Minneapolis travel guide
While some travelers may be heading to the nearest tropical destination this winter, you want to embrace the season in a city known for snow, ice, and arctic-style adventures. Winter is coming, and Mr. Frost pays Minneapolis an epic visit each year. Any time of year, we think Minneapolis is an underrated metropolis. Their performing arts community is cutting-edge, small businesses are warm and welcoming, and the cuisine scene is fresh and flavorful. In February, football’s biggest event of the season returns to Minneapolis for the first time since 1992. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun, things to do before kickoff, or a weekend with friends, or a solo adventure, pack your muff and snow boots, and travel to Minneapolis!
Food and Drinks
Any time of day or night, Minneapolis boasts good eats. Minnesota fare might be synonymous with hearty hotdish, but you’ll find more than this iconic tater tot-topped entree. The Mini Apple is a burgeoning cuisine scene with a smorgasbord of New American farm-to-table, European inspiration, and international fusion. Here are some top picks according to Minneapolis locals:
- Bachelor Farmer Café—Back in 1881, the site of Bachelor Farmer Café was built as a warehouse in the then industrial North Loop neighborhood, which is now a hot spot for dining and shopping. This place is hands down one of the best coffee shops in Minneapolis. Get a perfectly pulled espresso on the go or munch on the Bachelor Farmer’s delicious seasonal toasts for a light and artful breakfast.
- Spoon and Stable—Also in the North Loop, Spoon and Stable was a horse stable back in 1906. This venue has come a long way from serving hay and oats to boasting an innovative menu and a spot among the best restaurants in Minneapolis. Sampling Minnesota wild rice needs to be on any Minneapolis bucket list, and Spoon and Stable’s contribution is steeped in other local flavors, like crab apple.
- Birchwood Café—This neighborhood eatery in Seward has something for everyone, really. Vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free travelers will find several delicious options on the extensive menu. Keep an eye on the seasonal changes, as the chefs work with Minneapolis-area farmers to get the freshest ingredients from the ground to your plate.
- 4 Bells—When you want to tuck into a warm atmosphere and a crisp cocktail, think 4 Bells. Located in Loring Park, this newcomer serves up Lowcountry seafood in the American north. The bartenders here mix classic drinks with perfection. Whether you stay for an unforgettable meal, or you stop for sips after a stroll in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, ring those bells.
- French Meadow Bakery & Café—When you want to indulge in an exquisite dessert, head to Lyndale Avenue east of Uptown. French Meadow is the perfect blend of gorgeous, gourmet eats and smart casual vibes, and every dish looks like a work of art. Dip your spoon into the lingonberry almond torte, which features the region’s favorite berry.
- Midtown Global Market—Imbibe community vibes at this open-air eatery and art fair. You don’t need to bring your passport to experience cultures from all over the world through food and handmade treasures. Dine on delicacies from places near and far, and savor the live music and conversation of this very special place.
There’s lots to celebrate in Minneapolis, and you’ve already figured out that subzero temps don’t stop the party. In fact, they’re the reason this city gathers! From art fairs and carnivals to beer fests and ski extravaganzas. Whether you’re planning a trip for the holidays or you’re looking for things to do before or after the big game, add this roundup of Minneapolis events to your travel plans:
- Polar Dash—This daring race takes place on New Year’s Day and includes half marathon, 5k, 10k, and 1800m options. Run through the snow along Mississippi River Boulevard and reap the reward of delicious hot chocolate at the finish line.
- The Great Northern—The celebration of Minneapolis’s outdoor wonders starts January 26 and runs through February with sports, food, and arts across Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
- Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival—On January 27, the brightly colored kites will look stunning against the icy white background of Harriet Lake.
- City of Lakes Loppet Festival—Starting January 27 and sliding till February 4, this urban cross-country ski festival is for experienced athletes, beginners, and wee kids, too.
- Super Bowl LII—The 2018 game will bring thousands of football fans to U.S. Bank Stadium. The whole city will be one big party leading up to kick off on February 4.
- 9th Annual Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival—Try tasting the 400+ beers poured by the 150 breweries who will be attending this year’s festivities on February 24. Sample the entries to this year’s Homebrew Contest and get inspired to tinker with your own secret recipe!
Minnesotans don’t let a few feet of snow stop them from enjoying the great outdoors. Some of Minneapolis’s best experiences wait till it’s cold outside. Sure, bundling up is a bit of a process, but this winter wonderland is worth it. Just think how cozy you’ll feel when you get back to your hotel or slide into a booth at a local café—but you’ve got to get outside and try these quintessential Minneapolis pastimes first:
- Hike to the spectacular frozen falls. Located in Minneapolis, near St. Paul, Minnehaha Regional Park contains waterfalls, creeks, and walking trails. The falls freeze during the winter and you can view their splendor up close. Hike carefully to the frozen waterfront and look closely for the colorful light reflections coming through the ice like prisms.
- Ski your way through the city. The city’s warm-season greenspaces transform into several urban ski trails. Theodore Wirth Regional Park includes over 20 miles of trails for beginners as well as a lighted portion for after-dark cross-country skiers. Other activities include snowshoeing, snowboarding, sledding, and tubing. For a break from the city lights, escape to Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, one of the most scenic ski areas near Minneapolis. It’s located in Chaska, directly south of Lake Minnewashta.
- Skate in scenic parks. In the spring and summer, Lake of the Isles Park is lush and the waterways are perfect for canoeing and kayaking. In the winter, locals and visitors trade in their oars for skates and enjoy family-friendly figure skating and hockey. You can lace up your skates and take to the rink in 24 parks across Minneapolis, and Lake of the Isles is among the few that are open on holidays.
- Join a scavenger hunt. If you want an exciting overview of the city, but you aren’t sure where to start, embark on an Urban Scavenger Hunt Adventure with Urban Adventure Quest. Receive clues on your mobile device as you learn about historical landmarks and natural wonders all over town. Join a team of fellow travelers to figure out each clue. You’ll be your own Minneapolis travel guide and earn points along the way!
When you’re ready to spend some time enjoying the best of the Midwest’s creature comforts, Minneapolis is tops. Folks around here know the best ways to warm up on a brisk day include craft beer and cider, awesome arts and history, and a splash of razzle dazzle—live performances, that is. The downtown theater district is considered one of the best places to see a show in the world, and, depending on who you ask, it has the most theater seats per capita, second only to New York City. These are just some of the locally loved Minneapolis activities to check out when you visit:
- Sip through a self-guided brewery tour. This town is bubbly with brews, especially in the blocks around Northeast Park. Hunker down with a tasting flight or strap on your snow boots and sample a few local favorites, like Dangerous Man Brewing Company, 612Brew, Indeed Brewing Company and Tap Room, and Bauhaus Brew Labs. Don’t forget Sociable Cider Werks; they make a signature rye cider that’s malty and sweet at the same time.
- Visit one-of-a-kind museums. Explore and celebrate Minnesota’s early Scandinavian heritage at the American Swedish Institute in the historic Turnblad Mansion. Pair stories of culture, immigration, and community with contemporary masterpieces at Weisman Art Museum. The building itself is an unmistakable work of art designed by Frank O. Gehry.
- Watch the game over pints. Minneapolis is home to great beer and great bars. Take the chill off with cold brews at Crooked Pint Ale House. This classic sports bar is right in the middle of downtown and within walking distance to U.S. Bank Stadium, so you can come here for the after party, or watch the excitement unfold from the comfort of your booth or barstool.
- Spend an evening at the theater! Minneapolis has an outstanding theater district and performing arts community. Highlights for this season include a traveling tour of Tony-nominated “Waitress” at the Orpheum in late November, the annual run of “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie until December 30, and a one-night production of “A Night with Janice Joplin” in January at the Verizon Wireless Center. Be sure to check out the many independent theaters in Minneapolis, too, including Gadfly Theatre and Theatre Unbound, which produce original work by contemporary local artists.
Step aside, football! The shopping game is strong in Minneapolis. In fact, the Twin Cities area is one of our favorite places to shop, thanks to Midwestern hospitality and awesome neighborhoods filled with fashion as well as delicious dining options. Go ahead and treat yourself!
- Popular shopping districts—Look no further than the North Loop and Downtown for your favorite international designers and indie boutiques. These two areas are perfect for strolling and perusing, but don’t be bashful about seeking out some gems, like the sustainably sourced Hazel & Rose in Northeast, and artsy Cliché Minneapolis in Uptown-Wedge near Minneapolis Institute of Art and Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
- Mall of America—Home to over 520 stores, Mall of America in Bloomington is more than a shopping center. It’s an international destination. Take a break from your souvenir hunt for fun at one of the in-mall attractions, like Nickelodeon Universe and Sea Life Mall of America Aquarium.
- 50th & France—Also beyond the Minneapolis city limits, you’ll find fabulous shops in Edina in the area around 50th & France. Named for its boutique and café-sprinkled cross streets, this hub is both chic and easygoing. Minimalist-friendly Parc Boutique is a local favorite.
What’s on your list of must-do activities in Minneapolis this year?
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