The city that gave the world Prince and Bob Dylan is one of the Midwest’s cultural and economic powerhouses and shares Twin Cities metropolitan area with its near neighbour, Saint Paul.
Few big cities in the world are blessed with as much public parkland as Minneapolis. Water is everywhere, at 13 lakes, the roaring Mississippi River, wetland and waterfalls.
What’s fantastic is that you can immerse yourself in this environment, hopping from lake to lake in the Chain of Lakes, without ever having to emerge from the greenery of lakeshores and creek banks.
Saint Anthony Waterfall on the Mississippi provided the impetus for the largest water-powered milling facility in the world in the 19th century, and the vestiges of this vast complex are preserved near the famous Stone Arch Bridge.
In this article we’ll look at all the things you can do in the wider Twin Cities metropolitan area, since downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul are only 15 minutes apart, give or take.
Tip: a fun way to start your trip would be the Historic Northeast Minneapolis Food Tour or the Twin Cities Highlights Tour
1. Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)
Heaven for anyone with a love for art, the Mia has wide-ranging catalogue of more than 80,000 works, spanning five millennia and different regions of the world.
There’s an inspiring collection of Asian art, one of the best in the United States, comprising bronzes, samurai armour, jades, ceramics and Chinese architectural elements.
You can check out pre-Columbian artefacts from the Americas and figurines, naturalistic terracotta shrine heads from Nigeria, ornate European decorative arts and classical statuary.
The Mia’s wealth of European fine art is staggering, and peppered with important names like Lucas Cranach the Elder, El Greco, Joshua Reynolds, Gerard van Honthorst, Manet, Pissarro, Signac, van Gogh, Gauguin, Max Beckmann, Matisse, Francis Bacon and many more than we can list.
2. Mill City Museum
A great first stop for the Mississippi riverside and the water-powered industry that it spawned in the 19th century, Mill City Museum is in the ruins of the Washburn A Mill complex, dating to 1880. At that time this was thought to be the largest flour mill in the world.
In these galleries you can find out about the groundbreaking milling process that made fine wheat available to a mass market for the first time ever.
The tour gives an impression of what it would have been liked to work at this facility and the ruins are full of interpretation boards and fun things for kids to do at the Water and Baking Labs.
The Flour Tower elevator show lifts you through eight floors of the building and transports you back in time to listen to workers’ stories and experience a catastrophic 19th-century explosion when airborne flour ignited.
At the observation deck on the roof you can survey the entirety Minneapolis’s old industrial riverfront, from Stone Arch Bridge to Saint Anthony Falls.
3. Stone Arch Bridge
The railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill built this bridge across the Mississippi for his Great Northern Railway in the early 1880s.
Stone Arch Bridge connected the railway system on the east bank to the Union Depot, which opened not far from the west bank in 1885, boosting passenger numbers for this successful project.
It’s the second-oldest surviving crossing on the Mississippi and the oldest arched stone bridge on the river.
The last passenger service passed over in 1978 and in the 1990s it was turned into a pedestrian and cycle bridge, granting you a front-row view of Saint Anthony Falls and the Minneapolis skyline.
In summer Stone Arch Bridge is the focal point for fireworks displays for the Fourth of July and the Minneapolis Aquatennial celebrations at the end of July.
4. Walker Art Center
A multidisciplinary contemporary art centre with 10 galleries, a theatre, cinema, a cafe and restaurant, the Walker Art Centre is on a 17 acre campus first drawn up by Edward Larrabee Barnes and opened in 1971. Barnes’ building was given a $67m makeover and expansion in the 2000s, and in 2017 was united with the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which we’ll talk about next.
There’s always a range of thought-provoking exhibitions to check out, as well as picks from the museum’s collection, which has pieces by Edward Hopper, Chuck Close, Yves Klein and Andy Warhol.
You can immerse yourself in dance, cutting-edge theatre, music, performance art and spoken word on the stage, and the cinema brings together contemporary, avant-garde and classic movies as well as video art.
5. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
When the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was tied to the Walker Art Center in 2017 it took its place as one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the United States.
This rambling space, with avenues and formal hedges is framed by the Basilica of Saint Mary and the skyscrapers of downtown Minneapolis.
The showpiece is the Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain by Claes Oldenburg and his wife Coosje Van Bruggen.
This is accompanied by pieces form Henry Moore, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark di Suvero and many more.
There are over 50 permanent and temporary works to take in, and new pieces show up all the time, like Katarina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock and Black Vessel for a Saint by Theaster Gates, both from 2017.
6. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
The only national park devoted solely to the Mississippi runs through Minneapolis and Saint Paul on the banks of the river, forming a 72-mile green corridor between Dayton and Ramsey, MN and Hastings, MN.
The riverbanks in Minneapolis and Saint Paul are littered with museums, historical monuments and lots of densely wooded parkland.
Being a national park, there’s often something interesting going on at Minneapolis’s riverfront, be it bike rides, guided walks or movie screenings, all organised by park rangers.
You can hike, fish, go cycling, rent a canoe, go bird-watching and browse a number of visitor centres.
Many of the things to do on this list fall within the National River and Recreation Area, like the Stone arch Bridge, Saint Anthony Falls, Fort Snelling, Minnehaha Park and the Mill City Museum.
7. Guthrie Theater
The famed theatrical director Sir Tyrone Guthrie founded this acclaimed producing theatre in 1963. The Guthrie Theatre, which moved to its formidable Jean Nouvel-designed facility on the Mississippi riverside in 2006, has a resident company and produces an assortment of contemporary and classic plays on three stages, raising the bar for performance and theatrical production.
There are roughly nine productions a year at the Mainstage and some standouts in the 2019-20 season were Guys and Dolls, As You Like It, Cyrano de Bergerac, Metamorphoses and two new works, The Great Leap and Floyd’s, while A Christmas Carol is a Twin Cities holiday tradition.
Keep an eye out for inventive smaller productions at the Dowling Studio, and be sure to watch the Mississippi hurrying past at the Endless Bridge viewpoint.
8. Chain of Lakes Regional Park
Fair to say that Minneapolis’s lakes are a feather in the city’s cap.
In the 19th century the lakeshores were left free of development and remained public property, and the land around Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of Isles, Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet merges into one regional park.
At that time the Chain of Lakes was rather lyrically described as being “like a necklace of diamond in settings of emerald”. There’s a lot of ground to cover in the Chain of Lakes Regional Park, so it’s a good idea to rent a bike from one of the branches of Wheel Fun Bike Rentals.
On warm summer days you can pack a lunch and pedal off in search of sandy beaches and places to grill, go fishing, take picnics or go bird-watching.
In winter the Chain of Lakes have ice rinks, cross-country ski trails and places to warm up with a hot chocolate.
9. Minnesota History Center
You can satisfy your curiosity about all things Minnesota at this museum and library in the state capital, Saint Paul.
The Minnesota History Center is in a purpose-built complex, from 1992, and shines a light on the state, its history and people, with thoughtfully realised exhibitions.
Open House: If These Walls Could Talk presents a recreated 19th-century building from Saint Paul’s East Side, where you can peer into the lives of its multicultural set of tenants of the decades.
Minnesota’s Greatest Generation recalls the feats of the state’s residents in WWII, and First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom maps the history of the world-famous venue that gave Prince and many more artists their first start (until May 2020). Kids love scrambling through the replica grain elevator at Grainland, while the hands-on Then Now Wow lets them trade at a colonial fur post, board a streetcar, mine for iron ore and learn all about the buffalo herds that once roamed the western prairies.
10. Minnehaha Regional Park
A patch of untamed wilderness minutes from downtown Minneapolis, Minnehaha Regional Park is on the lower reaches of the Minnehaha Creek.
This 22-mile tributary of the Mississippi winds through the city for 22 miles via several lakes.
In the limestone environment of Minnehaha Regional Park things get dramatic.
About 3/4 of a mile before the creek empties into the Mississippi it plummets down the 16-metre Minnehaha Falls.
This waterfall freezes during winter cold snaps, when you can experience the thrill of walking behind that curtain of ice.
At other times, come after a period of heavy rain to see the torrent in full force.
You can rent a bike through Wheel Fun Rentals, take picnics, play disc golf, and there’s a wading pool where smaller children can play in summer.
11. Weisman Art Museum
One look at the Weisman Art Museum shimmering jumble of curve and angles at the University of Minnesota and you’ll know it’s a Frank Gehry.
Frederick R. Weisman (1912-1994) was a Minneapolis-born art collector who made waves in Los Angeles where the Weisman Art Foundation is headquartered.
The Minneapolis building is endowed with strong collections for American artists like Alfred Maurer, Charles Biederman and Marsden Hartley, complemented by Korean furniture, ceramics and Native American Mimbres pottery.
Exhibitions are shuffled every few months, and in summer 2019 there was a display for the museum’s growing collection by women artists (Portia Zvavahera, Alexa Horochowski and Iva Gueorguieva) and an exhibition of hundreds of postcards from between the 1890s and 1930s.
12. Theodore Wirth Park
The largest city park in Minneapolis also has more than its fair share of amenities, some of which are out of the ordinary.
Naturally there are playgrounds, lakes, walking trails and sports facilities, but Theodore Wirth Park also benefits from a 15-acre wildflower garden and bird sanctuary, a quaking bog navigable by boardwalk, a disc golf course, beach and, in winter, a cross-country ski trails and a sledding/tubing hill with rope tow.
The hilly ground is ideal for mountain biking when the snow melts, and on warmer days you can play a round at the 18-hole par-73 and the nine-hole par-3 golf courses.
13. Science Museum of Minnesota
This treasured institution in Saint Paul deals with natural history, physical science, mathematics and technology.
For children it’s the dinosaurs that steal the show, and the Dinosaurs & Fossils exhibition displays mounted fossil skeletons of a triceratops, stegosaurus and diplodocus, as well as replicated skeletons.
Questions on human biology and anatomy will be answered at the Human Body Gallery, for an inside look at our organs, systems and tissues.
The Experiment Gallery is crammed with interactive stations where littler scientists can control waves and create a tornado, and “Race: Why are we so different?” celebrates and explains everyone’s similarities and differences.
For a sense of place, the Mississippi River Gallery charts the wildlife, geology and anthropology of the mighty river flowing past the museum’s window.
The museum’s IMAX/Omnimax theater can alternate between flat-surface and dome projections, and is essential to any visit.
14. Target Field
Three-time world champions, The Minnesota Twins set up shop in the North Loop/Warehouse District with this acclaimed ballpark that opened in 2010. Target Field hosted the All-Star Game in 2014 and can seat 38,500 for baseball games, and even more for concerts (Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Def Leppard and Eagles have all played dates here). When we put this list together in June 2019 the Twins were storming the American League Central Division, with a 40-20 record.
Of course, fortunes can change fast in baseball, but despite the winning run and increasing attendances, Target Field ran special “ballpark access” promotions.
For as little as $5, ballpark access gets you into the ballpark without a seat.
You’re also sure to eat well at Target Field, whether you’re up for shawirma wraps, burgers, p&j and candied bacon sandwiches, fancy grilled cheese or more conventional dogs and beer!
15. Mall of America
No mere shopping centre, the Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States, and on top of its 520+ stores there’s the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, the SEA LIFE Aquarium and the crayon-themed Crayola Experience, to name just a few attractions.
The complex is up there with the most visited tourist attractions on the planet, pulling in 40 million visitors a year.
Needless to say, there are brands for all tastes and budgets, all complemented by more than 60 food and drink options, whether you want full-service, fast casual or something quick from the Food Court.
For date nights or family days out there’s a CMX Market cinema with a “popcorn lab” and in-house pizza station.
All this within 15 minutes of downtown Minneapolis, right next to the international airport.
Something to remember is that clothing and shoes are exempt from sales tax in the State of Minnesota, so you have even more reason to splurge.
16. Lake Harriet
To walk or ride along the wooded banks of this lake just north of Minnehaha Creek you could easily forget that you’re in the middle of a city.
Lake Harriet is 335 acres, and like all of the Chain of Lakes is wrapped in leafy parkland.
There are two sandy beaches, North Beach and Southeast Beach, while in summer Wheel Fun Rentals provides the wherewithal for cycling, paddleboarding, canoeing, rowing and kayaking.
Lake Harriet is also the place to come for sailing in Minneapolis, and lessons are offered for both grown-ups and youngsters.
On the north shore sits the Lake Harriet Bandshell, built in 1986 to replace a bandstand from the 1920s, and putting on a programme of free concerts and movie screenings in the summer.
17. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
The 300-acre Como Park, first landscaped in the 1870s, has a lake, public art, picnic shelters, sports amenities and lots of family attractions like a little amusement park and mini golf course.
But what makes the park indispensible is its excellent zoo and the marvellous conservatory (1915), all the better considering they have free admission (with a suggested nominal donation). Gorillas, giraffes, orangutans, tigers, lions and many more await you here.
In the Aquatic Building are tanks for giant archerfish and lined seahorses, as well as habitats for birds like tufted puffins and black-footed penguins.
The captivating Tropical Encounters mixes rainforest plant species like strangler fig and mahogany with reptiles and birds like emerald tree boas, green anacondas and yellow-rumped caciques.
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is open every day of the year and houses a medley of stunning rooms and gardens, like the tropical Noah Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Palm Dome, the Fern Room, a butterfly garden and the Ordway Garden with a terrace of native grasses and a bonsai gallery.
18. Minneapolis Skyway System
Begun in the 60s and 70s, downtown Minneapolis has a network of enclosed pedestrian bridges linking a host of buildings across 80 blocks.
The system was built to ease crowding on sidewalks, but in a city that rarely gets above freezing between November and March, it’s an effective way to escape the weather.
There are 9.5 miles of pathways in the system, connecting the second and third floors of office buildings, restaurants, government buildings, banks, shops, hotels, gyms and many more businesses and amenities downtown.
Enclosed bridges are included in all new constructions, and there’s way-finding signage to help you get around as the network can be confusing to the uninitiated.
19. Foshay Tower
This Art Deco skyscraper at 821 Maquette Avenue was the tallest building in Minneapolis from its completion in 1929 until the IDS Center, still the tallest building in the state, went up in the early 1970s.
What you’ll notice right away about the Foshay Tower is how its walls slope inward and that the tower is set quite a long way back from the street.
The tower has been a hotel since 2008 and has held onto its ornate Art Deco interiors, abounding in Italian marble, mahogany from Africa, hand-wrought iron and gold plating.
Non-guests can still go up to the open-air observation deck on the 30th floor, and there’s a small museum up here documenting the history of this enduring Minneapolis monument.
20. American Swedish Institute
In a region where many people have strong ancestral ties to Scandinavia, there’s a museum and cultural centre recording the contributions of Sweden and Swedish Americans to U.S. history and culture.
The main building, in the Phillips West neighbourhood, is a fairytale chateau ordered by the wealthy Swedish immigrants Swan and Christina Turnblad ordered in the Phillips West neighbourhood in the 1900s.
The American Swedish Institute has been set up here since 1929, and new gallery space was added with the adjoining Nelson Cultural Center in 2012. In 2019 there was an exhibition of artefacts from Viking boat graves, a show on the history of Minnesota’s Vikings NFL team and a show of sculptor Danny Saathoff’s kinetic works in paper and wood.
The institute’s restaurant, Fika, prepares contemporary Nordic cuisine and comes highly recommended.
21. Basilica of St. Mary
When the time came to build a new church for Minneapolis Roman Catholic congregation, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis recruited the Franco-American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray.
In a lavish Beaux-Arts style and composed of Vermont granite, the Basilica of St. Mary was constructed over seven years up to 1914. The barrel-vaulted nave is jaw-dropping, rising to 25 metres, more than St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and lit by ten radiant stained glass windows.
Maybe most striking of all is the dome, 42 metre above the sanctuary and crested by a lantern that floods the sanctuary with an ethereal light.
The Basilica of St. Mary is noted for its acoustics, and hosts around 30 concerts a year, by a variety of ensembles like the National Lutheran Choir, Minnesota Sinfonia and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
22. Saint Anthony Main
Arguably the prettiest street in Minneapolis is on the east bank of the Mississippi, with a cobblestone surface, rows of converted warehouses and clear lines of sight to the skyscrapers of downtown Minneapolis.
Saint Anthony Main is also green, tracked by riverside parkland and shaded by trees.
You can wander down to the river at Water Power Park, catch a movie at St. Anthony Main Theater or dine al fresco at a selection of restaurants.
The pick of these might be the Aster Café, blessed with those beautiful views, has a European-style terrace and books live musicians.
23. Target Center
Around since 1988, Target Center was partly built for the newly-formed Minnesota Timberwolves, and is also home court for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.
The Timberwolves’ best years came in the Kevin Garnett era when they clinched the Midwest Division in 2004 but fell to the Lakers in the Conference Finals.
This was followed by a 14-year postseason drought, finally broken in 2018. If there isn’t much joy to be had on court, you can console yourself with an enticing and ever-expanding food and drink selection, which as of 2019 runs to loaded nachos, Philly steak and sushi, along with a wide range of craft beer.
Target Center’s capacity expands to 20,000 for arena concerts, and Prince, Paul McCartney, Metallic and Elton John have all performed here in the last 30 years.
24. Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun)
The largest of the Chain of Lakes covers more than 400 acres and is a hub for outdoor fun, both on land and water.
Bde Maka Ska is ringed by a biking path and at Wheel Fun Rentals you can get your hands on a paddleboard, rowboat, kayak, canoe or bike for a peaceful few hours in summer.
There are three sandy beaches: 32nd Street Beach, North Beach and Thomas Beach (with a satisfying view of the skyline), as well as sports field for soccer, softball and volleyball.
If you fancy getting back to the Midwest’s 19th-century roots you can try out log-rolling in summer, and if that sounds like a lot of effort you can fish for crappie, musky and panfish at the fishing pier.
Bde Maka Ska, meaning “White Earth Lake” in Dakotan, was renamed in 2018 because of seventh Vice President John C. Calhoun’s defence of slavery in the early 1800s.
25. Midtown Greenway
Minneapolis is streaked with green corridors and one of the favourites is the Midtown Greenway on the trackbed of the old Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.
The trail is on 5.7 miles of this line and runs east to west, a block north of Lake Street.
The route and much of the infrastructure dates to 1912, while the greenway first took shape in the late-1990s, with the most recent phase rolled out in 2007. For commuters, it can be quicker to cycle cross-town on the Midtown Greenway than many car trips, as the corridor is kept separate from the street grid by passing under bridges or over levies.
On the west side you can use the trail to get onto the Chain of Lakes and ride for many more miles without ever having to deal with road traffic.
26. Museum of Russian Art
In the last decades of the 20th century, the collectors Raymond and Susan Johnson amassed the largest cache of Soviet-era Realist art outside of Russia.
This eventually found a permanent space at the converted Mayflower Church in south Minneapolis, and the museum was inaugurated in 2007. Partly using that extensive collection, the Museum of Russian Art has an engaging rotation of up to ten temporary exhibitions a year for Russian painting and decorative arts from all periods.
When we compiled this list in 2019 there was a show for the Surrealist Russian American ceramicist Sergei Isupov, and a selection from the collection examining depictions of the human body in Soviet art, and the emphasis on the working body as part of a collective.
The museum’s events schedule is a busy one, including performances of Russian classical music by members of the Minnesota Orchestra, folk music and dances, lectures, panel discussions and vodka tasting.
Book online: The Museum of Russian Art Admission Ticket
27. James J. Hill House
The railroad tycoon James J. Hill (1838-1916) took over the bankrupt St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in the 1870s and built it up into the successful Great Northern Railway, which ran from Saint Paul to Seattle.
At the start of the 1890s Hill spared no expense on his own 3,344 square metre residence, the largest house in Minnesota at the time and a blend of Richardsonian and neo-Romanesque architecture.
On the guided tour you’ll find out just how much of an impact Hill had on the region, and discover some of the mansion’s innovations in ventilation, heating, plumbing, security and lighting.
You’ll get to see beautiful chandeliers, stained glass, wood-carving and, rather strangely, a pipe organ.
Hill also included a private art gallery, two storeys high and drenched in natural light.
He filled it French Realist and Impressionist painting, much of which is now at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
28. Minnesota State Capitol
Saint Paul is the capital of Minnesota, and on a sprawling landscaped near the top of a hill stands the intricate Beaux-Arts building housing the Minnesota Senate, Minnesota House of Representatives, and the offices of the Attorney General and Governor.
Looking back from the steps of this monument there’s clear view over downtown Saint Paul to the south-east.
Completed in 1905 Minnesota State Capitol was designed by Cass Gilbert, the man behind New York’s Woolworth Building, and takes design cues from the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica.
The dome is the second-largest self-supported marble dome in the world, after St Peter’s.
Free guided tours depart at the top of the hour and last 45 minutes, during which you’ll learn the ins and outs of the Capitol’s newly restored art and architecture, and head up to the Quadriga statue on the roof.
29. Mill Ruins Park
We’ve seen at the Mill City Museum that flour milling is in Minneapolis’s DNA, and at this site a block away on the west bank of the Mississippi you can explore the vestiges of more industrial buildings that once made this the “Flour Milling Capital of the World”. Mill Ruins Park presents the ghostly remains of several mills, saved from complete destruction by a road project in the 1980s.
There’s a network of catwalks looking over millraces and ruins, all set up with interpretive boards, and the main canal has had its water flow restored.
Those signs tell the story of the flour mills and saw mills on this fast-flowing section of the Mississippi
30. U.S. Bank Stadium
A new Home field for the Minnesota Vikings was ready in 2016 at a cost of more than $1bn.
The U.S. Bank Stadium is the first NFL venue since Detroit’s Ford Field (2002) to have a fixed roof, which has made it suitable for major events beyond NFL like the NCAA Final Four and the ESPN X Games.
Super Bowl LII took place here in 2018, when the Eagles defeated the Patriots.
In fall and winter you can join the hordes in their Helga hats to watch the Vikings battling to add to their 20 Division championships, four conference championships, and reach their first Super Bowl since 1977. You may just want to marvel at the stadium’s state-of-the-art architecture, and there are daily tours by Vikings experts, showing you through press level, premium clubs and suites, the locker room and out onto the stadium floor to imagine 66,860 crazy Vikings fans.
31. Orpheum Theatre
When this venerable theatre on Hennepin Avenue opened in 1921 it was the largest vaudeville house in the country, and the Marx Brothers were among the early performers.
The palatial venue, seating 2,579 and easy to spot for its luminous sign, was owned by Bob Dylan from 1979 to 1988 before he sold it to the city and it reopened as Minneapolis’s prime stage for entertainment.
Since 1993 Prince, Neil Young, The Cure, Tori Amos, R.E.M., John Denver, Pink and lots more have played the Orpheum, along with touring Broadway musicals (Mean Girls and Rent in 2019) and some of America’s greatest comedians.
There’s opulent decor throughout, in the lobby and its terracotta bas-relief sculptures and in the auditorium, festooned with stucco garlands and medallions.
32. North Loop/Warehouse District
All you see north and west of 1st Avenue North on the northern fringes of downtown Minneapolis is North Loop or the Warehouse District, two names for one place.
Here, evocative brick warehouses from the turn of the 20th century have found new vocations as shops, nightspots and dining destinations.
This is the home of Target Field and the Target Center, but there’s much more going on.
You can catch live comedy and cutting-edge entertainment at Acme Comedy Company and the Lab Theater, there’s live music and after-hours fun at the Fine Line Music Cafe and Gay 90s, and you can tap into Minneapolis’s craft beer culture at Inbound Brew Co and Fulton Brewing.
For shopping, North Loop and Warehouse District is all about ultra-cool design shops and boutiques, and for food you can pick from Japanese (Kada No Mise), seafood (Smack Shack), contemporary American (Borough), banh mi, Sweet Chow and pub grub (Lyon’s, O’Donovan’s, Gluek’s and Kieran’s)
33. Nickelodeon Universe
We know that Mall of America is huge – so big, in fact that it can contain a whole amusement park.
Nickelodeon Universe, the largest indoor theme park in the United States, is actually an updated and rebranded Peanuts attraction that opened in 1992. The park reopened in 2008 as Nickelodeon Universe and millions of dollars have been invested in the past decade to complete the transformation.
Children can meet their favourite Nick characters like Dora, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spongebob, and experience 27 rides and attractions like swing rides, a hayride, a log chute, a Ferris wheel and the sky fly ride, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock.
The stars for bigger kids will be the three spectacular indoor coasters, Pepsi Orange Streak, SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge and Fairly Odd Coaster.
Meanwhile smaller children will be besotted with the many lighter rides like Paw Patrol: Adventure Bay, Reptarmobiles and Bubble Guppies Guppy Bubbler.
34. SEA LIFE Centre Minnesota
The Minnesota edition of this worldwide aquarium chain is in the Mall of America, and holds more than 4,500,000 litres of tanks supporting over 10,000 animals.
The marquee attraction is the 91-metre tunnel through four different tanks, where stingrays, seven shark species, the freshwater species of the Amazon river and the fish of the Minnesotan lakes swim above and beside you.
At Stingray Adventure there’s a shallow pool where you can touch the backs of stingrays , followed by a kaleidoscopic display at Jellyfish Discovery, paired with compelling facts about these strange creatures.
You’ll see six species of seahorse at Seahorse Kingdom and find out all there is to know at about shark conservation at Shark Discovery’s multimedia stations and interactives.
Brave the Rainforest is a transformative two-storey rainforest environment inhabited by crocodiles, piranhas and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Book online: SEA LIFE Aquarium Minnesota Admission Tickets at the Mall of America
35. All Inclusive Three-Hour Brewery Tour
Minneapolis has a craft beer scene to match any in America, and the array of breweries and stylish tap rooms is so large that it’s worth letting an expert take over and show you the best on a tour.
All the better since you won’t have to worry about getting around.
Picking you up from Radisson Blu in Downtown Minneapolis, Bitter Minnesota offers a comfortable, fascinating and delicious three-hour tour in an air-conditioned minibus stopping at three of the best.
During this all-you-can-drink adventure you may drop by Bent Brewstillery, Fair State Cooperative, Bauhaus Brew Labs, La Dona Cerveceria and Modest Brewing, sampling some of the best beer you’ve ever tasted.
The All Inclusive Three-Hour Brewery Tour is available through GetYourGuide.com.
36. Grand Rounds Scenic Byway
Laid out over the course of decades through a ring of interconnected parks in Minneapolis, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is one of the longest continuous systems of urban parkway in the United States.
There’s about 50 miles of roadway in this system for automobile traffic, as well as paths for pedestrians and bikes.
The byway weaves through the Downtown Riverfront, along the banks of the Mississippi, through Minnehaha, the Chain of Lakes, Theodore Wirth, Victory Memorial and Columbia Park in the north-east.
Among the beautiful natural features on its margins are creeks, lakes, woodland and wetland, along with manmade lagoons, canals, gardens, parkland, greenways, playgrounds, bridges and picnic areas.
37. Minnehaha Mile
Almost overnight a stretch of Minnehaha Avenue and its off-shooting streets has broken out as a shopping and dining district with a lot of character.
Minnehaha Mile is the place to go for reused items, be it antiques, vintage decor and clothes, second-hand books, vinyl, upcycled goods and all kinds of curiosities.
In between, there are yoga studios and alternative health centres, and no shortage of dining choices, whether you want soft-shell crab sandwiches, gourmet grilled cheese, fair trade coffee, quesadillas, Southeast Asian bites, pizza or craft cocktails.
Many of the stores have irregular opening times so check the Minnehaha Mile facebook page before paying a visit.
38. Somali Cuisine
In Minneapolis you have a real opportunity to leave the beaten track, in a culinary sense, and try some flavours that you might not have experienced before.
The origins of Minneapolis’s Somali community go back to the early-1990s when the Somali Civil War broke out.
There are now some 75,000 people with Somali heritage in the Twin Cities area, and this means that there’s no shortage of places to sample vibrant East African cuisine.
Main courses tend to come with spaghetti or rice, and this will often be served with a banana on the side that you can mix in.
A popular protein is slow-roasted goat, which falls off the bone, and for snacks there are sambusas, a spicy variation on the samosa.
A few great picks are Safari Restaurant at (3010 4th Ave S)for its famous camel burger, Sambusa King (126 Blake Road N), Daalo Grill (2647 Nicollet Ave) for delectable roasted goat and Qoraxlow (2910 Pillsbury Ave S), which does a great spaghetti and spicy lamb meat sauce.
39. Saint Anthony Falls
In the 19th century this waterfall was the beating heart of the “Flour Milling Capital of the World”, powering flour mills, sawmills and textile mills.
Overuse and poor engineering of these water management systems caused severe damage from around 1860 to 1887, and the current sophisticated system of locks and dams dates from the middle of the 20th century.
To the Dakota people the waterfall had been known as mnirara (curling waters) or owahmenah (falling waters), and the site’s important is recognised by the St. Anthony Falls Historic District Area.
This features the Heritage Trail, a self-guided two-mile path and a visitor centre documenting the falls.
There are daily tours of the lock and dam in summer at 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00 when you’ll hear about the history of the river and the mills that used to line its banks.
40. The Bakken Museum
It may be niche, but this enthralling museum, the only one of its kind in the world, explores the history of medical electricity.
The location of the Bakken Museum is lovely, close to Bde Maka Ska in West Winds, a Medieval-style mansion with half-timbering, wood-panelling, tracery and mullioned windows.
Minnesota Made studies the history of medical innovation in the state, and explains how its famous “Medical Alley” came together.
Tinkering with Prototypes is a space for experiential learning, while Spark of Life has a playable theremin, an antique EKG machine and a 60,000-volt Wimshurst Generator.
The Bakken Museum also deals with the depiction of medical electricity in culture at Frankenstein’s Laboratory, and Mary and Her Monster, which takes a look at Mary Shelley’s life in the early-1800s.
Out in the landscaped grounds you can take a guided tour of the Healthy Heart Organic garden, growing vegetables, the Dakota Native Plants Garden and the Medieval-style Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden.
41. Historic Fort Snelling
Resting on bluffs where the Minnesota River enters the Mississippi is the fort that established U.S. hegemony in the area when it was established in 1819. In the Civil War Fort Snelling was used to train Union Army volunteers, and became a training centre in the Indian Campaigns, Spanish-American War and both World Wars, before being decommissioned for the final time in 1946. The site has been reverted to how it looked 200 years ago and there’s much to learn on a tour, like the 10,000 history of this Dakota homeland, known as Bdote.
With the help of costumed re-enactors, you’ll find out about those Native Americans, the European fur trade in the 18th and 19th century, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and the fort’s role in American history’s pivotal campaigns.
42. Minnesota Zoo
South of Minneapolis, past Mall of America in Apple Valley, the Minnesota Zoo is a state-run attraction that broke the mould when it opened in the 1970s by arranging its inhabitants according to their environment rather than their species.
At indoor and outdoor habitats there are three themed trails.
The Medtronic Minnesota Trail presents species native to the state, like wolverines, porcupines, cougars, gray wolves and black bears, while the animals that live north of the 45 Parallel, like bison, Amur tigers, moose, Bactrian camels and dholes reside on the Northern Trail.
Inside is the Tropics Trail showing you past enclosures for komodo dragons, golden lion tamarins, Malayan tapirs, Burmese pythons and many more, while the enormous aquariums at Discovery Bay support a variety of sharks, rays and seals.
Smaller visitors can interact with domestic animals at the Well Fargo Family Farm, in a bucolic landscape, and Russia’s Grizzly Coast has species from the wilderness of eastern Russia like brown bears, Amur leopards and sea otters.
43. Minneapolis Central Library
César Pelli who designed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, conceived the snazzy Minneapolis Central Library building, which opened in 2006. With more than 2.4 million items, Minneapolis has the third largest per capita collection of any major U.S. city.
For out of towners doing some sightseeing, the sustainable, ultramodern library building warrants a peek for its lofty, 756-square-metre atrium.
A bookworm could easily lose a day here without realising , while the excellent children’s section is a place of whimsy and imagination and has books in 40 world languages.
44. FlyOver America
You can go on a whirlwind tour of the Minneapolis cityscape and off around the United States without leaving Mall of America.
FlyOver America is a high-tech virtual flight ride, using eye-popping footage, moving seats and ambient effects like wind, mist and scents to make the whole thing feel even more real.
You’ll be in a suspended chair, with your legs dangling, in front of huge spherical screen on a flight along the course of rushing rivers, over serene lakes, through cities and out into the American West’s huge sweeps of wilderness.
45. Minneapolis Queen Boat Rides
A river as storied as the Mississippi deserves to be navigated by boat, and from mid-April to the end of October you can do this aboard the old-time paddle-wheeler, Minneapolis Queen.
Twin Cities Cruises schedules daily 90-minute sightseeing tours for supreme views of the skyline and Minneapolis’s historic riverfront area, via river bluffs, the Saint Anthony Lock System, the Stone Arch Bridge and the University of Minnesota Campus riverfront.
Even long-term Twin Cities residents will learn something new about the river, and there’s a full service bar on board.
As well as daytime cruises during the week you can also book Sunday Brunch Cruises, Friday Night Dinner Cruises and Happy Hour Pizza Cruises.
Suggested cruise: Minneapolis Brews and Boat Cruise
46. First Avenue
At 701 First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis is a real piece of music history.
Open since 1970 and still going strong, First Avenue is a nightclub in an Art Deco former Greyhound bus station.
This venue and the smaller 7th St Entry (under the same roof) has been a springboard to a host of acts to have emerged from the Twin Cities.
The most famous is of course Prince, and the nightclub made an appearance in his 1984 movie, Purple Rain.
Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and Soul Asylum are other major local acts that cut their teeth here, while a multitude of artists and bands graced the stage at First Avenue on tour before making it big.
These are all commemorated on the venue’s black facade which is painted with hundreds of stars, a who’s who of punk, alternative rock, hip-hop and soul from the last 50 years.
Prince has pride of place with a golden star after he passed away in 2016.
47. Boom Island Park
Somewhere else to soak up the scenic beauty of the Mississippi River in urban Minneapolis, Boom Island Park has a waterfront trail, picnic areas, a boat launch and a canoe rental rack.
The park is on a former river island, once used as a logging sorting station, that joined to the east bank after the back channel filled in.
You may find yourself at Boom Island Park while walking the Heritage Trail, which connects with historic Saint Anthony Main and the nearby Saint Anthony Falls, and it’s as good a spot as any if you need a break.
There are great views of the Minneapolis skyline between the trees and lots of places to sit and watch the river rolling past.
48. Midtown Global Market
The second largest building in Minnesota after the Mall of America is the Midtown Exchange, raised in the 1920s as a retail and mail-order catalogue facility for Sears.
After Sears moved out in 1994 this giant, on the National Register of Historic Places, spent almost a decade empty before being turned into a multipurpose commercial building.
The best reason to come is for the Midtown Global Market, which has a mouth-watering variety of restaurants under one roof, as well as fresh produce, meat, baked goods and a helping of live entertainment.
There are more than 45 businesses here, and a global choice of flavours.
We’re talking East African (Safari Express), Vietnamese (Pham’s Rice Bowl), Italian (Jakeeno’s Trattori), Japanese (InTown Sushi), Mediterranean (Ziadi’s, Holy Land), Indian (Hot Indian Foods) and American (Mama D’s Kitchen and Andy’s Garage). The Midtown Global Market really stands out for its Mexican options, like tacos (Taco Cat, Taquería Los Ocampo), tamales (La Loma) and tortas (Manny’s). There’s also craft beer, artisanal coffee, hard-to-find spices and international arts and crafts.
49. Uptown Theater
The story of this historic cinema, one of the oldest in the Twin Cities area, begins in 1916. Then called the Lagoon Theater, the original building suffered a fire in 1939 and was revamped with a Streamline Moderne facade and reopened just six months later.
Uptown Theater sits at a busy intersection in the neighbourhood of the same name, and is a joy for its stylish Art Deco interiors and balcony in the auditorium, with couch seating and a bar.
The programme is dominated by indie and foreign language films, together with lots of crowd-pleasing classics.
Jaws, Clue, The Goonies and Terminator 2: Judgment Day were on the bill in June 2019.
50. Centennial Lakes Park
To the southeast of Edina there’s another fine addition to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area’s spread of excellent outdoor spaces.
Centennial Lakes Park is on the shores of a 10-acre lake, and has serpentine walking paths, relaxing landscaped, grounds and a fun choice of family activities.
The 18-hole putting course is a treat, and has sand traps, water hazards and boulders that will test everyone’s short game.
There are also championship standard lawn bowling and croquet facilities, and you can while away 45 minutes drifting over the lake in a pedal boat.
Come winter the frozen lake is groomed daily, and you can rent a pair of skates for $6. After zipping over the ice, hit the Warming House, with indoor and outdoor fireplaces and treats like hot chocolate, popcorn and hotdogs.
51. Riverview Theater
A fabulous place to watch a movie, the Riverview Theater is also in that small but well-supported assemblage of single-screen cinemas in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
This example in the Howe neighbourhood was built in the late-1940s to a Streamline Moderne style by the local Liebenberg and Kaplan firm.
The marquee and lobby were given a space age update in 1956, but the 700-seater auditorium and stage are much as they were when the cinema opened more than 70 years ago.
You can watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters and obscure art films, in high-backed rocker chairs, presented with state-of-the-art digital sound.
Tickets to second-run movies are absurdly cheap at the Riverview Theatre, and concession have a much lower price point than at big suburban multiplexes.
Check the website for details of special screenings, midnight movies and festivals.
52. Edinborough Park
Minnesota’s brutal winters can make playing outside a seasonal activity for youngsters, which makes indoor amenities like Edinborough Park in Edina a godsend for parents.
Taking up a whole acre and with a landscaped interior growing 6,000 plants, trees and flowers, this is the largest of its kind in the state, with big play areas for children and toddlers, a hall for ball games, a 250-seat amphitheatre for performances, an exercise track and a junior sized Olympic pool heated to 82°F.
53. Somali Museum of Minnesota
The first and only museum dedicated to Somali culture in the world opened at 1516 East Lake Street in 2013. Now entering its third decade in Minneapolis, the Somali community is now a core part of the Twin Cities’ identity, especially after the election of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in 2018. This small but growing attraction the story behind this wave of immigration from East Africa and get in touch with the Somali community’s rich heritage.
The museum has collected some 700 traditional nomadic artefacts, including cooking implements, incense burners, hides, camel bells, woven rugs, milk and water vessels and prayer mats.
The museum has also assembled a dance troupe to preserve a wide array of traditional Somali dances.
Free lessons take place at the Tapestry Folkdance Center (3748 Minnehaha Ave) on Saturday afternoons.
54. Mercado Central
This bustling marketplace with upwards of 35 vendors can be found at the corner of Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue.
Mercado Central is pretty hard to miss for its exuberant murals and bright bands of colour above the storefront.
If you’re in the mood for authentic Latin American streetfood, baked goods and traditional plates you can satisfy that craving at Mercado Central – and then some.
There’s al pastor tacos, churros, picaditas, pan dulce, tamales, elotes, Salvadorian pupusas, pozole, tinga, menudo, empanadas, spiced beans and lots more.
This is also the place to stock up on Latin American specialty foods and fresh ingredients to take home, while there’s also a handful of stores for fashion, gifts, toys and Spanish-language books.
55. Crayola Experience
A family favourite at Mall of America, Crayola Experience is a crayon-themed world of fun for youngsters, with more than 25 hands-on attractions giving free rein to their creativity.
Children can sculpt imaginative creations at Modeling Madness, literally draw on the walls at Scribble Square, become a fashion designer at You Design, turn a family photograph into a colouring page at Be A Star and witness Crayola crayons being made before their eyes at the Crayon Factory Show.
Café Crayola has a crayon themed menu and a programme of live entertainment, and for a souvenir, Wrap It Up lets children name and wrap their own Crayola Crayon to take home.