Even dwarfed by a forest of skyscrapers, the block-square mass of Minneapolis City Hall with its soaring 335-foot clock tower is hard to miss. Built in 1889-1905 of rosy-red Ortonville granite, it's Richardson Romanesque in style with castle-like, circular turrets and arched windows. The clock faces are bigger than those of Parliament's in London, and the roof is the largest in the U.S. to have been sheeted in copper. This is also the first of its kind to have been built without supporting partitions so that the interior space was open and fluid, allowing for enlargement or reduction of individual rooms as needed.
Inside, a 5-story atrium with filigreed staircases, stained glass windows and Carrara marble "City of Waters" sculpture is well worth a stop-by, and the 15 bells in the tower provide free concerts for the downtown community several times a month.
My favorite? Look for the 41 amusing little faces - each of them unique - which grace the pillars near the elevators.
See the website for free tours, concert schedule, hours and whatnot. The Blue Line light rail has a stop on the south side of the building.
11/1/2013 NOTE: Gaviidae has been sold to a new owner and an overhaul of the property is expected. I'll revise this review as more information becomes available.
Downtown Minneapolis isn't the shopping mecca that many big cities are; our largest concentration of retail stores are at malls in the suburbs. Gaviidae (Gah-veh-day) Common is one grouping of shops that while somewhat limited, still offers downtown visitors a nice place to kill some time. The stores include Talbots, Saks Off 5th (discount designer clothing), Cole Haan, a couple of salons, a handful of other small shops and a food court. The best reason for a walk-through is to admire the soaring, multi-storied corridor between (recently closed) Nieman Marcus and Saks; beautiful, especially at Christmastime when decorated with festive trees and huge floating ornaments. The common can be reached via skyway, and there's a Caribou Coffee shop for grabbing a nice cuppa joe, a newspaper and a bench or table for admiring the view.
Gaviidae was designed in 1989 by Argentinian architect César Pelli, who also designed the adjacent Wells Fargo Building (1988) and the Minneapolis Public Library (2006). Other projects of note in his extensive portfolio include the Canary Wharf Tower in London, World Financial Center in NYC and Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A downloadable map of the Minneapolis skyway system can be found here:
Saint Mary's was named America's first basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1926 and designed by the same architect, Emmanuel Masqueray, as the cathedral in Minneapolis' twin city of St. Paul. It is a lovely structure with gorgeous windows, mosaics and statuary; definitely worth a visit. The stained glass windows - including three very large rose windows - were created by Thomas Gaytee, a student of Louis Comfort Tiffany, in the 1920's.
The church is open for visitors most days and has an excellent printed guide (suggested donation $2.00) available with the other materials near the entrance. Daily mass is held in St. Joseph's chapel in the undercroft and, on weekends, in the basilica's sanctuary.
For a really nice walk from downtown hotels, combine a stop at the basilica with a visit to the nearby Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Walker Art Center. Walk south on Nicollet Mall to Grant St, go right a block or two to Loring Park, and cut through the park to the church; you'll be able to see it from the park. From the basilica you'll see the footbridge that crosses busy Hennepin Ave. to the sculpture garden and the Walker.
Of interest to music lovers, the church holds a 2-day Basilica Block Party fund raiser every July with good local and national rock/blues/alternative bands, multiple stages, concessions and, yes, beer. It's a hot ticket that sells out early. Reference the church's website for more details on this and other current events.
You don't have to have a ticket to hang out at the Guthrie theater. Lobbies on Levels 4 and 5 have Wi-Fi and anyone who wants to can find a comfy chair and settle in with their laptop. Especially cool is the Endless Bridge - a cantilevered lobby that hangs 178 feet over the river side of the building. Windows are strategically placed for "forced perspectives", and there's a stepped, open section at the far end for enjoying the sunshine. Great views of the riverfront! If there's a bar set up for a show or matinee, buy a beverage and take it out on the steps to enjoy while you marvel at the panorama before you. I can't remember for sure but I think access is via the 5th Level.
The Guthrie also has a somewhat upper-scale restaurant (Sea Change), a cafe, and express, "grab and go" for chasing the munchies plus a post-show bar. Needless to say, it also has great productions.
The Crystal Court, on the ground floor of the IDS Tower, is the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Designed by architects Phillip Johnson, John Burgee and Ed Baker and built in the early 1970's, it was inspired by Italian piazzas to be a pleasant gathering place for city workers and visitors. A unique "beehive" of tiered glass cells rise 121 feet overhead and act as an atrium for an indoor park of trees and benches clustered about a pool for the 105 ft. cascading waterfall. Shops, banks, restaurants and convenience services ring the outer walls, and skyways branch off in all directions to hotels, department stores, large office complexes and the many tiny take-out spots that peddle breakfast and lunch staples of the office crowd.
Other than free lunchtime concerts on Fridays during the Christmas season, there's not a lot going on here, and the benches tend to serve as napping spots for some of the city's homeless population. Still, it's worth a stop in to admire the architecture and grab a cup of coffee on a skyway jaunt to Macy's. Oh, and anyone old enough to remember the Mary Tyler Moore Show will recognize this as the place she rode up the escalator in the opening sequence!
Minneapolis’ largest urban park may not be as expansive as those in other major U.S. cities but Loring is a pleasant place and one of the few downtown locations with activities to entertain the wee folk. It’s also a nice passageway between city hotels and the Walker Art Museum/Sculpture Garden and Basilica of St Mary, and a popular jogging spot for locals and visitors alike.
Like some others of our most-loved urban green spaces, we owe its existence to Charles Loring: the “Father of Minneapolis Parks.” He was president of the very first park board from its creation in 1883 to his retirement in 1890, and partnered with landscape architect Horace Cleveland to provide tranquil, shady oases within the noisy, busy, hot and often dirty confines of the city. They were also advocates of our first playgrounds, believing that the “humanizing” effects of natural environments were critical in the development of healthy, moral youth.
Over the years it had some bumpy spots, becoming rather seedy and crime-ridden in the 1960’s, but efforts by the city and concerned neighborhood groups have since revitalized both the park and its surrounds. Today it provides playgrounds and a wading pool for the tots, basketball courts, walking/biking paths, picnic areas, a pond, seasonal gardens and everyone's favorite, Berger Fountain - more commonly known as “The Dandelion.” The park also hosts art, music and cultural festivals in the summer months.
Although the benches are snoozing spots for some of the local vagrants, they’re unlikely to bother you but I don’t advise traipsing though the park after dark.
Walking around downtown will go you the opportunity to see different faces of a particular place. I always do this in all of the places I visited and I like it. Taking a nice photo of the Minneapolis skyline together with the Basilica of St. Mary is at Hennepin Avenue near the Walker art Museum which is supposed to be my destination but was closed during my visit.
This company called Twin Town Pedicabs gives awesome rides and does tours around the city! I took one while I was bar hopping downtown with my girlfriends, and I'm sold! Their website says they you can also book tours and special event, like weddings, and I really hope I get to take a tour next time I'm in Minneapolis!
In addition to St. Mary's Basilica, Minneapols Sculpture Garden, and the St. Anthony's Falls Heritage Walk I've mentioned in other tips, Minneapolis offers some excellent "free" activities.
The Bell Museum of Natual History is free on Sundays.
The Como Park Zoo & Conservatory are always free although donations are recommended. (In St. Paul)
The Minneapolis Institue of Arts is always free.
The Minnesota State Capitol tours are always free (& fantastic!). (In St. Paul)
The Walker Art Center is free Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The Weisman Art Museum is always free.
At the corner of 7th Street and Nicollet Mall is a bronze statue of a perky hat-tossing Mary Richards (a.k.a. Mary Tyler Moore). The statue shows Mary tossing her hat just as she did in the freeze-frame at the end of the opening credits of the very popular 1970s sitcom (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) which was set in Minneapolis. The statue is inscribed "Who Can Turn The World On With Her Smile?".
With the first never-married, independent career woman as the central character, the Mary Tyler Moore show was considered a television breakthrough (boy, we've come a long way!!). Today the show is considered a classic and can be seen on reruns.
Ms. Moore was present in 2002 when TV Land dedicated the statue.
Whether or not you're a fan, it is likely you will pass the statue if you are downtown. Diehard fans can see the house where Mary, Rhoda, and Phyllis lived at 2104 Kenwood Parkway.
First Season Theme Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCL3B5LgUCo&p=319CF07EA4D18244&playnext=1&index=22
The Foshay Tower is the only place in downtown Minneapolis from where you can get a bird's-eye view of the city. The building itself is an example of Art Deco architecture. It was completed in 1929 and with 32 floors is 447 feet tall. With an antenna, the total height is 607 feet. The Foshay was added to the Nationa Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Although it is nowhere near the tallest building in the country, or even in Minneapolis for that matter (the IDS Center has that distinction), it is the second tallest concrete skyscraper (Empire State Building in NYC is the tallest).
The building was designed by Leon Eugene Arnal for utilities magnate Wilbur Foshay. The design mimics the design of the Washington Monument in that the sides of the building slope inward, and each floor is slightly smaller than the one below it.
In 2008, after 2 years of renovations, the Foshay reopened as a W Hotel. The observation deck is still on the 31st floor and you can buy tickets at the hotel's front desk (you need a key card for the elevator). There is a small but interesting museum (just as you exit the elevator on the 30th floor) which includes photos and information of the personal story behind the building. You have to climb 1 flight of stairs to reach the observation deck.
Although there are some tall buildings that block part of your view around as you walk around the observation deck, you can still see for miles on a clear day - at least as far as St. Paul and the airport.
The Tower is open 12-9 p.m. daily.
Admission is $8.
Saint Mary's was built between 1907 and 1915. It was designed by the architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral. Saint Mary's was designated by Pope Pius XI as a Basilica in 1926, making it America's first Basilica. In 1975, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
It is a huge white marble church - 120 feet wide by 278 feet long. There are two 133-foot twin towers in the front, with a 3000 pound bell inside one of them. The stained glass windows, statues, and the altar are beautiful. A dome rises 250 feet over the altar. There is an enormous 56 rank pipe organ, which I wished we had heard. I was really taken with the marble confessionals. This is really a lovely and peaceful church.
The church is open daily for visitors. Mass on Saturday is at 5 p.m. Sunday's mass times are 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Mass is held twice a day Monday - Friday (7 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.) in St. Joseph's Chapel.
Check the website for special events (festivals such as the Blessings of the Animals, concerts, etc.).
This is one of the greenways in the city. The Loring Greenway begins at the Nicollet Mall near the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the Nicolett Mall and extends to Grant St. It includes with trees, seats, tables, fountains and covered areas and is lined with apartment towers and townhomes.
Its called the Magical History Tour, and it has nothing to do with the Beatles. However by going on the tour you can learn a great deal about how Minneapolis came into existence and also ride a Segway.
(Segways look like pogo sticks with two big wheels and a platform. When they were launched a few years ago, they were called "IT's")
Everyone I know who has gone on this tour of Minneapolis has LOVED it.
So if you are in town only for a few days, want to enjoy the lovely Minnesotan summer and learn a little history, this is the activity for you!
*this is a seasonal activity. They are closed in the late fall thru the early spring)
I've chosen to list Downtown Minneapolis in a few tips because it's very different things to different people.
Friday and Saturday nights are actually pretty crazy downtown. There are a number of bars/clubs/restaurants on a couple of strips that get quite crazy on the weekend. Strangely they are quiet during the week. Don't expect anyone out from Sunday night through Thursday in this town...however we apparently overcome this repression on the weekend.
1) Under 30 crowd: 1st Avenue strip is for you. There are a number of meatmarkets for the young folks here. How to find it? Just find your way to the Target Center (where the Timberwolves play) and go from there toward to the river. You will see legions of people.
2) 30's and 40's (my age): Nicollet Ave Strip is for you. This is a little older crowd. Brits, Dakota Bar and Jazz Club, the News Room, etc.... are for you. There are a number of nice restaurants here as well.