Experience twice the excitement in Minnesota's vibrant Twin Cities, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul. Embark on a memorable getaway where you can admire awe-inspiring public art murals, such as Eduardo Kobra's colossal tribute to Bob Dylan, or delve into the region's rich Scandinavian heritage. Time your visit to coincide with the exhilarating Minnesota State Fair, a festive occasion that attracts nearly two million attendees. And for those with a passion for shopping, the iconic Mall of America is an absolute must-visit during your time in the bustling Twin Cities.
Whatever your interests, you're spoilt for choice in St. Paul. STEM geeks have the Science Museum of Minnesota, and history buffs can look forward to the Minnesota History Center. Lovers of all things locomotive should prioritize the Twin City Model Railroad Museum and Minnesota Transport Museum. Broaden your knowledge of politics at Alexander Ramsey House or the Hmong Cultural Center, or delve into the region's natural heritage at the Bell Museum at the sprawling University of Minnesota. Young ones have their own dedicated space at the Minnesota Children's Museum but are welcome just about everywhere.
At this famous paean to capitalism in Bloomington, you can indulge in myriad ways and still leave half of the country's largest mall on the cutting room floor. There's so much to do in good weather or bad, it's impossible to get through in a day, but you can try. If you've come ready to shop, MOA's almost 500 stores won't disappoint. Novelties like a giant M&M retail store are par for the course. Window shoppers may want to people-watch while feasting on fare from MOA's extensive food court. After sating your appetite and walking off your meal, enjoy the thrills at Nickelodeon Universe or the aquarium, or catch a retro movie at B&B Theater.
Culture vultures can roll up their sleeves and pull out their monocles in the Twin Cities. There's plenty to inspect across multiple locations, but the world-class Walker Art Center is a good place to start. You'll also find the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden here, the nation's largest urban sculpture park, with its Hahn/Cock blue rooster, Spoonbridge and Cherry, and other delightful pieces of outdoor modern art. Then, drop in at the impressive Minneapolis Institute of Art and its new Target Wing, and spend some time at Weisman Art Museum, where Frank Gehry's architecture is as much of a draw as his Standing Glass Fish sculpture.
Why go to Florida when you can while away an afternoon at this tropical destination in the Midwest? St. Paul's Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory deserve a spot on your itinerary. Chill out with a polar bear, treat your eyes to glorious blooms and bonsais, and climb on the carousel or Tiger Trax coaster. It's free, funded by free-will donations, and fantastic even in winter.
You can't come to the Land of 10,000 Lakes without picnicking or frolicking on the water. Carnivores can fill a basket at Lowry Hill Meats, a butcher selling delicious takeaway sandwiches and meals, before taking the spread to one of the pearls in the Chain of Lakes. Lake Calhoun, the largest in the Chain, has public beaches where you can play volleyball or jump into a canoe. Lake Harriet hosts concerts and projected movies and is home to the Lyndale Park Rose Garden, where the aroma is heady and birdsong permeates the air.
You have two options at the Minnesota State Capitol—go at your own pace on a self-guided tour or take the 45-minute tour with a well-informed guide and other tourists. Cass Gilbert, the man who designed the Supreme Court, designed this state capitol as well as the ones in Arkansas and West Virginia. Recent renovations have upped the wow factor even more. The marble exterior, the artworks, and the history combine in an awe-inspiring fashion.
The city of St. Paul is named for Paul the Apostle, so of course, there's a grand cathedral here. This Roman Catholic church, with a striking resemblance to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, is one of the largest in the U.S. It's worth the exertion of walking up the hill from downtown. Mass is open to all. Saint Paul's cathedral opened in 1906 and is a quiet place for reflection, no matter your spiritual leanings.
Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis are the perfect counterpoint to the Mall of America. The city's main commercial area for over a century is full of theatres, restaurants, and shops, and was the first pedestrian and transit mall in the United States. Look for the Mary Tyler Moore statue, Target Corporation's headquarters, a Thursday farmers' market in summer, and filming locations from The Mighty Ducks movie.
Minnehaha Falls, a 53-foot waterfall, is eminently photogenic. The Dakota people considered it a place of peace, albeit one without spiritual significance, unlike Bdote and the Falls of St. Anthony. Still, there's a tale to be told here—the legend of the warrior Hiawatha and his ill-fated lover Minnehaha, and lots more to do besides snapping pics of the Falls from above and below. Hike the Mississippi River Valley, challenge friends to a game of disc golf, tap your toes to the live music at the Bandstand, let kids splash about at the Wading Pool, or paddle down the creek. You'll find three beautiful gardens and delicious seafood snacks at Sea Salt Eatery.
In downtown St. Paul, you'll encounter a unique event venue. The sandstone caves here have served as a place to grow mushrooms, a storage hub, a speakeasy during Prohibition, and a disco club during the 70s. Today, you can pop in for Swing nights and mobster and ghost tours. The guides are entertaining and recount the caves' many uses since the 19th century.
Discover a vibrant immigrant neighborhood in West Bank and Cedar-Riverside. This area buzzes with life thanks to students from Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, as well as a flourishing East African community. Restaurants like The Red Sea serve tasty food from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea with loads of affordable and popular vegan and vegetarian options. Sisterhood Boutique is a thrift store started by local East African girls and women.
The state's oldest structure was a frontier outpost and then a military fortification from 1825. It's a National Historic Landmark with ties to Dred Scott and Harriet Robinson Scott—the couple met and lived there as slaves to the fort's surgeon in the 1830s and fought for their freedom in the Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sandford. Today, you can watch reenactments and army demos at the site.
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul is the go-to local theater for opera, Broadway musicals, orchestral performances, and other shows. The ushers are friendly, the acoustics are on point, and the sight lines are generally good. The gorgeous Landmark Center in Rice Park is another important St. Paul venue for dance and music.
There are dozens of dining places to shine a light on in the Twin Cities, but Italian food is such a popular cuisine, and Cossetta's is a St. Paul institution. You're sorted for lunch or dinner with a 300-seater pizzeria downstairs and an upstairs section serving pastas (the mostaccioli is a favorite). Order goodies from the pasticceria to prolong the yumminess. We're partial to cannolis dipped in chocolate.
Summit Avenue in Saint Paul is America's longest stretch of Victorian homes. About 85% of the homes along this almost-5-mile road have historical value. During the Gilded Age, a construction boom led to many more houses built in various styles, including Tudor Revival, Queen Anne, and Romanesque. Be sure to visit the Historic Hill District and the mansion of railroad tycoon James. J. Hill. Hill's children also occupied distinguished homes here. A 90-minute walking tour covers the exterior highlights along one of America's great promenade streets. Refuel on Grand Avenue, where bars, steakhouses, cafes, and boutiques rub shoulders.
Cycle around Minneapolis via its award-winning park system and Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. It's a 51-mile off-street bike loop that will take you past skyline and waterfront views, stunning natural scenery, and hip niches. Rent a bike from Nice Ride and feel the breeze on your skin as you get acquainted with the city's true essence.
Watch the NFL's Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, or catch the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Head to Xcel Energy Center, a multipurpose arena in St. Paul, where the NHL's Minnesota Wild play their home games. Saint Paul has another trick up its sleeve. It's where you'll find Circus Juventas, the largest school in North America, training the youth in flying trapeze and other athletic feats.
The internationally-acclaimed Guthrie Theater was founded in 1963 by the British stage director Sir Tyrone Guthrie. It's since moved to the Mill District and is designed to look like a mill with smokestacks. You can engage with classic and contemporary works, gaze at the iconic architecture, or step onto the Endless Bridge. The 30-foot-wide and 178-foot-long promontory extends for more than half a block and gives theatre-goers a brilliant 180-degree view.
First Avenue & 7th Street Entry is a live music venue with some serious clout. Joan Jett, James Brown, The Pretenders, and Prince performed here. The latter is a local legend whose Paisley Park private estate is open to visitors. Just half an hour away from Saint Paul, the star's former residence is mandatory during fan pilgrimages.
This green space offers fabulous neon nighttime views and is a magnet during the day too. The top of a 32-foot mound provides a rewarding lookout toward Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Main Street. Nearby Mill Ruins Park is yet another nod to the city's history as a flour producer.