Heading to the North Star State? Make a stop in Downtown Minneapolis and discover the ins and outs of this beautiful city. Spliced by the Mississippi River, Minneapolis is most known for its chain of tranquil lakes, lovely urban parks, and thriving arts scene.
Downtown Minneapolis spans six of the city’s 83 neighborhoods and is a bustling district with architecturally renowned tower blocks. Also known as Central Minneapolis, this city center area has loads to see & do, from stunning sculpture gardens to laid-back speakeasy-style bars.
Take in some history on the banks of the Mississippi River at the Mill City Museum or admire street art at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Enjoy vibrant nightlife at some of the city’s top bars and nightclubs.
Has the City of Lakes piqued your interest? Before setting out on your adventure, check out this great guide covering what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Downtown Minneapolis, MN.
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What to see & do in Central Minneapolis
Mill City Museum
Take in a bit of history about the city with a visit to the Mill City Museum. Resting on the banks of the historic Mississippi Riverfront, the small museum documents the birth and growth of Minneapolis. It also tells the convoluted history of the growing city with the flour industry when Minneapolis was the world’s flour milling capital.
Integrated into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, the Mill City Museum is in the Mill District, a historic neighborhood with several former flour mills. The museum is a sensory adventure with interactive activities, raw power, and spectacular river views.
At one of Minneapolis’s must-see museums, you’ll follow the journey of wheat from farm to market and how 19th-century flour milling machines were used. Check out a 19th-century boxcar that was used for transporting grain. Hop on an elevator up the flour tower and experience a working reproduction of a mill in action.
Mill Ruins Park
Blending the rich history of Minneapolis and outdoor activities, Mill Ruins Park is an excellent spot for a relaxing afternoon. The park rests at the heart of Minneapolis’ revitalized historic West Side Milling District on the Mississippi River’s west bank.
The aptly named park protects the ruins of mills that were once the center of the city’s world-famous flour-milling industry. Wander through the historic site on catwalks and admire the archaeological excavation of the old mills.
The Water Works pavilion area in Mill Ruins Park is a lovely spot to enjoy a barbecue and dine under the stars. Take the kids to Nature Play Lab, a beautiful garden and nature-themed playground with sensory-engaging plants.
Stroll across the famed Stone Arch Bridge for lovely views of the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls.
Basilica of Saint Mary
If you love beautiful Beaux-Arts architecture, visiting the Basilica of Saint Mary is a must! Set along Hennepin Avenue, the Roman Catholic church was the first in the country and is renowned for its exquisite French-style architecture.
Designed by Emmanuel Masqueray in 1906, the Basilica of Saint Mary was built to replace the Church of the Immaculate Conception. It features 70-foot-high white Vermont granite walls and an elegant colonnaded entrance flanked by two 116-foot spires on each side.
Head inside and marvel at the stunning arched stained-glass windows, the Rose Window, and the unique Coat of Arms. Take note of the beautifully carved crucifixion tableau and the 675 angels dotted around the church’s interior.
For the most beautiful views of the Basilica of Saint Mary, head to the charming Loring Park, where you can relax on the lawns next to the lake and soak up the views. You’ll also find extensive walking and cycling paths and some lovely cafés.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Another wonderful park to explore on your Downtown Minneapolis adventures is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Just across the I-394 from Loring Park, the 11-acre urban space combines spectacular natural beauty with the city’s thriving cultural scene and is one of the coolest places to see in Minneapolis.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is sprinkled with over 40 sculptures from the nearby Walker Art Center, including Claes Oldenburg’s famous giant spoon sculpture, Spoonbridge and Cherry. Stroll around the gardens’ tree-lined walkways and meandering paths, admiring the sculptures.
Wander through the pollinator garden and admire the 200-foot-long Alene Grossman Memorial Arbor and Flower Garden. Head to the Sage and John Cowles Conservatory on the park’s west edge to see striking seasonal displays of colorful plants, creeping figs, and palm trees.
Enjoy free tours of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden from May through August (often touted as the best time of year to travel Minneapolis). Check the garden’s events calendar for outdoor concerts and educational activities for visitors of all ages regularly hosted in the park.
Foshay Museum and Observation Deck
Stop at the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck on South Marquette Avenue for a bird’s eye view of the city. The museum and deck are based within the Foshay Tower, a 32-story skyscraper built by utility magnate Wilbur Foshay in 1929 as a homage to the Washington Monument.
The Foshay Tower is one of the most well-known landmarks in the Twin Cities, towering 447 feet above the city. Catch the elevator to the 31st floor, where you’ll find the outdoor Observation Deck and some breathtaking views. Take 360-degree panoramic views of the city, where you can see up to 30 miles into the distance on a cloudless day.
Visit the Foshay Museum to learn the history of the unique skyscraper and how it was developed and built by its eccentric creator. You can buy tickets to the museum and observation deck at the front desk of the W Minneapolis Hotel, which is in the building.
Minneapolis Farmers Market
Pick up some fresh fruit and veggies and enjoy a chat with the locals at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Situated on Lyndale and Glenwood Avenue in the North Loop, the bustling market is set in three distinct red sheds and features 170 stalls with over 100 vendors.
Founded in 1876, the Minneapolis Farmers Market is the largest farmer-managed market in the state. The market is open daily, year-round, but if you want to get the complete market experience with its vibrant colors, sights, and sounds, head there on the weekend.
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Stroll around the charming stalls and pick up some fresh produce, handmade cheese, and owner-harvested honey. It’s also a fantastic spot for finding unique gifts with a lovely selection of handmade arts and crafts and locally created goodies.
Set in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis, The Commons is a beautiful place to take a break from the city and spend a few hours of quiet time. Spanning 4.2 acres, the park has expansive green lawns, hundreds of trees and plants, and plenty of places to sit and relax.
The Common is set against a beautiful backdrop of the city’s buildings and the US Bank Stadium. Wander around the park on a network of walkways connecting different city parts. Find a spot on the lawns for a picnic and soak up the sun while reading best-selling books and local newspapers from The Commons’ book cart.
There’s always something going on at The Commons, from lawn games and music concerts to monthly outdoor movie series and a weekly farmers market. Join a free workout class on the grass, challenge one of the locals to a chess game, or try your hand at the traditional Swedish game of Viking Chess.
Watch a Broadway show at the beautifully restored Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Minneapolis. Located on Hennepin Avenue in the heart of the Hennepin Theatre District, the theater is one of four in the city. Other theaters along the avenue include the Shubert Theatre, the State Theatre, and the Pantages Theatre.
Originally named the Hennepin Theater, the Orpheum Theatre opened in 1921 and has been hosting pre-Broadway world premiere, Broadway touring productions, concerts, and cinema events ever since.
Watch a Tony-award-winning Broadway show like Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, or Wicked. After the show, take a short walk to the Saloon for a post-show drink.
Where to eat & drink
There’s no shortage of fantastic spots to wine and dine, grab a coffee, or relax over a cold brew around Downtown Minneapolis.
If you’re a breakfast-at-any-time-of-the-day kind of person, the Hen House Eatery is heaven! You can tuck into eggs Benedict, French toast, and breakfast burgers at all hours of the day. Order a Breakfast Margarita Bull cocktail with agave tequila, lime juice, and fresh berry jam to really kickstart your day!
For the juiciest steak in town, Murray’s is the go-to. This Minneapolis institution has been serving mouthwatering steaks since 1946 and won’t disappoint! Cut into the flagship Silver Butter Knife Steak with Caesar salad, potato au gratin, and fine red wine. If you prefer something lighter but just as delicious, order the Australian lobster tail or the hickory smoked shrimp.
Comfortable and cozy with an upscale ambiance, Hell’s Kitchen Inc. is great for a laid-back lunch or romantic dinner. Tucked into an underground lair in Downtown Minneapolis, the award-winning restaurant has a superb menu of chef-driven cuisine. Sip cocktails at the Bloody Mary and Mimosa Bar while listening to live music.
For a very cool Latin American vibe, head to Barrio restaurant and tequila bar. You’ll find delicious food, bold cocktails, and over 100 varieties of tequila and mezcal. Kick back in the vibrant atmosphere with plates of enchiladas, tostadas, tacos, and a signature Trinity margarita.
Towering burgers, pot pies, and award-winning Juicy Lucy’s are the order of the day at Crooked Pint Ale House. Pair your pub grub with classic cocktails and craft brews. Kids are welcome, with plenty of choices on the menu to delight the little ones.
Missing your favorite local? Pop into The Local for traditional Irish food and drinks and a comfortable spot to watch the game. Another great place to unwind over a cold beer and delicious pub fare is The Bulldown Downtown. Watch out for fantastic nightly beer specials.
Head back to the Prohibition era with an evening at the Prohibition Bar. Nestled on the 27th floor of the Foshay Tower, this classic speakeasy oozes 1920s charm with an elegant hush-hush feel. Order one of the vintage cocktails like the ‘Jackie Diamond.’
Where to stay
As it’s the heart of the city, Downtown is home to many of the most popular places to stay in Minneapolis. The accommodation options in the city center are plentiful, spanning everything from traditional hotels to apartments and vacation rentals.
A short walk from Target Field ballpark in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis, Hampton Inn & Suites – Minneapolis/Downtown promises a comfortable and convenient stay. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast every morning, stay connected with free Wi-Fi, and grab a snack from the 24-hour snack shop. Upgrade your room with a kitchenette and a sitting area.
Ideally located within the IDS Center skyscraper in Central Minneapolis, the Marquette Hotel Curio Collection by Hilton boasts classic guest rooms with modern amenities and free Wi-Fi. Book a Club-level room for added perks like complimentary continental breakfast, evening appetizers, and cocktails in a private lounge. Dine on modern American cuisine in the hotel restaurant.
In town for a Minnesota Timberwolves game? Opposite the Target Center, the Loews Minneapolis Hotel is an ideal base. Elegant guest rooms have beautiful en-suite bathrooms and fully stocked minibars. Sip cocktails at the Apothecary Bar & Lounge and enjoy massage treatments at the full-service spa. Book the penthouse with a baby grand piano for the ultimate in luxury.
Exuding the elegance of a bygone era, the W Minneapolis – The Foshay is a study in luxury. Enjoy high-tech features and signature amenities in chic guest rooms. Soak up 360-degree views of downtown Minneapolis from the 30th-Floor Observation Deck. Mingle in the famous Living Room and toast the day over cocktails in the 1920s-style Prohibition Bar.
Set in a sleek, high-design tower two blocks from the Mississippi River, the Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis offers luxury, style, and comfort. Pamper yourself in the spa, cool off in indoor and outdoor pools, and feast on Mediterranean-inspired fare by award-winning local chef Gavin Kaysen. Valets provide top-notch service.