Fun things to do in Minneapolis

  • MN Renaissance Festival
    MN Renaissance Festival
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  • Mississippi from the Ford Bridge
    Mississippi from the Ford Bridge
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  • MN Renaissance Festival
    MN Renaissance Festival
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Minneapolis

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    Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church

    by goodfish Written Feb 4, 2014

    This is Minneapolis’ oldest continually operating church, and another of our treasures to thankfully escape demolition. This is also the first U.S. Catholic church to have been dedicated to the apparitional Virgin of Lourdes. She is perched on a bluff high above the Mississippi where a Belgium friar, Louis Hennepin, is rumored to have first seen the falls he named for his patron, St. Anthony of Padua. Built in of local limestone in 1854-57 by the Society of Universalists, her original neo-classical plan was altered to French Gothic Revival - similar to New Orleans’ St Louis Cathedral - when purchased by French-Canadian Catholics in 1877.

    The interior is airy and unfussy; all blue and cream with ornamental fleurs-de-lis delicately picked out in gold. Most of the windows are over 100 years old, and pretty carillon bells that mark the hours can be heard all over the St. Anthony neighborhood. Renovation and maintenance of the church has been partially funded from the sale of tourtieres - French meat pies - that you can pick up at the office next door to the church any day of the week.

    It can be hard to find this one open - it was locked up tight more times than not when we’d been by - but check the website for open houses, and they usually welcome visitors and have volunteer guides on hand during the Stone Arch Bridge Festival in June. If nothing else, it’s a picturesque subject for the lens.

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    Lakewood Cemetery

    by goodfish Updated Jan 28, 2014

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    This is one of the best places in the city to walk without much, if any, traffic. Founded in 1871, Lakewood nestles between Lakes Calhoun and Harriet and is the resting place of many of the City Fathers (and mothers). Residents of Minneapolis are familiar with names like:
    • Walker - of the Walker Art Gallery
    • Lowery - of Lowery Hill and the developer of Lake Street
    • Wirth - of Theodore Wirth Park
    • Washburn and Crosby - historic millers and founders of General Mills
    • Loring - "Father of Parks"

    Non-residents might recognize:
    • Pillsbury - also of milling and consumer-foods fame
    • Mars - of the Mars candy company
    • Wellstone - Paul and Sheila, US Senator & wife, tragically killed in a plane crash
    • Humphrey - Hubert, US Senator and Vice President

    The cemetery encourages visitors - you can pick up free pamphlets for self-guided tours at the Administration Building. One tour highlights persons of historical significance, and the other is an interesting lesson in the language of memorial symbolism - the meaning behind the anchors, draped vases, broken columns, etc. carved into many older monuments. Lakewood also has a small lake and one of the largest cemetery greenhouse operations in the country - planting almost 95,000 flowers every year - so it's a very pretty place. Don't miss the Byzantine-style Memorial chapel (next tip) - the mosaics are amazing!

    A little trivia? Herbert Khaury, formerly known as ukelele-strummer Tiny Tim, tip-toes through eternal tulips in the mausoleum.

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    Minnesota Renaissaunce

    by Dymphna1 Written Nov 23, 2013

    Get into history. This fair runs every weekend from mid August through Labor Day. It is a huge area that will take at least a day to go through. It is the setting of the middle ages with people dressed up for the occasion - so bring a costume. There are live action - interactive shows. I saw an elephant ride going on. Different nationalities are focused on for different weekends and we were there for the Scottish weekend. There were native dances and games and contests having to do with Scotland going on. The shops are really cool. I got some great pottery.

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    Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery

    by goodfish Updated Oct 5, 2013

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    I walk a lot of old cemeteries as they usually tell you a lot about the history of a place and often have interesting sculptures and monuments. Minneapolis' oldest (non-indigenous) burial ground tells the story - often a sad one - of its earliest settlers and the rigors of life in an upper midwestern territory.

    The property was part of a claim held by Martin Layman: a Baptist abolitionist who with his wife, Elizabeth, had emigrated from the eastern states. Family lore tells that around 1853 Mr. Layman donated a small piece of land for a proper cemetery in which to inter a neighbor whose kin had no stake of their own. Over the next three decades that little plot grew to 27 acres open to burials of persons of all economic backgrounds, religion and color, unusual in an era when cemeteries were largely segregated.

    What was common for the time was its distance from the milling settlement then called St. Anthony. Burial grounds considered to be unhealthy places, they were usually established a long way from residential/business centers. Layman’s Cemetery, as it came to be known, was a day’s wagon journey from town so visits to one’s dearly departed were pleasurable occasions for family picnics on its tranquil, open expanse far from the noise and grime of daily life.

    20,000 individuals rest here among a curiously small, crumbing collection of stones; the majority of monuments having fallen victim to harsh Minnesota winters, vandalism or simply time. Some were probably never marked at all: some 3,000 lie in Potter’s Field including the mass graves of 355 who died, unclaimed, in charity hospitals in the early1900’s and given to the University of Minnesota medical school for research. The few monuments which remain - and cemetery records - document the names of some of the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian immigrants who arrived in droves during the latter half of the 1800’s. There are Slovakians from the infamous tenement of Bohemian Flats, and others from Germany, Ireland and Poland. There are African Americans - some of them former slaves - and abolitionists of the Underground Railroad, and some 200 soldiers of wars ranging from 1812 to WWI. "Do not bury me on slave soil,” is inscribed on the monument of John Hoblitt, the first Minnesota casualty of the Civil War.

    They died of diphtheria, pneumonia, whooping cough, “dropsy,” smallpox and the scourge of the day, tuberculosis: some 1,300 are recorded to have perished of “consumption.” They died of mill explosions and farming accidents, of burns, crushing injuries or gangrene. They died in conflicts both domestic and abroad: Philander Prescott and brothers Lathrop and Shepherd Dickenson were “killed by indians” in the U.S.- Dakota War of1862. They died by their own hands: women of self-inflicted abortions or suicide. Anna Clark, destitute and desperate, shot herself at the grave of her husband, leaving her eight children a note to “Bury me beside Papa, if you think I am worthy of it.” And they died young: over half of the interments are children under the age of 12.

    Life was hard in 19th-century Minnesota.

    Renamed "Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery" in 1928, it was awarded a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

    Open April 15 - October 15, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

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    Riverfront: Stone Arch Bridge

    by goodfish Updated Mar 7, 2013

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    The Father of the Great Northern Railroad, James J. Hill, built this bridge across the Mississippi near St. Anthony Falls in 1883 and it continued to serve his historic railroad until 1965. It's made of granite and limestone, has 23 arches, and is the only stone bridge ever constructed over Old Man River. Today it's part of the St. Anthony Heritage Trail and links walkers and bikers with parks and pedestrian paths on the west (downtown) side of the river with those on the east side.

    This is a great place to catch the activity at Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam - you can watch the locks fill and empty from the bridge - and it's beautifully lit at night. Nice eyeful of the downtown skyline from here, too. I've included a walk across this Minneapolis icon in my "Off the Beaten Path" tips under "One Great Walk on the Riverfront." See this link for a map of the riverfront area, location of the bridge and parking spots:

    http://stanthonymain.com/?page=map

    Extra tip: Mr. Hill lived in St. Paul and you can visit his big giant house. See "James J. Hill House" under "Things to Do" in my St. Paul tips.

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    Roam around the World

    by goodfish Updated Mar 6, 2013

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    This is a multi-use complex I covered under restaurants and shopping but heck, I guess it’s also a Thing To Do so I’ll put another plug for it here.

    This colorful indoor market opened in 2006 and is located on the ground floor of the former Sears building. Built in 1928, the enormous structure once employed 2000 workers as both a retail store and catalog center. The architectural style is Moderne/Art Deco, reflects the sleek lines and ornamentation of the period and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The store closed in 1994 but the building was rescued by an enterprising development company that not only beautifully restored it but made it a unique multi-use complex of office space, condos, lofts and shopping/restaurants called Midtown Exchange.

    Midtown Global Market's mission is to celebrate the diversity of the community and bring different cultures together to experience and appreciate the food and arts of their many heritages. It also serves as an enthusiastic supporter of the small businesses that are transforming a formerly struggling area into a lively, safe community showplace.

    And so on to the fun! The market offers nearly 50 "shops” for ethnic produce, fresh meats and fish, bakery and deli items, crafts, clothing, and provides lots of special events ranging from tastings to live music. It even has cooking school.

    The market is open 7 days a week with most special events happening on the weekends. See the excellent website for directions, hours, a complete list of businesses, event calendar, parking and lots more. This is a good one for a rainy or winter's day, and DO bring the kids!

    I've pictured a couple of the corners for noshing here, and see my other reviews (live links above) for more shots of the eats and craft items.

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    Valley Fair

    by xoxoxenophile Written Feb 17, 2013

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    This is a fun theme park just a half hour south of Minneapolis. It features typical amusement park rides like the Tilt-a-Whirl, a carousel, a ferris wheel, a swing ride, etc. and also some pretty intense roller coasters! We went in October, when there are lots of Halloween decorations and Valley Scare at night. It's also a good time to go because, since it's a little bit chilly out there were virtually no lines when we were there and we basically had the run of the park.

    One piece of advice--everything in the park is overpriced (like most theme parks) but I think the ticket will let you in and out during the day if you want to eat somewhere else in Minneapolis and come back.

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    Basilica of St. Mary

    by kemisteryoso Updated Jan 28, 2013

    Most Winnipegers go to Minneapolis to shop but me I never bought anything but I wanna see other things the city has to offer. One of this is the Basilica of St. Mary, it is added to my collection of churches that I visited. It is the first cathedral in the US and co-cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis together with St. Paul cathedral. It has an amazing classical and baroque style with amazing architecture and symmetry. The foundation and walls are of are made of granite and the altar is marble. It was listed as one among the historical places in the US in 1975.

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    Foshay Tower

    by kemisteryoso Updated Jan 28, 2013

    It is not the highest building nowadays but it once become the highest in four decades. The Foshay tower received its name from Willbur Foshay the original builder and owner. It was modeled after the Washington Monument to honor George Washington. It was said that it is the first building ever made by all union labor and the only obelisk shape concrete skyscraper in the US. It has a Foshay light about 10 feet tall lit by around 900 60-watt bulbs that enhance the downtown skyline at night. It's like those of the Canada Life building in Toronto except the color doesn't change.The tower observation deck and the small museum about the history of the tower is in the 31st floor. One can have a bird's view of Minneapolis but not in all direction because some taller buildings block the view.

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  • Save by transfering from airflight to train travel

    by epiphyllumlover Written Jun 9, 2012

    First, I booked a plane ticket out of St. Louis that stopped in Minneapolis - St. Paul. I got off at the MSP airport instead of proceeding to the next stop (sometimes you can find a cheaper ticket that way). However, you will need to rely on your carry-on bag alone and pray that your flight won't be cancelled and rebooked stopping somewhere else. At the airport, I really didn't know where to go, so I wandered. It just so happened that I wandered in the right direction and arrived at the underground Light Rail Station at the airport. In retrospect, I should have used a map like this one: http://www.mspairport.com/App_Themes/MSP/maps/img/maps/07_ht-L-lrt.jpg .

    As you walk into the light rail station, there are electronic ticketing stations--where you can purchase a 6 hour "Event Pass" that is good for both bus and rail. It is actually sold every day, not just during events. Once you enter the light rail station, there are two tracks--one on the left and one on the right. The one on the left will take you where you need to go--towards "Downtown/Minneapolis". If you miss your train, it isn't a big deal, since they come every 15 minutes or so. Times are posted between the tracks.

    In order to cross the city to get to the Amtrak, I followed some simple, written directions I had jotted down from Google Maps ( http://goo.gl/maps/uTLN ), which told me that I could take the light rail (line 55) to bus route 16 to the Amtrak station. Light Rail route 55 was fun. It is fast, clean, and smooth. It is not as glamorous as the light rail line in St. Louis, though, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the 55 Rail was shut down just before my stop for construction. They simply de-boarded the train and made everyone go to a (slower) bus that stopped at each of the light rail tracks. Although inconvenient, the only cost was time.

    It is easy to find the right stop off of the the light rail...you get off at the Metrodome Station stop--which is actually at a platform just past the Metrodome. It is huge and impossible to miss. There is a short walk ( http://goo.gl/maps/gv3g ) , less than a block, down to a nearby bus stop. I took the stairs, but others took a nice-looking elevator down.

    The Metrodome platform is a cross route for many buses. You can search for the correct bus by looking on the electronic signs on the buses until you find one that says 16 & St. Paul on the sign. The Route 16 bus partly goes down university avenue. When getting on the bus, you simply scan your 6-hour pass in the machine. The bus driver helped me. It is a large bus with a joint in the middle to accommodate long turns. You won't want to sit in the back, like I did. Sit as close to the front as you can. It is impossible to see street signs from the back of the bus. Although the bus driver calls out all major stops, it is difficult to hear because there is no amplification. There is a small, inexpensive electronic sign in the front of the bus, but it is not used to announce stops.

    I was very fortunate that I didn't miss my stop. An elderly woman who was also going to the Amtrak station just happened to ask for a stop on the University & Cleveland Avenue intersection. By this time I had moved to the front of the bus, so I could see the street sign. Don't expect any help from others riding the bus. While the light rail riders were familiar with the different stations, the bus riders were not terribly familiar with the bus stops. I would recommend getting off at Vandalia St. instead. It is only one and a half blocks prior to the Cleveland stop. Vandalia is a major stop that a number of the other riders used. If you get off at Vandalia, cross University right away to avoid the construction further down and so you can stop at the Subway, or, if you prefer, the McDonald's (a little further back). I got two subs--one for dinner and the veggie one for breakfast on the train. If you ride the 16 bus past your Cleveland stop, you can get off on the Snelling intersection in order to visit Rainbow Foods. One might even walk or take the bus down there while waiting for the train ( http://goo.gl/maps/rL2J ) . That way you can eat on the train w/out paying high prices.

    After getting off the bus, it is easy to walk to the Amtrak station. Simply cross University Ave. A little past the Subway there is an SPI Printing and Graphics building on the corner. This is the intersection between Cleveland and University. However, the portion of Cleveland that you want to walk down is not called Cleveland--it becomes Transfer Road. By taking a right past the SPI Printing building you can walk down Transfer Rd. Although it looks kind of industrial there is a sidewalk for the 0.2 miles to the Amtrak.

    Waiting for the train was okay. The station was pretty empty, but it filled up fast before the train. If you want to drop your carry-on bags off at the counter so you can roam the city while you wait, they will charge you $3. I just hid mine under some of the cheap-but-comfortable plastic chairs and went for a short jog while waiting. Since the station was empty, I wasn't afraid of theft. I got some work done on my laptop, but there was no internet at the MSP Amtrak station. If you have a longer period of time between getting off at the MSP Airport and the departure time for the Empire Builder, I would recommend hanging out at the MSP airport where there is free Wi-Fi everywhere.

    I enjoyed my ride on the Empire Builder. It came on time at 11:15 PM. Although I sat down in an empty two-seat section, another rider had to sit next to me. I noticed some oil workers coming back from their breaks. They get off at Minot, & Williston. We were delayed by about an hour and a half while waiting for a freight train.

    In the morning I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep--especially with all the loud calls over the intercom announcing when people could come to sit at their tables. If sleep is a priority for you--get the roomette. I really enjoyed the observation car. I chatted with a friendly man who lived out in the mountains in NY.

    The Minot station was utterly destroyed by the flood last summer (I was there and it was unbelievable. Much of the city was destroyed.). They have fixed up only a small area, but are making quick progress on the rest of the station. The station is centrally located, so I walked to the MSU campus, but one could also call a cab--they have a phone book at the window you can borrow.

    A few lessons I learned about this kind of trip:

    First: 1. Attempt a connection during anticipated "decent" climate conditions. You don't want to fly with heavy winter gear--but you certainly don't want to walk or wait around the Twin Cities or North Dakota without it. The Twin Cities bus stops actually have small glass chambers with heat lamps on them.

    Second: I really should have brought a GPS, or at the very least, a map of the Twin Cities. Watching a GPS makes finding your bus/train stop much easier. Although relying on street signs worked for me, it would have been easy to get lost on the Route 16 bus.

    Third: Don't worry about the times for train or bus. They run every 15 minutes, so just wait until the next one comes.

    Fourth: Make sure you pack the type of carry-ons you don't mind walking with. For me, I packed a bit heavy out of necessity, but I could handle it. I am glad I didn't pack any more.

    Fifth: This is a great way to save money:

    Cost:

    Air Ticket: Delta, STL to MSP to MIL: $90.60 from a discount carrier website. MSP is a hub for Delta, so many of their flights stop or take off there.
    Six Hour Pass for the Twin Cities transit system: $3.50
    Train Ticket: booked a few days in advance, Empire Builder from MSP to Minot, ND $63
    Subway: $10 for two footers, plus tax

    Total: Just under $168, compared to $518 to fly between St. Louis and Minot.

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    Visit to a Great Basilica

    by nxlink Written Oct 17, 2011

    Vist to a very impressive Catholic Basilica. The imposing size of the church and it very attractive Beaux Arts style merits a visit. Construction was begun in 1907 but it was not until 1922 that all interior and exterior work had been completed. The Basilica is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Upon arriving at the Basilica you will immediately see the the impressive square copper clad dome that rises 280 ft above ground level with a stainless steel cross some 13 ft taller on top of the dome. The exterior of the church is clad in white Vermont granite. The interior has marble statues and stained glass that is worthy of a visit.

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    Options if you have a day free

    by DSwede Written Sep 11, 2011

    {taken from a forum post of mine}

    Within the twin cities area, there's still lots of good parks. You could go over to the area around Lake Calhoun and either walk the old neighbor hoods or rent a canoe and paddle through the connecting lakes (Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake). Its quite nice with the city skyline in the distance.

    If you are into historical sites, you could also visit Fort Snelling which is not far from the airport.

    If you are looking for a day drip, something that is much closer, but worth it in my opinion, go over to the town of Stillwater on the river at the border of Wisconsin.

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    Mary Tyler Moore Statue

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    If you're an old timer like me, or even if you're of the younger set but watch old re-runs on television, you have seen the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Her show was a situation comedy based in Minneapolis. It was one of my favorites back in the 1970s.

    Mary Tyler Moore, with bright smile, upbeat attitude and cheery disposition was truly one of America's sweethearts. She is honored and remembered fondly by the people of Minneapolis with this statue which stands on a downtown sidewalk, in front of the building where her fictional character (Mary Richards) worked.

    A plaque beneath the statue reads: MARY TYLER MOORE: Who can turn the world on with her smile?

    Don't leave Minneapolis without stopping by to pay your respects and have your photo taken here. There are other Mary Tyler Moore sites in Minneapolis and you may learn about them by clicking on the web link below.

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    Wildlife Science Center

    by zwei618 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The center is located approximately 20 miles north of Minnepolis outside of Forest Lake. You'll visit with a variety of animals including wolves,bobcats, raccoons, gray foxes, black bears, and raptors. They have great programs for school/scout groups and many annual events such as a HOWL-o-ween party.

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    Minnesota History Museum

    by soultrvl Updated Oct 26, 2010

    Toured the Minnesota History Center for a couple of hours. The theme for this show was "The Greatest Generation- the depression, the war, the boom. A great way to spend an afternoon for kids & adults.

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