Within the land of 10,000 lakes, Minneapolis is a nature lover’s dream. Not only are there tons of lakes you can visit, but the city is also nestled along the Mississippi River.
The outdoors isn’t the only thing Minneapolis has going for it, however. From historical places and museums to award-winning restaurants and bars, Minneapolis has it all.
But with so many things to do in Minneapolis, it can be daunting to put together an itinerary. That’s why I’m here to let you in on the best stuff to do in Minneapolis as a local!
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Best Things to Do in Minneapolis
Minneapolis Skyway System
The skyway system in downtown Minneapolis is a set of enclosed walkways that connect various shops, hotels, restaurants and more. The best part about the skyway is you can freely cross the street without having to wait for a stoplight.
It’s especially great to explore during the winter since the heated walkways will protect you from the cold outside. To take advantage of this, consider staying in a hotel that’s on the skyway system. For hotel recommendations in this area, check out my guide on where to stay in Minneapolis’s Downtown West area.
👉 Pro Tip: The hours of the skyway system depend on the business each skyway is connected to, so while you’re there, watch out for signs that note the hours of that particular skyway.
Walker Art Center
Walker Art Center began when a businessman who had the largest art collection in the country opened up a part of his home for the public to view his art for free in 1879. Now, Walker Art Center is a contemporary art center with a permanent collection of over 13,000 pieces. It’s one of the most-visited contemporary art centers in the U.S., so it’s one of the best things to do in Minneapolis for art lovers.
After browsing the art galleries and grabbing a bite to eat at the bistro inside Walker Art Center, you can also pop by the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which is right next door and is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the country. And the best news is, entrance to the sculpture garden is free.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Check out 300 Clifton near Walker Art Center, a picturesque bed and breakfast in the iconic Eugene J. Carpenter Mansion. On the National Register of Historic Places, this is the perfect place to stay for history and art lovers.
Minnehaha Regional Park
Minnehaha Regional Park is famous for its waterfall, Minnehaha Falls. Enjoy a stroll along the park’s trails while catching a glimpse of the falls. If you visit in the summer, you can cool off in the wading pools, which reopen in May 2022. There is also a dog park, picnic tables and bicycle rentals which you can locate using this map.
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
Como Park Zoo is full of exotic and domestic animals alike, like gorillas, tigers, monkeys, bison and flamingos. Plant lovers will also want to check out their gorgeous gardens and bonsai collection. You can access both the zoo and the gardens for free as long as you reserve in advance. If you get there but forgot to reserve, you can sit on the picnic benches or ride the carousel near the entrance.
Mall of America
The Mall of America is the largest mall in America, and one of the most famous things to do in Minneapolis. There’s so much to do here besides shopping that you could spend multiple days here alone.
Families will enjoy visiting the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium and Nickelodeon Universe, the largest indoor theme park. For a challenge, try out an escape room at the Escape Game. With great restaurants and endless entertainment options, the Mall of America is a fun activity choice for families and solo travelers alike.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Mall of America is in a suburb outside of the city, so if visiting the mall is the highlight of your trip, I recommend getting accommodation nearby like AC Hotel, which is about a 5 minute walk from the mall.
First Avenue & 7th Street Entry
Open since 1970, First Avenue is the longest-running live music venue that’s independently operated. This unique venue and side bar was repurposed from an old bus depot in downtown Minneapolis. First Avenue hosts musicians of all kinds—both old and new—and has been a launching pad for artists such as Lizzo and Prince. Whether you want to see a famous singer or check out an indie artist, First Avenue is a cool place to do so.
Mill City Museum
Rebuilt on the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, Mill City Museum is a National Historic Landmark where you can learn about the history of the flour industry. While you’re there, also check out Mill Ruins park nearby, which is a historic Mississippi Riverfront park built around the ruins of an old mill.
👉 Love History? Then you’ll want to try out this historic walking tour along the Mississippi River, which takes in many of the best historical things to do in Minneapolis.
Museums & Culture
Stone Arch Bridge
Named a National Civic Engineering Landmark, Stone Arch Bridge is a historical beauty that was built in 1883. It’s the second oldest bridge on the Mississippi River and is a former railroad bridge. The bridge links Mill Ruins Park on the west bank and Father Hennepin Bluff Park on the east bank. You can also get a panoramic view of Saint Anthony Falls from the bridge.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
With more than 90,000 works of art that spans 5,000 years of history, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is one of the largest art museums in the United States. The museum aims to inspire wonder by making art from diverse cultures accessible.
Families will enjoy their Family Center, which has books, toys and a private restroom and nursing room. Make sure to also book tickets at Children’s Theater Company inside of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The theater adapts classic children’s tales for the stage. Their website includes a calendar of productions, as well as age ratings and brief descriptions.
Weisman Art Museum
Located on the University of Minnesota campus, the Weisman Art Museum contains over 25,000 pieces of art, including Native American Mimbres pottery, Asian art and traditional Korean furniture.
Notable artists showcased at the Weisman Art Museum include Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer and Charles Biederman. But apart from the art, the most interesting thing about the museum is its exterior. Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry in 1993, the abstract structure is a work of art itself.
👉 Pro Tip: Currently the museum is temporarily closed for maintenance until January 19th, 2022, so make sure to check their website before going to see if the museum is open or not during your visit.
Basilica of St. Mary
The Basilica of St. Mary is a historic Roman Catholic church in downtown Minneapolis. Because it’s the first basilica that was established in the United States, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The church features gorgeous stained-glass windows and Baroque-influenced architecture.
If you visit in the summer, check out the Basilica Block Party from July 9-10th. It’s an annual music festival that’s described as “summertime’s hottest church party” by City Pages, a Twin Cities newspaper. Proceeds from the event go toward the ongoing restoration of the basilica.
American Swedish Institute
Located in the historic Turnblad mansion, the American Swedish Institute is a museum, cultural education center, cafe, and more. The institute focuses on preserving and studying the impact that Sweden and Swedish Americans have had in U.S. culture and history.
At the American Swedish Institute, you can tour the historic mansion, which was built for Swedish immigrants in 1908, as well as learn about Swedish and Swedish-American culture. It’s definitely one of the more unique Minneapolis attractions.
Founded in 1963, Guthrie Theater stages classic plays, such as A Christmas Carol and Emma. The founders were disenchanted with Broadway and envisioned a place where exceptional actors could perform the classics outside of New York City.
Apart from its plays, Guthrie Theater is also known for its distinctive building and location. One of its most noteworthy features is the Endless Bridge, a cantilever that hovers above the parkway. The theater also overlooks the Mississippi River and, along with the nearby Gold Medal Park, presents scenic river views.
👉 Pro Tip: There is no dress code at Guthrie Theater, so no need to pack any formal clothes if you plan on seeing a play here during your trip.
Minnesota History Center
Located in St. Paul, the Minnesota History Center is an award-winning museum that’s all about Minnesota. Learn about Minnesota’s past through their exhibits that have authentic historical objects and multimedia presentations. Their featured exhibits explore Sinclair Lewis, an author from Minnesota, extraordinary Minnesotan women and Minnesota’s Native communities.
The history center also has a new pollinator garden, which features native plants that attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and more. This environmentally-friendly garden is a great place to check out in the summer when the pollinators will be out in full force.
Food & Drink
North Loop (Warehouse District)
In downtown Minneapolis, North Loop is also called the Warehouse District because many of the businesses have been renovated from old warehouses. This vibrant neighborhood is known for its unique bars and restaurants, many with live music.
📚 Related Reading: Is Minneapolis Safe?
Run by James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Kim, Young Joni features wood-fire pizzas and interesting cocktails. Ann Kim, a Korean immigrant, fuses classic Korean food like Korean BBQ with Italian pizza. As you can imagine, Young Joni’s is a popular spot so it can get pretty busy. I recommend making a reservation in advance if you plan on dining here.
👉 Pro Tip: Check for a red light in the alley. If it’s on, it means the back bar is open. The back bar is a cozy seating area where you can enjoy the same cocktails and menu as the main portion of the restaurant. Generally, it’s open from 4 pm to 11 pm on Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Olivia’s Organic Cafe
If you plan on visiting the Mall of America, Olivia’s Organic Cafe is a great brunch spot that’s nearby. It boasts decadent pastries and classic brunch items like sandwiches and pancakes.
Plus, everything is organic, gluten free, peanut free and dairy free and it has plenty of vegan options, so people with dietary restrictions will love this quaint cafe. But the food is so good that even the staunchest gluten fan wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Revival is the best place to go in the Twin Cities for Southern comfort food. Fried green tomatoes, chicken and waffles and mac and cheese are just a few of the delicacies you can find here. They also serve fried cheese curds, a Midwest classic, which you must try when you visit the Midwest. Revival also has some vegetarian options, such as their tasty vegetarian beet reuben sandwich.
👉 Pro Tip: There is also a branch of Revival in St. Paul, so if you plan on spending time in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), you can visit that location instead (Google map).
The first sake brewpub outside of Japan, moto-i is an izakaya that serves craft sake, steamed buns, and ramen. In fact, moto-i is the only craft sake brewery in Minneapolis, so it’s a must visit place for fans of sake and Japanese food. They also have sake cocktails, local Minneapolis tap beers, and non-alcoholic cocktails.
moto-i has a cozy vibe that’s perfect for a date night or a chill night out with your friends. When the weather is good, you can sit on their rooftop and enjoy the view of the city.
Since 1946, Murray’s has been serving prime steaks and cocktails. This fine dining steakhouse has been passed down through the Murray family and is now run by the third generation. Steak lovers must try their Silver Butter Knife Steak, a signature dish that’s carved tableside. Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, you can easily find this restaurant by its bright, iconic sign.
Fun & Family
The Minnesota Zoo is a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. With a mission to connect people and animals to save wildlife, it was one of the first zoos to organize its animals by living environment rather than by species. There are six themed exhibit areas:
- The Medtronic Minnesota Trail features animals that are native to Minnesota.
- Discovery Bay contains several aquariums centered around marine wildlife.
- The Northern Trail has animals native to the north, such as the Amur tiger and black-tailed prairie dog.
- The Tropics Trail centers around animals from the tropics.
- Wells Fargo Animal Farm is themed around farm animals.
- Russia’s Grizzly Coast displays animals that live around Russia’s Pacific coast.
👉 Pro Tip: The Minnesota Zoo is in Apple Valley near Bloomington, so it’s a great place to visit if you plan on staying near the Mall of America. Otherwise, if you’ll be staying in the city, Como Zoo is more convenient.
Target Center is an arena in the downtown Warehouse District and one of the biggest Minneapolis attractions. Connected by skyway to several downtown properties, it’s super easy to get to if you’re staying nearby. Target Center is home to NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, and four-time WNBA world champion Minnesota Lynx. As a multipurpose arena, it hosts a wide variety of events like concerts, sporting events, and graduations.
👉 Pro Tip: Note that most bags or purses are not allowed inside, so make sure to leave your bag at your accommodation. For specific details on what you can bring, check out the bag policy on their website.
Midtown Global Market
This globally themed public market on East Lake Street sells handmade crafts and clothes from all over the world. When you’re done shopping, you can pop by one of the various food stalls for a taste of diverse cuisines. Every Friday, they host Family Friday, which has music and kids crafts, and every Sunday they have Sunday Sounds, where you can enjoy live music while you shop and eat.
Minnesota Renaissance Festival
With an annual attendance of 300,000 people, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival is the largest renaissance festival in the U.S., and one of the most fun things to do in Minneapolis if you are visiting in late summer or early fall.
The festival has a costume contest, a daily parade, jousts four times a day, and much more. Make sure to check their website for the exact program for that day since it varies by weekend. For those who travel with their pets, the festival is also dog-friendly!
👉 Pro Tip: If you know in advance that you want to attend the festival, make sure to buy tickets on their website ahead of time for an early bird discount. Tickets are valid for any one day during the festival season, so you don’t even need to know when exactly you plan on going to purchase them.
Home to the Minnesota Twins, Target Field is the perfect place for baseball fans to spend an afternoon. If you visit Minneapolis during baseball season (April to October), you can catch the Twins in action at a game.
Target Field also runs 90 minute tours of the field, where you can explore areas of the ballpark that the average game-goer doesn’t get to see. The tours are also run off season, so if you visit Minneapolis after baseball season is already over, chances are you can still tour the ballpark. Check out their website for more information on the times and prices of the tours.
Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater
Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater is a bowling alley, bar, restaurant, and even a cabaret theater all in one. This vintage bowling alley is low-tech and still uses the same automatic pinsetters that were installed in 1959.
The video/pool hall was converted into a cabaret theater which now has shows almost every day. Their restaurant serves classic American food, along with some global favorites like Korean bibimbap and pad thai, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
📚 Related Reading: Unsure which area you should stay in during your visit? Check out my guide on where to stay in Minneapolis!
U.S. Bank Stadium
The U.S. Bank Stadium is a multi-purpose enclosed stadium that’s home to the Minnesota Vikings. Football fans can catch a game here during football season. But the U.S. Bank Stadium has more to offer than just football. It hosts a variety of events around the year like indoor skating, monster truck shows, and concerts. You can also take a 90-minute tour of the stadium.
Outdoor Minneapolis Attractions
Pine Tree Apple Orchard
Visiting an orchard is a fun way to get some fresh produce during your trip. In the fall, Pine Tree Apple Orchard offers a variety of fresh apples, including the HoneyCrisp, which is Minnesota’s famous apple and arguably one of the tastiest apple varieties. They also have several types of apples you may have never heard of before.
Along with apples, you can get fresh cider, caramel apples, and homemade baked goods. In addition, they also have a corn maze and pick your own pumpkins in the fall. In the summer, you can pick your own strawberries.
👉 Pro Tip: Strawberry season is mid-June to early July and apple season is mid-August to March. They also list which varieties of apple are available and when their estimated harvest dates are on their website.
Chain of Lakes Regional Park
📍 Map It: 2500 Lake of the Isles Pkwy E, Minneapolis, MN 55405 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 12 am daily | Entrance: free
Chain of Lakes Regional Park is a set of five nearby lakes: Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet. The five lakes collectively have biking paths, walking paths, ice rinks, picnic areas, canoeing, and playgrounds.
In addition, Lake of the Isles and Cedar Park offer cross country ski trails, which are generally very flat, so they’re great for beginners or casual skiing. Chain of Lakes would be a great place to visit in the winter for some outdoor fun.
Long Meadow Lake
Long Meadow Lake is the perfect place to go for a walk near the Mall of America. There are 14.6 total miles of maintained walking trails at the park. For casual visitors, there’s a 1-mile and 1.3-mile loop. For a more serious hike, there are also longer loops: a 7.3-mile one and a 16-mile one. However, the terrain at the park is mostly flat, so most of the difficulty of the longer loops comes from the distance.
Along the path is also the official visitor center for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Inside, you can learn about the wildlife that you can see in the area. Keep your eyes out for deer, birds, frogs, and maybe even snakes. There is also a fishing pier for those who like fishing.
Loring Park is one of the best parks near downtown Minneapolis. It’s connected to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by a footbridge, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon after visiting the Walker Art Center.
The park offers everything from biking/walking paths, tennis and basketball courts, a fishing pier, and a community garden. In the summer, you can cool off in their wading pools and in the winter, you can skate in their ice rink.
Boom Island Park
Boom Island Park is a gorgeous riverside park that overlooks the east bank of the Mississippi River. One of its key features is its miniature lighthouse, which sits at the north end of the park and makes for a great photo op. This park is perfect for those who are staying in the Warehouse District and want a taste of nature.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? If you want to stay in the Warehouse district to be near its great bars and have close access to Boom Island Park, check out Element Minneapolis.
Grand Rounds Scenic Byway
The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway is one of the longest systems of urban parks in the U.S. It has also been nominated to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. With about 50 miles of parkways and 102 miles of trails, exploring the entire system would be quite the endeavor.
The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is split into seven segments:
- Downtown Riverfront
- Chain of Lakes
- Mississippi River
- Victory Memorial
- Theodore Wirth
The various parks span lakes, creeks, riverbanks, wetlands and woodlands. Plus, they include athletic fields, playgrounds, golf courses, picnic areas, gardens and much more.
Minneapolis – Saint Paul and the surrounding areas have so much to offer that this list of things to do in Minneapolis could go on forever.
From fascinating museums to great food, the many underrated Minneapolis attractions make the city is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.
👉 Want more to do around Minneapolis, Minnesota? Check out my list of the best day trips from Minneapolis!
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