Downtown Minneapolis is a district of the city of Minneapolis dominated by architecturally renowned tower blocks and flanked by a stretch of the even more famous Mississippi River. Totaling six distinct neighborhoods which together receive around thirty million visitors a year, there’s no shortage of activities and entertainment in Downtown Minneapolis.
Navigate the Mississippi aboard a paddle wheeler, visit 19th-century historic buildings or walk through a crystal courtyard. Become a night owl while investigating Downtown Minneapolis’s vast choice of superb nightclubs or sip a cocktail in a speakeasy-style bar while observing the stars and the DT skyline.
Whatever you love to do, by day or at night, you’ll find it among these fifteen best things to do in Downtown Minneapolis.
1. Minneapolis Queen River Cruise
It would be wrong to be near the Mississippi River and not take a sail on a paddle wheeler. Board the Minneapolis Queen River Cruise just outside of Downtown at its moorings in Bohemian Flats Park for a traditional steamboat-style cruise.
The one and a half hour cruise takes in the St Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge before sailing past the stunning Downtown Minneapolis skyline.
For something more than a sedate sightseeing cruise on the Mississippi, try the Happy Hour and Pizza Cruise, the Margarita Monday or Taco Tuesday Cruise, the Friday Night Dinner Cruise or the Sunday Brunch Cruise. They’re all fantastic ways of seeing Downtown Minneapolis while having some food and fun at the same time.
2. City Hall
Fox your Instagram followers with a photo taken outside of the City Hall building on South 5th Street in Downtown Minneapolis.
The Gothic-looking government building constructed in the early twentieth century bears more than a passing resemblance to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London. The City Hall has a multi-turreted roof of copper and a clock tower over three-hundred feet tall the faces of which are larger than its British counterpart by a good eighteen inches.
Be outside the building at midday to hear the clock tower’s fifteen bells chime. It’s an archaic sound in a modern metropolis like Downtown Minneapolis.
3. The Prohibition Bar
Join the swanky crowd in the 1920’s atmosphere of the Prohibition Bar on the twenty-seventh floor of the W Hotel in the Foshay Tower on Downtown Minneapolis’s Marquette Avenue.
Decadent lighting, plush leather furniture reminiscent of a gentleman’s club of bygone eras and the odd chandelier or two create the ideal atmosphere for relaxing with a drink while watching the Downtown Minneapolis skyline come to life.
The Prohibition Bar also offers a menu of small plates including deviled eggs; beer battered cheese curds and chicken wings.
4. Mill City Museum
Historically, one of the main industries in Minneapolis was flour milling, and the Mill City Museum on South 2nd Street in Downtown celebrates many aspects of the trade.
Inside the museum, which wouldn’t be out of place on a movie set for a Batman film, ride an elevator up the flour tower and stop off on any floor to walk into a working reproduction of a mill in action.
There are also numerous stationery exhibits including millstones and a nineteenth-century boxcar used for transporting flour plus many other pieces of equipment.
5. Nice Ride Minneapolis
Pick up a Nice Ride Minneapolis cycle from one of the many bike stations located throughout Downtown Minneapolis and explore Downtown on two wheels.
Take a day pass for unlimited thirty-minute rides in a twenty-four hour period or become a Nice Ride member to gain access to unlimited sixty-minute rides for up to thirty days.
Don’t forget to check out all the safety tips and traffic regulations before you start pedaling.
6. Acme Comedy Club
Liven up a stay in Downtown Minneapolis with a night of endless laughs at the Acme Comedy Club on North 1st Street.
Reputed to be one of the best clubs for comedy in the entire US, the Acme Comedy Club hosts performances from top local and out of state comics six nights of the week as well as open mic nights for wannabes.
The Acme Comedy Club has an in-house restaurant, Sticks, and have dinner-show packages available.
7. Mary Tyler Moore Statue
One of television’s iconic moments from the 1970s is honored on the corner of Nicolette Avenue and 7th Street in Downtown Minneapolis with the Mary Tyler Moore Statue.
Filmed in Minneapolis, the Mary Tyler Moore Show was a sitcom well ahead of its times in having an independent working female as a protagonist. The long-running hit program aired for seven years and had more than one-hundred and sixty episodes broadcast during that period.
The Mary Tyler Moore Statue commemorates the opening of the program when the actress throws her hat into the air. Taking a hat and snapping a photo while doing the same as Mary has become a Downtown Minneapolis tradition for visitors.
8. Wells Fargo Museum
Explore the history of the Wells Fargo banking institute at the Wells Fargo Museum on South 70th Street in Downtown Minneapolis.
The museum is situated next to a working branch of the bank on the second floor and is accessed via a skywalk.
The exhibits demonstrate how money and gold bullion were transferred across the country via stagecoach, how telegraph offices worked and has an interactive display for learning how to handle a team of horses.
9. Orpheum Theater
Take in a top show at the Orpheum Theater on Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis. The historic, fully renovated theater has been hosting first-class productions since the vaudeville days of the 1920s.
With a seating capacity of over two thousand five hundred, the opulent Orpheum has seen such famous names grace its stage as the Marx Brothers and Tommy Dorsey. Now the theater puts on top Broadway musicals like Miss Saigon and the Lion King as well as various concerts by world-renowned artists.
The Orpheum is just one of four functioning playhouses in Downtown’s theater district so if the show scheduled for the dates you’re there is not to your taste, check out the other three which are Hennepin 900, the State Theater and the Pantages Theater.
The Nicollet, or Nicollet Mall, is a mile-long, pedestrianized entertainment and retail hub in Downtown Minneapolis.
Stroll the mall on street level by day to enjoy its cosmopolitan-style terraced restaurants and cafes or by night to view the illuminations of the two block long Light Walk. Don’t forget to look down on occasion. There are fifty manhole covers along the Nicollet which have been converted into urban works of art.
After exploring Nicollet on the ground, head up to the Nicollet Skyway which is two stories up. Access the skyway from the Crystal Court in the IDS Center, and you’ll find more than enough restaurants, pubs, and shops to spend an entire day and night in without ever going back outside.
There are pubs galore in the Nicollet Mall in Downtown Minneapolis including Irish, British and Latin-American ones, but don’t miss dropping into the Dakota bar for some dinner followed by a live show.
The warehouse-style venue has a great menu with imaginative touches being added to traditional dishes such as sausage and shrimp gumbo, lobster risotto and roast lamb.
There are nightly performances from live bands covering various genres of music. Book in advance, both floor tables and balcony seating are often sold out.
12. Museum Louvre It Or Leave It
The Museum Louvre It Or Leave It is contemporary art museum on 2nd Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis.
The museum, founded by the gift of a private collection, is housed in two floors of the Northstar Center Building and has several gallery spaces.
The exhibits range from unusual and fun sculptures to more seriously themed paintings including an original Picasso and photographs relating to human rights issues.
13. Mill City Farmers Market
The Mill City Farmers Market on South 2nd Street in Downtown Minneapolis is focused on fresh produce, but there’s a lot more to do there than buy a pound of vegetables.
At the market, start the day with a communal yoga class, listen to live music from the market buskers, participate in a live cooking class or watch an artisan at work.
The Mill City Farmers Market has over forty stalls offering handicrafts from hand-woven textiles to pottery to handmade greetings cards as well as food products.
14. Minneapolis History Tour
Make sightseeing in Downtown Minneapolis three times more fun by doing it on a Segway. Have a quick briefing on how to ride, then don a helmet and zoom around all DT’s most popular sights.
On the Human On A Stick Minneapolis History Tour, you’ll cover a total of six miles without any leg strain and find out lots of interesting facts about Downtown Minneapolis history and the Mississippi River from the accompanying guide.
The tours begin just outside of Downtown on Southeast Main Street and include snacks and drinks plus entry to the Mill City Museum.
15. The Bachelor Farmer
To get a taste of the Nordic influence in Downtown Minneapolis’s history, stop off at The Bachelor Farmer on North 2nd Avenue.
The restaurant, housed in a 19th century refurbished warehouse, uses a majority of organically grown produce in their menu which changes daily. Expect hearty food, presented creatively with a definite Nordic touch. Try pork balls on mash with pickled veg or some very tasty gravlax followed by a generous helping of upside-down apple pudding.
The Bachelor Farmer, just like Downtown Minneapolis itself, is an eclectic blend of the old and the new and an exciting place to be.