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Memorable Things You Must Do in Downtown Minneapolis

Locals say there are two parts of downtown Minneapolis. Downtown West is full of skyscrapers, a mall, and a warehouse district. In Downtown East, you’ll find residential and commercial neighborhoods and the historic mill district. This is a walkable community, which means its attractions, venues, and restaurants are highly accessible for pedestrians. There is also an extensive public transportation system available here if you get tired of walking. Explore the downtown area’s vibrant mesh of innovative and classical architecture, cuisine, art, sports venues, and fabulous outdoor green spaces and you’ll understand why 30 million people visit here each year.


01 Get Lost in the Minneapolis Skyway System

A great travel destination is one that offers year-round fun. In downtown Minneapolis, you can easily access 140 eateries, tons of shopping venues, and the city’s finest hotels without exposing yourself to the frigid winter temperatures of Minnesota. The Skyway System is a series of covered bridges connecting 80 blocks in the city’s downtown area with 9.5 miles of second-level pathways. Getting lost inside the system is a rite of passage, say experienced skyway users. Download one of the available Skyway apps to find your way around.

Minnesota bridges skyway jferrer / Getty Images

02 Party in the Central Business District

If you’re looking for a thriving nightlife, head to the heart of downtown Minneapolis. You’ll find a variety of restaurants, live entertainment, and international productions, including Broadway plays, comedians, and concerts. Historically, this is Minneapolis’s hotbed for live music. Prince, Ray Charles, BB King, Nirvana, U2, REM, and other legendary musicians have performed on the clubs’ stages in the downtown district, with today’s most popular artists appearing regularly. If you’re looking for extraordinary nighttime panoramic views, head to the observation deck at the top of the W Hotel.

central district music first avenue Scott Olson / Getty Images

03 Explore the Historic Mill District

It was once nothing more than a business district, with few entertainment options. In recent years, developers and residents have transformed this historic Downtown East neighborhood into a bustling, energized locale for residents and visitors alike. Ice skate at the renovated Milwaukee Road Depot; if you’re a sports fan, schedule a tour through the ultra-modern athletic facility, the U.S. Bank Stadium. Plan a stop at the Guthrie Theater so you can step out on the famous Endless Bridge, and snap some photos for your Instagram. You’ll find stellar views of the Mississippi River, 50 feet above the nearby West River Parkway.

historic district Mississippi views Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography / Getty Images

04 Cross the Stone Arch Bridge

Extending 2100-feet across the Mississippi River, the Stone Arch Bridge is a historical and cultural symbol for the downtown area. A renovation project in 1980 helped rehabilitate it to a one-of-a-kind, pedestrian-and-bicycle-traffic-only bridge. The city celebrates its renovation with a weekend festival in June featuring live music, art, markets, and family-friendly events. The bridge is one of the top Instagrammable spots in the city. You’ll also capture superb views of St. Anthony Falls, the only natural waterfall on the upper Mississippi River.

stone arch bridge jimkruger / Getty Images

05 Relax at The Commons

The people of Minneapolis love their green spaces. The Commons is a 4.2-acre oasis of natural beauty, operated by the city, that welcomes visitors and locals alike. In summer months, bring your blanket or lawn chair and enjoy movie nights or concerts. Attend a free art festival, shop the weekly farmers market, play chess or Ping Pong, or indulge in an international variety of food truck fare nearby. The Commons is just across the street from the U.S. Bank Stadium, so many people hang out here before heading over for major events or just to experience game-day fervor.

green spaces stadium commons Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography / Getty Images

06 Take a Two-Wheeled Ride Through Downtown

Throughout Downtown Minneapolis, you’ll find several bike rental stations available so you can explore local history and get some exercise while you’re at it. For those who enjoy a bit more vroom in their ride, try out one of the pedal-assist electric bikes. Join in on scavenger hunts in the summer, follow a trail to find outdoor art installations, or enjoy a leisurely ride along the West River Parkway.

downtown minneapolis bike rental YinYang / Getty Images

07 Tour the Basilica of St. Mary

Explore the nation’s first basilica with a free tour through this Minneapolis landmark. A French architect designed the basilica and built it between 1907 and 1915. Italian-carved statues of the apostles and elaborate wrought-iron grills surround the sanctuary. The famous local artist, Thomas Gaytee, designed, created, and installed the stained-glass windows between 1924 and 1926. The colors cast a unique glow throughout the building. The basilica’s Mary Garden features a variety of herbs, flowers, and plants dedicated to St. Mary.

landmark statues stained glass sanctuary AMB-MD / Getty Images

08 Stroll The Light Walk in Nicollet

A years-long renovation led to this illuminated design in Nicollet, an area locals formerly called Nicollet Mall, a major shopping and entertainment section in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The mile-long, two-block corridor of refurbished sidewalks sits in the middle of 240 locally grown trees. It features 1500 programmable LED lights, designated social areas, and year-round attractions. You can experience the Light Walk between Sixth and Eighth streets at Nicollet Center.

stroll street nicollet mall nikitsin / Getty Images

09 Discover Your Brew of Choice

In 1987, the state of Minnesota passed a law allowing eating establishments to brew their beer on-site. Since then, the art of brewing beer has become a significant part of the local culture, with communities across the state creating their own recipes and opening up beer operations all over Minnesota. Discover a new favorite in one of the many brewpubs in the downtown area. Or, make plans to attend Winterfest, a January festival set up at the U.S. Bank Stadium that celebrates more than 100 of these special brews, along with food pairings, music, and awards.

brewery culture beer Instants / Getty Images

10 Experience the Bob Dylan Mural

Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra and his three-member team created a five-story tall, 160-foot wide mural on the side of a building in downtown Minneapolis in 2015. The kaleidoscope-styled mural features three photo-realistic images of Bob Dylan at three different points throughout his life. Since its creation, the mural has become one of the city’s most popular sites for social media posts.

downtown minneapolis dylan mural Adam Bettcher / Getty Images

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