Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Have you ever considered taking a vacation to the Midwest in the United States of America? …Probably not. However, if you are a music and art lover, craft beer fanatic, outdoor enthusiast, or even extreme shopper, Minneapolis is worth a look.
Located directly on the Mississippi River in scenic Minnesota, Minneapolis is home to renowned art museums, up-and-coming musicians, countless microbreweries, state parks, and of course, the largest mall in the United States, the Mall of America.
I’ve compiled a short list below of some of my favorite places to visit in the city. Most will be more enjoyable during a nice, warm day. However, they are all doable during the winter if you are up to the challenge. In fact, a fresh blanket of snow makes for some breathtaking scenes. The best part is, the locations on the list are all reasonably priced or free!
Saint Anthony Falls
To experience Minneapolis like a local, it is essential to visit the Saint Anthony Falls/Stone Arch Bridge neighborhood.
The Stone Arch Bridge crosses the entire width of the Mississippi River and, you guessed it, it’s completely constructed of stone. While previously used as part of the railroad, today it is only open to walkers and bikers. You’ll get a great view of Saint Anthony Falls and the Mill City Ruins from the bridge. Then, you can stroll through Mill City Ruins Park.
The Mill City Museum is located just south of the bridge on the west bank of the river. The museum is built inside the ruins of the old flourmill and tells an important part of Minneapolis’s history in the flour industry. After the ruins and museum, head to the east side of the river to eat at a restaurant on Main Street or watch a movie at the discount theater, Saint Anthony Main. The whole Saint Anthony Falls area is a beautiful place to enjoy history and nature right downtown. For good reason, it is part of the National Register of Historic Places.
The Sculpture Garden
A trip to Minneapolis is simply not complete without seeing the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden.
According to the Walker’s website, the sculpture garden is home to more than 40 sculptures from the Walker’s own collection as well as a flower garden and conservatory. And its 100% free! The Sculpture Garden is a perfect example of how Minneapolis values clean green spaces within the city as well as its value for an affordable arts scene. Between the beautiful sculptures and the immense green area, you may just forget that you are in the middle of an urban city. It’s just right for a leisurely stroll on a nice day.
If you are craving more art after the garden, the Walker Art Center is right next door.
Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)
If you are craving free art after the garden, head over to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) located in the Whittier neighborhood.
With works from around the world ranging from historic to modern art, there is something for everyone at Mia. It is home to works from many famous artists such as Matisse, Man Ray, and Picasso, and also has rotating exhibitions. The museum has a friendly and welcoming vibe because photography and sketching are allowed and encouraged. Students frequent the museum either as part of a class assignment or to seek creative inspiration.
Surly Brewing Co.
The Surly Brewery is relatively new to Minneapolis. What started out as a small, local brewing company has continued to grown and now has expanded distribution to neighboring states. A tour of the Surly Brewery costs $5, which includes the tour, 4 beer samples, a souvenir glass, and a donation to a local charity. Not a bad deal!
You can also go to the brewery for a delicious and reasonably priced meal. Be sure to get a glass (or two!) of one of their seasonal beers. I’m not sure which is the best part of eating a meal at the Surly Brewery, the unique craft beer selection or the mouth-watering food. The industrial interior creates the perfect environment to enjoy a hearty Surly brew.
Warning: Surly beers are for the enjoyment of true beer lovers only. Each of their beers has a distinct flavor and all are strong.
Downtown Minneapolis offers a variety of options for a lively night out but I prefer the more laid back, Cowboy Jacks Bar and Grill.
The main draw to Cowboy Jacks in the summer months is its outdoor patio on the roof. Another defining feature of the bar is its mechanical bull. Volunteer to test out your bull-riding skills if you dare. Each day, the menu features generous discounts on drinks during happy hour and on the plate of the day such as “Sloppy Jacks” on Mondays and a Friday night fish fry. There are also days with live music.
Mall of America
Located just outside of Minneapolis in Bloomington, Minnesota, the Mall of America is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions.
According to its website, the Mall has 520 stores, 50 restaurants, and “attractions galore.” Nickelodeon Universe, the nation’s largest indoor theme park, is located in the center of it all. Between all the stores, restaurants, theme park, mini golf course, movie theater, aquarium, and free events, you will not run out of things to do during your visit. As an added bonus, clothes and shoes are tax free thanks to the Minnesota state law.
Next to the mall during the winter months, artists build an enormous ice castle made completely out of icicles. Walking through the hallways and nooks is like walking through a surreal dream, especially after dark when the castle is beautifully lit with colored lights.
Minneapolis may not be the number one vacation destination but between all its parks, culture, and craft beer, it provides a one-of-a-kind travel experience. After a day in the city, you’ll see why the people who move to Minneapolis don’t move away.