Guide: The Perfect Day in Minneapolis

February 2, 2021

By Josiah Bondy

 

An arts and culture hub, the “City of Lakes” is one of my favorite cities in the country. There is something for everyone in Minneapolis: the foodie, the adventurist, the shopper, the sports fan, even the wildlife lover. Minneapolis is the city that keeps on giving. This guide is a starting point for your first few adventures into the city or even the perfect date.
Depending on the time of year, you will have to adjust — but we’re used to celebrating all four seasons, and our cities do, too. Minneapolis doesn’t close down when temperatures drop, and neither should you.

 

Without further ado, here is the itinerary for my perfect day in Minneapolis:

Start your day off with a hearty brunch from one of the city’s many restaurants.

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On the weekends, you’ll find endless opportunities for brunch dining, but you might want to check out one of these spots:

  • Birchwood Cafe
    • Need breakfast with a flower on it? You’ve come to the right place. Birchwood Cafe holds high standards for its food, even beyond the flavor. So you know when you’re eating there, you’re supporting a business that is doing good for the community, holding high their values.
  • Hola Arepa
    • This joint serves up Venezuelan-style arepas and an array of Latin American cuisine, so if you’re looking for a not-so-typical brunch, this is the paradise you’ve been waiting for. Heads up, their brunch times change, so be sure to check their website for updates.
  • Uptown Diner
    • Looking for the classics? Uptown Diner boasts a well-rounded breakfast menu that will leave your stomachs full and cravings satisfied. Try the Caprese Benedict or Kamikaze French Toast if you’re looking for a spin on the classics, or just go straight for my favorite – the Meat Lover’s Omelette. (Get a cinnamon roll, too — they’re insanely good.)

 

If you’re not quite ready for a full meal, stop by Glam Doll, Bogart’s, or Cardigan for some of the best donuts you’ve ever had. 

Bagel guy/gal? Rise Bagel Co. has you covered.

Wander around Minnehaha Park, where you’ll find the 53-foot tall waterfall, Minnehaha Falls.

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Along with the gorgeous view, this incredible 170-acre city park is full of nature and history, with plenty of hiking trails and paved pathways to explore.

 

I could write a lot more about what to do at Minnehaha Falls, but just look at that waterfall — it’s plenty enough of a reason to visit.

Hungry? It’s Lunchtime.

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If you visit Minneapolis enough, you’ll soon realize the options for good food are endless. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Southern: Revival
    • Everything is as good as it sounds or better.
  • Pho: Quang
    • They’re famous for all kinds of Vietnamese food, and I’m crazy about the Pho.
  • Juicy Lucy’s (Burgers): Blue Door Pub
    • Minnesota is home to the first Juicy Lucy — a burger stuffed with melted cheese that oozes out when you bite (yes, it’s incredible). And, don’t sleep on the spicy cheese curds! They’re the best cheese curds I’ve ever had.
  • Banh Mi: Lu’s Sandwiches
    • Another Vietnamese joint, but totally different concept. These are the best Banh Mi’s in town, and they now have multiple locations across the city.
  • Pizza: Pizzeria Lola
  • Ecuadorian: Chimborazo
    • Owner Marcos Pinguil brought Ecuadorian cuisine to Northeast Minneapolis, and we’re crazy about it.
  • New American: Brasa Rotisserie
    • Some of the best meat you’ll ever eat. (There are vegan options, too.)
  • Authentic Mexican tacos: Taqueria La Hacienda
    • It feels like I took a trip to the border towns of Texas — except they wrap the tacos in two corn tortillas, which isn’t a thing in Mexico (or so my Mexican roommate told me).
  • Global cuisine (a.k.a. a bit of everything): Midtown Global Market
    • This is the place to go if everything sounds good because you can get a little bit of everything — Indian, Cambodian, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Moroccan, American, sushi, and more. If you’re with a group of friends that can’t agree on what they want, this is your spot.

Explore 4,000 years of history through over 8,000 pieces of art as you traverse the galleries of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (we call it MIA — pronounced me•uh).

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You’ll find priceless works of painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, and print from all time periods. If you prefer to stay in the modern/experimental realm, we suggest you make another trip to the Walker Art Center, though the Walker charges for admission. 

Pro tip: Visit the Walker Art Center on Thursdays from 5 – 9 PM for Target Free Thursday Nights.

Time to recharge — did somebody say coffee? (I did.)

Pennys

Minneapolis is a hub for artistry, and the spirit of creation has produced some of the best coffee shops you’ll find in the midwest. Some of my favorites:

Build up your appetite — by bike or paddleboard.

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Rent a Nice Ride. For a few bucks, you can rent a bike and traverse the city’s extensive bike routes. Nice Ride stations are conveniently located throughout the city. Here’s my go-to route:

  1. Start at the Nicollet Island Pay Lot. There is a Nice Ride rental station here, and the parking is inexpensive.
  2. Bike down Main Street, then over the Mississippi River on the Stone Arch Bridge — one of Minnesota’s most classic artifacts.
  3. Trek up the slight hill to Gold Medal Park, and stop at Izzy’s Ice Cream if you need to cool down.
  4. Hop back on and pedal past the Guthrie Theatre (we’ll stop here later). Keep pedaling past Mill City Farmer’s Market and the Mill City Museum, then make your way back to the waterfront.
  5. Take the West River Parkway bike path until you reach the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.
  6. Cross the bridge, and you’ll be back where you started!

If you want to keep biking, explore Boom Island Park and find more waterfront paths; there’s plenty to discover, including abandoned bridges, sculptures, and calming water ripples amidst the bustling city backdrop.

 

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Rent paddleboards on Lake of the Isles from Wheel Fun Rentals. The launch point is actually located on Bde Maka Ska, but I recommend hopping on your paddleboard and making a b-line north under the bridge to Lake of the Isles. The serene lake is surrounded by the estates of some of the city’s top executives but remains a nature haven decorated with Minneapolis’ incredible skyline.

Winter / Alternative option: Peruse the streets of the North Loop, and satisfy your shopping desires (or just look because it can be expensive). There are tons of shops, from pop-ups to Minneapolis staples, that deserve your attention.

Dinner time. The cream of the crop for cuisine.

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Photo courtesy of Libby Anderson, Spoon and Stable.

Your day’s activities will undoubtedly influence your cravings, so here are several options classified by how sweaty you’re feeling:

“I’m drenched and need something quick.” $-$$

If it’s one of those days when you aren’t looking for a sit-down joint or just need to save a couple of bucks, there are still plenty of options. Here are my take-out spots:

  • Marty’s Deli
    • This pop-up spot features some of the city’s best sandwiches. It moves around the city, so check out their website and Instagram to find their most up-to-date locations.
  • Food Trucks
    • You’ll have to track them down, but Minneapolis is littered with incredible food trucks throughout the year.
  • Taqueria Victor Hugo
    • This food truck crawls around The Commons in front of the U.S. Bank Stadium. I’ve been hearing lots of people taco-bout it.

 

“I’m sweaty, but I still want to eat good.” $$-$$$

Basically any of the lunch options mentioned earlier will be great for a laid-back dinner as well, but here are a few more options:

  • Nico’s Tacos and Tequila Bar — Uptown
    • If you want a fun outdoor setting that isn’t overwhelming or “too lit,” this is your joint. The tacos are good, and the old-house-converted-to-restaurant makes for a great backdrop to a summer evening well spent.
  • Animales BBQ
    • Meet the meat. I’m drooling just thinking about the giant smoked platters served on a metal tray. This is a meat lover’s dream.
  • Smack Shack
    • Casual and coastal? Grab a seat on the outdoor patio and enjoy seafood that smacks.
  • Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge
    • Looking for unique? You found it. This funky joint sits on the Mississippi River, and it makes you feel like you’re somewhere else. I’m not sure where, but somewhere tropical and… tiki-ish. The food is pretty good, and the vibes are great.

 

“No sweat here. I’m ready for something to wow me.” $$$-$$$$

Don’t forget to make reservations; these top-notch culinary destinations can be hard to get in, so you’ll want to plan ahead.

  • Bar La Grassa
    • Contemporary spins on classic Italian small plates, this hub is energetic and packed with foodies from all around. It’s won the James Beard Award, and it’s my favorite Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to Italy). My favorite dishes: Gnocchi w/ Cauliflower & Orange and Smoked Spaghetti Alla Chitarra w/ Brown Butter & Lobster.
  • Spoon and Stable
    • Michelin-starred, Iron Chef America-won, and James Beard-awarded, Chef Gavin Kaysen came back to his hometown Minneapolis to start this award-winning restaurant. The menu is seasonal, so recommendations are difficult to make. But if you ever have the chance, get the pork chop. It’s quite possibly the best piece of meat I’ve ever eaten.
  • Young Joni
    • James Beard award-winning chef, Ann Kim, brings this wood-fired menu to Northeast Minneapolis, blessing all those who get the honor of visiting. If you forget to make a reservation, you may get lucky to grab a seat at the community table — a space set aside for strangers to meet and be human together. Everything is good, but I’m a sucker for the YOLO pizza.
  • Copper Hen
    • Here’s for the farm-fresh comfort lover. Everything on the menu is made from scratch in-house with as many local ingredients as possible. The Baked Macaroni & Cheese is the best cure for a stark winter’s day — and it’s vegan, too (though us meat-lovers can add bacon for a couple bucks).

Visit the Guthrie’s Level Nine as night falls.

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This yellow room gives the perfect vantage point to view the intricacies of the Minneapolis skyline. On one side, gaze into the illuminated streets of downtown Minneapolis from high above. On the other, look over the Stone Arch Bridge, color-changing Interstate 35W Bridge, and University of Minnesota campus.

Journey down a couple of stories and walk onto The Endless Bridge to the outdoor vantage point, stretched 178 feet from the building’s face and hovering 55 feet above the parkway. Then, just wander the halls of the Guthrie — an art marvel and surreal experience for art aficionados and ordinary folk alike. If you’re up for it, see a show in one of the building’s three distinct theatre spaces.

Get Boba Tea or Ice Cream to round out a perfect day.

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I frequently end a Minneapolis day’s visit at one of my favorite boba tea shops or ice cream parlors. These are the ones that call me back time-over-time.

  • Sencha Tea Bar
    • Hands down, my favorite bubble tea. If you don’t know what bubble/boba tea is, you’ve got to check it out. This Taiwanese drink has become a phenomenon across the Twin Cities in recent years, with tons of shops popping up to enjoy. My favorite drink is iced black tea flavored with pomegranate and plenty of tapioca pearls (boba).
  • Milk Jam Creamery
    • Some of the best ice cream you could ask for. I especially love that they partner with Glam Doll Donuts to bring a donut ice cream sandwich rolled in Fruity Pebbles. It might sound weird, but it’s incredible.
  • MN Nice Ice Cream 
    • If you like dipped waffle cones with an insane amount of crazy toppings (like sparkles, cookies, and gummy worms), then this is the place for you. It’s pretty Instagrammable, too.
  • Insomnia Cookies
    • Did it take you way too long to complete all of the above steps on the itinerary? Don’t worry; Insomnia Cookies is open well into the night. It sits in Dinkytown, the University of Minnesota’s late-night activity hub, so it’s used to having visitors at all times of the evening.

 

This list isn’t exhaustive. I’m still exploring the city, and I’ve lived here for a decade! Grab some adventurous friends and see the city that epitomizes the diverse Minnesota creative culture. The best part of exploring the city is coming across the deep souls that reside there. Along the way, you’ll connect with people, learn new things, and find stories that inspire you.