Welcome to Minneapolis, Minnesota
In a state known for its Midwestern values and Old-World traditions, Minneapolis is a surprisingly out-of-the-box metropolis. It has been the home of some of the world’s most beloved musicians and artforms that speak to the soul of the city—offbeat and free-spirited, warm-hearted and unpretentious. This is a city that nurtures its creative side with impressive museums, quirky public art, and a multitude of independent shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries that “you definitely won't see anywhere else.” To give you an insider’s look at the Minnesota’s largest city, we asked the locals what to do when you visit. Here are a few favorites.
Retro Kitsch Cuisine
Like any true original, Betty Danger's Country Club is difficult to describe. This hot pink-and-lime green palace of kitsch serves tasty Midwestern Mexi-Cal food and colorful blended cocktails in a magical “Palm Springsland” just blocks from the Mississippi River. The Club has a dog-friendly miniature golf course with tables arrayed among the oversized fake animals. Don’t miss the “mechanical tree”—aka Ferris wheel—and its terrific (and highly Instagrammable) views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline. For more retro-kitsch good times, head to Glam Doll Donuts, which has a mod 1950s-era interior and pin-up-themed donuts with names like Flirty Frenchie (espresso cream cheese and chocolate icing), Showgirl (maple buttercream and caramelized bacon), and Femme Fatale (fresh raspberry curd and vanilla icing). Ooh-la-la!
Minneapolis has several creative enclaves, where artists live and work. But the city is also rich in big time arts institutions, the kinds of places named for wealthy philanthropists and designed by internationally-known architects. The 1915 neoclassical Minneapolis Institute of Art is among the oldest and grandest of these. The museum has expanded over the last century to keep up with its growing collection, which now includes some 89,000 objects spanning 20,000 years of human cultural expression. For contemporary art, locals love the Walker Art Center’s ambitious and broad-reaching 19-acre campus, which includes not only traditional galleries and exhibition spaces, but a multi-acre sculpture garden, performing arts venues, and a cinema. Meanwhile, across the river, the University of Minnesota’s Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum recently doubled in size with the construction of a dramatic Frank Gehry-designed expansion, putting on the map for international architecture enthusiasts. WAM’s 25,000 pieces include everything from early American Modernism to Korean furniture. It doesn’t hurt that its building is spectacular, and admission is free.
Uptown Girls (and Boys)
The blocks surrounding Hennepin and Lake Streets, made famous in the Prince song “Uptown,” buzz with a youthful, throw-caution-to-the-wind energy. The result is a restaurant scene that seems to encourage creative mashups. Take Libertine, which offers sophisticated fare (think bone marrow toast with bacon jam, capers, and shallot) with playful names like “Do It for the Gram” and games like skee ball and Nintendo 64. Livelier still, Chino Latino is a Latin/Asian restaurant-bar that’s wildly popular during cold days and late nights, when its “street food from hot zones” satisfies bar-hoppers hankering for tropical cocktails and spicy small plates. For a “cool little speakeasy,” locals recommend Volstead’s Emporium. To get there, you’ll wander down an alleyway (look for the red light above the door!) and through a cowboy bar. You’ll be rewarded with a mysterious hidden paradise of dapper servers, secret passageways, atmospheric piano music, and serious cocktails.
Purple Rain (or Shine)
Prince’s hometown has celebrated his life with a fervor and fabulousness that befits the man. There’s a wealth of Prince-centric sites around the the city, but the most obvious starting place is sometimes the best. Locals recommend a visit to Paisley Park, Prince’s studio and home, where the Saturday night “After Dark” tour includes a DJ’d dance party. Prince famously quipped, “I like Hollywood. I just like Minneapolis a little bit better.” Explore the city in the artist’s footsteps on the self-guided “Prince’s Minneapolis” tour and see why!
Artsier than Thou
The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District is home to independent shops and galleries, murals and musicians, eclectic cocktail lounges and dive bars with live music. Locals love Pryes Brewery, which is “one of the only places in America where you can go feather bowling.” Never heard of it? It’s never too late to learn a new “sport”!! And there’s no better time to learn than when sipping a Royal Raspberry Sour or small-batch Hop Harvest IPA made with hops hand-picked at local farms. Then, if you need something to commemorate your love affair with Minnesota, head to the I Like You boutique, a quirky little gift shop where everything—from bath bombs to lapel pins to poster prints—is handmade by some 200 or so local artists and craftspeople. For your Insta-fix, head around the side of the building to the shop’s “I like you” mural. What’s not to like?
For Scandinavian dishes reinvented with American flair, locals recommend the sophisticated Swedish lunch at American Swedish Institute’s FIKA restaurant. Named for the Swedish “dailybreak and national institution” of a mid-day coffee-and-pastry social hour, FIKA has a small but mighty menu that includes not only delicious baked goods but smörgås—open-faced sandwiches—like a Toast Skägen with shrimp, saffron-lemon aioli, horseradish, dill, peas, soft boiled egg, butter lettuce on Danish rye and juniper-laced meatballs, with lingonberry and mustard sauce. Because an elegant lunch deserves an equally elegant cocktail, try the Swedezerac, a riff on the Sazerac that’s a mix of Minnesota-made, anise-infused Skaalvenn aquavit, Apple Du Nord, ginger syrup, and Peychaud’s bitters. Cheers!