Minneapolis is a gem of a city. Hardly ever spoken in the same breath as Chicago or Boston, and yet Minneapolis has just as much to do. Marrying the feeling of an east-coast city with the friendliness of the west coast, and you have a fantastic place to visit. It’s difficult to narrow a list of the things to do in Minneapolis down to just ten – so check out the very best options below!
1. Mill City Museum
It’s always a hard sell to place a museum as the number 1 thing to do in a city…but this museum is a delight. It has a ton to do, engaging activities, and it’s great for any age. The museum revolves around the history of the building, the flour industry, and the history of the Mississippi River for companies. There’s a lot going on!
Sample fresh bread, watch a small explosion, and test the water pressure of the mighty Mississippi. Then, take some pictures of the courtyard and learn about how the building you’re standing in exploded! Outside the museum, the ruins of the old mill lay about like modern-ish Roman ruins, all with the stunning backdrop of the river.
2. Orchestra Concert – Things to Do in Minneapolis
The orchestra tends to have a lot of pre-conceived notions these days – i.e. most people think it’s boring. But the Minnesota Orchestra and other local venues are looking to change that. The Minnesota Orchestra has a fantastic series revolving around music from popular movies (which they play in the background!), bombastic classics you maybe haven’t even heard of, live-orchestra yoga (?!), and more.
And, of course, the Minnesota Orchestra is simply one of the best in the United States, having won a Grammy Award in the recent past. It’s also all generally reasonably priced, with many student discounts available. It’s located right downtown and there are some deals to be had at certain restaurants in the area if you’re attending a concert.
3. Enjoy Crafts (Which Minnesota appears to be obsessed with!)
One of the things I was most delighted to discover is just how obsessed the denizens of Minneapolis are with crafts. The Center for the Book Arts has fantastic classes that all revolves around, well, books (for the most part). You can take book binding, paper marbling, paper making, letterpress, box building, and more! But it doesn’t stop there.
The American Swedish Institute provides all manner of Nordic crafting classes, from kolrosing (a specific type of wood carving), to spoon making, to weaving, and sheep skin printing. All of these are so much fun and I’ve already attended several.
All this among the numerous pottery-making, glass-blowing, and cocktail-making, there’s sure to be something for everybody.
4. Head to the Lake District
I don’t think it’s actually called the Lake District, but that’s what I call it! Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and of course Minneapolis needs to have a few. Several of them are conveniently located in a gorgeous area in the southwest of Minneapolis.
Here, Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles, and Cedar Lake form something of a line in addition to many other smaller lakes and parks. These lakes are gorgeous, frequently with quaint city views, small sailing boats, kayakers, and more. People hang hammocks between the trees at the waters edge, bring their dogs to the the dog parks, and simply relax on a nice summer day.
5. Eat ALL the Food
Minneapolis has some of the best food of any city. Rarely is there any kind of cuisine that you can’t find. High-end, hole-in-the-wall, Chinese, Hmong, Cornish pasties, afternoon tea, seriously it’s pretty rare to type something in and not find anything! I’ll soon have a post dedicated to this specific topic with more details on the best places to go.
6. Explore from Above on the Skyway
A somewhat unique thing about Minneapolis is its various methods of getting around. The University of Minnesota is full of tunnels, there’s the beautiful above-ground tram to take you to all the sites in style, and then there’s the Skyway in the downtown area.
Here, you can travel city block after city block without ever leaving the indoors. Here, cafes, restaurants, and shopping centers abound. It can be a tad confusing to first-timers as the hallways twist and turn and it’s important to remember how to get back to where you started! However, there’s a helpful Skyway website to learn all about the various attractions and tips for visiting.
7. Enjoy (and Eat!) Swedish Culture
I mentioned a bit in the crafting section above, but Minneapolis is very proud of its Scandinavian heritage, especially Swedish heritage. To the point that there are several eateries, museums, events, and more to explore in Minneapolis and Minnesota in general. Start at the American Swedish Institute, which is a museum centered around the historic Turnblad Mansion. Along with tours, exhibits, and events like traditional folk music sessions, there is a fantastic cafe full of Scandinavian classics. In addition to crafts, they offer lessons in Swedish and Finnish.
There is also the Nordic House, which hosts the yearly Gingerbread House Competition. They also host events and classes on Nordic culture. In the cafe they have reasonably priced classics like lefse (a type of bread/tortilla). Minneapolis is also home to several Christmas Markets, some of which are Nordic and Germanic themed.
8. Experience the Nightlife – Things to Do in Minneapolis
I was pretty uncertain whether Minneapolis would have good nightlife. After all, Minneapolis is a bit of a smaller city. However, I am pleased to announce that there is a ton to do here. Whether it’s sampling creative cocktails at the downtown Gothic bar Constantine or catching a drag show at the Gay 90s, there should be something for everyone.
As a relatively safe city, it’s nice to be able to head out to some of the regular late-night events, particularly in the winter when it’s dark by 5PM. Attend a candle-lit musical experience, or head to one of the many Speakeasy-style bars like Volstead’s Emporium and Prohibition Bar.
9. Shop at the Farmers Markets
Yep, that’s farmers markets plural! The biggest two are the Minneapolis Farmers Market and the Mill City Farmers Market. And unlike more traditional farmers markets that I’ve been to, these ones really combine a lot of activities and fun into the process of shopping for some of the most gorgeous vegetables I’ve ever seen. Expect reasonably priced cut flowers, free yoga sessions, food trucks, and more.
There are around 20 farmers markets in the city so if neither of the main two are near you, be sure to check out other such as Northeast Market and Neighborhood Roots Market.
10. Rent a Kayak – Things to Do in Minneapolis
This is more of a “rent any kind of transportation” to get around an interesting part of the city for the day. There are tons of bike and scooter rentals just about everywhere in the city. But there are also fun kayak rentals that are available at many of the lakes like Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet. Reasonably priced, you get to explore via the water.
If being on the ground is more your speed, renting a bike or scooter can still give you those lake views. I highly recommend renting a bike to go along the Mississippi River as there are tons of trails. Minneapolis is home to many different parks and there are tons of things to do outdoors. Hidden Falls Regional Park, River Gorge Regional Park, and more are perfect in any season to explore via foot or bike.