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From fantastic cultural attractions, including some of the nation’s top museums and theaters, to scenic lakes and outdoor adventures galore, Minneapolis offers something for just about every type of visitor and is a top travel destination in Minnesota. Check out our top picks for the best things to do in Minneapolis.
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The Minnesota Zoo offers the chance to see a wide range of exotic animals in exhibits that are spread over six themed areas and scenic walking trails. Some of the most popular include the “Tropics Trail,” which winds through an indoor exhibit showcasing creatures from the tropics, the indoor/outdoor “Russia’s Grizzly Coast” with animals from Far East Russia and the “Medtronic Minnesota Trail,” with animals that are native to the state. Visitors can also watch daily feeds and shows, including a Monk Seal Demo and the Tropical Reef Dive Show as well as watch films that focus on wildlife from around the world in the IMAX Theatre.
Located just a few minutes southwest of downtown, the Chain of Lakes is made up of a number of scenic lakes in the Minneapolis metro area, each with their own distinct attractions and things to do. There are 13 miles of paved paths running along the lake shores for walking and biking, and during the warmer months of the year, the water is popular for canoeing, kayaking and boating. The lakes are even popular in the winter, a time when many enjoy ice skating or hockey on the frozen water, and cross-country skiing on land.
Mill City Museum offers the chance to explore the city’s industrious past. Located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, it sits within hat was once the world’s largest flour mill. You’ll need a least a couple of hours to explore this museum that recreates an authentic mill experience, complete with equipment, railroad cars, hands-on exhibits that demonstrate milling techniques and even cooking demonstrations that are hosted on its own baking lab. Be sure to head to the 9th-floor observation deck where you can enjoy views of St. Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River.
The Guthrie Theater, which sits along the banks of the Mississippi River, opened its doors more than a half-century ago. It’s a center for theater performance, as well as production, education and professional training, offering visitors the chance to enjoy classic works as well as contemporary plays. The theater has won multiple awards for its design, drawing many visitors from across the globe just to marvel at its architecture. A variety of tours are offered, including self-guided, architectural and backstage tours, and there are also two outstanding dining options, an upscale lounge and a boutique store onsite.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts showcases nearly 80,000 works spanning more than 5,000 years – and it’s free to explore. Whether you’re interested in European masterpieces by the likes of artists like Monet or ancient Egyptian artifacts, you’re sure to find it here. One of the must-sees is the world-renowned Asian art collection, though you won’t want to miss the European exhibit or the Modern and Contemporary galleries either. When you’re in need of a break, the museum also offers the Agra Culture Coffee Shop and Cafe.
The Mall of America is located just south of the city and is one of the top things to do while visiting Minneapolis, as it is the largest shopping mall in the United States. It not only hosts more than 500 stores and dozens of restaurants but many attractions that you wouldn’t find in most malls, like a butterfly garden, an aquarium and even an indoor amusement park with some 25 rides. Other highlights include the House of Comedy, the Amazing Mirror Maze, the A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center, and a movie theater.
Minnehaha Park is sprawled alongside the Mississippi River, providing a natural oasis that’s just minutes from the city. The 193-acre park boasts Minnehaha Falls, a 53-foot-tall waterfall made famous after being spotlighted in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.” While the falls draw visitors from far and wide, the park is a popular spot for outdoor activities with paths that are ideal for scenic walks and bike rides. It also includes a playground and volleyball courts. In the summer, the Wabun wading pool provides a good place for cooling off.
Whether you’re a baseball fan, an NFL fan or both, you can enjoy your fill at Target Field, cheering on the MLB’s Minnesota Twins and enjoying a local twist on baseball favorites like polish sausage, while the sparkling new U.S. Bank Stadium hosts the Minnesota Vikings pro football team. Both stadiums offer behind-the-scenes tours that include the chance to see areas the public usually can’t get into, which is perfect if you can’t be in Minneapolis for a big game.
If you’re looking for the ultimate selfie that represents your Minneapolis visit, head to downtown and look for the bronze statue that honors Mary Tyler Moore, or rather her character, Mary Richards, from the iconic ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’, where in the opening sequence she tosses her hat towards the sky with her joyful expression as an independent career woman, a rarity in American television during its time. The beloved actress played a young single television producer for a Minneapolis news station in the popular series that ran from 1970 through 1977.
While it’s a little over 10 miles from downtown, the Hyland Hills Ski Area is well worth a mention as one of the most popular places to head in the wintertime for Minneapolis area residents. Easily accessible from the city, it sits within the Hyland Lake Park Reserve and offers downhill skiing and snowboarding in the metro area. The terrain park is filled with progressive and innovative features and is also known for some of the best snow-making and grooming in the entire Midwest.