Offering a vibrant urban life, a great food scene and more lakes than you could ever want to visit, Minneapolis is a lot more than home to the biggest shopping centre in the United States. I visited the city to catch up with a good friend I met during my exchange program in Montana, and grew very fond of the city. (I suspect the Midwestern friendliness had something to do with it!) If you’re planning a city trip to Minneapolis, here are the best things to do and see, from hiking to the Minnehaha Falls to learning about the city’s industrial past.
Cross the Stone Arch Bridge
Starting off with one of my favourite places in the city: the Stone Arch Bridge. What better way to start your city trip than by taking in beautiful views of Minneapolis’ skyline. In my opinion, it is one of the most picturesque bridges I’ve visited with the Brooklyn Bridge in New-York and the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal. As you walk towards Downtown Minneapolis, you can enjoy a gorgeous view over the city skyline and main attractions such as the Mill City museum, Saint Anthony Falls, the City Hall, Guthrie Theatre, and US Bank Stadium. A must-do!
Stop by the Minneapolis City Hall
Make your way downtown to the City Hall and get a feel for Minneapolis. Featuring arched entryways and rose granite blocks, the Minneapolis City Hall is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. Its copper roof makes the building stand out, while its small towers reminded me of Medieval castles. If you walk around the city centre long enough, you’ll probably notice elevated bridges that connect different buildings together. They are actually part of the Minneapolis Skyway System and link buildings over 18 kilometres (!) so people don’t have to brace the cold in the winter. I didn’t use them as I visited the city in the summer, but I can see how they would be useful during the colder months.
Visit the Mill City Museum
Did you ever wonder why Minneapolis is sometimes referred to as the Mill City?! I’ll tell you. Back in the days, Minneapolis used to be the flour milling capital of the world and the city grew at the beat of the flour mills. Its industrial past is brilliantly told at the Mill City Museum, housed in what used to be the biggest flour mill in the world. If you visit Minneapolis on the weekend, make sure to go on Saturday to have lunch at the Farmers Market that takes place next door.
Explore the Mill City Ruins
After visiting the museum, walk around the Mill City ruins to get another glimpse of the history of flour milling in Minneapolis. Bordering the Mississippi River, the entrance is free and various boards positioned along the trail will tell you about the fires and other events that transformed the city’s industrial landscape. Fortunately, not all mills were destroyed, so pay attention to the buildings along the main road. They used to be working mills, but have now been converted into apartments and offices.
Hike to the Minnehaha Falls
Ready for a nature break?! Me too! Head to the Minnehaha Park located south of Minneapolis. Part of the Chain of lakes, the nature reserve is a real haven in the city. Walk up to the waterfalls and then follow the trail along the Minnehaha Creek until the junction with the Mississippi River for a peaceful walk that will make you forget you’re actually really close to the airport and the Mall of America. This proximity, however, means that it gets quite crowded, so if you visit in the summer, try to go in the morning.
Bike around the Chain of Lakes
With 13 lakes and 24 kilometers of biking trails, I think it’s fair to say that Minneapolis deserves its other nickname, the city of lakes. In the summer, they become a huge playground for fun outdoor adventures. You can rent a bike and cycle around the park, or for the more adventurous of you, try a new water sport such as paddleboarding or kayaking. We paddle boarded on Lake Minnetonka and I enjoyed every minute of it! It was my first time, so I expected to fall within 5 minutes of standing on the board, but it’s surprisingly easier than it looks, and I’m glad to report that I didn’t get a toe wet.
Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art
The museum of fine arts in Minneapolis is one of the largest art museums in the United States and has an impressive collection of paintings, drawings, textiles, etc. from all around the world. Good news, general admission is free. I personally particularly enjoyed the Aboriginal art section and impressionist paintings collection. Pictured is one of my favorite that the museum displays: La Place Saint-Marc, Venise by Renoir.
Enjoy the view from the Guthrie Theatre
Located along the Mississippi River, right next to the Mill City Museum, the Guthrie Theatre’s new building is worth a visit, even if you’re not planning on attending a play. Overlooking the city, the view from the terrace is outstanding. If you walk across its so-called Endless Bridge, you’ll also have panoramic views over the rest of Minneapolis. Entrance is free during opening hours!
Shop at the Mall of America
Finally, if you have time left and are into shopping, drive to the Mall of America, where you will find every brand and every store you can think of. Being the biggest shopping centre in the United States, make sure to allocate at least two hours to roam around the mall as you will most likely get lost. I personally couldn’t find the exit to the public transport despite having looked it up various times on their interactive maps. I guess I’m better at orienting myself in the city or in the wild! If you’re with kids, don’t miss out on the Nickelodeon centre, which is the fun part of the mall and what makes it stand apart.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know which places you’d love to visit and what was your favourite thing to do if you’ve already been to Minneapolis.