The state capital, St. Paul, and neighboring Minneapolis make up the Twin Cities, an incredibly rich and diverse area with dramatic skylines, exciting pro sports, award-winning theater, renowned restaurants, and a booming craft beer scene.
What is Minneapolis Famous For?
Straddling the Mississippi River, Minneapolis shines as the cultural, sporting, shopping, and foodie Mecca of Minnesota, welcoming millions of visitors year after year. If you’re in search of an exciting Midwestern city that can dish up a little bit of everything, you’ve come to the right place.
From catching a live show along historic Hennepin Avenue to exploring the interconnected lakes nestled among the city’s skyline and parks, as well as inner-city hiking, biking and beaches, and multicultural museums and restaurants to boot; the list of things to do in Minneapolis is vast, diverse, and regularly takes visitors by pleasant surprise.
15 Best things to do in Minneapolis Famous St.Paul (Twin Cities)
Revel in the natural beauty of dozens of trails, parks, and waterways, such as the Chain of Lakes and the Mississippi River. You can also shop ’til you drop at local boutiques and the nation’s largest mall, Mall of America, with no tax on clothing or shoes. Or, attend one of the hundreds of annual events in the region, from small-town celebrations to one of the largest state fairs in the country.
Throw in both the largest mall and the busiest state fair in the country, and you’ll quickly get a sense of what makes Minneapolis one of America’s favorite destinations.
While Minneapolis boasts the majority of the Twin Cities attractions, we won’t overlook St Paul either — on the other side of the river, even more activities, restaurants, museums and parks await. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning!
Watch Broadway Quality Theater at Guthrie Theater
The Guthrie Theater of Performing Arts is a landmark of Minneapolis and has been on the stage for countless plays and other performances since 1963. It seats 850 people in its main theater and offers affordable tickets to Broadway-quality productions: something you won’t easily find anywhere else outside of New York City and Chicago.
Past visitors highly recommended seeing a show while you’re in town saying there isn’t a bad seat in the house. If you are lucky, you can show up at their box office an hour before the main show begins and for rush ticket pricing, which is pretty much unheard of anywhere else today! Or you can choose to be impressed by the building’s architecture and the outstanding river views.
Theaters aside, the expansive complex also features a large, open-air courtyard, plenty of green space for picnicking or just taking in the extraordinary views of the river and downtown skyline, as well as a cafe/bar and the Guthrie Store to pick up a souvenir or two.
Spend the day outside at the Chain of Lakes Regionals Park
No trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes is complete without a stroll around some of the metro area’s most popular. Each of the five bodies of water that encompass the Chain of Lakes byway district has something different to offer: Lake Harriet features live music during the summer, not to mention a bird sanctuary, rose gardens, and two family-friendly beaches, while Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) draws a more active crowd with plenty of boat and bike rentals and paths for jogging and biking. Though not as popular, the Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, and Brownie Lake are great backdrops for a picnic or a stroll. If you visit during the summer, you’ll find a plethora of sporting and live music events at the Chain of Lakes, particularly during July’s Aquatennial festival.
These lakes are part of the regional park, along with all the trails interconnecting them. Recent travelers had plenty of praise for the Chain of Lakes, especially Bde Maka Ska. Many recommended spending the afternoon kayaking or biking in warm weather, though some even said the lake is worth a visit to see it buried in snow and ice in the winter.
Go on a shopping spree at the Minnehaha Mile
For all the thrift-shoppers, bargain-hunters, and shopaholics alike, paying a visit to the seven-block Minnehaha Mile stretch should be vying for the top spot on the Minneapolis bucket list.
Already a shopping and dining district, Minnehaha Avenue has undergone rapid change in the past year with an explosion of small businesses sporting their own unique character. Cutting through the city’s Longfellow neighborhood on Minnehaha Avenue (mostly), the shopping district is home to a range of stores, including big-name brands, independent boutiques, old-school record shops, and all kinds of kitschy, retro collectible stores. This unique area of south Minneapolis is what all the shopping lovers around the
Nonstop shopping at Mall of America
Craving some retail therapy? You won’t find a place better suited in the entire state to grab a new wardrobe, pick up some trinkets, or window shop. As the largest shopping mall in the United States) to say that the Mall of America (MOA) down in Bloomington has something for everyone would be a criminal understatement.
Big enough to fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside and boasting over 520 stores, yes, you read that right: five hundred and twenty stores (!), as well as a cinema, an aquarium, mini-golf course, ropes climbing course, flight simulators, dozens of restaurants and food outlets and more than 100 places to buy a new outfit.
Not only is it one of the most visited tourist destinations in Minnesota — attracting around 40 million visitors every year! — but it’s also home to some major brands like Apple, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Macy’s, J.Crew, and LEGO, just to name a few.
On top of all that, throw in more than 400 annual events that are free to guests, plus the coveted Nickelodeon Universe — a surefire hit for big and little kids alike. Nickelodeon Universe is the main theme park section of Mall of America featuring water rides, roller coasters, zip lines, and other activities, making it a great thing to do for families.
Take a Walking Tour on the Stone Arch Bridge
The Stone Arch Bridge is the second oldest pedestrian and bicycle bridge on the Mississippi River. Formerly a railroad bridge, the last passenger service was in 1978. It was opened as a walking and cycling bridge in 1994.
Constructed with 21 stone arches, the bridge quickly became an iconic part of the cityscape. These days, it’s a tourist magnet, and a walk or bike ride across has become one of the most popular things to do in Minneapolis, attracting visitors from all over who come to admire both its impressive architecture and stunning view of the downtown skyline (and St Anthony Falls). Walking and biking along this path is one of the best free things to do in Minneapolis.
The paved path makes for a lovely stroll on a sunny day, and at just 2100 feet long, it won’t take you too long to get across.
Walking the bridge, you’ll get amazing views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline, the Mill City Museum, the Guthrie Theater, and the US Bank Stadium.
Walking away from downtown Minneapolis, you’ll get great views of St. Anthony Falls and the dam that powered the Washburn A Mill, and what is now the Mill City Museum.
Local festivities like the Fourth of July celebration and the Aquatennial Celebration, bring people to the riverfront near the Stone Arch Bridge.
There are plenty of great restaurants on that side of the river, so venture into Northeast Minneapolis to get a glimpse into a trendy, historic neighborhood while you fill your belly.
Enjoy the view from the Foshay Tower
The Foshay Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Twin Cities. Utilities magnate Wilbur Foshay built this endearing homage to the Washington Monument in 1929. At 447 feet housing 32 stories, the Foshay Tower was the tallest building in the Midwest for 48 years.
Now home to an observation deck that offers 360-degree views of downtown Minneapolis and beyond (try to arrive about an hour before sunset to make the most of the cityscape), and a small yet insightful museum that reviews the history of the building on the 31st floor, it’s well worth making time to visit this iconic structure.
Take a look at pre-modern art at Weisman Art Museum
Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this modern and airy structure was designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry (of Guggenheim fame) and houses one of the most diverse collections in the Upper Midwest.
Sure to keep any wandering art aficionado entertained for a solid couple of hours, the museum focuses largely (but not exclusively) on 20th-century American art, with paintings, sculptures, Native American pottery, Korean furniture, multimedia works, and installations from both well- and lesser-known artists on display too.
With teaching as its central mission, the museum utilizes the resources of a great research University, offering audiences access to new perspectives on art and culture.
The Weisman Art Museum offers exhibits with thought-provoking pieces that may be observed through social and historical context lenses. It is open to visitors from 11 am-5 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm-5 pm. Admission is completely free, but donations are welcome.
Relive the history of art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s world-class collection, ranging from ancient sculpture to contemporary photography. Ranked among the top 10 comprehensive U.S. art museums. The museum has been operating for over 100 years and is one of the most prestigious art museums in the country.
Sitting within the bounds of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (where you’ll find plenty more activities on offer), even the building itself — a wonderful example of beaux-arts architecture — is a piece of art.
Art aficionados can swing by the Minneapolis Institute of Art to gawk at over 90,000 works of art from six continents spanning 5,000 years. There are rotating exhibits throughout the year, as well as lecture and performance spaces.
Galleries aside, you’ll also find a library and study rooms if you’re looking to learn a thing or two, as well as a bookstore and on-site restaurant serving snacks, wine, and beers.
Admission is free, along with daily hour-long guided tours. There is also a lovely gift shop and a small cafe. The museum is open for visitors from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Sunday.
Admire the Walker Art Center’s diverse collection
Since it opened its doors almost 100 years ago back in 1927 (although with roots stretching even decades earlier), the Center’s collection has slowly grown to over 13,000 pieces, spanning books, costumes, drawings, photography, and sculpture — on that note, the 11-acre Sculpture Garden is free, peaceful open year-round, and a must-visit.
With 11 galleries of modern and contemporary art, the Walker Cinema, and McGuire Theater, the Walker is an essential experience for the culturally curious. Dine at the Gather Café, and find artful gifts at the Walker Shop. Stroll the 11 acres of the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, featuring the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture and fountain, open daily from 6 AM to midnight.
These days, the Walker Art Center is one of the most popular attractions in Minneapolis, welcoming over half a million visitors every year to view not only the long list of ancient artifacts and European and American masterpieces but also the regular live performances and multidisciplinary art (simply check the website to see what’s on during your stay.)
Visit the Bell Museum
Minnesota’s official natural history museum is now located on the Saint Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Take amazing journeys from the far reaches of the cosmos to deep inside the human brain in the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium. Explore the origins of the universe and the diversity of life on earth in our galleries, which include their world-famous wildlife dioramas.
Engage all your senses in Touch & See Lab with 10,000-year-old fossils, living plants and animals, and more. Wander outside on the green roof and observation deck, and explore the learning landscape of native plants, geology gardens, and solar station. And drop into the Solutions Studio, a summer pop-up workshop where you can let your creativity run wild.
Go All-In on Live Music on First Avenue
The go-to locale for music lovers of all genres, Minneapolis’ First Avenue & 7th St Entry is an iconic nightclub and live music venue that’s seen more than its fair share of famous faces over the years — both guests and performers (Prince, The Revolution, and Semisonic, to name a few).
First Avenue has a bustling calendar filled with artists from all different genres and is one of the longest-running, independently owned, and operated clubs in the United States. Local bands as well as larger, national acts play there. And of course, it’s the location of the iconic star wall, complete with Prince’s name emblazoned on a gold star amongst many other music legends on a sea of silver stars. See a show, take your picture in front of the star wall, and appreciate the history of this Minneapolis legend.
It’s an excellent venue for large-scale concerts. The sound is excellent and is a great setup for a fun night in downtown Minneapolis. The venue sells things like t-shirts and posters too. You’ll see things like “I Saw Prince Here” which make for some cool souvenirs – even if you didn’t actually see him there.
Learn history of science and technology at the Bakken Museum
The Bakken Museum inspires a passion for innovation by exploring the potential for science, technology, and the humanities to make the world a better place. Located on the West shore of Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis, the museum features interactive exhibits for all ages and exceptional STEM education programs. Make movies in the Spark exhibit, meet the mother of science fiction in Mary & Her Monster, and test out some of Ben Franklin’s favorite experiments in the Electricity Party Room.
The museum was founded in 1974 by Elmer Bakken, a pioneer in the field of medical electronics. Bakken’s goal was to create a museum that would educate the public about the importance of electricity and magnetism in the development of modern medicine.
The Bakken Museum’s collection includes more than 5,000 artifacts, ranging from ancient Egyptian electrical devices to modern medical equipment. The museum also houses a library with over 10,000 books and periodicals, as well as a research center.
Chillax with nature in Minnehaha Regional Park and Falls
A striking, wilderness waterfall in an urban setting. Overlooking the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Park is one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most popular parks, attracting over 850,000 visitors annually.
Located at the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway, the 193-acre park features a 53-foot waterfall, limestone bluffs and river overlooks. The park contains oak, elm, silver maple, basswood, hackberry, and cottonwood trees, as well as native and prairie woodland wildflowers.
Providing a much-needed chance for a reprieve from busy city life, the green-filled Minnehaha Park sits on the banks of the Mississippi River (not too far from the airport) and offers a wide range of activities for visitors looking for both an active getaway or a quiet picnic in the park.
There are plenty of picnic areas to choose from (plus BBQ pits), as well as a playground, bandstand, sculpture art, disc golf course, biking, and jogging trails, and dedicated themed garden areas; on top of that, the park also takes visitors on a trip back in time, with three different historical buildings on site (the Longfellow House, Princess Depot, and John H Stevens House).
But, without a doubt, the park’s main event is the cascading and majestic 53-foot Minnehaha Falls — located in a sheltered limestone gorge, the natural attraction welcomes more than 850,000 visitors, acting as a reminder of Mother Nature’s raw beauty.
Learn About Prince at Paisley Park
There’s no doubt that American singer and songwriter Prince is one of the city’s most beloved personalities. So here is the Purple One to the City of Lakes that a museum was built to celebrate his legacy: Paisley Park.
Paisley Park is a place where art, music, fashion, and culture are celebrated, energized, and inspired by the visionary creative spirit of Prince. Known as his home and studio, Paisley Park now draws people from around the world to attend tours, concerts, and events, and feel the love, awe, and wonder that is expressed in Prince’s emotional words: “Paisley Park is in your heart.”
General admission tickets will take you on a 70-minute guided tour of the main floor, including the studios where the artist produced his popular hits. You’ll also see Prince’s private NPG Music Club and meander around the spacious soundstage and concert hall where Prince rehearsed.
VIP tours offer a more comprehensive experience that includes brunches, a visit to more rooms and studio areas, a chance to view bonus artifacts from the archives, a private screening of exclusive footage, and an exclusive photo opportunity.
Wander around the American Swedish Institute
The American Swedish Institute (ASI) is a vibrant museum and cultural center comprised of the landmark 1908 Turnblad Mansion (Minneapolis’ only castle) and the Nelson Cultural Center. ASI hosts art exhibitions, programs, family activities, and special events connected to contemporary Nordic culture and heritage. The ASI Museum Store offers an array of curated Nordic and Nordic-inspired items and FIKA, ASI’s award-winning café focuses on New Nordic cuisine.
Open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays), admission prices start at just $12 for adults; with plenty to see and do here, it’s well worth spending half a day or more exploring everything ASI has to offer — and, to get the most out of your visit and uncover a sense of how the wealthy lived in times past, a guided tour is highly recommended.
It also offers educational opportunities for students and adults. The American Swedish Institute is a member of the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of American Museums. The museum is located in the former mansion of Birger Jarl, publisher of one of Minnesota’s largest Swedish language newspapers.
These are the activities that Hyannis Holiday recommends you try for the best experience here in Minneapolis–Saint Paul. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. Have a nice Holiday!