Minneapolis - St. Paul Travel Guide

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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).

How we rank Things to Do

Updated January 19, 2018

  • #1
    Minneapolis Institute of Art
    View all Photos
    #1 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sheltering more than 83,000 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. "We took three young children to visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art and had a wonderful time. This is a very family-friendly art museum," said one TripAdvisor reviewer. 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.

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  • #2
    Chain of Lakes
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    #2 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Described on by one resident as, "A must for visitors who wish to understand our city," 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 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. 

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  • #3
    Guthrie Theater
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    #3 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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 stages, the theater also boasts a full-service restaurant, two casual eateries, a cocktail lounge and some of the best views of Minneapolis from the banks of the Mississippi River.

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  • #4
    Walker Art Center
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    #4 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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, the largest urban sculpture garden 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.

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  • #5
    Minnehaha Park
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    #5 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME 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.

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  • #6
    Stone Arch Bridge
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    #6 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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 Bluffs 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.

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  • #7
    Weisman Art Museum
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    #7 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Designed by famed avant-garde architect Frank Gehry, the Weisman Art Museum is the place to go for a glimpse at some of the USA's most renowned contemporary art. Here, you'll find pieces by such famed artists as Andy Warhol, 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. "I thought it was a gem, and, since it's not large, easy to do on an afternoon," one TripAdvisor reviewer said.

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  • #8
    Mall of America
    View all Photos
    #8 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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 25 different rides and attractions  and the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. Also make time for the A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center, the Amazing Mirror Maze and the House of Comedy  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. 

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  • #9
    Minnesota Zoo
    View all Photos
    #9 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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 more than 4,700 animals  from camels to flamingos  as well as an Imax theater. Recent visitors say 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 a 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).

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  • #10
    Historic Fort Snelling
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    #10 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME 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. During the summer, the fort hosts numerous history-themed events, including demonstrations, competitions and youth programs. 

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  • #11
    Mill City Museum
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    #11 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Museums, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME 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. You'll also find a farmers market here — in both summer and winter — in the museum's train shed.

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  • #12
    Midtown Global Market
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    #12 in Minneapolis - St. Paul
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're looking for a more unique shopping experience, skip the Mall of America and head to the Midtown Global Market, where more than 50 vendors sell food and trinkets ranging from local produce to Somalian Pastries, Middle Eastern olives and Asian spices. There are also cultural events — from musical performances to Irish step-dancing lessons. "This place is a treat for your senses," said one TripAdvisor user.

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  • Target Field
    View all Photos
    Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

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  • American Swedish Institute
    View all Photos
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • Minnesota Children's Museum
    View all Photos
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

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