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8 Off-The-Beaten-Path Attractions to Visit in Minneapolis
These Twin Cities hidden gems are worth exploring.
At Betty Dangers Country Club, visitors can enjoy a working Ferris wheel and a mini-golf course.(Garbow Imagery)
Minneapolis-St. Paul has plenty of must-see sites, but for visitors searching for something more off the radar, these local insider favorites are worth checking out.
The Bakken Museum
The Bakken Museum(Courtesy of The Bakken Museum)
Located in a mansion on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, this quirky, small science museum was founded in 1975 by Earl Bakken, the inventor of the first wearable battery-operated, transistorized pacemaker.
“Not many people know about the museum,” says Duygu Andrews, guest experience manager at the Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown, but “for people visiting with kids, the museum is a very fun one.” Learn how electricity works in our bodies, explore Frankenstein’s Laboratory and check out cool hands-on exhibits, including one that will make your hair stand on end (literally).
The Bakken Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission for adults is $10, those 13 to 24 are $8 and children 5 to 12 are $5.
A 1954 landmark bar and burger joint in south Minneapolis, Matt’s Bar is perfect for an off-the-beaten-path experience, Andrews says. It’s a “dive bar that’s known for its special Jucy Lucy hamburgers,” she says. The Jucy Lucy is basically two patties of beef with a slice of cheese tucked inside. After the burger is grilled, diners need to “fear the cheese,” according to its motto, and take care not to burn their tongues. The delicacy has become a Twin Cities tradition.
Matt's Bar is open daily starting at 11 a.m. and only accepts cash.
Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary
Named for a retired botany teacher, this native plant reserve has more than 500 plant species and more than 130 species of resident and migratory birds. Founded in 1907, it’s part of Theodore Wirth Regional Park, located in the cities of Minneapolis and Golden Valley, and it's the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States. The native plants are labeled, and there’s a beautiful “self-guided walking trail network – one that very few people use,” says Michael Mckenzie, bellman at the Hilton Minneapolis. “It’s absolutely amazing.”
The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary charges no admission fee. It's open daily from 7:30 a.m. to one hour before sunset from April through mid-October. The rest of October, it's only open weekends. It's closed November through March.
In classic speak-easy style, Volstead’s Emporium is not advertised nor does it display a sign out front to mark its location (although it does have a Facebook page).
“You need to go down an alley, find a door with a sliding-like window to knock on, and then descend down into a basement,” Mckenzie says. Located at Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood, the secret space is candlelit and Prohibition-era perfect – with curtained booths attended to by servers who appear through two-way mirrors in the wall. There’s a small menu and hand-crafted cocktails to match the ambiance and live music on certain nights.
Old-school Mel-O-Glaze Bakery has been renowned for its raised and glazed doughnuts long before doughnuts became a culinary trend. Dubbed “legal crack balls” by customers, its doughnut holes are even more popular.
“These are a personal childhood favorite of mine,” says Liisa Soulak, director of guest services at the Radisson Blu Mall of America. On the corner of 28th Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway, the shop allows folks to call ahead to reserve doughnut holes. The bakery opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends.
Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill
Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill(Edward Walker)
At this dive bar in the downtown North Loop area, “every Sunday and Monday evening, they have Dr. Mambo’s Combo,” says Lisa Heath, W insider at the W Minneapolis - The Foshay. “It’s a funk band with extremely talented musicians – some toured with Prince.”
In fact, Prince was known to stop in Bunker’s Music Bar & Grill on occasion for a jam session when Dr. Mambo’s Combo was performing. Bunker’s hosts local bands the rest of the week (with an occasional national act), but Dr. Mambo’s Combo, which formed in 1987, continues to draw crowds. The establishment charges a cover. It's open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 1 a.m.
[Read: 7 Minneapolis Breweries to Visit.]
Harriet Island Regional Park
Not to be confused with Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, Harriet Island Regional Park in St. Paul is a “really cool area,” says Conor Casey, concierge at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel. “You’re by the Mississippi River, looking at the downtown St. Paul skyline, and you can walk right up to the water.”
Gifted to the city in 1900 for use as a recreational space, the island today offers beautiful views across the river to the bluffs of St. Paul. It hosts festivals and is where narrated sightseeing cruises on old-timey stern-wheelers depart on the Mississippi River.
Betty Danger’s Country Club
Betty Dangers Country Club(Garbow Imagery)
With its working Ferris wheel (called the Danger) on the patio and an adjacent mini-golf course, Betty Danger's Country Club, a restaurant and bar in Northeast Minneapolis, is “kind of a kitschy, cool thing to do,” says Kristen Montag, senior public relations and communications manager at Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism association.
You can buy a ticket for a cocktail and a ride on the Ferris wheel (which the establishment calls a vertically revolving patio) to enjoy views of the Mississippi River, or dine inside the restaurant, where drink menus are presented tucked into copies of the book "True Prep." The whole place is a funky, fun take on an uptight country club scene. Tex-Mex comfort food accompanies its famous margaritas. During the warm-weather months, it opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends.
To experience more of what Minneapolis-St. Paul has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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