This Mississippi River city with an independent streak embraces its lakes, arts, and innate North-ness in every season.
The Trust for Public Land regularly names Minneapolis’s parks and recreation facilities the best in the nation. An excellent example of why: Theodore Wirth Regional Park. At 740 acres, it’s the system’s largest, encompassing the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, the Quaking Bog, and other quiet spaces, as well as golf courses that fox, deer, and wild turkey regularly crash.
In 1853, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “The Song of Hiawatha” for 53-foot Minnehaha Falls (though truth be told, he never actually saw them). They spill over a limestone bluff in what’s now well-trafficked Minnehaha Regional Park, easily viewable from along a multiuse path or via a staircase leading near its base.
Minneapolis was born at St. Anthony Falls, the Mississippi’s only true set of waterfalls, which powered the lumber and flour industries that grew the city. Mill Ruins Park and First Bridge Park showcase the remains of some of those mills, as well as those of the first permanent bridge to ever span the great river.
In the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary Richards memorably flung her blue-knit beret into the air, giddy with the belief that she would, after all, make it. The backdrop: Nicollet, a mile-long pedestrian and public transit-only stretch of Nicollet Avenue in the heart of downtown. Near Seventh Street, a bronze statue honors the moment.
The Twin Cities are home to the nation’s largest Somali population, as well as the Somali Museum of Minnesota, the only one in the entire world dedicated solely to the African nation’s culture. The museum is one man’s mission to connect the community to its roots, with an ever expanding collection of more than 700 pieces, currently displayed in a rented space with regular hours.
Best Day Trip
Drive a quick 30 minutes east to discover Stillwater, a former lumber town and Minnesota’s birthplace. Main Street’s five core blocks are adorable and beg to be explored, lined in two-story brick storefronts jam-packed with antiques shops, indie boutiques, galleries, and restaurants, many with patios, all clustered around the 1931 Historic Lift Bridge over the St. Croix River.
Off the Beaten Path
About 40 million people visit Minnesota’s Mall of America, the nation’s largest. The Midtown Global Market is a mall of a different sort, a more international public market/small business incubator tucked into an old Sears building on the outskirts of town. Nearly two dozen cultures are represented within 45 stands, mostly restaurants, including a James Beard nominee (The Salty Tart).
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Most Iconic Attraction
The oversize, water-spouting Spoonbridge & Cherry sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen has served as a city icon since the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden opened in 1988. It’s one of more than 50 works in what’s basically the Walker Art Center’s backyard.
Hometown hero Prince was truly plugged into the vibrant local music scene, frequenting the clubby Warehouse District, in particular, and sometimes spontaneously joining musicians on stage. Three venues worth visiting that he hung out in and played at: Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, Bunker's Music Bar & Grill, and the legendary First Avenue, where Purple Rain’s performance scenes were filmed.
Built in 1929 as homage to the Washington Monument, the Art Deco Foshay Tower was Minnesota’s first skyscraper, and the only one west of the Mississippi. Today, it’s a standout stone beauty dwarfed amid Minneapolis’s glass-and-steel skyline, with a 30th-floor open-air wraparound observation deck and little museum, plus a bar, Prohibition, housed in what was Wilbur Foshay’s office.