“Minneapolis” is a combination of the Sioux word minne, meaning water, and the Greek term polis, meaning city – incredibly appropriate for a place that has a population of over 420,000 and a boatload of beautiful bodies of water. Despite its lackluster nickname “The Mill City,” Minneapolis stands head and shoulders above the vast majority of U.S. cities as a tourist destination. Even its rather dull nickname is the result of the city’s fascinating history as the flour milling capital of the world from 1880 to 1930.
When discussing Minneapolis’ many charms, it’s hard to know where to start. Maybe with the world’s largest sculpture garden? Or how Minneapolis is the birthplace of music icon Prince? Perhaps you’d care to hear first about the 22 lakes and lagoons that exist within Minneapolis; or the historic Mississippi River that bisects the city. For travelers with children, Minneapolis’ selection of over 150 parks might be the first thing of interest. For indoor adventurers, the city’s large selection of fascinating and educational museums stands by, ready to edify. And for anyone who delights in trying new foods while on vacation, Minneapolis’ plethora of French, Mediterranean, Asian and Minnesotan restaurants are guaranteed to leave you satisfied. Those of us fascinated by history might be curious about Minneapolis’ status as the larger of the two Twin Cities, outshining Minnesota’s capital city, St. Paul, by an additional 114,000 citizens.
See what we mean? Minneapolis simply brings too much to the table for your entertainment options to be appropriately discussed in just a few paragraphs. So come along and discover what exactly the 47th largest city in the United States has to offer for your next vacation.
There are any number of reasons to visit Minneapolis. But whether you’re here for business, to visit family, or just to get away from it all, there are a few places in the city that are so cool they simply must be prioritized in a day of sightseeing. A trip to the Mill City won’t be complete without at least swinging by these iconic Minneapolis destinations.
Constructed in 1929 by utilities mogul Wilbur Foshay, the 447 ft. tall Foshay Tower extends 32 stories into the Minnesota sky, making it the tallest building in the Twin Cities. In addition to interesting architecture, this skyscraper features an observation deck and a museum in its top three stories. Stop by the observation deck for an unparalleled view of the gorgeous Minneapolis skyline – although travelers with a fear of heights may find more comfort observing the city from inside the tower. Then, swing by the museum in the top story and learn the history of the Foshay Tower along with the history of its eccentric creator. Since you can’t take the view from the observation deck home with you, the Foshay Tower also has a lovely little gift shop that is perfect for picking up mementos of your trip for friends and family.
While the Foshay Tower certainly has intriguing architecture, it pales in comparison to what you’ll see at Minneapolis’ Basilica of St. Mary, a Roman Catholic basilica established in the U.S. over a century ago. The building was constructed from 1907 to 1915, with the interior finished in 1926, and Pope Pius XI promptly declared the church the first basilica in the United States. Giant, artistically engraved pillars support the central cathedral, with intricate and colorful stained-glass windows placed between each pillar. Add in a perfectly wrought solid-marble high altar, the wrought iron grill that surrounds the church’s sanctuary and depicts stories from the life of Mary, and statues of the apostles carved from marble and placed throughout the sanctuary. Now you’re probably seeing why this church is a must-see Minneapolis institution that travelers return to time and time again. Believe it or not, we haven’t discussed even half of the gorgeous architectural splendors that adorn the church, but we don’t want to spoil the experience by telling you about everything in advance. For the rest, you’ll just have to treat yourself to a trip to the Basilica.
or those of us who simply can’t get enough of distinctive structures, Minneapolis offers yet another unique location. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is, in our opinion, the crown jewel of the already impressive Minneapolis park system. We’ll discuss why Minneapolis’ many amazing parks later on, but the Sculpture Garden, which unites two of Minneapolis’ most cherished resources – its culture and its parks – deserves front-page treatment. Open all year around from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., the park features over 50 sculptures, including spouses Claes Oldernburg and Coosje Van Brugen’s iconic 7,000-pound piece, Spoonbridge and Cherry. Part of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s appeal is that it is free and accessible to all – and just as much fun to explore for adults as it is for kids. If you’re not convinced, just take a look at Deborah Butterfield’s horse statue, Woodrow, or Katerina Fritsch’s chicken sculpture, Hahn/Cock. Each piece of art within the seven-acre park has its own unique history and meaning, and it’s worth taking the time to visit each one.
Marvelous Minneapolis Museums
When deciding what to do in Minneapolis, AKA the “Mill City,” you wouldn’t be blamed for not immediately thinking of the Mill City Museum. However, it is certainly worth exploring. The original mill that has been incorporated into the museum looks like a place that time forgot – but that’s a good thing. After all, how many museums feature the building itself as one of its best attractions? The Mill City Museum is a place where old meets new, where the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill have been incorporated into functional modern architecture. Located on the Minneapolis River, this museum has dramatic views of the waterfront and the ruins of the old mill. Kids can learn about “flour power” in the museum’s baking labs while adults relax and get a bite to eat at the Museum’s restaurant, Bushel and Peck. Then, take your whole group through the Flour Tower Elevator Show and get a live demonstration of how the mill operated in the olden days.
Located just a one-minute walk from the Mill City Museum is Minneapolis’ premier performing arts center, the Guthrie Theater. As a leader in the world of 21st-century performing art institutions, the Guthrie seeks to engage “exceptional theater artists in the exploration of both classic and contemporary plays, connecting the community we serve to one another and to the world.” If you have the time, catch a play at the Guthrie – it is likely to be a highlight of your vacation. The theater has three dynamic performance areas, a mementos and gifts section, and, for those of us who are new to theater, even a handy-dandy First Timer's Guide.
For travelers who like to consume art on a smaller scale than the towering sculptures in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, we’ve got the place for you. Not only is the Weisman Art Museum a stunning architectural triumph designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, it is also a teaching museum on the University of Minnesota campus sitting on the edge of the Mississippi River. Over the course of the museum’s 70-year history, it has proven that “multi-disciplinary and widely collaborated projects” can result in astonishing works of art. The Museum always has over 25,000 pieces of art, along with fascinating feature exhibits that shift all the time. For example, the museum currently features I Want to Make This Perfectly Clear, a collection of anti-war and pro-environment posters created during the 1970s. No matter what style of art tickles your fancy, from the big and bold to the small and reserved, the Weisman Art Museum will have several pieces for you to ponder at your own pace.
We here at Stay Alfred would love nothing more than to show the inherent value in every one of Minneapolis’ 12+ museums, but we would have to keep you reading overnight for that. Instead, know that even if none of the above museums struck your fancy, this Twin City has so much more to offer. Just to name a few more options, Minneapolis has a Firefighter's Hall and Museum, a Streetcar Museum, and the Bell Museum, which combines a planetarium and natural history exhibits.
The Best in Outdoor Entertainment
Minneapolis is known for having summers that are as beautiful as the winters are cold. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Mill City during spring or summer, we encourage you to go out and enjoy the perfect temperatures and mild breezes that accompany the return of life for the city’s blooming flowers and majestic trees. Minneapolis is blessed with a surplus of pristine parks and bodies of water. Here are just some of the best places to enjoy temperate weather in the Mill City.
If you have time to visit only one of Minneapolis’ charming parks, we suggest you prioritize Minnehaha Park. The park is one of the oldest and most popular destinations in Minneapolis, attracting over 850,000 visitors each year. You only have to visit once to know why. Stretching over 170 acres of land, Minnehaha Park is home to gorgeous limestone bluffs, the dazzling 53-foot-tall Minnehaha Falls, and three distinct gardens full of captivating plant life. And that’s in addition to the park’s many amenities, including walking and bike paths, volleyball courts, frisbee-golf courses, picnic areas, and a wading pool.
You can’t go 10 blocks in Minneapolis without seeing one of the city’s splendorous lakes. But what if you want to see a new lake every 10 blocks? Well, then the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is the perfect place for you. This park thrives on one simple concept: connecting several of Minneapolis’ lakes in an easily traversable manner. You can take your time jogging or biking down scenic trails that will let you appreciate the shorelines of Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake Harriet, and the Lake of the Isles. When you reach Lake Harriet, consider visiting the Lyndale Park Gardens on the lake’s northeast side. In addition to some spectacular foliage, the park features the Roberts Bird Sanctuary, which is exactly as cool as you’re thinking it is.
But what if you want to enjoy being outside in the nice Minneapolis air without having to wander all over the place? Isn’t there somewhere you can go to eat a juicy hot dog and relax with a crowd of like-minded individuals? You bet there is. That place, located in the historic Warehouse district of downtown Minneapolis, is Target Field. This Major League Baseball stadium is the home of the Minnesota Twins, and it is one heck of an awesome place to watch some of America’s most skilled athletes engage in our country’s national pastime. With a seating capacity of just under 40,000, Target Field makes it easy to get swept up in the excitement of the crowd. Although Target Field is primarily used for baseball games, it is also equipped for concerts, soccer, and football. No worries if it starts raining either – the venue’s expansive set of concession stands and restaurants means you can stay cozy and entertained under any circumstances. Pro tip: For a special treat, book a seat at the Budweiser Roof Deck and enjoy the game from 200+ feet in the air. What’s better than watching a Twins baseball game? Watching a Twins baseball game with the Minneapolis skyline as a backdrop, and a fully stocked bar at your fingertips.
Minneapolis: A Fine Dining Paradise
Minneapolis has been recognized for its delicious foods since its heyday as the flour production capital of the world in the late 1800s. While the Mill City is no longer the leading supplier of flour in the United States, it is still widely acclaimed for its diverse array of chic restaurants. When you’ve worked up an appetite over the course of a fun day of exploring, the perfect way to recharge is with a multi-course meal from one of these sumptuous restaurants.
The Hot Plate
5204 Bloomington Avenue
The Hot Plate is a fun, funky, family-owned breakfast joint located next to Lake Nokomis. The walls are adorned with wacky portraits and paint-by-numbers art. The Hot Plate is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, its personable staff, and its much loved Nutella, peanut butter, and bacon hotcakes. This restaurant is the epitome of an authentic Minnesota dining experience, but watch out – it doesn’t take take reservations, and it gets busy on weekend mornings. Swing by on Friday night for the Hot Plate’s weekly taco party!
3311 E. 25th ave.
Something for everyone. That’s what the Birchwood Café believes in. This delightful all-day café has a wide selection of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes – along with enough bacon to satisfy the most voracious of meat eaters. This cafe’s lovingly handcrafted meals feature sustainable, local, and fully organic foods. This restaurant’s head chef even goes so far as to visit the farms the restaurant gets its food from, and personally ensures that the ingredients he cooks with are always the freshest and tastiest foods around. Stop by to get a healthy, locally sourced meal and catch up with the Minneapolis customers who have made the café a part of their daily lives.
Spoon and Stable
211 North First Street
Never judge a book by its cover, or a restaurant by its origins. Despite having begun as a horse stable in the early 1900s, the Spoon and Stable simply oozes class. This well-lit restaurant features simple yet elegant solid-black wooden tables and chairs along with fine glassware. The cuisine is based on what is best in the season, meaning this restaurant has an ever-changing menu that is perfectly suited to exceed your tastebuds’ expectations. Perfect for couples or business meetings, each one of this restaurant’s meals is designed by its award-winning chef/owner, Gavin Kaysen.
Miscellaneous Minneapolis Fun
Sometimes the best way to be a tourist is to blend in with the crowd. If you’re looking to enjoy your nights out in the Mill City without going places that say “look at me, I’m new here!” then this portion of our blog is designed for you.
Want to test your group’s strategic thinking ability over the course of an insanely fun hour-long adventure? Check in with The Escape Game. Warning: This game is not for the impatient or those afraid of confinement. The Escape Game is a company that has a series of genre-specific “escape rooms”; players are locked in and can escape only by solving a series of clues. The door will open automatically once your time is up, and staff are on hand to let people out of the room ahead of time in the event of emergencies. However, by far the most satisfying way to get out of the room is to use your group’s collective mind to puzzle out the meaning of the cryptic clues that will lead you to freedom and success! The Escape Game has rooms of varying difficulty to escape from, and each has a different theme. First timers might enjoy the 7/10 difficulty Gold Rush escape. If you’ve come to Minneapolis with a group of professional puzzle solvers, then you’ll like the 9/10 difficulty escape room Prison Break. Successfully break out of your designated escape room, and The Escape Game staff will take a picture of your group for their website so you can share your accomplishment with friends back home!
Why not end your trip to Minneapolis with a party night? The First Avenue Nightclub has been Minneapolis’ self-proclaimed “downtown danceteria” since 1970. With two separate performance areas, this nightclub is able to host over 500 concerts every year! The main dance floor has a capacity of 1,500 people, making it the perfect place to lose yourself in the crowd. Travelers who love live music but don’t like the idea of bumping up against 1,499 other people will appreciate the nightclub’s second performance area, which caps out at 250 partiers. First Avenue has been at the epicenter of the Minneapolis band scene since its creation, and it has only increased in popularity since then. This is the nightclub where Prince recorded his Purple Rain music video. Not many nightclubs can act as stepping-stones for musicians’ careers, but First Avenue has catapulted several artists to new levels of fame and success. Stop by the club to see, depending on the night, an already famous artist, or some of the country’s most up-and-coming performers. No matter who is on stage, we guarantee it’ll be a night you’ll remember for years to come.
Where to Stay in Minneapolis
It wasn’t easy, but you did it. You’ve carefully balanced all your options to create the perfect itinerary for your time in Minneapolis. All that’s left is to decide where you’re going to stay, and fortunately, Stay Alfred makes this the easiest decision of all. A stay in one of our Minneapolis vacation rentals affords you all the amenities of a deluxe hotel along with the comfort and privacy of relaxing in your own home. Stay Alfred is proud to have two apartments available in Minneapolis, each with their own set of charms designed to satisfy you.
Within one mile of Target Field, Nicollet Mall, and the Guthrie Theater, this gorgeous downtown apartment comes with every amenity under the sun. Before you make it to your room you’ll be greeted by perks such as our yoga studio, a 24/7 fitness center, bbq grills, a sundeck, a lounge with a pool table, and a coffee bar. And your room is more than just a room: you’ll enjoy home-like conveniences such as a private bedroom, a full kitchen and an in-unit washer and dryer. If there’s anything you can think of that will make your stay more enjoyable, the 24 hour concierge will be happy to help you.
Stay Alfred on Second Street has the stylish decor and modern benefits of one of Minneapolis’ fanciest hotels. We understand if, while walking through the lobby and past the fashionable common areas, you wonder if this is a hotel after all. No worries – once you step into your private apartment, complete with its own kitchen area, central heating and air conditioning, and personal washer and dryer, you’ll feel right at home. This building features a bocce ball court, fitness center, yoga studio, and a TV lounge. We understand if you can’t bear to tear yourself away from your luxurious accommodations. As an incentive for you to go out and enjoy Minneapolis, this apartment is in close proximity to several amazing restaurants, along with being within a mile of the Mill City Museum, Target Field, and Minneapolis’ historic Warehouse District.
Not all Stay Alfred travel apartments are so lucky to be right next to an urban oasis. But a Stay Alfred on South 4th Street is: the 4.2-acre park called The Commons is practically your front lawn with its beautiful event spaces, walking/running paths, and plenty of grassy sprawls for picnics. Edition boasts a contemporary and trendy atmosphere, offering plenty of communal lounge areas both inside and out where you can kick back by the fireplace and chat with friends. Need to get that big project done? Collaborative workspaces are available, too! And when it's time to decompress, a state-of-the-art gym with on-demand workout classes is waiting to help you work up a sweat. Inside your Stay Alfred travel apartment, you'll find all the usual perks (like a full kitchen, free WiFi, and an in-unit washer/dryer) alongside a spacious layout, dark cabinetry, and stainless steel appliances. And when you're ready to explore? Edition is connected to the Skyway and close to the nearby rail station, making traversing Downtown West a breeze.
When the weather’s nice (seriously, it’s not all snow here!), Stay Alfred at Soo Line has a plethora of outdoor amenities, including a rooftop pool, an outdoor TV, and barbecue grills. But when the wind chill makes the mercury drop, you’ll want to stay cozy in the indoor rooftop lounge or set out to explore the city via the convenient in-building link to the city’s Skyway System.
No matter what time of year you visit, Stay Alfred at Soo Line has all the essential amenities for any type of trip. The fitness center is open 24/7, the business center is always available, and the building’s gorgeous lobby is sure to wow in every season.
If you didn’t already have plans to visit the Mill City, we’d be pleased if this overview of its attractions has a least planted a seed. When you visit, treat yourself to more than just a cramped hotel room. Enjoy a full travel apartment that puts the best of Minneapolis right at your doorstep. You’ll wonder how you ever traveled any other way.