There’s a ton of great things to do in Minneapolis on a vacation, so let’s start with a bit of background on the city before we get down to listing all the best attractions. Minneapolis and is home to around 425,000 people; with many of German and Scandinavian descent. Minneapolis, the neighboring city, St Paul, and the surrounding areas are collectively known as The Twin Cities. Minneapolis is the largest city in the state, and St Paul is the state capital. Both cities are based around the Mississippi and St Croix Rivers. Although they are commonly known within Minnesota as ‘the cities’, they are both recognized as separate entities in their own right. Minneapolis gets its name from the Dakota Sioux word for water ‘mni’ and the Greek word for city, which is ‘polis.’
So, let’s take you on a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in Minneapolis on your visit.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Based in the Whittier neighborhood and spanning 8 acres, the MIA is the state’s premier fine art museum. The Museum is home to more than 50,000 works of art, spanning a time period of more than 5,000 years. Pieces comes from all over the world and highlights include works by El Greco, Van Gogh, Max Beckmann, Henry Moore, and Henri Matisse. In addition to the main museum, there’s an enormous research library and a dedicated play space for little ones on site. The people at MIA have made sure that the Institute is completely family-friendly and this makes it one of the best things to do in Minneapolis with kids.
Mall of America
Technically, the Mall of America is located in Bloomington, Minn, but as it’s just across the Interstate from the Twin Cities, we have to include it. By area, it is the largest shopping mall in the United States. We’re not kidding when we say it’s beyond enormous. In fact, it’s so big and so popular, it has its own transit station to ferry people back and forth with all their shopping. The mall is built over three levels, and its anchor stores are Macy’s and Nordstrom. As well as more shops than we’ve ever seen, Mall of America has an indoor theme park and a giant multiplex cinema. We think you could live there forever and never get bored. A visit to the mall is a top thing to do in Minneapolis. I mean, you’re not living your best life until you’ve been in the biggest mall in the US.
Minnehaha is one of Minnesota’s oldest parks and spans 170 acres to the south of the city center. The park has been in use since 1883 and has preserved many of the original historic features within its boundaries. These include a Victorian train depot and John H Steven’s House, which is known as the ‘birthplace of Minneapolis.’ The home was the first abode to be authorized for construction on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The main attraction in the park, however, is the graceful Minnehaha Falls. The Falls are especially pretty when lit up at night. The park is a great thing to do in Minneapolis and provides a welcome break from the madness of downtown.
Walker Art Center
Walker Art Center is arguably the most famous art space in Minneapolis, and it’s got a fair bit of quality competition. The permanent collection of the Lowry Hill venue has more than 13,000 items and includes painting, photography, and sculpture. The art center started life as a private collection but was turned into an official publicly viewable collection in 1927. Since then, it’s become one of the United States’ most visited galleries. The Walker owns works by Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, and Yoko Ono and has an impressive array of exhibitions throughout the year.
Tickets required, available online or from the entrance, $10-15
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden spans 10 acres of land next to the Walker Art Center and is the largest sculpture garden in the world. It’s also home to the legendary ‘Spoonbridge and Cherry’ by Claes Oldenburg, which has become an unofficial symbol of the city. It’s a massive spoon with a cherry at the end, and it’s awesome. The park has 40 other sculptures and its newest addition, ‘Shadow at the Crossroads’ was only installed in June 2019 and was created by two local artists. Visiting the garden is a great thing to do in Minneapolis for all the family. It’s a good place to take a walk and provides a wee bit of peace and quiet from the crowded downtown streets. There’s no entry charge, so it’s also one of the best free things to do in Minneapolis.
If you’re looking for things to do in Minneapolis with kids or in the winter, Nickelodeon Universe covers all bases. This indoor theme park is based inside the Mall of America. All of Nickelodeon’s favorite characters are there, including the little pink guy that lives under the sea. We think he’s called Bob and he appears to be made of sponge. Kids like the weirdest stuff, but what can you do? Anyway, children appear to adore the theme park and can often be heard screaming and laughing while they’re around it. We’d rather be in Bath and Body Works or shopping in Macy’s, but whatever. We jest, of course; it’s pretty amazing, and kids really do adore spending time there. It’s not often they get to ride an actual indoor roller-coaster. And it’s almost never that this happens in the foyer of a shopping mall.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, from $3.80 for 1 ride to $73.99 for 14-28 rides. Day passes are also available.
Basilica of St. Mary
This Hennepin Avenue beauty is the sister to St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s as beautiful outside as inside, and it’s a must-see thing to do in Minneapolis. It was declared a minor basilica in 1926, making it the very first basilica in the United States. The walls are made from white Vermont granite, and the height of the roof dome is 138 feet. The basilica is fully operational, so if you do pop in, be mindful of services and prayers being held. The Basilica looks beautiful in daylight hours, but it’s also beautifully lit at night and can be seen from across the city.
Off-beat things to do in Minneapolis
Have you ever played a Sidewalk Harp? We didn’t think so. Head downtown to the Be The Match building and check out the amazing interactive installation designed by Jen Lewin. If you wave your hands beneath the sensors on the 40-foot long metal wave on the building, each will play a note. They’re designed to be ‘plucked’ like a harp but, obviously, this particular harp is WAY better than the regular old boring ones. We like to hang around in front of the Sidewalk Harp and then start playing when tourists walk by. It gives them quite a shock, and this is amusing for us. We never said we were good people.
FAQs About Minneapolis
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Minneapolis. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this Midwestern city has to offer.
What is Minneapolis Minnesota known for?
Minneapolis is known for its love of sports and, in particular, its NHL hockey team, Minnesota Wild., It also has an NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings. The rivalry between the Vikings and Wisconsin’s Green Bay Packers is legendary. The derby games mean a battle to the death between the neighboring states and it’s quite something to behold. Skol, Vikings!
What is there to do in the Twin Cities?
Well, since we’ve given you a guide to some of the best things to do in Minneapolis, let us give you a few things to do in St Paul. Visiting the Cathedral of St Paul is a must-see in the city. It’s a gorgeous Roman Catholic Basilica and its sister cathedral, St Mary’s, is based in Minneapolis. If you have little ones to occupy, take them to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory for the day. The zoo is home to the cutest Polar Bears we’ve ever seen. They’re called Neil and Buzz, and they must be so at home in Minnesota in the winter. If anyone can cope with the obscenely cold weather, it’s them.
Is Minneapolis safe?
Southern Minneapolis has a lower crime rate than the northern end of the city. However, the city as a whole did feature at number 19 on the list of the 20 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States in 2017. However, a sharp drop was reported in the crime rate by the city’s Police Force for 2018, which is good news for everyone. As with any major metropolitan city, there are ways to keep safe. Don’t venture out on your own after dark, get a cab or Uber if you’re far from your hotel or apartment, and always keep your valuables hidden away.
What food is Minneapolis famous for?
Where do we start? Minneapolis and the wider state of Minnesota are home to many iconic foodstuffs. These include wild rice, the Juicy Lucy (a burger stuffed with cheese), and Minnesota-style pizza. The pizza, which has a thin base and is loaded with toppings, is cut into squares instead of slices. Minneapolis always has to go one better than everyone else.
What is Minnesota famous for?
Minnesota is famous for 3M, who invented Scotch Tape, for which everyone who has ever wrapped a Christmas present is eternally grateful. Thanks, guys! Minnesota is also responsible for the stapler and Aveda beauty products. The state is also famous for the sheer number of lakes it has. It’s not called Land of 10,000 lakes for nothing, you know. And last, but by no means least, it produced the Purple Rain man himself, Prince.
Minneapolis is an atmospheric city, famed for its innovative companies, its position on the Mississippi River, and its super cold winters. The city, combined with St Paul, is the third-largest Midwestern economy after Chicago and Detroit. Minneapolis has a great reputation for the quality of its art and its plethora of green spaces. The city is really diverse, with large numbers of residents from German, Polish and Scandinavian backgrounds. This means their cuisine is an eclectic mix of American, with Swedish meatballs, German beer and Polish sausage thrown in the mix. Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport serves the city, and there’s a huge range of accommodation to suit every budget. We hope we’ve convinced you of all the wonderful things to do in Minneapolis and hope it features on vacation list in the very near future.