Minneapolis City Guide

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Photo by: Joe Bielawa (CC BY 2.0)

Visiting Minneapolis

Water, most notably the Mississippi River, but also Minnehaha Creek and the Chain of Lakes, shaped the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, literally. The river, creeks and lakes provide the defining beauty and character of the landscape. They also attracted people, supported the industries the led to the growth of the cities and encourage the active lifestyle of today’s citizens.

Accordion

Multi-use trails now follow these waterways and form the backbone of vast trails systems, which make Minneapolis and Saint Paul inviting places to bike and walk. Of course, this was no accident. The parks were planned at the same time that the cities were developing in the nineteenth century. Planning was meant to preserve the most beautiful land for public use, before it fell into private ownership. In 1883, Horace Cleveland, the landscape architect responsible for designing the original parks plans in both cities wrote:

“Look forward for a century, to the time when the city has a population of a million, and think what will be their wants. They will have wealth enough to purchase all that money can buy, but all their wealth cannot purchase a lost opportunity, or restore natural features of grandeur and beauty, which would then possess priceless value, and which you can preserve if you will but say the word and save them from the destruction which certainly awaits them if you fail to utter it.”

Thankfully, leaders in both cities heeded his advice, and more than 125 years later, nearly all the waterfront in Minneapolis, the City of Lakes, is owned by the public. More than a hundred miles of biking and walking trails pass through the parks included in the Grand Rounds, a nationally recognized scenic byway passing the Mississippi River, Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis. In Saint Paul, the southern half of the Grand Round is a paved multi-use trail and upgrades are planned for the northern half.

Subsequent generations have also expanded biking and walking opportunities by building more on-street bike lanes and multi-use trails connecting to the original Grand Rounds. A number of trails have been built in underutilized industrial corridors. The prime example is the award-winning Midtown Greenway, a 5.5-mile, east-west multi-use trail built in an old railroad corridor in south Minneapolis. Other examples, utilizing rail corridors include the Kenilworth and Cedar Lake Trials. The Dinkytown Greenway is built across an old railroad bridge, and the iconic Stone Arch Bridge is another former railroad bridge that’s been restored for biking and walking use.

Today, trails, on-street bike lanes, and low-stress neighborhood streets combine to provide increasingly functional bike networks, and the result is (surprise, surprise) more biking. Bike traffic increased 53 percent in Minneapolis, between 2007 and 2015, and 33 percent in Saint Paul according to city bike counts.

Visitors will notice trails are well used, particularly in Minneapolis, which is always nipping at Portland’s heels, in pursuit of most bike-friendly city in the U.S. Businesses are also beginning to understand that customers travel by bike and more and more bike racks and bike corrals are appearing on sidewalks and streets. Even drivers seem to be more aware of the need to look for bikers.

As popular as biking is, trails are not just the domain of bicyclists. Downtown Minneapolis on a Saturday afternoon may feel quiet, but head east to the river and find runners, walkers, dog-walkers and people doing a variety of activities on the trail.

Walking the trails through the parks systems is certainly an enjoyable way to observe the landscape, but also a great opportunity to people watch and absorb the culture of the cities. Expect to hear Spanish, Somali and Hmong being spoken. Expect the parks to be bustling, especially in the warmer months, and don’t be surprised the action doesn’t stop after October. Walking, running and biking are year-round activities, and hockey, sledding and skiing bring people out in the snow and ice. 

In fact, the cold weather is probably one of the main reasons people do live so actively in the Twin Cities. Summer is short and sweet, and so people fully embrace it by spending as much time outdoors as possible. Yet, winter cannot be endured, if one never leaves the house. The conventional wisdom is to get out and embrace winter.

So, it’s not a question of nature versus nurture when trying to understand why the Twin Cities are such a great place to bike and walk. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are great for biking and walking, because they are designed around accessible and attractive outdoor spaces, and because the extreme climate pushes people out the door. 

Planning your visit

calendar

When to Visit

To find out why people live in Minnesota, visit in June when the sun doesn’t set until nearly 10 p.m. and lakes offer sweet relief. Though, it could be argued the cities are at their best in September and October when autumn leaves turn. In winter months, the city’s trails are enjoyed for skiing, fat-tire biking and snowshoeing.

bicycle

Bike-Share Program

Nice Ride Minnesota (niceridemn.org), the region’s bike-share system, operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from April through November. More than 200 stations are available throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. You can purchase single rides or a 24-hour pass which includes unlimited 30-minute rides.

transport

Public Transportation

Metro Transit (metrotransit.org) offers light-rail service on two lines: Blue (running between the Mall of America, the airport and downtown) and Green (connecting Minneapolis and St Paul). The Red Line is a bus route between the Mall of America and Apple Valley. Tickets can be purchased at each station or via a mobile app. Bike racks are available in each light-rail car, and two bicycles can fit on each bus.

transport

Getting There

The Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) is located about 12 miles south of downtown. There are light-rail stations at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, where you can board the Blue Line. Trains run every 10-15 minutes and it’s about a 25-minute trip to reach downtown.

Travel Resources

Check out these helpful websites for planning your travel in Minneapolis.

Self-Guided Tours

Things to see and do in Minneapolis

Hmongtown Marketplace

217 Como Avenue, MN, Saint Paul, 55103
hmongtownmarketplace.com

Saint Paul has the second largest Hmong community in the United States. Come experience Hmong food and culture at this year-round market.

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Hmongtown Marketplace

217 Como Avenue, MN, Saint Paul, 55103
hmongtownmarketplace.com

Saint Paul has the second largest Hmong community in the United States. Come experience Hmong food and culture at this year-round market.

St. Paul Farmers Market

290 5th St E, MN, Minneapolis, 55101

Spend a Saturday morning exploring (and sampling) the freshest local fruit and veggies, meats, cheeses and more and taste how sweet, if short, the growing season is in Minnesota.

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St. Paul Farmers Market

290 5th St E, MN, Minneapolis, 55101

Spend a Saturday morning exploring (and sampling) the freshest local fruit and veggies, meats, cheeses and more and taste how sweet, if short, the growing season is in Minnesota.

Aster Caf¿

125 SE Main St, MN, Minneapolis, 55414
astercafe.com

One of the most pleasant patios in Minneapolis, Aster Caf¿ is on a dreamy spot to stop for a drink or dinner. It's only across the river from downtown, but it feels a world away, especially once the...

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Aster Caf¿

125 SE Main St, MN, Minneapolis, 55414
astercafe.com
One of the most pleasant patios in Minneapolis, Aster Caf¿ is on a dreamy spot to stop for a drink or dinner. It's only across the river from downtown, but it feels a world away, especially once the live music starts.

Eat Street

Nicollet Avenue S between E , MN, Minneapolis,
twincities.eater.com

A string of blocks running from Franklin Ave to the Midtown Greenway featuring restaurants serving everything from Vietnamese to Jamaican with highlights, including pho from Quang Restaurant, bahn mi...

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Eat Street

Nicollet Avenue S between E , MN, Minneapolis,
twincities.eater.com
A string of blocks running from Franklin Ave to the Midtown Greenway featuring restaurants serving everything from Vietnamese to Jamaican with highlights, including pho from Quang Restaurant, bahn mi from Lu's Sandwich and gourmet doughnuts from Glam Doll.

Izzy's Ice Cream

1100 S 2nd St, MN, Minneapolis, 55415
www.izzysicecream.com

Gourmet ice cream in tons of creative flavors, do you really need to hear more?

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Izzy's Ice Cream

1100 S 2nd St, MN, Minneapolis, 55415
www.izzysicecream.com
Gourmet ice cream in tons of creative flavors, do you really need to hear more?

Midtown Global Market

920 E Lake St, MN, Minneapolis, 55407
www.midtownglobalmarket.org

Conveniently located off the Midtown Greenway, you can truly taste the Twin Cities at the Midtown Global Market where you'll find authentic tamales at La Loma, French pastries at Salty Tart, craft...

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Midtown Global Market

920 E Lake St, MN, Minneapolis, 55407
www.midtownglobalmarket.org
Conveniently located off the Midtown Greenway, you can truly taste the Twin Cities at the Midtown Global Market where you'll find authentic tamales at La Loma, French pastries at Salty Tart, craft beers and kombucha at East Lake Brewery and everything in between.

Sea Salt Eatery

4825 Minnehaha Ave, MN, Minneapolis, 55417
seasalteatery.wordpress.com

Gorge on fried seafood at this seasonal (April through October) restaurant next to Minnehaha Falls. If the weather's nice, be prepared to wait in line. Pro top: Beer and wine can be ordered at a...

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Sea Salt Eatery

4825 Minnehaha Ave, MN, Minneapolis, 55417
seasalteatery.wordpress.com
Gorge on fried seafood at this seasonal (April through October) restaurant next to Minnehaha Falls. If the weather's nice, be prepared to wait in line. Pro top: Beer and wine can be ordered at a separate counter, so you can sip while you wait.

Restaurant Alma & Caf¿ Alma

528 University Ave SE, MN, Minneapolis, 55414
www.almampls.com

Chef Alex Roberts is a James Beard award-winning chef who operates two restaurants in the space below the Alma Hotel. Alma Caf¿ offers bakery and casual dining all day, walk-ins are welcome. Next...

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Restaurant Alma & Caf¿ Alma

528 University Ave SE, MN, Minneapolis, 55414
www.almampls.com
Chef Alex Roberts is a James Beard award-winning chef who operates two restaurants in the space below the Alma Hotel. Alma Caf¿ offers bakery and casual dining all day, walk-ins are welcome. Next door, Restaurant Alma offers three-course, prix fixe dinners. Roberts also operates the casual and delicious Brasa Premium Rotisserie, which has a location nearby in Saint Anthony Main, plus one in Saint Paul.

Science Museum of Minnesota

120 W Kellogg Blvd, MN, Saint Paul, 55102
www.smm.org

Perched above the bluffs over the Mississippi River in downtown Saint Paul, the museum is sure to delight kids and adults alike with its collection of dinosaur bones and fossils, omnitheater films and...

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Science Museum of Minnesota

120 W Kellogg Blvd, MN, Saint Paul, 55102
www.smm.org

Perched above the bluffs over the Mississippi River in downtown Saint Paul, the museum is sure to delight kids and adults alike with its collection of dinosaur bones and fossils, omnitheater films and hands-on exhibits covering topics ranging from natural history to physical sciences and mathematics. 

Mill City Museum & Mill City Farmers Market

704 S 2nd St, MN, Minneapolis, 55401
www.millcitymuseum.org

This museum tells the story of the milling industry in Minneapolis and is built inside the ruins of what was once the world's largest mill. The Washburn A Mill ruins have been restored in such a way...

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Mill City Museum & Mill City Farmers Market

704 S 2nd St, MN, Minneapolis, 55401
www.millcitymuseum.org
This museum tells the story of the milling industry in Minneapolis and is built inside the ruins of what was once the world's largest mill. The Washburn A Mill ruins have been restored in such a way that reveals the story of the explosion that once rocked it ¿ check out the courtyard.

Guthrie Theater

818 S 2nd St, MN, Minneapolis, 55415
www.guthrietheater.org

Conspicuously clad in cobalt, the grand dame of the Minneapolis theater scene offers riverfront views from the Endless Bridge, which make it worth a stop, whether you plan to stay for the play or...

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Guthrie Theater

818 S 2nd St, MN, Minneapolis, 55415
www.guthrietheater.org
Conspicuously clad in cobalt, the grand dame of the Minneapolis theater scene offers riverfront views from the Endless Bridge, which make it worth a stop, whether you plan to stay for the play or not.

Walker Art Center & Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

725 Vineland Pl, MN, Minneapolis, 55403
www.walkerart.org

Come for the fine collection of contemporary art and stay for a dinner at Esker Grove and a stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which features the unofficial symbol of the city - the...

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Walker Art Center & Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

725 Vineland Pl, MN, Minneapolis, 55403
www.walkerart.org
Come for the fine collection of contemporary art and stay for a dinner at Esker Grove and a stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which features the unofficial symbol of the city - the Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Stone Arch Bridge & St. Anthony Dam

Downtown Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis,
www.nps.gov

Saint Anthony Falls (now a dam) was the only natural waterfall in the Upper Mississippi and it allowed for the development of the lumber and grain milling industries. These industries supported the...

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Stone Arch Bridge & St. Anthony Dam

Downtown Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis,
www.nps.gov
Saint Anthony Falls (now a dam) was the only natural waterfall in the Upper Mississippi and it allowed for the development of the lumber and grain milling industries. These industries supported the growth of the city we know today as Minneapolis.

Freewheel on the Greenway

2834 10th Avenue South, MN, Minneapolis, 55454
freewheelbike.com

Rent a road or hybrid bike from the Midtown location of this local chain. Locks, bags and other bike accessories are also available to rent. Mechanics are on site, as are various facilities for...

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Freewheel on the Greenway

2834 10th Avenue South, MN, Minneapolis, 55454
freewheelbike.com
Rent a road or hybrid bike from the Midtown location of this local chain. Locks, bags and other bike accessories are also available to rent. Mechanics are on site, as are various facilities for bikers, including a bike shower.

Angry Catfish Bicycle + Coffee Bar

4208 28th Ave, MN, Minneapolis, 55406
angrycatfishbicycle.com

Just steps from Lake Hiawatha, you'll find beautiful bikes, gourmet coffee and the cool (non-technical) biking clothes at this combination bike shop and coffee shop. Bonus: Buster's next door has...

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Angry Catfish Bicycle + Coffee Bar

4208 28th Ave, MN, Minneapolis, 55406
angrycatfishbicycle.com
Just steps from Lake Hiawatha, you'll find beautiful bikes, gourmet coffee and the cool (non-technical) biking clothes at this combination bike shop and coffee shop. Bonus: Buster's next door has great burgers and Baker's Wife, two doors down, has what are considered some of the best doughnuts in Minneapolis.

Cherry Cycles

1621 Hennepin Ave #150b, MN, Minneapolis, 55403
www.cherrycycles.com

Get a repair, fitting or a custom bike from this rad woman-owned bike shop off Loring Park, open on Fridays and by appointment.

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Cherry Cycles

1621 Hennepin Ave #150b, MN, Minneapolis, 55403
www.cherrycycles.com
Get a repair, fitting or a custom bike from this rad woman-owned bike shop off Loring Park, open on Fridays and by appointment.

Lowertown Bike Shop (Union Depot)

214 4th St E #160, St Paul, MN, Minneapolis, 55101
www.lowertownbikeshop.com

Train travelers will disembark at the historic and recently renovated Union Depot where the conveniently located Lowertown Bike Shop can provide any needed repairs.

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Lowertown Bike Shop (Union Depot)

214 4th St E #160, St Paul, MN, Minneapolis, 55101
www.lowertownbikeshop.com
Train travelers will disembark at the historic and recently renovated Union Depot where the conveniently located Lowertown Bike Shop can provide any needed repairs.

One on One Bicycle Studio

117 Washington Avenue North, MN, Minneapolis, 55401
www.oneononebike.com

Get a repair, grab a coffee from the shop or browse the handsome selection of bikes and accessories. Rentals and demos are also available.

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One on One Bicycle Studio

117 Washington Avenue North, MN, Minneapolis, 55401
www.oneononebike.com
Get a repair, grab a coffee from the shop or browse the handsome selection of bikes and accessories. Rentals and demos are also available.

Graduate Minneapolis

615 Washington Ave SE, MN, Minneapolis, 55414
www.graduatehotels.com

In the heart of the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, this boutique hotel is right on the Green Line light-rail route and across the river from downtown. It is often the site of...

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Graduate Minneapolis

615 Washington Ave SE, MN, Minneapolis, 55414
www.graduatehotels.com
In the heart of the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, this boutique hotel is right on the Green Line light-rail route and across the river from downtown. It is often the site of conferences and a popular hotel among visiting collegiate sports teams.

W Minneapolis - The Foshay

821 S Marquette Ave, MN, Minneapolis, 55402
www.starwoodhotels.com

The Foshay Tower, a 32-story art deco skyscraper, was completed in 1929. Shortly after, the builder, a businessman named Wilbur Foshay, was bankrupted by the stock market crash. His building, however,...

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W Minneapolis - The Foshay

821 S Marquette Ave, MN, Minneapolis, 55402
www.starwoodhotels.com
The Foshay Tower, a 32-story art deco skyscraper, was completed in 1929. Shortly after, the builder, a businessman named Wilbur Foshay, was bankrupted by the stock market crash. His building, however, has stood the test of time, and the W Hotel opened in 2008. The 20th-floor observation deck is worth a look, no matter if you stay at the hotel or not.

Nicollet Island Inn

95 Merriam St, MN, Minneapolis, 55401
www.nicolletislandinn.com

Nicollet Island Inn is a hotel, restaurant and bar tucked away on the quiet side of the river but still only a short walk from downtown. Built in 1893, this building served as a factory and mens...

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Nicollet Island Inn

95 Merriam St, MN, Minneapolis, 55401
www.nicolletislandinn.com
Nicollet Island Inn is a hotel, restaurant and bar tucked away on the quiet side of the river but still only a short walk from downtown. Built in 1893, this building served as a factory and mens shelter before being converted into an inn. It is a popular wedding venue.
Accordion

Hiawatha LRT Trail

Minnesota - 4.7 miles

Minnesota’s Hiawatha LRT Trail runs along a north-south route paralleling both Hiawatha Avenue and the Metro Transit Blue Line in Minneapolis. The...

Kenilworth Trail

Minnesota - 1.5 miles

The Kenilworth Trail runs through dense forest along the eastern side of Minnesota's Cedar Lake. Occasionally, trail users can catch glimpses of some...

Cedar Lake LRT Regional Trail

Minnesota - 4.5 miles

The Cedar Lake Light Rail Transit (LRT) Regional Trail is an integral component of Hennepin County’s extensive trail network, in which rail-trails...

Midtown Greenway (MN)

Minnesota - 5.5 miles

The 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway follows a former railroad corridor through the heart of south Minneapolis, heading due west from the Mississippi River...

Willard Munger State Trail (Gateway State Trail)

Minnesota - 18.3 miles

The Gateway State Trail is an 18.3-mile-long segment of the Willard Munger State Trail that offers an urban link to the countryside. The western end...

Bruce Vento Regional Trail

Minnesota - 7.97 miles

The trail is named in honor of Bruce Frank Vento, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 until his death in 2000, representing...

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