Minneapolis Travel Guide [y]

[y] Minneapolis Visitors Guide

Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota and the 48th largest city in America. It is home to over 387,000 people. Minneapolis is often paired with the adjacent city of Saint Paul. More than 3.3 million people live in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region making it the 16th most populated metropolitan area in the United States. The city covers more than 58 square miles of land although just over 3 square miles is actually water. Minneapolis also has the distinction of being the coldest large city in the country. The name of the city is actually an invented word. By combining words from the Dakota Sioux language and Greek, the name was intended to mean water city.

Minneapolis Fun Guide

Minneapolis straddles the Mississippi River. It also contains 20 lakes. The early development of the city was based on lumber and agriculture. Both relied on milling in the city. This was made possible by the powerful Saint Anthony Falls that was strong enough to power the early industrial mills. Minneapolis was noticed around the world because of the efficient and effective power drawn from the falls. Minneapolis has undergone many changes over the last century. One of the largest was the intentional demolition of nearly 40 percent of the downtown area in order to make way for new construction in the 1950s. The removal of historic buildings and unique architectural structures spurred several efforts to preserve the remaining buildings for historical purposes.

Minneapolis has a very rich cultural and arts scene. It has more performance theaters per person than any other city outside of New York. These theaters host a variety of performances from dramatic plays to ballets. The city has a number of major museums. The Walker Art Center is one of the five top modern art museums in the country. The Weisman Art Museum was designed by Frank Gehry. The Minneapolis Institute of Art holds over 100,000 works. In 2010, the Minneapolis Orchestra was called one of the greatest orchestras in the world.

Minneapolis holds a number of distinctive titles. Minneapolis was voted one of the best new food cities in the country. More than 60 percent of the people working in the downtown area commute by bicycle. This makes workers in the downtown area the second largest workforce in the country to commute by bicycle. Minneapolis is the ninth most walkable large city in the United States making it possible for tourists to ignore public transportation or driving when the weather is nice. Minneapolis has the third highest literacy rate in the country and is home to several publishing companies.

Minneapolis Downtown Hotels

Downtown Minneapolis is a plethora of fun, interesting things to do. Potential visitors can choose to visit either Downtown East or Downtown West Minneapolis, both of which bring a little something different to the table. Downtown East features the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Twins Major League baseball team. The historic mill district is also located in Downtown East. In Downtown West, visitors who want to get some shopping done can easily do so at the upscale Nicollet Mall. Theaters, night clubs, restaurants and bars are also plentiful in Downtown West within the Warehouse District. If sight-seeing is on the to-do list, a trip to the Minnesota Institute of Arts is a must. This museum showcases beautiful pieces of art that come from all parts of the globe. The Basilica of St. Mary is also located in Downtown Minneapolis on Hennepin Avenue. This church was is more than 100 years old and services are still held there today. Tourists who are concerned about getting around in Downtown Minneapolis can rest easy. Travel by bus, train, and car are all possible options, but many people prefer to walk around the city because it is small and everything is very conveniently located. Downtown Hotel Service offers Hotels near Downtown Minneapolis that are quality hotels at an affordable price. Use our Search box above or click here to see available hotels!

Minneapolis Weather

Minneapolis is a Midwestern city that has many of the climate attributes of other cities in the region. It is surrounded by a large amount of water including the Mississippi River. The location of the city places it in an area where cold northern weather from Canada and the arctic regularly flows south and lowers temperatures. Visitors to the city should expect to find mostly cool weather although there are some extremes that happen unpredictably every few years. Minneapolis is the coldest of the 50 largest cities in the United States based on average annual temperatures.

Summer

The summers in Minneapolis are generally described as being comfortable. The average summer temperature is 73 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest month is July where temperatures average around 82 degrees. Short and infrequent heat waves have been recorded with temperatures as high as 105 degrees. One of the problems that face residents in the summer is the extreme amount of humidity that is present. The heat index on a hot summer day could cause perceived temperatures to be as much as 10 to 15 degrees above the measured air temperature. Visitors arriving in the summer should dress for warm weather but should also bring light long-sleeved clothes in case temperatures drop.

Winter

The winters in Minneapolis are colder than most other areas in the lower 48 states. There are no barriers or geological formations to stop arctic winds from reaching the city. Temperatures during the day in the winter average around freezing to just above freezing. Nighttime temperatures are between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Strong winds from Canada often cause extreme wind chills that drop the effective temperature below zero. These temperatures could cause frostbite and other problems after just a few minutes of exposure. Travelers coming to Minneapolis during January should bring heavy coats, sweaters, gloves and hats. There is regular winter snowfall. Good shoes or boots are a necessity in the winter.

Fall

Minneapolis is sometimes subject to severe weather events. There is a risk of tornadoes although few have ever approached the city. Strong windstorms or events called Derechos sometimes cause problems. The weather in the fall can be unpredictable due to the jet stream. This means strong thunderstorms can form quickly dropping inches of rain on the city in a short time and triggering flash flooding. The winter frequently brings large snowstorms that cause traffic delays and shut down some businesses in the city although municipal workers usually restore order quickly. Travelers should be aware of recent weather patterns in Minneapolis and should always travel with an umbrella in case of a sudden storm.

Minneapolis Transportation

Car

Driving in Minneapolis is very easy. There are many car rental options from which to choose, including both local and national car rental chains. Most of the big, national car rental companies keep a presence out at the airport, so it is easy for visitors to get a rental car upon arrival. The city is well laid out in a neat grid, and it will not be difficult for drivers to find their way around the city’s streets. There is ample parking available throughout the city. However, drivers should be cautious where they park their cars when it is snowing. They can get towed if they happen to be parked on the wrong side of the street during a snowstorm. This is due to the need for snowplows to have access to keep the streets cleared of snow.

Walking

Minneapolis is a great town for walkers. The downtown is particularly pleasant for walkers. During the spring, fall and summer, it is gorgeous to walk along the city’s streets. During the harsh winter, the city has a Skyway system of pedestrian enclosed walkways that runs throughout downtown. This makes it easy to get around town during the winter without ever being exposed to the elements.

Bicycling

Although the winter months are not great for bicycling in the city, the rest of the year Minneapolis is one of the best towns in the country for bicycle lovers. Most of the busy streets in the city have bike lanes. There is also an extensive network of bike trails that cyclists can use to cross the city without ever having to use the city streets.

Light Rail

There is an excellent light rail service in Minneapolis that runs between all of the major tourist attractions. This is the easiest way for visitors to get around the city. There is only one light rail line, so it is impossible for travelers to get lost on it. It moves very quickly around the city and is almost always running on time.

Bus

The bus is the other public transit option for visitors to Minneapolis. However, the bus system can be confusing for visitors. It runs all over the city and many of the routes overlap. It is best for visitors to ask the driver when they get on if they are on the right bus for the destination to which they are headed. This will ensure that they don’t end up wasting time by heading on a bus to the wrong part of town. Passengers should also be sure to ask the driver for a transfer upon boarding if they will require one.

 

Minneapolis Attractions

Minneapolis is a large metropolis where visitors can visit historical centers, view artworks of all kinds, partake of new and old cuisines, shop for all kinds of wares, see many different varieties of entertainment or sports or just sit and sun on a beach of one of the many lakes in the area. Minneapolis holds many attractions for visitors that take them back in time, allow them to enjoy nature or just be entertained.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

One of the best museums in Minneapolis is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with over 80000 pieces of art completed over a 5000 year period. Built in 1915, the edifice is a neoclassical work of art itself with large stone pillars and grand staircases. Exhibitions include African and American art, contemporary and decorative arts, sculptures, Asian art, textiles, photography, prints, drawings and paintings of all kinds.

Washburn A Mill

The Washburn A Mill, built in 1874, was destroyed with a flour explosion that also destroyed most of the riverfront businesses. The flour mill rebuilt in 1880 with steel rollers instead of millstones making it much safer, yet it shut down in 1965. The building burned in 1991 leaving only a few walls standing and The Mill City Museum was built right into these ruins. It houses artifacts not only from the milling industry but from the history of the region. The museum is very hands-on and is enjoyed by the youngest to the oldest member of the family.

Historic Fort Snelling

Historic Fort Snelling was a 19th-century outpost situated where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers join. Guides dress in period costume and show visitors what life was like when the fort was active. The fort served for over 120 years and has a national cemetery where 180,000 armed forces personnel are laid to rest.

Chain of Lakes

Enjoy nature at its finest at the Chain of Lakes encompassing five lakes with gardens, a bird sanctuary, beaches, water sports, picnicking, hiking and even a nude beach. Ride a streetcar, attend a concert at the bandshell, go ice skating or swimming. Rent a boat or canoe or take a bike ride around one of the lakes. The Uptown area with interesting shops, spas, restaurants, bars and clubs is nearby and provides an interesting shopping experience.

Minnehaha Park

Minnehaha Park has a 53-foot tall waterfall that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made famous in his poem, The Song of Hiawatha. It offers a wading pool, bike rentals, outdoor concerts and a seafood restaurant. A small scale replica of Longfellow’s house in Cambridge, MA houses administrative offices for the park.

Minneapolis Dining

Capital Grille

No place makes a better steak in Minneapolis than the Capital Grille. They also have a bar that gets very lively at night. This is a place where businesspeople take their clients to impress them. It is fantastic for lunch, dinner or just a few drinks. It would be hard to say any restaurant in the Twin Cities is better than Capital Grille.

al Vento

This is the best Italian restaurant in Minneapolis. It is always very crowded since the food is so good, but the staff does a wonderful job of quickly serving the patrons. The food is rustic Italian cuisine that will impress even the most discriminating foodie.

In Season

As the name suggests, the focus at In Season is on using the best local, seasonal ingredients to produce gourmet food. It is a mission at which the restaurant succeeds wonderfully. The prices are very reasonable and the food is amazing. This is definitely a stop not to be missed on the Minneapolis food scene.

Manny’s Steakhouse

Minneapolis is a town like most in the Midwest that loves its beef. Manny’s Steakhouse celebrates this fact with some of the best steaks in the world. They always do a great job at cooking their steaks to perfection. They give some of the largest portions that customers have ever seen. Some customers may wonder if their steaks came off of a cow or a dinosaur. It is a great place to share dishes or bring home a doggie bag,

Pizzeria Lola

Pizza lovers will not want to miss a chance to sample the best pizza in town at Pizzeria Lola. They make traditional Italian pizzas that come in only one size and are perfectly cooked with a thin crust. This is pizza like one would eat in Rome, and the quality of it is outstanding. Though they cook their pizzas in the traditional Italian manner, they do offer customers the chance to sample some exotic pizzas like their Korean BBQ Pizza.

Restaurant Alma

This is one of the favorite restaurants in town for local foodies. They serve gourmet tasting menus at reasonable prices. Unlike many other places’ tasting menus, the tasting menus at Restaurant Alma come in very generous portions. Therefore, the three-course tasting menu is probably the best selection for those who wish to walk out the door without the aid of a forklift.

Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream Café

Ice cream lovers will find the best ice cream in the Twin Cities at this spot. They have more than 60 flavors on the menu at all times, and the menu is constantly being updated with clever new ones.

Minneapolis Events

Minneapolis Aquatennial

The Minneapolis Aquatennial is a festival designed to pay tribute to the water, lakes and rivers that have helped to define the city. The event occurs over an entire week in July. More than 70 different events take place during this time including a milk carton boat race, a sandcastle competition and a triathlon. There is also a beauty contest to name the Queen of the Lakes. The entire event ends with a massive fireworks display. Visitors should book lodging far in advance since the event draws attention from nearly every part of the state.

Minnesota Fringe Festival

The Minnesota Fringe Festival is a two-week celebration of performing arts. The event attracts nearly 50,000 people who watch some of the over 150 performances each year. The performances are given in a range of venues around Minneapolis. Visitors can expect to see a wide range of performing arts from irreverent comedies to serious operas. The acts are chosen by lottery. Anyone who wants to attend the festival in Minneapolis should purchase tickets in advance and secure a hotel room since it is a very popular event.

Uptown Art Fair

The Uptown Art Fair is the largest fair in Minneapolis. It attracts nearly 400,000 visitors annually. The event showcases the works of local artists in nearly every visual and sculptural medium. People who attend the fair have the option to purchase many of the pieces on display. Millions of dollars in sales occur at each fair. No tickets are required although the venue changes every year. This event draws more people than any other fair in Minnesota except the State Fair. Hotels fill up quickly if reservations are not made in advance.

Twin Cities Marathon

The Twin Cities Marathon is held in early October and is renowned for the scenic views along the course. The main marathon is a 26-mile course winding through the city and along the Mississippi River. There is also a shorter 10-mile course and a fun run that is not competitive. Many fun and short races are held for children of different ages. Visitors who want to participate should register in advance.

Holidazzle Parade

The Holidazzle Parade occurs every weekend between Thanksgiving and New Years in downtown Minneapolis. The event includes lighted parade floats, buses covered in lights, celebrities, marching bands and choirs. Over 300,000 people regularly attend the parade each year. Families in the area who want to see the parade can attend for free. Parades closer to the holidays tend to be more crowded. It is important to dress very warmly since it will be dark for all or part of the parade.

Family Fun near Downtown Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Minnesota is rich in history as well as outdoor and cultural activities. Here are a few family fun activities you can enjoy in the Minneapolis area:

The Minneapolis Zoo, about fifteen miles from downtown Minneapolis, provides families the chance to view over 2,000 animals and birds. It includes tropical and aquatic areas as well as a section that specifically highlights local animals. Although hiking the zoo trails is a great way to get exercise, visitors can also enjoy a ride on a monorail to get a view of the zoo from a higher elevation. In the warmer months, kids will enjoy the zoo’s splash pad and also wagon rides at the barnyard.

Another great location for animal enthusiasts is the Underwater Adventures Aquarium in nearby Bloomington. A moving sidewalk provides quick, easy access through a tunnel where families can get close-up looks at all kinds of sea creatures. The aquarium also provides a behind the scenes tour.

If your family loves books, you’ll want to head for Wild Rumpus, an independent children’s bookstore decorated with themes from Where the Wild Things Are, the classic picture book that inspired its name. In addition to new books, the store also sells gently used secondhand books. Their free weekly storytime hours fill up quickly. Kids and their parents will also enjoy the small, live animals located throughout the store in cages.

Book loving families can also take note of the programs for children at the Minneapolis Central Library. They regularly schedule story hours and children’s films.

If shopping is a favorite family pastime, you’ll find plenty of malls in the area, including the huge Mall of America. Many of the malls have indoor play areas, and most kids won’t want to pass up the big lego store at Mall of America. The Mall, of course, also had plenty of places to enjoy a family-friendly lunch or dinner.

For a bit of Minnesota history, try the Mill City Museum, a historical landmark in the Riverfront district. Kids will enjoy riding on the Flour Tower elevator while they learn about the flour milling history of the city. The museum also provides fun activities for kids in their Baking and Water Labs.

Also in the Riverfront district is the renowned Children’s Theatre Company which regularly stages family-friendly shows and plays.

For another fascinating peek at Minneapolis history, families can schedule a ride with Padelford Mississippi Riverboat Tours. The tours start near the science museum.

Shopping near Downtown Minneapolis

The Minneapolis area boasts the best shopping opportunities not just in Minnesota but in the entire United States. Located in the suburban community of Bloomington, The Mall of America is officially the largest shopping mall in the United States. Occupying more than 4 total million square feet of floor space, the Mall of America is home to more than 500 stores. This huge shopping mega-complex has an impressive directory of stores in dozens of categories. Shoppers can get amazing bargains on anything ranging from accessories and clothing to shoes and electronics. Chain stores, boutiques, discount shops, and other unique retail businesses all make up the diverse lineup at this huge shopping center.

The Mall of America is anchored by 5 major department stores including Macy’s, Sears and Nordstrom. Attracting more than 40 million shoppers each year, the Mall of America is not just a shopping mecca but it is also one of the most visited attractions in the Midwest and the United States. Dozens of restaurants, the Nickolodeon Universe Theme Park and Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium are popular attractions located right inside this mall. To accommodate the huge volume of out of town visitors, the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport is conveniently located right across from the Mall of America. Downtown Minneapolis is about a dozen miles away from this huge shopping mall.

Another major shopping center in the Minneapolis area is the Rosedale Center. Located in the neighboring city of St. Paul, the Rosedale Center is a two-level shopping mall that has more than 160 total stores. It is considered one of the premier shopping destinations in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. The Rosedale Center is anchored by department stores Macy’s, JCPenney and Herberger’s.

The Nicollet Mall in Downtown
Minneapolis offers a completely different shopping experience than the gigantic complex at the Mall of America. The Nicollet Mall refers to a district in the heart of Minneapolis that offers an array of upscale shops, boutiques and retailers that are not commonly found at the typical suburban shopping mall. One of the best features of Nicollet Mall is that it’s a pedestrian-friendly area that is free of any traffic, right in the heart of Minneapolis’ historic and commercial district. Located in the former flagship building of the department store Dayton’s, Macy’s is one of the major stores in this popular shopping district of Downtown Minneapolis. In fact, locals still refer to the historic building as Dayton’s because this defunct company has existed in Minneapolis for an entire century until Macy’s moved in at the beginning of the 21st century.

Map of Hotels in Minneapolis

  1. Downtown Minneapolis Hotels – Find hotels Near St Anthony and Lauderdale
  2. University Inn Minneapolis – Find hotels Near Lexington Hamline North and North Frogtown
  3.  Como Zoo – Find hotels Near Roseville and Little Canada
  4. Minnehaha Park – Find hotels Near Lilydale and West St Paul
  5. Medicine lake – Find hotels Near Golden Valley and Plymouth
  6. Bell Museum of Natural History – Find hotels Near Lauderdale and Falcon Heights
  7. Minnesota Sculpture Garden – Find hotels Near St Louis Park and East lsles
  8. Fort Snelling – Find hotels Near Sunfish and Mendota Heights