Together with neighboring Saint Paul, the lovely laidback Minneapolis makes up the third largest metropolitan area in the Midwest after Chicago and Detroit. While it has long been an important center of commerce due to its strategic setting along the banks of the Mississippi River, the city is now also renowned for its thriving arts and culture scene.
While there are several art galleries, museums, and performing arts venues, plenty of picturesque parks, lakes and tranquil waterfront areas are also dotted about. In addition to these things to do in Minneapolis, there are also lots of fine dining restaurants, happening nightlife spots for you to check out, as well the enormous Mall of America which is the largest shopping center in the country.
With a very friendly and welcoming multicultural population and wonderful waterfalls, lakes, and prairies lying nearby, the city’s ‘Minnesota Nice’ tagline certainly holds true with it definitely being well worth checking out if you have the chance.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. American Swedish Institute
As so many Swedes have migrated to the city and its surroundings over the centuries, the American Swedish Institute certainly warrants a visit when in town. At the museum complex, visitors can learn all about the rich history, culture, and heritage of the state’s sizable Scandinavian population with informative talks, language-learning classes, and temporary exhibits all regularly taking place.
Established in 1929 to both celebrate Swedish culture and act as a community hub, the institute now consists of the modern Nelson Cultural Center and the historic Turnblad Mansion. While the latter boasts some extraordinary Chateauesque architecture, as well as dozens of lavishly decorated rooms, the cultural center has some great concerts, workshops, and community gatherings for you to attend.
11. Stone Arch Bridge
Now a National Historic Landmark, the charming Stone Arch Bridge in the center of town was once integral to the city’s growth, development, and trade. Stretching 2,100 feet in length, the former railroad bridge spans the Mississippi River and is situated just below St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis.
Completed in 1883, it is remarkably the only arched bridge made out of stone along the entire river and is actually the second oldest on the Mississippi after Eads Bridge in St. Louis. While its twenty-three elegant arches once transported railcars across the river, nowadays it is instead pedestrians and cyclists who slowly cross while taking in fine views over both the falls and the city’s skyline. At one end you’ll find an informative plaque which teaches you more about the bridge’s important history.
10. Weisman Art Museum
Not far from the bridge is another of the city’s many architectural marvels which is not to be missed out on: the absolutely incredible Weisman Art Museum. While it contains an extensive collection of contemporary artworks, the building itself makes for a show-stopping sight and can be found on the University of Minnesota campus, east of the river.
Originally founded in 1934, the museum now occupies an abstract, avant-garde structure that was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. While one side is made out of brick and blends perfectly with the historic buildings around it, the other shimmers in the sun with both curving and angular steel shapes coating its facade. Inside is just as alluring as traditional Korean furniture and Native American carvings lie next to wonderful works by Georgia O’Keeffe and Roy Lichtenstein among others.
9. Guthrie Theater
If instead of art and architecture it is a spellbinding spectacle that you are after, then the highly-rated Guthrie Theater is definitely the place to go. Located downtown, its three state-of-the-art theaters put on countless productions over the course of the year with classic and contemporary works being presented alongside Christmas specials, music-filled comedies, and enthralling dramas.
Now set in a striking modern building alongside the Mississippi River, the theater was first opened in 1963 by acclaimed director Sir Tyrone Guthrie who was disenchanted with Broadway. In no time at all, the new theater troupe drew great acclaim thanks to its world-class productions. Since those early days, it has gone from strength to strength with both locals and tourists alike packing out its auditoriums. In addition, the complex has several cafes and restaurants to try out and puts on classes and workshops for aspiring actors.
8. Walker Art Center
Considered to be one of the biggest and best contemporary art museums in the country, the brilliant Walker Art Center lies right next to Loring Park, just southwest of the center. Impressively enough, its massive modern building encompasses ten different art galleries with a cinema, theater, and cafe also located on-site.
Since opening in 1927, its collection has expanded considerably and now includes everything from contemporary costumes and sculptures, to paintings, photos, and prints by big name American and European artists. Besides seeing amazing works by Andy Warhol and Kara Walker among others, guests can enjoy intriguing visual art installations or watch music, dance, and theater performances. Afterwards you can always amble around the awe-inspiring Minneapolis Sculpture Garden which lies right next to it.
7. Chain of Lakes
As Minnesota is known as the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’, no trip to town can ever be complete without exploring at least some of the city’s many waterways. The nearest and most convenient to visit from downtown are the Chain of Lakes which have all kinds of outstanding outdoor activities for you to enjoy with hiking, biking, and kayaking being particularly popular.
Now grouped together as part of a regional park, the five scenic lakes almost form a line to the west and southwest of the city center. Bordered by pristine parks, beaches, and even bird sanctuaries, they boast lots of stupendous scenery with hiking trails and biking paths connecting them together. Aside from swimming and sunbathing, visitors can boat and paddleboard about their tranquil waters with live music events and festivals also being held along their shores during the sunny summer months.
6. Target Field
Although Minneapolis is perhaps most known for its endless art galleries, museums and waterways, it is also a great place to go and watch a Major League Baseball game. At Target Field in downtown you can drink in the unforgettable and exhilarating ambience as the city’s fanatic fanbase cheer each home run and big hit by the Minnesota Twins.
Only opened in 2010, the enormous stadium sports a sleek and modern design with its large ‘Minnie and Paul’ logo in center field being one of its most distinctive features. Besides watching the game from either its seats, suites, and standing areas, fans can take tours of the ballpark or visit its hall of fame and roof deck with Target Field also being known for its excellent restaurants and bars.
5. Mill City Museum
Set right next to both the Stone Arch Bridge and Guthrie Theater along the waterfront, you can find the small but comprehensive Mill City Museum. Offering up a fascinating insight into the founding and growth of Minneapolis, it contains lots of interesting exhibits on its industrious past as well as innumerable artifacts and artworks.
Once the largest flour mill in the world in the 1870s, its hulking great ruins were finally transformed into a museum in 2003. Inside, visitors can now see old authentic equipment such as engine houses, turbine pits, and railroad tracks with both displays and tours teaching you about the machinery and the impact of the mills on Minneapolis. In addition to exploring the facility and snapping photos of the atmospheric ruins, you can bask in divine views of the river and falls from its observation deck.
4. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Long one of Minneapolis’s top tourist attractions, the superb Minneapolis Sculpture Garden can be found right next to the Walker Art Center and Loring Park. Scattered about its gorgeous grounds and green spaces are around sixty unique and unusual artworks for you to enjoy with immaculately manicured lawns and flowerbeds also on show.
Since opening in 1988, it has been a firm favorite with both locals and tourists alike with one of its main highlights being the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculptural fountain at its heart. While wandering about the sprawling gardens you’ll come across countless other striking sculptures with their various shapes, sizes and silhouettes making for some fantastic photos against the backdrop of the lush trees and ponds around them
3. Mall of America
After having taken in so much interesting art and architecture, you may want to relax, unwind, and enjoy some retail therapy at the ginormous Mall of America. The largest shopping center in not just the States, but the entire western hemisphere, it boasts umpteen stores, eateries, and entertainment options that cater to your every want and need.
Located in Bloomington, a southern suburb of Minneapolis, the mega-mall now covers a huge area and contains a scarcely believable 520 shops. As well as scores of brilliant restaurants and cafes, its cavernous confines are also home to movie theaters, a mini-golf course, and Sea Life Minnesota. To top it all off, the mall also has the fun rides and thrilling roller coasters of the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park for you to try out.
2. Minneapolis Institute of Art
While the city’s many museums are certainly home to a wealth of artistic treasures, the Minneapolis Institute of Art tops them all when it comes to its extensive and impressive collection. Set just five minutes’ drive south of the center, its astounding artworks and artifacts span more than 5,000 years of world history with phenomenal paintings, carvings, and sculptures on display wherever you look.
One of the oldest and largest art museums in the country, it was established in 1883 with its sizable collection now encompassing over 90,000 works of art. While some sections focus on either Africa or Asia, others look at ceramics and textiles with contemporary pieces and video installations also being featured. After having seen masterpieces by El Greco, Gauguin, and van Gogh among others, guests can explore its outdoor exhibits, statues, and gardens.
1. Minnehaha Park
Although it lies only fifteen minutes’ drive southeast of the center, the lovely Minnehaha Park feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Minneapolis. Sprawling along the banks of the Mississippi River, it boasts lots of stunning landscapes, scenery, and nature and offers a myriad of awesome outdoor activities and recreation opportunities.
Thanks to its natural splendor, the park is a very popular place to visit and photograph with the massive and majestic Minehaha Falls being its undoubted highlight. Aside from all its lush fauna and flora, it also has various historic sites relating to Native Americans, pioneers, and transportation for you to check out while scenic trails weave their way here and there. In addition to hiking and biking along the river, visitors can also make use of its playgrounds, picnic areas, and volleyball courts.