Is there enough to do in and around Minneapolis for 5 days?
August 1, 2013 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Looking for things to do in and around Minneapolis for 5 days.

So, my bride and I (and three girls 14, 12, 8) have had a difficult time deciding where to go for a 8/7-8/12 last minute road trip from Chicago. Not real cabin on the lake people and we wanted to limit the drive to about 6-7 hours max. Someone mentioned Minneapolis, and I have to admit, I know nothing of the place. Seems pretty cool at a glance, but we are tight for time and need to make a decision. We should probably stay within 30 minutes of downtown or downtown itself?

We really like the outdoors (hiking, biking, canoeing, etc.), and very much enjoy exploring neighborhoods in cities that we have not been to. Can you suggest a few things to do in the area (is Stillwater worth it?) Like I said, really green to the area and need a push. I have searched other questions, and they appear too specific. Thanks in advance.
posted by repoman to Travel & Transportation around Minneapolis, MN (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
WSJ story.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love Stillwater and the B&Bs there. They have a steamboat that's fun. Cool shops, great food. Same can be said for Minneapolis. I would suggest the MCAD museum and the Walker. Eat at Blackforrest. There's a lot of lakes. Mall of America?

I'd have no problem coming up with five days of things to do.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:01 AM on August 1, 2013

I'll put this here. I understand the 1/2 hour limit, but it's worth the extra 1/2 hour (about an hour to get there from downtown-ish area) Franconia Sculpture park. that alone would take up a whole day, it's very kid friendly as well.
posted by edgeways at 9:05 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I understand the 1/2 hour limit,

Sorry, was not clear. I meant accomodations should be within half hour.
posted by repoman at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2013

fwiw, any big city area should be able to entertain you for 5 days. hell I live in a small city 8 hours away from you and I could fill all five days for you here.

For the twin cities, as a non-native offering options:
Como Zoo and Conservatory
here is a list of possible things

(upon preview: oh if you're not limited to 1/2 from the cities, then also look at this map of MN State Parks, pick a few near-ish, in general Mn does a good job with it's parks.. and if it gets too hot in the Twin cities come 2 1/2 hours north to Duluth, whole nother slew of things up here, and you can say you've swam in one of the biggest lake sinthe world)
posted by edgeways at 9:14 AM on August 1, 2013

Where you should stay depends on what sort of vacation you envision, I think. If you like walking around cities, stay downtown. If you're just going to drive somewhere most days you're here, there's probably a case to be made for staying in the suburbs somewhere if it's cheaper. (Though "in the suburbs somewhere" is within half an hour anyway.)
posted by hoyland at 9:14 AM on August 1, 2013

There's lots of places to bike in Minneapolis, obviously. There are some fun things do do along the Mill City Ruins area, like the Museum, or bike across the stone arch bridge to St. Anthony Main, or go south along the Mississippi and head to Minnehaha Falls one day?

And yes, definitely go to Franconia Sculpture park for a day!

If you like cool interesting neighborhoods, maybe head down Milwaukee Avenue? I'd also probably eat somewhere on Eat Street, and you may as well go to the Walker Art Center (or at least check out the sculpture garden and see the cherry and spoon).

There's easily enough to do in the area for five days, and there's even more if you can get outside the suburbs - MN has plenty of places for hiking and camping (though hopefully someone with more experience can chime in on that).
posted by antonymous at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2013

Someone mentioned Minneapolis, and I have to admit, I know nothing of the place.

You must rectify this immediately. If you and your family like biking the Twin Cities (and surround area) have a TON to offer. Just get on the Midtown Greenway and go. The WSJ article lays out a ton of great things to do but just asking locals will give you a ton of things to check out. Every time we talked to someone and mentioned we were checking out the Twin Cities they had a list of things we HAD to do. All of which were excellent recommendations.

When my wife and I went up to the Twin Cities to check it out we stayed in Bloomington out by the Mall of America and were able to get to anywhere in the Twin Cities in less than a half hour.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 9:30 AM on August 1, 2013

If you're willing to head out towards Stillwater, definitely go to Taylors Falls and Interstate State Park. It's beautiful & they have these crazy glacial potholes.
posted by belladonna at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2013

Do NOT eat at the Black Forest Inn. Eat at Brasa, or Punch Pizza, or The Lowry, or Pizza Luce. Luce is my favorite place to stop when biking west out of Minneapolis on the Greenway (part of the awesome biking mentioned up the thread). Super kid friendly, loads of good beers on tap, great pizza, outdoor seating.

Look to see if the Twins are playing in town while you're there. Even if you don't like baseball that much Target Field is a lot of fun.

I also love the Franconia Sculpture Park, but it's a bit of a haul and I wouldn't do it as the only activity for the day. However, you could couple it with a trip to Taylors Falls and maybe Stillwater, both in the general area, and you've got a great day.

For museums, The Walker is incredible though somewhat inaccessible for people that don't mesh well with modern art. There is always some truly truly weird stuff going there. Minneapolis Institute of Art is great for a more traditional art museum.

You mentioned canoeing...while you can rent canoes in Taylors Falls or Stillwater (both of which are fun), you could also consider renting some boats at REI and going down Minnehaha Creek. It's kind of a wild experience, given that it's a very urban stream but while you are paddling down it there are large stretches that don't feel at all urban. A paddle trip from Gray's Bay in Minnetonka to SW Minneapolis takes about 4 hours and covers about 20 miles.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:02 AM on August 1, 2013

I should add, if you do end up going to the Walker, their sculpture garden, and particularly "the spoon", is one of the more iconic spots in the city.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:04 AM on August 1, 2013

If I had to pick one thing it would be the Mill City Museum -- absolutely fascinating. Besides the Walker, there's an interesting Russian art museum too.
The Arboretum, Minnehaha Falls, walking around the lakes are great outdoor activities. A St. Paul Saints minor-league baseball game is a real happening.
Have fun. I bet you'll love the Mini Apple.
posted by LonnieK at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2013

My wife and I went to Minneapolis a couple years ago and had a wonderful time. We stayed at a hotel near the Mall of America and made extensive use of the Blue Line/Hiawatha Line commuter train (We had a car, but after driving 7 hours we were sort of sick of it and was so much easier to use the train). Using just the Blue Line we visited Fort Snelling, Minnehaha Park, the Saint Anthony Falls district, the Mill City Museum, and the Guthrie Theatre. I think that covered 3 days. I think it takes the train 40-some minutes to go from one of its route to the other, so our max travel times were around 30 minutes. Using the car, we also visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Had we more time, we would have visited the Walker and its sculpture garden, explored neighborhoods and the downtown, and visited more parks. The canoe trip mcstayinskool mentions looks fantastic. It's quite easy to fill five days in the Twin Cities; we ended up having to cut some stuff.

Nthing the suggestion of asking locals what to see and do, everyone was extremely helpful and super-nice. We didn't have a set itinerary and so were able to incorporate suggestions into our plans and it worked out great.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:40 AM on August 1, 2013

A canoe trip down Minnehaha Creek is a great idea.

Some museums to consider are the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker, the Mill City Museum, and the Museum of Russian Art.

Get some Nice Ride Bikes and do a bike ride one day, perhaps down the Midtown Greenway.

Have a Jucy Lucy (the local delicacy) at Matt's Bar. Have some good German beer and sausage at The Black Forest Inn (sit outside in the beer garden).

The Fringe Festival will be going on, so seem some cool live theater.

Go to Moto-I and have some of the saki they brew with small plates of Japanese food.
posted by Area Man at 10:48 AM on August 1, 2013

Thanks to everyone so far and keep the suggestions coming. We are super excited as this thread has pushed us over the edge (as I knew it would).
posted by repoman at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2013

Biking around the Chain of Lakes is fun.
You can grab bike share bikes near the Walker Art Center (check out the free sculpture garden as others have mentioned) and bike through the upscale neighborhood to Lake of the Isles and explore trails from there. (there are also bike share at spots all around the lakes)
posted by starman at 11:21 AM on August 1, 2013

Here's the bike rental site, Nice Ride, and the map of all the spots you can rent them. The bikes are kind of....large. I think your 14 and 12 year olds could probably ride one of these, but I doubt the 8 year old could. But, might save you from having to haul 5 bikes on your trip and just bring one or two for the smallest ones.

Chain of Lakes is a great idea. I didn't think about it because I live just off of one and take them for granted. They are superb for low-key bike riding and people watching. The Lake Harriet bandshell and Tin Fish for food/drink/ice cream are two popular stops along those paths worth checking out. Lake Harriet bandshell has music every single night from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Quality varies dramatically.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2013

I live in St. Paul, and I can say there is definitely plenty to do in the Twin Cities for five days. As others have pointed out, this is a fantastic area for biking. the Midtown Greenway was recently named the best urban bike trail in the country. Biking around the chain of lakes or along the Mississippi river road is also a lot of fun.

For longer rides, there are quite a few regional trails, including the Gateway State trail, which runs for 18 miles all the way from St. Paul almost to Stillwater. Oh, and Harriet island in St. Paul is a wonderful place to bike through the woods with great views of the river.

Much of the stretch of the Mississippi that flows through the Twin Cities is a national park, so there are tons of great places to hike, bike or just take in the views.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend Stillwater for a short trip. It's a quaint enough town but it can get very crowded and touristy, especially on weekends in the summer.

Some neighborhoods I like to explore within the Twin Cities are downtown Minneapolis along Nicollet Mall, Uptown and the Lakes, the Minneapolis riverfront and St. Anthony Main, Summit and Grand Avenues in St. Paul and Northeast Minneapolis. Definitely make time to go to the Mill City Museum and walk across the stone arch bridge.
posted by meganh44 at 8:33 PM on August 1, 2013

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