Minneapolis is the trendier half of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and a Midwest gem. We’re not kidding when we say this city has it all. Name it, and you’ll find it here! Explore the city, and you’ll find lush parks, world-class museums and theaters, top-notch restaurants, lively nightlife venues, gorgeous lakes, wonderful people, and so much more.
Few places in America are blessed with as much green space as Minneapolis, and you’re never too far from a public park or garden. Water is everywhere, too, from the mighty Mississippi to the countless lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and wetlands just waiting to be explored.
If you’re more of an urban adventurer, Minneapolis won’t disappoint either. The world-renowned Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are just the beginning of the city’s next-level cultural scene.
Drop by the Mill City Museum to learn about Minneapolis’ industrial past or explore the Midtown Global Market for a taste of the city’s immigrant culture, then visit one of the many art galleries lining the trendy North Loop neighborhood.
When it comes to dining, Minneapolis is a true foodie paradise. Enjoy farm-to-table cuisine at James Beard Award-winning restaurants, sample local beers at one of the many craft breweries, or get your caffeine fix at an artisanal coffee shop. And when night falls, the city comes alive with live music, buzzing bars, and thumping nightclubs.
With so many things to see and do, it’s hard to know where to begin. So we’ve compiled a list of the absolute best things to do in Minneapolis for you. Stick to this Minneapolis bucket list, and you’ll have an amazing time conquering this vibrant Midwestern city!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Minneapolis
1. Explore the Chain of Lakes Regional Park
Minneapolis is lucky to have one of the largest park systems in the country, and the Chain of Lakes Regional Park is a perfect example of why. This park boasts five connected lakes, plus hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and more. In the winter, the lakes turn into a wonderland of opportunities for ice skating and cross-country skiing.
Along the Chain of Lakes, you’ll find some of Minneapolis’ most popular attractions. Bde Maka Ska (formerly known as Lake Calhoun) is the city’s largest lake and a popular spot for swimming, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding. On the east side of the lake, there’s a beach perfect for lounging on a sunny day.
Nearby, you’ll find the gorgeous Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, both great spots for a peaceful stroll or run. If you’re up for a longer hike or bike ride, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway encircles the entire park!
2. Take a Selfie at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is one of the most beloved attractions in the city and is full of Instagrammable sculptures! Snap a selfie in front of the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, stroll through the beautiful gardens, and soak up the art all around you.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is also home to the Walker Art Center, one of the most highly regarded contemporary art museums in the country. Inside, you’ll find an incredible collection of modern and contemporary art, plus galleries, shops, and a cinema.
Even if you’re not an art lover, the Walker Art Center is worth a visit for its incredible views of downtown Minneapolis. Be sure to stop by the Skyline Room for a drink or bite to eat while you take in the cityscape!
Together, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Center make up a 19-acre green space right in the heart of town.
3. Shop Till You Drop at the Biggest Mall in the US
Your list of Minneapolis activities should include a stop at the Mall of America, one of the largest malls in the world! This massive complex is home to more than 500 stores, 50 restaurants, an indoor theme park, an aquarium, a movie theater, and so much more.
You could easily spend a whole day (or two!) exploring the Mall of America. Start by checking out the major department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s. Then browse the unique shops and boutiques scattered throughout the mall. Be sure to swing by Nickelodeon Universe, the mall’s indoor amusement park with over 28 rides and attractions!
Plus, the whole family will love playing a friendly game of mini-golf at Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, marveling at sharks and stingrays at SEA LIFE aquarium’s underwater ocean tunnel, and dining at all of the kid-friendly restaurants. You won’t run out of things to do here!
4. See a Show at the Renowned Guthrie Theater
The Guthrie Theater is one of Minneapolis’ most iconic landmarks and a must-visit for theater lovers. This world-renowned venue is home to three different theaters, plus shops, lounges, and scenic views of the Mississippi River.
The Guthrie Theater produces a variety of plays and musicals throughout the year. Some of the most popular past productions include The Lion King, Hamilton, and A Christmas Carol. Local thespians and up-and-coming talent often grace the stage, so you’re sure to see a great show no matter when you visit.
After the curtain falls, be sure to explore the rest of the Guthrie Theater complex, as well as the surrounding area. Take in the views from the 178-foot Endless Bridge, which is suspended above the banks of the Mississippi River, grab a bite to eat at nearby Izakaya Japanese Pub & Kitchen, or take a stroll in the adjacent Mill Ruins Park.
5. Drop by the Minneapolis Institute of Art
Dating back to 1915, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country. This incredible museum is home to more than 90,000 works of art, spanning 5,000 years of history.
We recommend taking your time to explore the museum’s eight different wings, which are each devoted to a different type of art. For example, the European painting wing features works by Monet, van Gogh, and Rembrandt, while the contemporary art wing includes pieces by Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.
Other highlights include the African art gallery, Asian art gallery, and Native American art gallery. Plus, don’t forget to visit the museum’s beautiful gardens!
The Japanese Garden is especially lovely, with its koi ponds, bridges, and stone lanterns. Finally, be sure to stop by the museum store before you leave, where you can find a wide range of art-themed books, jewelry, and home decor.
6. Experience Local Nightlife at the North Loop
The North Loop is one of Minneapolis’ most vibrant neighborhoods, and it’s packed with some of the coolest things to do in Minneapolis. This trendy area is home to a variety of bars, restaurants, and shops. Plus, it’s just a short walk from Target Field, US Bank Stadium, and the Mississippi River.
Start your night at one of the North Loop’s many bars and breweries. Fulton Brewing Taproom is a local favorite, known for its Lonely Blonde Ale and fruity hard seltzers. Or, if you’re in the mood for something stronger, stop by Cobble Social House for handcrafted cocktails and delicious tacos.
The North Loop is also home to a number of great restaurants, including Spoon and Stable, a French-inspired eatery owned by James Beard award-winning Chef Gavin Kaysen. Want street food? Check out the food trucks gathered around North 7th Street, where you’ll find everything from tacos to barbecue, plus live music and entertainment.
As the night winds down, enjoy a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. You’ll find plenty of boutique shops and art galleries to explore, such as the Veronique Wantz Gallery, which showcases fine arts by local, international, and emerging artists.
7. Float Down the Mississippi River
One of the best ways to see Minneapolis is from the water! The Mississippi River runs through the heart of the city, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy this natural wonder.
One of our favorite ways to experience the river is on a water taxi. These boats run regularly between St. Anthony Falls and Lake Harriet, making stops at popular sites along the way, such as Nicollet Island and Boom Island Park. Other highlights include the Stone Arch Bridge and the Mill City Museum.
It’s pretty cheap, too: a one-way fare is only $5 for adults and $3 for kids. And, if you want to explore the river on your own, you can always rent a canoe or kayak from one of the many companies in Minneapolis. Plus, there’s even a handy self-serve kayak sharing system, so you can paddle down any section of the river in the Twin Cities metro area and drop off your kayak downriver!
8. Kayak the Wetlands of Long Lake Regional Park
The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is filled with, well, lakes! And one of our favorite spots to enjoy the state’s natural gems is Long Lake Regional Park. This beautiful park is located in the northwestern part of Minneapolis and is home to a variety of wetlands, hiking trails, and picnic areas.
You can hike and trek through the park, but kayaking is really the best way to experience its natural beauty. Paddle through the cattails and lily pads, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including turtles, herons, and beavers.
The best season to kayak is from May to September, but the park is open year-round for other activities, such as birdwatching and cross-country skiing. We strongly recommend checking the status of the park before you go because it sometimes closes due to flooding.
9. Marvel at the Minnesota Zoo’s Majestic Animals
The Minnesota Zoo is one of the best things to do in Minneapolis, especially if you’re traveling with kids. This world-class zoo is home to a wide range of animals from all over the globe, including lions, tigers, gorillas, and penguins.
One of the most popular exhibits is the Discovery Bay area, where you can see aquatic animals like seals, sea lions, and otters. Other highlights include the Tropics Trail, which features tropical birds and reptiles, and the Northern Trail, where you can see polar bears, reindeer, and wolves.
No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always something new to see at the Minnesota Zoo. In the winter months, don’t miss the opportunity to go on a guided tour of the zoo’s Northern Trail, where you can see animals in their natural habitat.
And, if you’re looking for things to do in Minneapolis in the summer, be sure to catch one of the zoo’s popular live shows featuring birds of prey or dolphins!
10. Sample International Delights at Midtown Global Market
Foodies will love sampling all of the international foods found at Midtown Global Market. Housed in a long-vacant Sears building on Lake Street, Midtown Global Market opened its doors in 2006 in an effort to celebrate the ethnic diversity of the area.
Today, more than 45 businesses and restaurants in the building represent at least 22 cultures. Be sure you come hungry because you’ll want to sample at least a few of these excellent eateries!
You can sample traditional Venezuelan dishes at Arepa Bar, Cambodian and Thai fusion food at Sabbai Express, or authentic Mexican fare at Salsa a la Salsa. Plus, you have to try a gourmet Mexican torta at Manny’s Tortas and a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich from Pham’s Rice Bowl! From Moroccan to Mediterranean, there’s something to suit all tastes here.
Midtown Global Market is open from 10 am to 8 pm Monday to Saturday and 11 am to 8 pm on Sundays. It’s located at 920 E. Lake Street. Parking can be tricky, so we recommend taking the bus or light rail.
11. Attend the Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Channel your inner medieval peasant at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, a yearly event that takes place in the town of Shakopee. This popular festival features jousting tournaments, human chess matches, live music, and much more.
Of course, no visit to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival would be complete without sampling some of the food. Try the turkey legs, roasted almonds, and mead, a type of honey wine. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can also try the Scottish haggis, a dish made with sheep’s liver, heart, and lungs.
For the full experience, dress up in a costume! Attend as a knight, a wizard, or even a dragon. You can rent costumes at the festival or bring your own from home. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival takes place every year from August to October. Check the website for exact dates and ticket prices.
12. Explore the Past at Historic Fort Snelling
Historic Fort Snelling is one of the most popular Minneapolis attractions. This former military fort was built in 1819 and served as an important outpost during the American-Indian Wars.
Today, the fort is one of the top things to do in Minneapolis. The fort also has a number of interactive exhibits, like a life-size replica of a tipi, a fur-trading post, and a blacksmith shop.
Aside from the exhibits, there are also a number of events and programs that take place at the fort. In the summer, don’t miss the popular cannon demonstrations, which take place every Saturday. And, in the winter, you can go on a guided tour of the fort’s underground tunnels!
And, of course, no visit to Historic Fort Snelling would be complete without exploring the grounds. The fort sits on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, making it one of the top places for Minneapolis sightseeing.
13. Visit Cultural and Historical Minneapolis Landmarks
Minneapolis may be best known for its modern skyline, but the city is also proud of its rich culture and heritage. There are a number of landmarks and museums that showcase the city’s history, from its days as a milling town to its present-day status as a bustling metropolis.
One of the must-do things in Minneapolis is visiting the Stone Arch Bridge, which is the oldest stone bridge in Minnesota. The bridge was built in 1883 and crosses the Mississippi River. It’s now a pedestrian-only bridge, making it the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll or go for a run.
If you’re interested in the city’s industrial past, be sure to visit the Mill City Museum. This museum is located in the former Washburn “A” Mill, which was once the largest flour mill in the world. Don’t forget to add the Basilica of Saint Mary to your list of things to see in Minneapolis, along with the Museum of Russian Art, the Weisman Art Museum, and the Minnesota History Center.
14. Try Iconic Midwestern Dishes and Treats
We had so much fun exploring Minneapolis and trying all the different foods. Some of the must-try dishes in Minneapolis include the tater tot hotdish (a tater tot casserole), walleye fish, and “Jucy Lucy” burgers. The ethnic food scene is also booming in Minneapolis, so be sure to try some Somali, Ethiopian, Scandinavian, and Vietnamese dishes while you’re in town.
If you’re in town during the Minnesota State Fair, which is one of the most popular fairs in the country, you need to sample some of the fair’s iconic foods, including deep-fried candy bars, cheese curds, cream puffs, walleye-on-a-stick, and roasted corn.
Minneapolis also has tons of hole-in-the-wall restaurants and cafes serving up delicious food. One of the oldest and most popular is Matt’s Bar, which is known for its original Jucy Lucy burgers, which are burgers with cheese stuffed inside the meat instead of on top.
15. Dive Into the Local Craft Beer Scene
Minneapolis has some seriously talented brewers and some of the best craft beer in the country. The flavors range from classic to crazy, but some of these brews are absolutely delicious!
For instance, Surly Brewing Company is one of the most popular craft breweries in Minneapolis. The brewery is known for its aggressive beers, like the Bender Oatmeal Brown Ale and the Coffee Bender Oatmeal Brown Ale.
Another must-try Minneapolis brewery is Fulton Brewery, which is located in the historic North Loop neighborhood. The brewery’s flagship beer is the Sweet Child of Vine IPA, but the Lonely Blonde Blonde Ale and the Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial Stout are also well worth a try. If you’ve got the tolerance for more, there’s Bauhaus Brew Labs, Dangerous Man Brewing Company, Inbound BrewCo, and so many more!
For those who prefer cocktails, Minneapolis has some top-tier bars and mixologists, too. For instance, Parlour‘s bartenders are known for their creative and delicious cocktails, like the smoked old-fashioned and the honeycomb daiquiri.
Whether it’s a craft beer or a handcrafted cocktail, unwinding in one of the city’s buzzing bars is the perfect way to end a day of Minneapolis sightseeing!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Minneapolis. What’s your favorite thing to do in Minneapolis?
Planning a trip to Minnesota? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!