what to do in Fargo / Minneapolis?
March 30, 2010 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Mr. Koko and I are in Winnipeg, and like to take little weekend trips to anyplace within a day's drive. Neither of us have explored Fargo or Minneapolis, so I thought we'd hit both in one long weekend. I'm looking for one or two highlights for each place.

I've already ruled out looking for the Paul Bunyan statue from "Fargo", having found out it was just a prop made for the movie (boooo). While hilarious, this is an example of what we don't want to do. Is this as dumb as it looks? I've glanced through these threads, and will be checking the links in them more closely, but in the meantime I'd like to get more suggestions from the hive, and/or votes for what's already been suggested in other threads.

What we enjoy: local history, science facts, pioneer villages/museums/forts/native history etc., animals, modern art, shopping at unique stores, good eats.

What we don't: sports, nightclubs, big malls (Mall of America is out), big crowds, being outdoors too long, too many kids.

We'll be going sometime in the summer or fall. Probably spend a day or so at each city. What are the must-sees for each place? Hidden treasures? Places to avoid? (Other than the wood chipper! *snort*)

Thanks in advance!
posted by Koko to Travel & Transportation around Fargo, ND (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For modern art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is a must.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:33 PM on March 30, 2010

My question had different parameters than yours, but got some good replies.

Fargo standouts that fit your question: downtown fargo was really great for walking around, and looking through the unique stores. Reminded me of Osborne Village mixed with a bit of the exchange, to put it in Winnipeg terms. Also, the suggestion I got for Duane's House of Pizza was awesome.
posted by utsutsu at 1:52 PM on March 30, 2010

Have you been to Lake Itasca? It is the source of the Mississippi River. It isn't in Fargo or MSP, but is within a day's drive of Winnipeg so I hope it counts.

If you go, expect a very different scene before and after Memorial Day weekend (5/31). We went the weekend before Memorial Day one year and were pretty much the only people in the park and on the roads.
posted by Sheppagus at 1:53 PM on March 30, 2010

Regarding Minneapolis/St Paul:

History: Minnesota History Center in downtown St Paul is nice. Fort Snelling is worth stopping by, in past years they've had costumed period actors on hand around Labor Day, up to and including firing off cannons.

Science Museum in downtown St Paul has a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition going through the summer. The Walker is an obvious art destination, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is also very good.

Generic shopping is tough to recommend for other people. Are there specific things you'd like to shop for?
posted by gimonca at 2:02 PM on March 30, 2010

If you like history and science, I will recommend the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis. It's a museum all about electricity! Plus it's next to one of the gorgeous lakes in Minneapolis, so checking it out in the summer or fall will give you a good sense of why Minneapolitans love it here. It's also super-close to the uptown area (you could walk halfway around the lake and be there, which is lovely in the warmer months). In uptown you can find some good, unique spots to eat. There's also a lot of shopping there, though it has become more chain-focused in recent years.
posted by vytae at 2:34 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you like coffee shops for a place to rest and recharge between touring locations, the Twin Cites have some very good ones.

I'd recommend The Black Dog in St. Paul (in a very interesting part of town near the farmer's market). There's also Nina's Cafe which is a fantastic little cafe just upstairs from Garrison Keillor's bookstore and in a beautiful building (lots of good restaurants in the neighborhood including WA Frost right across the street).

On the Minneapolis side, you can get some of the best coffee in the Twin Cities at Tillie's Bean. And Wilde Roast has good food and great ambiance.

All of these places have some level of food or another. All of it is really tasty, but I wouldn't consider all of them for a full dinner.

As far as a day's drive from Winnipeg, don't overlook Duluth, it's a surprisingly charming little city.
posted by ghostiger at 2:39 PM on March 30, 2010

Best answer: Do you like theater? The Guthrie Theater is generally considered excellent, and is an interesting building to boot. Ditto the Minnesota Symphony.

The Mill City Museum is a newer museum that would give you some good local history and could be done within a reasonable amount of time (if you go, be sure to watch their "Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat" film- it's pretty amusing).

If you want to avoid kids, crowds and being outdoors then the Minnesota State Fair is probably the last place you'd ever want to visit, although I think it's an interesting spectacle if you've never been to one of the major state fairs before.

I'd second the Bakken Museum as well.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 2:41 PM on March 30, 2010

Check out my responses in those other two posts for the best of Fargo -- they seem to cover your wants; emphasizing, if you like 'pioneer villages', do Bonanzaville. Also, Jamestown is 1-1/2 hour west of here on I-94 and they have a Pioneer Village of their own. Also, Ayr, ND (30-40min west of Fargo, not too far off the beaten track) has a small outdoor museum, too. There's two museums in Abercrombie (30min south on US81), a county museum (they charge admission) and the free state-run Fort Abercrombie site. The Clay County museum in Moorhead is small, but they've got proof that Vikings could have gotten here before Columbus. For fake proof that Vikings were here first, go see the Kensington Runestone in Alexandria (1-1/2mi east in Minnesota).

Animals: Fargo has a zoo, Wahpeton (40mi south) has a zoo, Bismarck (3mi west) has a zoo, and Jamestown (see above) has rare, sacred white Bison roaming the grounds of a giant Bison statue visible from I-94.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2010

There really are Paul Bunyan statues, you know, even if the one in the movie was scuttled. I know there's one in Bemidji and pretty sure there are others around the state.

Several of these Minnesota Historical Society books might help you identify spots you're interested in. I went there looking for this book, which is also full of things to think about stopping to see.

Lots of great suggestions above - I especially concur with the Mill City Museum. From there you can have a nice walk along the riverfront and across to the other side with various restaurants here and there. The Nicollet Island Inn would not be too far on foot. Lovely, romantic, historic.

We have a gorgeous State Capitol and I'm pretty sure tours are available year-round. It has a beautifully restored Rathskeller in the basement. I think the food is kind of institutional though - it's been a while since I've eaten there.

Not sure what's in the collections of the Weisman Art Museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota, but the building itself is a work of modern art. Then of course you're on campus and could do some exploring around there as well. You can get a terrific lunch or dinner at Kafe 421 in Dinkytown, which is walkable from there. (And don't you want to go there just so you can say you went to a place called that?)

The Bell Museum is more or less between the Weisman and Dinkytown, and it's a cross between local history and animals - it has many antique dioramas of animals native to Minnesota. It's going to be moving to a fancy new building on the St. Paul campus in the next few years, I think, so see it now while it's in its own original habitat. There's a Touch and See room, but you might run into kids there.

So many places to eat - I'll throw in Izzy's, a terrific, creative ice cream shop in St. Paul. It is around the corner from Trotter's, which will feed you a very healthy meal that you can balance out with the ice cream. I will say that Trotter's is best for those who appreciate subtle flavors.

In downtown Minneapolis, eat lunch at the Skyroom, a cafeteria on the 12th floor of the old Dayton's department store (now a Macy's, sigh). It's blindingly white and clean, you get a good view of the city, and there's a nice little historical display outside of it. This isn't haute cuisine but you'll have a ton of choices, including a gigantic salad bar. The store is on Nicollet Mall, a pedestrian boulevard; I'm not familiar enough with downtown anymore to recommend other shopping on that street, but if there are still charming local shops, they're likely to be on or near it.

For better shopping you probably would want to head to Uptown . Think about eating at Midtown Global Market, on Lake Street east of Uptown. It contains a wide variety of storefronts with different cuisines, and there are also vendors. My #1 favorite are the La Loma tamales in the back. But there are tons of good places to eat right in Uptown itself, too.

Have a wonderful visit!
posted by lakeroon at 5:23 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Generic shopping is tough to recommend for other people. Are there specific things you'd like to shop for?

We love poking around in stores with eclectic pop culture merchandise. I love funky jewellery stores also, and unique clothing stores.

Do you like theater? The Guthrie Theater is generally considered excellent.

We do, but we like our plan to be more open. Not knowing how long anything will take makes it difficult to make curtain time. I won't rule it out, though.

Excellent suggestions so far!
posted by Koko at 7:02 AM on March 31, 2010

Holly cow, I can't believe I forgot about this until it was on the Food network's Food Wars last night. If you come to the Twin Cities and want some real, authentic, Minnesota originals, you'll need to have a Jucy Lucy (that's the 'proper' original spelling). Matt's Bar is the home of the original and winner of the Food Wars competition. I also very much recommend the Blue Door over in St. Paul for a more gourmet take on the Lucy. The Blue Door was also last years winner of 'best burger' in the Twin Cities.

... man, now I just want burgers...
posted by ghostiger at 7:19 AM on March 31, 2010

If you like eclectic shopping and are coming through Fargo in the summer, in mid-July is the downtown street fair. It's not huge, the Saturday is the only day when the crowds are unbearable, but there's usually live music, local food, eclectic artists, plus downtown is where all the hip boutiques are. My daughter and a friend got rave reviews of their duct-tape handbag and vinyl-record bracelets from the manager at ShannaLee, if that's any indication of the kind of stuff you can find.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:26 AM on March 31, 2010

I would check out utsutsu's question for some food ideas in the Fargo/Moorhead area. The pizza at Duane's is amazing.

For local FM museums try Bonanzaville, the Fargo Air Museum, and the Hjemkomst Center.

Even though it does get crowded, I loved Gasthof when I was in Minneapolis. The place is more of a friendly crowded if that makes sense. Man VS Food was there, you can find the link. I think that gives you an idea of what the place is like.
posted by Silvertree at 12:17 PM on March 31, 2010

Response by poster: I wasn't that impressed by the pizza at Duane's in Fargo. Crust was a bit too chewy, sauce a bit too salty. And why do they cut it up like that?

Took some great Minneapolis restaurant recommendations from other threads ... I'd have to say 112 Eatery and Spoonriver were my favorites. Really wanted to try Murray's Steakhouse, but didn't get a chance to.

Thanks for all the responses!
posted by Koko at 5:38 AM on June 15, 2010

I just went through Fargo, and let me recommend again Kroll's Diner (great diner food, open 24 hours, yummy shakes, breakfast all day, etc.) and also a visit to Scheel's sporting goods/outdoors with the giant indoor Ferris wheel and the great displays of deer, bear, elk, etc. on the 2nd floor.
posted by math at 9:29 PM on August 7, 2010

« Older Microwave - (turntable tray + wheels) = Fine long...   |   Less Ovaltine, please :( Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.