With more than 20 of Minnesota’s 10,000-plus lakes, manicured parks, and a scenic locale that straddles the Mississippi River, Minneapolis is an outdoorsy city with a hip, modern vibe and Midwestern charm. During the warmer months, you can take in sweeping views of the downtown skyline from a river cruise aboard the Minneapolis Queen paddle wheeler. Bike alongside the Chain of Lakes or swim at one of five beaches. When the lakes freeze over later in the year, try your hand at ice fishing or twirl around an outdoor skating rink. The city is also home to prestigious cultural sites such as the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which has a global collection that includes an ancient Egyptian funerary door, Qing dynasty silk textiles, and paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe.
The gigantic Mall of America has more than 500 stores, along with an indoor amusement park and an aquarium, while stalls at year-round farmers markets are piled high with baked goods, cheese, and local produce. Minneapolis has a strong creative edge too, with happening live music spots such as the legendary First Avenue, one of Prince’s favorite venues, and The Armory, a cavernous art deco performance and event space.
Top things to do:
- Music in the parks: In summer, you can listen to free concerts nearly every night of the week across five park venues, including Nicollet Island Park in the middle of the Mississippi River and the castle-like Lake Harriet Bandshell. Performances range from rousing concert band tunes to a cappella choral singing and orchestral pops.
- Mississippi River paddling: Rent a single or tandem kayak from Paddle Share to take part in the city’s aquatic equivalent of a bikeshare scheme. Depending on where you pick up and drop off your boat, you can travel up to 8.5 miles along tranquil stretches of the vast waterway or choose a shorter route that takes in dramatic urban views.
- Nordic heritage: Explore the city’s Scandinavian roots at the American Swedish Institute in the Phillips West neighborhood. Housed in the elaborate, early-1900s Turnblad Mansion, the cultural organization offers rotating exhibitions and a host of craft workshops. Fill up on meatballs or a smörgås (an open-faced sandwich) at FIKA, the institute’s sleek café. Nearby, you can shop at specialty Nordic store Ingebretsen’s, which has been operating since 1921 and sells stylish home goods, knitwear, and imported foods like lingonberry vinegar and canned herring.
- Striking street art: If you’re a music lover, make a beeline for the multicolored Bob Dylan mural at 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue and the purple-hued Prince image on 26th Street and Hennepin. You can also spot quirky paintings like the pair of squirrels paddling a beer can at 1029 Marshall Street NE and an attacking shark at 501 Cedar Avenue S.
- North Loop boutiques: Browse cool one-off stores in this hip neighborhood’s converted warehouses. Parc specializes in chic, minimalist women’s clothing and accessories, while D.NOLO is a collective of independent fashion and home-furnishing retailers. The shelves of James & Mary Laurie Booksellers are stacked with used books, antique maps, and vinyl.
- Skyway stroll: Even on the most frigid winter day, you can explore much of downtown Minneapolis without a coat. The Minneapolis Skyway System is a network of enclosed, elevated walkways that links hotels, theaters, and other attractions. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and stores along the 9.5-mile route.
When to go
Summers in Minneapolis are warm, with daytime highs in the 80s, while winters are typically cold and snowy. One of the area’s biggest summer festivals is the Minnesota State Fair, held late August to early September in Minneapolis’ twin city, St. Paul. Take your whole family for thrill rides, animal parades, and nightly live music. In winter, NHL hockey fans can cheer on the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Get a behind-the-scenes look inside more than 100 venues, including churches, theaters, and other architecturally significant buildings during Doors Open Minneapolis, held over a single weekend each May.
All set to visit the Twin Cities? Take a look at our Minneapolis hotels to find the perfect base for your trip.