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13 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Minneapolis

Written by Lana Law
Updated May 20, 2021

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Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Twin Cities on the upper course of the Mississippi, together form the largest city in Minnesota. Minneapolis is the quintessence of the glistening modern American city, with extensive parks and green spaces that blend seamlessly into the urban environment.

Minneapolis offers an abundance of cultural attractions, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the American Swedish Institute, and the Mill City Museum. You can also find great shopping both in the city center and at nearby Mall of America, in Bloomington.

Many of the city's top attractions can be accessed by public transportation or without a vehicle, including the more natural settings found in such places as Minnehaha Regional Park. Bike and multi-use pathways, like the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, are a great way to get around, if not the most recommended route.

Explore the city and interesting things to do with our list of the top attractions in Minneapolis.

See also: Where to Stay in Minneapolis

1. Stroll through Minnehaha Regional Park

Minnehaha Regional Park
Minnehaha Regional Park

To the southeast of the city, extending along the banks of the Mississippi, is Minnehaha Park. This city treasure is home to the 53-foot-high Minnehaha Falls, as well as statues of Hiawatha and Minnehaha, the chief characters in Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha.

The park is one of the oldest and most popular in the city, receiving more than 800,000 visitors each year. Other fun things to do include strolling through a pergola garden, dining at the Sea Salt Eatery, and enjoying a live show at the Minnehaha Bandstand.

Address: 4801 South Minnehaha Park Drive, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: https://www.minneapolisparks.org/parks__destinations/parks__lakes/minnehaha_regional_park/

2. Hit the Shops at the Mall of America

Mall of America
Mall of America | Photo Copyright: Mall of America

If you're more interested in shopping than museums and parks, then head straight for the Mall of America. This mega-mall has over 520 shops that are more than happy to help you part with your hard-earned cash.

In addition to all the shopping, the mall is an entertainment hot spot. The XD ride is a roller coaster and video game all in one, and Moose Mountain Mini Golf is a course complete with full-size horses, moose, and other forest creatures, a logging truck, and a bi-plane. Go underwater at the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, and be sure to walk through the shark lagoon tunnel.

At center court, you'll find the Nickelodeon Universe. This fantasyland of rides is sure to enthrall any young people who may be traveling with you.

3. Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis Institute of Art
Minneapolis Institute of Art | Jerry7171 / photo modified

The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) has a large collection of works from many countries and in many styles, including pictures by European masters such as Rubens and Rembrandt. The collection features pieces from a wide variety of cultures dating back 5,000 years.

On display are sculptures, photographs, paintings, drawings, textiles, and prints. Admission is always free, and so are the public tours, and with a Family Center on-site, this cultural resource is a good option for all ages.

Address: 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: https://new.artsmia.org/

4. Take in a Show at the Guthrie Theater

Guthrie Theater
Guthrie Theater | mnloftsandcondos / photo modified

The Guthrie Theater opened on May 7,1963 with a production of Hamlet directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie, the theater's founder. Today, the theater presents classic and contemporary productions on three different stages and has remained true to its commitment to offer productions of Shakespeare's plays.

More than 40 years after it was established, a new building was constructed in 2006, situated along the Mississippi River. The unique building showcases large images of past performances on its exterior. Touring the facility is a fun part of any visit, and the theater offers guided backstage tours on Friday and Saturday mornings.

Address: 818 South Second Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.guthrietheater.org/

5. Weisman Art Museum

Weisman Art Museum
Weisman Art Museum

The Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota is an architectural highlight of the campus and the city. Designed by Frank Gehry, the building is an eye-catching, four-story, stainless steel structure of a hard-to-define shape.

The museum's collection focuses primarily on American Modernism, traditional Korean furniture, and ancient Mimbres pottery from the American Southwest. The museum's Public Art on Campus program has resulted in a variety of art being displayed around the campus. General admission to the facility and all exhibitions is free.

Address: 333 East River Parkway, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.weisman.umn.edu/

6. Take the Kids to the Children's Theatre Company

Children's Theatre Company
Children's Theatre Company | mnloftsandcondos / photo modified

One of the best places to visit for families is the Children's Theatre Company. On the events calendar are plays for all ages, including performances designed to inspire youth. Many productions are based on classic children's literature. Check before your visit to see what's coming up.

Plays are presented from January through June, and the CTC also offers theater arts training programs for youth to introduce them to the performing arts.

Address: 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.childrenstheatre.org/

7. Mill City Museum

Mill City Museum
Mill City Museum | johnjschroeder / photo modified

The Mill City Museum was built within the Washburn A Mill and chronicles the flour milling industry. The Mill was built in 1880 and was the largest of its kind at that time. A devastating fire in 1991 left the structure in ruins.

The present day museum has been built on the ruins and features an eight-story glass façade, giving the building a contrasting historic and modern look. Exhibits recount Minneapolis' status as a world leader in flour production from 1880 to 1930.

Address: 704 South Second Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.millcitymuseum.org/

8. American Swedish Institute

American Swedish Institute
American Swedish Institute

The American Swedish Institute offers a look at and demonstrates the importance of the surrounding region's Swedish heritage. The institute consists of the modern Nelson Cultural Center and the historic Turnblad Mansion.

The Turnblad Mansion was originally commissioned in the early 20th century by Swan Turnblad, owner of the largest Swedish Newspaper in the United States. Swan and his family donated their mansion and the newspaper to what was then the American Institute for Swedish Art.

Today, visitors can tour the mansion and observe the original carved oak, walnut, and mahogany of the interior. Swedish glass, textiles, fine art, and authentic tile stoves are also on display.

Address: 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.asimn.org/

9. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden | FaceMePLS / photo modified

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden displays sculptures of the Walker Art Center in a lovely 19-acre urban green space. One of the most famous pieces is Claes Oldenburg's Spoonbridge and Cherry. In addition to the sculptures, this popular tourist attraction is also home to the Cowles Pavilion & Regis Promenade and the Alene Grossman Memorial Arbor and Flower Garden with seasonal displays.

Other interesting and intriguing works of art in the Sculpture Garden include the Bog Walker by Aaron Spangler, the Geometric Mouse - Scale A by Claes Oldenburg, and The Spinner by Alexander Calder.

Address: 726 Vineland Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.walkerart.org/garden/

10. Walker Art Center

Walker Art Center
Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center is devoted to contemporary art. The center is an important venue in the city, with visual and performing arts, as well as film screenings and various other events. Founded by lumber baron Thomas Barlow Walker, the Walker Art Center began at its current location in 1927 and was comprised solely of a personal collection.

The award-winning facility you see today was built in 1971, expanded in 2005, and now hosts more than 700,000 people each year. The center contains numerous exhibition galleries, a theater, cinema, lounges, terraces, and eating establishments. Opposite the building is the associated Sculpture Garden.

Address: 725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Official site: http://www.walkerart.org/

11. Enjoy the Shops and Restaurants at Nicollet

Nicollet
Nicollet

The main shopping center in downtown Minneapolis is Nicollet, formerly known as Nicollet Mall, and is a beautifully laid out precinct running along Nicollet Avenue. This mainly pedestrian zone has a large concentration of shops, restaurants, galleries, and public art displays alongside a well-manicured walkway.

The central feature of the complex, over which looms the 775-foot tower of the IDS Center, is the Crystal Court piazza. From here a network of glazed skyways lead to other buildings. Further skyscrapers tower all around.

12. City Hall

City Hall
City Hall

To the east of Nicollet Mall and Crystal Court is City Hall, also known as the Municipal Building. It was built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Of note in the interior is the statue in the Rotunda, Father of the Waters, carved from a single block of Carrara marble.

The building's clock tower, which set records in the city at the time it was built, rises above the building and chimes at certain times of the day. The Municipal Building is a National Historic Landmark.

Address: 350 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

13. Experience Nature at Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Lake Harriet Bandshell
Lake Harriet Bandshell

Southwest of the city center, Chain of Lakes Regional Park is comprised of five different shorelines connected by pedestrian trails and green space. Boating, biking, and visits to the Lyndale Park Rose Garden are all fun things to do within this sprawling public area, and special events like live music at the Lake Harriet Bandshell occur throughout the year.

Chain of Lakes is one of seven districts along the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, which circumnavigates the city, connecting parks, natural spaces, and other bodies of water. Lakeside walking paths and public beaches are also popular attractions at Chain of Lakes, and in winter, the area offers some of the best cross-country ski trails in the city.

Address: 2000 Upton Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minnesota

Where to Stay in Minneapolis for Sightseeing

The best place to stay in Minneapolis, either for work or pleasure, is downtown. Minneapolis has a vibrant city center, with museums, shopping, and restaurants; and the Minneapolis Skyway System, which connects 69 blocks with indoor pedestrian bridges, is perfect for getting around on cold winter days. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:

Luxury Hotels:

  • In a great location downtown, near entertainment venues, restaurants, and shops, and connected to the Skyway, The Hyatt Centric Downtown Minneapolis is an elegant landmark hotel in a historic building.
  • Within easy walking distance of Nicollet Mall and the theaters along Hennepin Avenue, the recently renovated Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown offers well-appointed rooms and suites.
  • The unique, Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis, in two landmark revival buildings and featuring contemporary art, is a cultural treat. Within a one-mile vicinity of this hotel are the Minnesota Sculpture Garden, the Walker Art Center, and several historic theaters.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The BEST WESTERN PLUS The Normandy Inn & Suites is a lovely property in the heart of downtown, featuring large rooms and suites and an indoor pool in a garden atrium.
  • On Nicollet Mall and connected to the Convention Center by a skyway, the Millennium Hotel has been completely renovated and offers contemporary rooms and suites.
  • At the top-end of the mid-range category, the Hyatt Regency features Scandinavian décor and great views over the city from the upper floors.

Budget Hotels:

  • Further out from the main downtown area, but still within a reasonable distance, is the recently renovated Days Hotel University Ave SE, with free breakfast and rooms with fridges.
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