of the space can be exhausting, according to past visitors. Others described the mall as clean and safe, and a great place to entertain the whole family.
Located about 11 miles south of downtown Minneapolis near the airport, the Mall of America is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. You should plan on spending money, even if you don't intend to shop, and wear comfortable shoes. For prices on individual attractions located within the mall, visit its website.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Minneapolis - St. PaulZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Situated about 30 minutes south of downtown Minneapolis in the suburb of Apple Valley, this 485-acre complex shelters an impressive menagerie of nearly 5,000 animals – from camels to flamingos – as well as an Imax theater. Recent visitors said the zoo is a great family activity, no matter the weather. If you're interested in learning more about the animals native to the state, plan on visiting the Medtronic Minnesota Trail exhibit, which includes wolverines, coyotes and the American black bear. You'll find more exotic species in the zoo's Discovery Bay, which includes the 218,000-gallon Shark Reef exhibit. Along with the animals, the zoo also boasts its own hand-crafted Conservation Carousel (rides are not included in zoo admission).
Travelers are complimentary of the zoo, especially its education and conservation efforts, but visitors do suggest wearing comfortable shoes as you'll be covering a lot of ground walking around the complex. If you get hungry traversing the massive facility, you'll find several eateries on site, including the Call of the Wild Food Court and several cafes open seasonally. You can also pack your own snacks or lunch – the zoo allows visitors to bring in outside food and outdoor picnic tables are available.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Minneapolis - St. PaulSightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Established in the early 19th century as a frontier outpost, Fort Snelling is the oldest structure in Minnesota. Its perch over the converging point of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers allowed it to successfully control trade routes in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Today, Fort Snelling acts as a living history museum, with costumed tour guides offering ample information on its past. There are also exhibits detailing the site's history within the visitor center and "activity centers" scattered across the site that help visitors learn more about the Dakota homeland, immigration, soldiers and more. During the summer, the fort hosts numerous history-themed events, including demonstrations, competitions and youth programs.
Travelers said visiting Fort Snelling was like taking a step back in time and that "history comes alive" here. Others suggested wearing comfortable shoes as you'll be doing a lot of walking.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Minneapolis - St. PaulMuseums, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
To learn more about Minneapolis' industrious past, take some time to tour the Mill City Museum. Situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River and housed in what was once the largest flour mill in the world, the museum recreates an authentic mill experience with equipment, railroad cars and family-friendly hands-on exhibits demonstrating milling techniques. The museum also boasts its own baking lab for cooking demonstrations.
Past visitors said the museum can be a great way to spend a cold or rainy day, but caution that the admission prices can be a bit high, especially for families. Others appreciated the wealth of Minnesota history on display here, as well as the view of the river from the museum. You'll also find a farmers market here – in both summer and winter – in the museum's train shed.
- #12View all Photos#12 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're looking for a more unique and local shopping experience, skip the Mall of America and head to the Midtown Global Market, where nearly 50 vendors sell food and trinkets ranging from local produce to Moroccan cuisine, Mexican pastries and Asian spices. There are also cultural events – from musical performances to Irish step-dancing lessons.
Past visitors said the market is a great place to stop if you're traveling with a group thanks to the variety of options. Others warned that peak meal times (specifically lunch) can get quite crowded.
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