Best Things to Do in Minneapolis, According to a Local

  • Learn about the history of Minneapolis with a walk through the Stone Arch Bridge.
  • Hike through Minnehaha Park to see the 53-foot waterfalls.
  • Visit the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and American Swedish Institute.

It may feel overwhelming putting together an itinerary for Minneapolis because there’s so much to see in the Midwestern City.

To help narrow down your list, keep reading for a local’s guide to some of the best things to do there.

The Stone Arch Bridge connects the city’s past and present

Stone Arch Bridge

 

Spot historic buildings at the Stone Arch Bridge.

Stacy Brooks

The former railroad bridge, which is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, spans the Mississippi River and offers the best views of the city, like St. Anthony Falls and the downtown skyline.

You’ll spot modern skyscrapers behind historic buildings along the waterfront.

Tip: Learn more about how the flour-milling industry shaped Minneapolis at the nearby Mill Ruins Park, which is also a great backdrop for photos.

The Walker Art Center has a world-class collection of modern pieces

This contemporary-art museum has a diverse variety of works, with both long-term installations and temporary exhibits.

You’ll find art from established and emerging artists, including Andy Warhol, Edward Hopper, and Chuck Close.

Tip: Admission is free on Thursday evenings, but you’ll still need a timed ticket.

The Mall of America is the ultimate shopping experience

With over 500 stores and 50 restaurants, this one-of-a-kind retail destination can be a whole-day endeavor — and there’s no sales tax on clothes and shoes in Minnesota.

The mall is also home to over a dozen attractions, like Nickelodeon Universe (a 7-acre indoor theme park), the Sea Life aquarium, two miniature-golf courses, and an ax-throwing arena.

Tip: The Mall of America is in the adjacent suburb of Bloomington, but it’s easily accessible from downtown Minneapolis via the blue line.

The Chain of Lakes is the best place to get outdoors

Lake Harriet in Minnesota.

 

Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Stacy Brooks

Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” — even though there are actually 11,842 — and the shorelines of five of them make up Minneapolis’ most popular park.

Pedestrian and biking trails connect Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet.

If you want to get out on the water, you can rent a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe.

Tip: During the summer, check out the Lake Harriet bandshell for live music and outdoor movies.

First Avenue is the center of the local music scene

The downtown club is one of the longest-running independently owned music venues in the US. It hosts national and local acts.

It’s worth a visit even if you don’t have concert tickets — the building’s striking exterior is decorated with silver stars celebrating artists that have performed there, like Aerosmith, B.B. King, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Tip: Look for Prince’s gold star — the musician was a Minneapolis native.

The American Swedish Institute is a great place to learn about Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage

Minnesota has the largest Swedish American population in the US, so it’s fitting that this museum and cultural center features exhibits that explore the art and culture of Sweden and Scandinavia.

The museum store is a must for anyone who appreciates Scandinavian design, with a selection of decor, gifts, and jewelry.

Tip: Eat lunch at Fika Café, which serves a seasonally inspired menu of New Nordic cuisine made with regional ingredients.

Minnehaha Falls offers outdoor beauty in an urban setting

Mill Ruins Park

 

Take photos at Mill Ruins Park.

Stacy Brooks

The 53-foot-tall waterfall is an impressive sight year-round. In the summer, water tumbles off a rugged cliff, and in the winter, it freezes solid.

It’s part of Minnehaha Park, which is easily accessible from downtown via the blue line and features 193 acres of trails, limestone bluffs, and views of the Mississippi River.

Tip: The long line at Sea Salt Eatery is worth the wait — the nearby seasonal spot serves seafood (including the local favorite pickled herring) and a lineup of craft brews.

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is home to the city’s most iconic symbol

An enormous cherry balanced on the tip of a giant spoon is a photo-op favorite at this outdoor art collection.

In addition to Spoonbridge and Cherry, there are dozens of sculptures, including Hahn/Cock — a whimsical blue rooster — and Robert Indiana’s Love.

The garden is free and doesn’t require tickets.

Tip: A 375-foot walkway that spans 16 lanes of traffic, the pedestrian bridge on the garden’s east side — which offers excellent views of the downtown skyline and the Basilica of St. Mary — has a poem running along the entire interior.

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