Neat stuff to see in the Twin Cities
May 25, 2012 9:18 AM   Subscribe

So, my spouse & I are taking a spur of the moment trip to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for the 3-day weekend. What are some quirky, interesting, delicious, unusual, or must-see things to check out in the Twin Cities and on the route between WI and MN?

We are two 40-ish adults who'll be driving from southern WI and getting a hotel room for 2 nights somewhere in Minneapolis. Pretty sure we'll be seeing the zoo and either the Walker Art Center or the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Other than that though, we just want to see what there is to see around town. Or towns, as it were. We'll be leaving WI tomorrow (Sat.) morning, arriving in the Minneapolis early afternoonish, then driving back from MN to WI on Monday. We're interested in stuff like flea markets and interesting/unusual shopping, awesome food, local/artisanal beers, out-of-the-way or oddball museums, hole-in-the-wall treasures like quirky shops or amazing restaurants, natural curiosities, what-have-you.

Things we want to avoid: the giant mall, nightclubs, anywhere that's super crowded, gaggles of screaming kids, and popular chain-type places. Thanks in advance for ideas!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy to Travel & Transportation around Minnesota (29 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
...interesting/unusual shopping...


...awesome food...

Amore Victoria!

...local/artisanal beers...


...amazing restaurants...

Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues Club!

...oddball museums...

Wabasha Street Caves!

...hole-in-the-wall treasures...

Como Zoo & Conservatory!

...natural curiosities...

Minnehaha Falls!
Saint Anthony Falls
Donny Dirk's Zombie Den!

(I live about an hour away from the Twin Cities, but these are some of my favorite things)
posted by jillithd at 9:48 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Science Museum took over the collection from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices when it closed. They're open until 9:30 so you could go late and avoid the kid crowds.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

And how did I forget Ax-Man Surplus Stores?!?
posted by jillithd at 9:51 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came in to say all that the COMO ZOo has, including the gardens.
posted by Amby72 at 10:08 AM on May 25, 2012

I spend many a weekend night getting samples/ pints from Harriet Brewing, and then walking up the street for a little bit of arthouse/ classic film at the Trylon microcincema.
posted by Think_Long at 10:12 AM on May 25, 2012

Drive up 90 to Lacrosse WI, and take the Minnesota Great River Road to Minneapolis.

Get to Minneapolis, have a Jucy Lucy at Matts. Do not eat a Jucy Lucy anywhere else.

Drive Summit Blvd in St. Paul and visit the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Get a Salted Caramel ice cream at Izzy's Ice Cream.

Go west to Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka, walking the shops and ride the steamboat Minnehaha. Watch the pretty people and the big boats while eating at Maynards.

Buy as much Surly Furious beer that your car can hold.

Return to WI, the whole time wishing that you lived in MN.
posted by lstanley at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

There a bunch of neat little restaurants on "Eat Street" in Minneapolis, most of which are pretty good.

2nd'ing the Science Museum I just wouldn't plan on doing too much else in Downtown St. Paul after 6-7pm. Unless there is an event at the Excel Center, that place is a ghost town after the working stiffs go home. Downtown Minneapolis is pretty lively and safe around the clock.

Depending on where you're coming from and how far you're driving, Downtown Stillwater might be a nice stop for a little break to walk around for a while and stretch your legs but only if you're passing through/by but I wouldn't go too far out of my way for it.
posted by VTX at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2012

Here's the Saint Paul agenda:

Go to Strip Club to eat and drink.

Also check out Yarusso Bros Italian.

We have our very own Orchestra, which is playing Mozart this weekend, at the Ordway Center.

I may suggest that instead of going into Minneapolis, you might enjoy the old-style luxury of the Saint Paul Hotel

Like craft beer? Go buy some Flat Earth brews at the Ale Jail on St. Clair Ave.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2012

Also, the Bakken Museum will be open tomorrow. That's a pretty oddball place.

If it's a nice evening you can get awesome seafood and beer at the Sea Salt eatery and then wander around Minnehaha creek/park.

The CityPages calendar has a lot of the music/cultural events that are happening around the cities.
posted by Think_Long at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it's a nice evening you can get awesome seafood and beer at the Sea Salt eatery and then wander around Minnehaha creek/park.

Sea Salt is awesome, but on nice evenings its line can be mind-blowing. So don't go there unless you're OK with waiting.

Since you said you'll do either the Walker or the MIA, it's worth noting that if it's nice out there's a lot of cool stuff around the Walker (sculpture garden, Loring Park, and the little island of restaurants and bars on the north edge of Loring Park). The MIA's very, very awesome as a museum, but there's not much around it. If that matters.
posted by COBRA! at 10:27 AM on May 25, 2012

If you're looking for an evening of theater, the HUGE Improv Theater has a great Saturday night lineup for $10.

For an amazing variety of foods, the Midtown Global Market is a great place to hit. For the best pastries you've every tasted, I recommend the Salty Tart.
posted by a47danger at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2012

Matts is a great suggestion. The Jucy Lucy is the signature dish of Minneapolis and the one at Matts is the original and best. It can get a little crowded there, so it might make sense to go there for a late lunch or early supper.

Minne, the Minneapolis Lake Monster, has been placed somewhere in the City (the Parks Foundation hasn't yet revealed her Spring location), but you could have fun exploring our lakes looking for her. If you visit Lake Harriet, be sure to find Mr. Little Guy's house.

The Midtown Global Market has some fun shopping and good food. I particularly like the Somalian food at Safari Express.
posted by Area Man at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, two more things:

Moto-i is the first sake brewery outside of Japan. Trying the different kinds of sake and eating Japanese appetizers is lots of fun.

Babani's is a Kurdish restaurant in St. Paul. The food is tasty and not too pricey. Also, when is the next time you'll get to visit a Kurdish restaurant.
posted by Area Man at 10:44 AM on May 25, 2012

...and on the route between WI and MN

Not too far off from where 90 and 94 split are the Paul and Matilda Wegner Grotto and the yards of F.A.S.T. Corp.

If you take the scenic route along the Mississippi you can also check out the Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went on a terrible, no good, super awful business trip to St Paul, and the only thing that was good about it was going in to Minneapolis for dinner at Bar La Grassa. Great beer, amazing gnocchi, nice atmosphere. The only thing I say about that trip was "well, at least i had a great meal." (note: this was about a year ago, so I'm sure a local could chime in if its not great anymore, which would break my heart).
posted by zara at 11:04 AM on May 25, 2012

I've never been, but I would certainly do St. Paul's F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:28 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ax Man is awesome, as recommended upthread, but be warned that they are doing construction on University Ave in St Paul and in various places downtown. It's more annoying than anything, but I wanted to point it out so you know to factor in a little extra time for your St. Paul wanderings.

My contributions to this thread: Brasa. Barrio. Heartland. Meritage. St Paul Farmer's Market. Also a yes to the Strip Club, already mentioned.
posted by cabingirl at 12:20 PM on May 25, 2012

Stop at the Norske Nook on the way and have yourself a slice of tastebud-exploding pie. There's one right off 94 in Osseo, WI.

Totally agree with those above who recommend award-winning Surly Brewing Company beer. Their popular and super fun brewery tours are probably full for this weekend, but if you make this trip again, register for a tour in advance!

I am surprised that no one has suggested Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge. I love thier deep dish pizza, Brown Sugar Babies (mini weenies wrapped in bacon with brown sugar sauce), and the Coconaut (super strong and delicious drink). They serve Surly. Their new(ish) location has a huge patio, two levels of dining with lots of nooks and crannies, and a fun house band that won't drown out your conversation. Definitely recommended.

I have heard rave reviews from two trusted foodie friends that the relatively new Butcher & the Boar in Minneapolis is fantastic. Plus, they serve Surly too!

Have you ever had bubble tea? Try one of the thousands of combinations available at the Tea Garden. They have locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Grand Old Day is happening on Grand Avenue in St. Paul on Sunday. There will be kids, a fun run, and big crowds, so try to avoid that area of St. Paul.

Have fun!
posted by stompadour at 12:22 PM on May 25, 2012

Not sure which way you are going but the leinie tour in chippewa falls is not bad to make a short stop if you are taking 94. In the cities themselves, we did a segway tour of downtown Minneapolis a couple years ago, that was cool. Call first. Covers the history of the city and points out some neat things to do, all on a segway, which is fun in and of itself. And I strongly suggest the St. Paul Hotel as well, good place to stay, good place to eat breakfast.

As for Wisconsinites wishing they lived in MN, you will be happy to know that you will be moving against traffic on this trip unlike the many msp urbanites trying to escape to Wisconsin for the holiday weekend.
posted by supercapitalist at 12:22 PM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: Fantastic answers, thanks so much everyone! Looks like we have a full weekend ahead of us.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 1:04 PM on May 25, 2012

Just so you know, Grand Old Day isn't until next Sunday, June 3rd. If you were in the area, I would actually avoid it. I live in the area and it is definitely not the best representation of what we have to offer.
posted by Think_Long at 1:13 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll admit this is more of a moan than an answer, but I want to be a vote against Dinkytown. It's just kind of awful and every time I go, I'm grateful once again that 'not near the university' was one of my criteria when apartment hunting. It's not so awful right now because the students are mostly gone, but there's not much going for it. That said, if you find yourself there, there's a guitar shop in case you need one (not claiming it's the best around) and a decent used book shop.

As it happens, I hate Uptown as well, but Mager's and Quinn makes me hate it less. We've also got a couple of Landmark Cinemas if you don't get films with smaller releases where you live.

Depending on where you're coming from and how far you're driving, Downtown Stillwater might be a nice stop for a little break to walk around for a while and stretch your legs but only if you're passing through/by but I wouldn't go too far out of my way for it.

There's a good yarn shop in Stillwater, should you knit. Some used bookshops too. But, basically, it's a tourist trap.
posted by hoyland at 4:09 PM on May 25, 2012

wow, I'm watching this thread with interest because I travel to the Cities sometimes and I have never heard of ... um, embarrassingly any of these things.

What I will say is that I have found much of the 'highly recommended' restaurants in Mpls to be overrated and the best eats I have located have been ethnic food: a little south of the Cities in Eagan is a great Korean food restaurant called Hoban that has an Asian-style karaoke bar next door to it. So you can go in and get your bibimbap and then after dinner, go over and drink soju while you sing your heart out to American songs that have been set to wacky Asian videos.

I have also just discovered Krung Thep, best Thai food I've had almost anywhere. If you like Thai, go here, definitely. I doubt there is any better within a tri-state area.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:52 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't go to Matt's - that place is terrible. Go to the 5-8 club or The Nook if you're looking for a good juicy lucy.

Other places to check out include Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet. The science museum is extremely cool, and I would highly recommend a Summit beer and check out Surly's.
posted by lpcxa0 at 5:20 PM on May 25, 2012

Kind of similar in feel to Babani's (which I love) is the Black Sea, also in St. Paul. Fast, cheap, homey, definitely non-chainey.

If you want to go someplace you might later read about in an inflight magazine, try the Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis. Haven't been, but it's supposed to be great.

If the Mill City Museum is offering walking tours while you're here, that's worth doing. The James J. Hill House also gives a good walking tour. Both are worth visiting the insides of, too, of course.

You could rent bikes and go on any of our many fine urban bike routes. I'm sure the rental places have maps and recommendations. There are also "Nice Ride" stations scattered through town for casual riding. BYO helmet.

Rusty Quarters is a cool vintage arcade on Lake Street between Jackson's (coffee, gelato) and the Bryant-Lake Bowl. That block right there could keep you busy for half a day.
posted by lakeroon at 6:03 PM on May 25, 2012

if you like thai, ruam mit in st. paul is spectacular and authentic.
posted by nanhey at 7:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Tea Garden. If you like tea/bubble tea, anyway.
posted by Estraven at 8:36 PM on May 25, 2012

The Pavek Museum of Broadcasting.
posted by Lazlo at 10:22 PM on May 25, 2012

I beg you please to consider driving up the River Road as LStanley suggested, with the additional plea that you stop at the Harbor View Cafe in Pepin (on the shores of Lake Pepin - cash only, and I could eat their black butter sauce with a spoon.) and the Stockholm Pie Company in Stockholm. In Stockholm, population 97, they have a stash of beater bikes (old schwinns, mostly) that you can ride around "town," and some cute tchotchke stores. Plus the drive along Lake Pepin is simply beautiful. Lots of birds of prey and Laura Ingalls Wilder stuff if either of those is your thing. I am moving out of Minneapolis on Tuesday and not making a return visit there is one of my biggest regrets.

In Minneapolis, Sunday morning is the bitty Kingfield Farmers Market, a little neighborhood market with a couple of food trucks and a bunch of yummy produce, near the amazing Sun Street Bakery (started off as a stall in the market!). Kingfield is a really sweet residential neighborhood - the market is at 43rd and Nicollet, there are some cute shops and a bar where you can play skee-ball and eat the best cheese curds in town at 35th and Nicollet, and Sun Street is down at 46th.

Renting bikes to go around the lakes is a wonderful idea, but maybe better for Saturday; Sunday is supposed to be quite hot. If you biked around Lakes Calhoun and Harriet, you could take a detour to visit Linden Hills, another sweet neighborhood with great restaurants - Tilia - and cute shops. Particularly if you know anyone who has or likes children, The Wild Rumpus is mandatory. The children there are likelier to be under their parents' control picking out new books, rather than in gaggles. Plus, they have like 3 pet cats, pet chickens, chinchillas, and insects!

The view from the endless bridge at the Guthrie is amazing, one of my favorite places in town. You can absolutely go up there without having tickets to a show. There is a bar where you can get a drink, but you don't have to do that to hang out there either. Love it.

Sea Salt is amazing but is likely to be crowded with gaggles of children. Don't go hungry. If you end up on Eat Street for Vietnamese (I recommend Pho Tau Bay at 29th and Nicollet), don't miss Blacklist Vintage at 1st & 26th st. or Lost and Found at 25th and Nicollet.

I'm going to miss this place!
posted by kickingthecrap at 11:14 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Is t-mobile coverage adequate in the northeast   |   Transfer questions Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.