Minneapolis-St. Paul in the Winter
November 13, 2018 3:09 PM   Subscribe

It looks like I am going to be visiting family in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area sometime in the next few months, and I want to make sure my hosts don't have to figure out all entertainment/experiences on their own. What should I do/see in the Twin Cities in winter? I'll check out some guide books, but I'd love some personal recommendations. And if there's something I should definitely skip, I'd like to hear about that as well.

I like: museums, art, local music, nature, theater, animals of all kinds, local history, artsy shops, walking around interesting neighborhoods,quirky tours, cool coffee shops for hanging out in, good casual restaurants, farmers markets...free or low cost stuff is great, but I'm willing to spend a little money for a great experience.

I like a mix of low key and adventure.

Not interested in: gourmet dining, cars, high end clothing, clubbing

I'll have access to a car, and public transit. I don't mind driving a bit outside the Twin Cities area.
posted by Archipelago to Travel & Transportation around Twin Cities, MN (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
The St Paul Winter Carnival can be a good time if you're here in late January.
posted by nathan_teske at 5:46 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's hard to even know where to start! Since moving back a few years ago, I have so loved getting to know my old home state all over again. Off the top of my head...

The Bell Museum is new!
I always enjoy Minneapolis Institute of Art whenever I visit!
Minnesota Zoo is always a hit with my visitors!
Betty Danger's Country Club is my Pee-wee's Playhouse dream come to life!

How do you feel about Prince? Paisley Park is outside the Cities a bit, and the Arboretum is practically across the street. And then you could complete the Chanhassen trifecta by hitting ye olde dinner theatre.

I don't know if I'm broaching the "gourmet" wall but we have a great restaurant scene these days! I haven't made it to all these places yet but Colita and In Bloom are amazing...
Young Joni or her sister Pizzeria Lola
Martina is my current favorite restaurant here.
Fave coffee (and also wine bar) joint!
Hamburguesas El Gordo!
Perhaps you could solve the riddle of who makes the best Lucy in town!

Off the beaten track, but...
I have to mention the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona. I had no idea it existed until I popped in a couple years back and was blown away. On the way there, you could hit up Lark Toys. Red Wing is also on the way!
If you wanted to head way up north, Ely is sort of the quintessential "up north" Minnesota town imho. Cute shops interspersed with outdoorsy outfitters.

I am not a paid Minnesota Tourism Bureau Propagandist. I just really love Minnesota.
posted by kittyb at 7:03 PM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Upstairs Circus is a really great thing to do with some friends as a group: it's a crafting bar where you pick a project from a menu of choices (like: make your own custom leather wallet, do a stencil art, etc) and get all the tools and instructions you need to accomplish it, while also drinking in a very casual, fun, low-stress environment. They have small plates to order and free popcorn, or you can order food from any of the nearby restaurants and eat while you work. Takes about 2-3 hours, budget maybe $50 per person.
posted by odinsdream at 8:57 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm going to have to go through some of kittyb's recs myself. But mostly here to 2nd Hamburguesas El Gordo. Lived nearby until recently and went there often.
posted by MillMan at 9:19 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Damn, kittyb laid out the highlights already!

The Minnesota History Center is awesome, and the newly-restored State Capitol building nearby is gorgeous. A tour of the Cathedral is also very cool.

It’s hard to avoid outside stuff in the Twin Cities: lots of people are SUPER active there, year ‘round.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:15 AM on November 14, 2018


If you want to get a little exercise, walking around Lake of the Isles and gawking at the million-dollar houses is fun. If it's too cold, walking the skywalk downtown is fun too.

Seconding the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Wide range of amazing pieces, from ancient to contemporary. (And it's free)

If you're an order-at-the-counter type person check out World Street Kitchen. Explore Lyn-Lake/Uptown neighborhoods while you are in the area.
posted by starman at 7:32 AM on November 14, 2018


Five Watt coffee is a rapidly expanding local coffee shop chain-let. They make some truly amazing beverages (i generally drink black drip but i make an exception for their very inventive creations - the options vary slightly by location but they do a bunch of things with bitters/salts/syrups that are just super awesome). The original in Minneapolis has been joined by a bunch of other locations - including in the Keg & Case market where a couple of the restaurants on the linked list from kittyb are also located - its a really cool reuse of an old brewery space, although i would say that that particular location of five watt has the least "chill in a coffee house" vibe bc its part of the broader food hall. Keg and Case was worth a stop - also always love the Midtown Global market for a slightly less recent example of repurposing old industrial spaces.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I visit every couple of years at Christmas, and the poinsettias (and warmth!) at Como Park Conservatory are always a highlight. The Mill City museum is much more interesting than it ought to be. When I was at Macalester I used to love wandering through the shops on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. The Hungry Mind is gone, alas, but Garrison Keillor's Common Good Bookstore is worth a browse.
posted by libraryhead at 8:15 AM on November 14, 2018


Mill City museum

A lot of the MN Historical Society's sites, including the Mill City Museum, routinely offer behind the scenes tours of areas that aren't open to the general public -- e.g., at the JJ Hill house they'll take you up into the staff quarters and down into the coal bunker. The docents know their stuff and use the smaller tours to go into deeper depth than they can with a larger tour group.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:22 AM on November 14, 2018


Five Watt is indeed excellent, I hang out there on occasion and get my beans there. I also really like Angry Catfish - it's a combo coffee shop and bike shop, and they do legitimately good coffee.
posted by MillMan at 11:22 AM on November 14, 2018


The Midtown Global Market is pretty nifty, both as a market and as a great place to get a bite to eat. It's an enclosed bazaar-type market and many of the merchants sell food that can be eaten in a central food court-type sitting area.

It's similar to Cleveland's West Side Market, if you are familiar with that.
posted by tubedogg at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Can Can Wonderland is exquisitely weird, artist-designed indoor mini golf + food and drinks and vintage arcade games. It is lots of fun with groups of all ages.

Surly Brewing has a really fun food menu and lots of local unique brews. If Surly is too big, there are a plethora of other smaller but equally good locations for dinner + a beverage without breaking the bank - Town Hall (or Town Hall Lanes, if you prefer bowling!), Northbound Smokehouse, etc.

A Jucy Lucy roundup is never bad. When my dad visited we had fun comparing the one at Matt's Bar to the offerings at the 5-8 Club.

Minnesota Science Museum is great, you can pick up your very own Stranger Things brontosaurus sweatshirt as a souvenir. Walker Art Museum is also quite fun. (They sadly lack brontosauri, though.) And there's the smaller but also lovely Weisman Museum on the UMN campus (free admission! No dinosaurs.)

If you're into the outdoors, hike around one of the many fine lakes. Preferably early in the morning, with a hot coffee. Or try a hike at Fort Snelling, accessible from the 50th St light rail (cross the 4 lane road, turn right on the bike trail, walk and enjoy the winter weather in the woods along the Mississippi!)

Good luck. I've been here since 2007 and still haven't explored it all.
posted by caution live frogs at 3:03 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


My current favorite coffee shop in the Cities is Mojo Coffee Gallery in Nordeast. It is definitely a place you can hang out as long as you wish and some evenings they have live music. The building it's in (the California Building) is an old grain mill filled with artists' studios. There are a couple similar places nearby: the Casket Arts Building and the Northrup-King Building. This site describes the Nordeast art studio scene. Note: it is sometimes spelled "northeast" but it is usually pronounced "nordeast."
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:19 PM on November 16, 2018


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