Must-sees in the Twin Cities!
October 15, 2012 11:25 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November for a conference over a weekend. What should I do, see, and eat while I'm there?

I have never been to Minneapolis before and will be there for four days. I'd love to hear recommendations for great places to see, eat, and do.

I'm not big on chain restaurants (unless they really do have good food) and I'm not big on malls or hard-core shopping experiences, although I might go the Mall of America simply to gawk at it all. So, I'm not looking for the Olive Garden/Mall of America experience. I'd rather have a quintessential Minneapolis experience.

I do like local beer, good local food, local spots that might be kitschy or historically interesting, historical tours or buildings and museums. I love libraries, parks, festivals, and art. And coffee.

I'm staying right in downtown near the Convention Center. I'll be sans car, so public transportation accessibility a requirement. I am a poor graduate student, so things that are budget conscious would be good. If there is ONE meal that I absolutely must have and it's a little pricey (e.g. $25/entree) I'll consider it. I don't mind walking, and I'm fully ready for the weather (qualifications: 10 years living near Rochester, NY, and currently living in New England.) Since I'll be solo, I'd prefer safer neighborhoods (so, like, that awesome diner in the sketchy part of town that's a must-have experience post pub crawls at 1 am, not probably for me :)

So, Twin Cities MeFites: Help me have a great time in your town! Several people I've spoken to have all said I'm going to love Minneapolis, I just want to love it even more!
posted by absquatulate to Travel & Transportation around Minneapolis, MN (22 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
The Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Institute of Arts are both top-notch. The Walker'd be walkable (which would take you through Loring Park, which is very nice, and through the Mpls Sculpture Garden, which is also awesome) from where you're staying. MIA, you might need to take a bus down Nicollet ave, but that's easy (and the MIA's free).
posted by COBRA! at 11:32 AM on October 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sounds like Uptown is for you. Wander Lake Street east of Lake Calhoun (type Uptown Minneapolis in Google Maps). My sense has always been that Uptown is safer than it looks :D but I personally wouldn't want to be there alone very late. Getting a bus there from where you'll be should be simple, though I've never done it personally.

Also, they have those rentable bikes in Minneapolis now. (Again, never done it personally, so I don't know whether that distance is easy or advisable for biking.) Obviously that's weather-dependent.
posted by AugieAugustus at 11:34 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nye's Polonaise Room is right across the river from downtown. Moderately easy area to get to via public transit from where you are, too.
posted by gimonca at 11:41 AM on October 15, 2012

Yes yes yes to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts! The Terracotta Warriors exhibit will be in town from the end of October to January. I am so excited about it.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:51 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

the conservatory at Como park has always been a favorite of mine when in the Twin cities, fairly sure taking the bus there is an option though I never have.
posted by edgeways at 11:58 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I LOVE Minneapolis! Definitely hit the Walker - it's insanely enjoyable. For food, I recommend Hell's Kitchen (especially the sausage bread and mahnoming porridge - their breakfast stuff is generally better than their lunch stuff). Nicollet Ave. has lots of interesting stuff on it (the co-op, cool little stores, etc). I found the city to be super-walkable and very safe - although be sure to pack a toasty hat and gloves.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:01 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nice Ride bikes are a great way to get around town. Luckily, they will be around until early November. They have stations all around town. Six bucks gets you a daily pass and unlimited free 30-minute rides. Totally ideal for tourists looking to bike short distances round the city.

For downtown on the cheap, try out a variety of cheap food trucks for lunch. My favorites are Vellee Deli (Asian Latin fusion), Smack Shack (lobster rolls), and World Street Kitchen (international).

If you'd like something fancier for dinner, you cannot go wrong with 112 Eatery, a short bike ride or walk north downtown. Their 112 steak tartare is my favorite, but try their 112 burger - they use english muffins and brie! - with the butterscotch budino for dessert. Cafe Maude recently opened a location in Loring Park near downtown. I liked every meal I had in their south Mpls location, so I assume the new location will also be as good. Even just for happy hour, they have a great bar program.

Definitely go see the Stone Arch Bridge. A short bike ride from downtowm to see some awesome old flour factories, the Mississippi river, etc. Go watch the sun set or rise on the bridge, it's free and beautiful. Then you can have a beer at one of the oldest bars in the city or have a coffee or a meal at Wilde Roast , both of which are along the river in the St Anthony Main block.

Just around the corner from St Anthony Main, you're basically in Nordeast. Just check out any Yelp list for NE, Nordeast, or Northeast Minneapolis. I personally enjoy Pizza Nea for wood-fired 'za, Red Stag for happy hour, and I Like You! for locally made gifts.

For coffee, I love Peace coffee and Dogwood. Peace coffee is Dogwood has a small location in Uptown that is a bike or bus ride away, about three miles. Across the street is a great bookstore called Magers & Quinn that is great for browsing new and used. It's in the middle of a commercial-ish block so lots of other stores like Apple, Urban Outfitters, and what not. And just a few blocks away is Lake Calhoun, which is great for walking, biking, and people watching.

The American Swedish Institute just remodelled and also opened a new cafe, Fika. Fika has gotten good reviews and I was planning to go withut visiting the institute but you could make a morning or afternoon with both.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free and wonderful, though it is in a sketchy neighborhood. Go earlier in the day and reward yourself by heading over to Eat Street, which is on Nicollet Ave from 25th E to 29th E. Quang's is great for pho and banh mi, of which I will pick up a spare for a snack or later meal. I also love their vermicelli salads.

Krung Thep is a wonderful Thai place, a relation to renown Bangkok Thai Deli in St Paul. Their larbs - meat salad - are great but the spice levels are legit. Go for mild or none if you hate spice. Pancho Villa's is also a great place for cheap Mexican food and margaritas. Not the best Mexican in town, I prefer El Taco Riendo in NE, but cheap and fun.

IceHouse and Eat Street Social are the more hipster and slightly more upscale places on Eat Street. IceHouse has music nightly and interesting cocktails, so it's worth an evening. It's located in an old ice house so the architecture is cool too.

Also in the area is Vertical Endeavors, a great climbing gym. You can find a coupon for half off the daily admission - normally $15 dollars - in one of the local rags. City Pages or the Onion. If you'd like, you can also memail me since it's always more fun to climb in numbers!
posted by mlo at 12:10 PM on October 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

I was in Minneapolis for a conference recently - I ditched an evening event, took a bus into the night, and wound up at The Anchor Fish & Chips which is out at a little crossroads in a residential area. It was fantastic. I sat at the counter and talked to the owner (i think) and was very glad I found the place. Really good fish.
posted by gyusan at 12:11 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to the riverfront! It's on the opposite end of downtown from the convention center, but that's only like 12 blocks, and half the buses you see will be heading that way too. Take whatever bus is headed northeast on Nicollet Ave or Hennepin Ave, and get off at 1st street, just before the Hennepin Avenue bridge.

Both sides of the river are lined with park space and walking trails, so you can walk southeast along the river from there. You'll see The Guthrie Theater (one of our weirder architectural attractions, even if you don't want to catch a play), where you can go in for free during open hours to take in the view from the endless bridge. From there you'll be able to see the new 35W bridge, which replaced the one that made news by falling into the Mississippi a few years ago. The Mill City Museum is just up the street; it's a pretty cool place that teaches about this history of the area, and it's built in the exploded ruins of an old flour mill on the riverfront. Then walk across the Stone Arch Bridge, a biking and pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi. If you're lucky, you'll get to see a barge going through the lock-and-dam next to the bridge. Or if not, the view of the river and St. Anthony Falls is still great. On the far side of the river is the St. Anthony Main neighborhood, which has lots of little cafes and an indie movie theater. If you're getting cold from all this walking by the river, I would totally recommend a stop at Wilde Roast for some amazing hot beverages. Or follow Hennepin Ave a few blocks away from the river to visit Kramaczuk's restaurant for a meal. You can cross the Hennepin Ave bridge back into downtown, or catch a bus going the same direction.
posted by vytae at 12:18 PM on October 15, 2012

On top of what a previous commenter said - be advised that the Nice Ride bikes do get put away at some point in the winter - this could be as early as November.

I would definitely recommend the Walker and MIA for art, though there are plenty of great smaller galleries around.

Common Roots is one of my favorite places for local food (be sure to get a bagel there too!). It's also next-door to one of my old neighborhood dive bars, the CC Club (where The Replacements used to hang out).

In terms of history whatnots, there's the Mill City Museum, which is kinda interesting, and it's near the Stone Arch Bridge and you can see St. Anthony Falls (which is actually really low right now, but I digress). You can also take the light rail to Minnehaha Park, where there's a lock-and-dam, and a big pretty park.

I'd add more, but on preview I realize that mlo and vytae already did that for me (so the stereotype about Minnesotans being friendly and helpful is obviously true)
posted by antonymous at 12:23 PM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also wanted to add:

The Metro Transit bus system is decent for getting around. Their Trip Planner function is pretty good for figuring out what bus you need to take, but Google Map's version is more intuitive and accessible via smartphone.
posted by mlo at 12:27 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out the giant library at 4th and Nicollet downtown; there might be interesting events to go to, and buses go from there to everywhere.
posted by clavicle at 12:28 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd be jealous if you ate at Black Sheep.
posted by signondiego at 12:49 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The MIA is walkable from the Convention Center.

I guess I'll plug the Boiler Room as (I think) the closest non-chain coffee option to the Convention Center. (Actually, I think there's a cafe on 15th, but I've never been). I like the Boiler Room, though its proximinity to my apartment may be a major factor.

I would skip Uptown aside from Mager's and Quinn, which isn't worth a trip in and of itself. If you must, the 17 bus will take you there from the Convention Center.

the conservatory at Como park has always been a favorite of mine when in the Twin cities, fairly sure taking the bus there is an option though I never have.

The bus is an option, but the schedule is not so favourable on the weekend. (I think only one of the 3A/3B goes there and they run on alternate half hours on the weekend. If you're used to taking the bus, the walk from where the other route turns off is not awful.)

If you want an epic journey for Indian food, the Gandhi Mahal is the best Indian food I've found in Minneapolis (Bombay Bistro downtown is good, too). The best transport option might be the light rail to Lake Street. (Otherwise, you'd have to do the 18 to 21. The 21 is often really slow.)
posted by hoyland at 1:17 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, great lists fellow Twin Citizens! Going to focus on food and drinks myself:

I would like to second the recommendation for Hell's Kitchen and note that sometimes they have awesome live music. Weekend brunch + Johnny Cash cover band = one of the best Saturday mornings ever. Also they have stood up for gay marriage in Minnesota, and I like to support local businesses that do kick ass things like that.

Pizza Luce is a local favorite. They have a lot of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. And some very meatful ones. They are open and deliver until about 2 am and there is a location in downtown Minneapolis that is easily bussable or long walkable from the Minneapolis Convention Center. They serve good beer (including some local brews-- see below) and the downtown location has a fantastic brunch and bloody mary bar on the weekends.

At some point during your visit you have to try a Surly Brewing Company beer. They are a local award-winning brewery that has a rabid fanbase in the Midwest. The beers are unique and strong, so if you're a Miller Lite fan they will probably not work for you.

Brit's Pub is just a few blocks from the Minneapolis Convention Center on Nicollet Mall if you're looking for somewhere super close. They have beer and cider on tap (and serve it in half pints! Score for me) and really delicious British pub fare.

If you're looking for a more inexpensive place, hop on a southbound 18 bus on Nicollet and visit one of the restaurants between downtown and 28th Street. This part of Nicollet is also known as Eat Street. I'd recommend Little Tiajuana (open late, really good), Quang Restaurant (mmm pho and lemongrass chicken), Harry Singh's Original Caribbean Restaurant (a bit spicy for me, and call ahead because sometimes they have mysterious hours), or The Bad Waitress (coffee shop / diner).

As a lady walking/bussing alone, I feel pretty safe downtown and on this part of Nicollet at night. Have fun!
posted by stompadour at 1:37 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Recommendation for Krung Thep Thai - it's truly worth visiting if you like Thai and it's not particularly expensive either.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:48 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Blackbird Cafe has quickly become our favorite place to eat. They have a Banh Mi that brings me close to tears.
posted by werkzeuger at 2:11 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Minneapolis's local delicacy is the Jucy Lucy (a cheeseburger with the molten cheese inside the meat patty). The best place to enjoy one is at Matt's Bar. You could catch the #22 bus to Matt's from Downtown.

I would like to third the recommendation for Hell's Kitchen.
posted by Area Man at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ahh, the Bakken Museum is amazing, my favorite thing in Minne! Follow this with a red beer at Barbette. There's plenty to do in this fair city, but these two were tops for me.
posted by keasby at 4:30 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Boy, am I feeling the MeFi love today. Thank you for all these recommendations! I will print them out and try and convince some psycholinguists to go on excursions with me.
posted by absquatulate at 5:00 PM on October 15, 2012

The Anchor Fish & Chips which is out at a little crossroads in a residential area

Actually, that 13th and University area has several other bars and restaurants within walking distance; you could go to the Anchor and stop off at another nightspot for a drink after.
posted by gimonca at 7:59 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Report: Your recommendations were spot on, Twin Cities Mefites! I had a great time exploring the city, getting hopelessly lost in the Skyway, and enjoying The MIA and the many eats on Eat Street. I made it to: The Bad Waitress, Krung Thep, The MIA and the terracotta warriors, The Brit, Bombay Bistro (which was right across the street from my hotel), 8th Street Grill (which had a nice selection of regional brews), I went to the top of the Foshay, and up to the library (which I stumbled upon while fruitlessly searching for Luce). I didn't make it to the warehouse museum which I'm now regretting, nor did I see the parks all that much, but, I *did* have a conference to go to :)

I ate at Hell's Kitchen 3/4 mornings (one morning I want to LouAnn's Kitchen, and I regretted not going to Hell's Kitchen). I am hopelessly addicted to that place. When I told the server I was leaving that day and wanted an order of sausage bread as a snack for the plane ride, he gave me a small jar of peanut butter for free because "... you just have to trust me on this." ZOMG was he ever right.

So, a big thank you for all your recommendations!
posted by absquatulate at 6:23 AM on November 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

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