Minneapolis is on the map in a major way these days, but this typically under-the-radar city is a bit of a hidden gem. Having spent considerable time living in both Minneapolis and New York City, I can say with some degree of self-proclaimed authority that Minneapolis has earned its spin off nickname - the “Mini-Apple”.
The city is filled with arts and culture, and as our license plates will tell you - lakes. Foodies, music geeks and nature freaks will all equally find a bevy of places and activities to tickle their respective fancies.
First Avenue. Photo by Ralph Katieb
All four seasons hit hard in Minnesota, and we embrace them. There’s a bicycle culture that rivals Amsterdam’s and it’s a year-round deal. If, in the non-snowy months, a bike sounds like an interesting way to get around, there are rental stations everywhere you turn. Pick up a bike, cycle the town, and drop where you’d like to call it quits.
The Chain of Lakes is the hotspot during the summer months. Bde Mka Ska (formerly Calhoun) is the liveliest of the big three lakes, bursting with activity on the water. It’s a great place to rent a kayak or a paddle board, or, hang by the docks long enough and you may just get invited out for a sail.
Bde Mka Ska. Photo by Lucas Ludwig
It’s a short wander from the lake to Uptown Minneapolis, where you can extend your time outdoors while grabbing a bite to eat on one of the many rooftops or patios nearby. Lake & Irving boasts an unbelievable burger, and if that’s not up your alley there are great options throughout the area to suit every palate. French Meadow is delicious and super vegan/veg friendly. Try their toasted coconut cake. Trust me.
The best nighttime experience? Music. There’s no shortage of ways to experience great music in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Orchestra is one of the best in the country and, in lieu of traditional pre-COVID performances, they’re hosting outdoor chamber music throughout the month of August. Prefer to dine while you listen to live music at an intimate venue? Make your way to the cobblestone streets of St Anthony Main and head into Aster Cafe. It’s reminiscent of French cave restaurants in the sense that it’s dimly lit with masses of dripping candles that project a warm glow on the surrounding brick walls and wood tables. They’ve got great live music nightly and an enormous patio along the edge of the river if a glass of wine outside is your preference.
Aster Cafe. Photo by Weston MacKinnon
Of course, Minneapolis won’t let anyone leave before mentioning one of its most popular claims to fame: Prince. There are murals abound, and if you visit during the month of April the city lights up purple in his memory. The bridges, church towers, and downtown buildings can all be found aglow in the hue of royalty. And since we’re discussing music venues, a trip to Minneapolis wouldn’t be complete without a visit to First Ave. It’s a small concert hall that welcomes big talent and is the setting for Prince’s first “Purple Rain” performance in the film of the same title. If you don’t get in to listen to music you can still sharpen your selfie skills beside Prince’s star on the wall outside. Oh, by the way, we’re not going to let you forget about Bob Dylan either, so while you’re on your selfie tour remember to swing by the incredible Dylan mural on 5th and Hennepin.
Minneapolis's other musical prodigy. Photo by Weston MacKinnon
Speaking of murals, art is great way to wrap up a visit to Minneapolis. And it’s everywhere right now. There are multiple art museums that are not to be missed, but the biggest art scene at present is the display of street murals along Lake Street and along Hennepin Avenue. Regardless of what way anyone feels about the issues, Minneapolis is in the middle of a huge moment in history, and if you’re somehow unaware of it, the pop-up murals on the boarded up businesses will tell the tale.
At the end of any day, this city is drawn together by art, as can be seen in what is perhaps the most iconic scene in all of Minneapolis - the cherry on the spoon. With the Basilica of St Mary and downtown Minneapolis as its backdrop, the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen has become the most recognizable visual representation of the city. The structure stands alongside many others in the sculpture garden belonging to the modern style Walker Art Center. Grab a seat on the lawn and take your best snapshot before calling it a day in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Walker Art Center.
- Christine S.
Christine is a true-blue native of Minneapolis. She’s lived in New York and Boston, but neither compared. She loves to travel and explores the world whenever she gets the chance. Christine has many creative strengths, but her make-up artistry is off the hook. She definitely creates some serious Halloween costume envy.