Minneapolis’s Historic Mill District: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

If you want to make the most of your visit to Minneapolis – St. Paul, carve out time to explore its historic heart: the Mill District, Minneapolis. Set on the Mississippi River in Downtown East, this iconic neighborhood was once the site of a booming flour milling industry that made the Minneapolis Riverfront an economic powerhouse.

The former flour milling capital of the world no longer takes the cake for flour production – but today, the Mill District serves up a menu of tasty options for adventurous visitors.

Dip into the past as you explore what was once the largest mill in the world at the Mill City Museum. Feed your cultural appetite with exciting live performances at the world-famous Guthrie Theatre.

Absorb the scenic beauty of hiking trails that stretch along the Mississippi River, and dig into delicious fare at one of the neighborhood’s fabulous eateries. Or hit the Mill City Farmers Market for some fresh organic produce and pack yourself a picnic!

Ready to max out your time in the Historic Mill District? Do it with this complete guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay!

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What to see & do

Mill Ruins Park

If you’re intrigued by Minneapolis’s storied past, Mill Ruins Park is a must-see. Nestled in the spacious Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park, this was the site of the Washburn A. Mill, the world’s largest water-powered facility during the city’s 19th-century heyday.

Hidden for decades under masses of sand and gravel, the mill remnants were uncovered in the 1980s and brought back to life as Mill Ruins Park. This historic gem is a legacy of Minneapolis’s past as the flour-producing powerhouse that created world-famous companies like General Mills and Pillsbury.

Mill Ruins Park

Ramble through the ruins of the original mill, and get a close-up view of the 19th-century canal built to draw power from the Mississippi River. Take in the tumbling splendor of Saint Anthony Falls, the mill’s driving force. Snap some great pics as you stroll along the striking Stone Arch Bridge, a National Historic Landmark that linked Midwestern grain farmers to the site’s thriving flour mills.

Check out the park’s latest addition: the Water Works. Relax in its green open spaces and browse beautiful native plantings. Stake out a firepit and whip up an alfresco meal. Let the kids burn off some energy at the Nature Play Lab, where they can explore a children’s garden and nature-themed playground.

Mill City Museum

If you want to dig deep into Minneapolis’s flour power roots, put the Mill City Museum at the top of your bucket list of what to do in Minneapolis.

Stroll the Minneapolis Riverfront, and you’ll reach the ruins of the legendary Washburn A. Mill, the district’s primary mill in the late 19th century. You’ll discover the Mill City Museum, housed in the old mill remains.

Mill City Museum

Step inside one of the coolest museums in Minneapolis and travel a timeline reaching back to the 1870s. Discover the ruins of one of the world’s biggest mills, check out intriguing multimedia exhibits, and learn about how the Mill District became a driving force in the creation of today’s thriving Twin Cities.

Get a rare glimpse of antique flour-milling machinery, do some testing at the water quality lab, and nibble on fresh bread and brownies at the baking lab.

Don’t miss the museum’s star attraction: the soaring “Flour Tower.” Listen to audio re-enactments of the city’s colorful past as you ride the elevator to the observation deck. Step out on the ninth floor, and you’ll be rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Saint Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, and the bustling city they helped create.

Guthrie Theater

Culture vultures will want to put the Guthrie Theater at the top of their playlist. One of Minneapolis’s most important cultural institutions, this world-renowned theater was crafted to pay tribute to its Midwest home: it takes the shape of a massive grain silo – and it’s a visual knockout.

Founded in 1963, the Guthrie Theater began with a single summer season of four shows. Today, it’s home to three separate theaters and a world-class training facility and hosts over 350,000 patrons every year.

Guthrie Theater

This gleaming, 285,000-square-foot complex is worth a visit even if you don’t plan to take in a show! To get a glimpse of behind-the-scenes magic, take a weekend backstage tour.

Looking for some fabulous views? Head up to the 4th floor and venture out to the Endless Bridge, which juts out nearly 180 feet from the side of the building. Enjoy fantastic panoramic vistas as you “hang out” over the Mississippi River.

For even more great photo ops, head up to the Pohlad Lobby on the 9th floor. You’ll be wowed by wraparound views of the Mississippi River and the Minneapolis skyline through enormous amber-tinted windows.

Talk about dramatic flair!

Gold Medal Park

If you’re looking for a unique blend of historic intrigue and natural beauty in Downtown Minneapolis, you’ll find an ideal combination at Gold Medal Park. Set in Minneapolis’s Downtown East neighborhood, the district was named for one of the Mill District’s most famous products: General Mills’ Gold Medal Flour.

Gold Medal Park is a green oasis that invites you to slow down and chill out. Treat your senses to a ramble over the park’s 7.5 acres. Meander through striking stands of mature maple and linden trees and browse the impressive outdoor art installations that border the park.

Gold Medal Park

Climb a spiral walkway that leads to the site’s focal point: a 32-foot-tall earthen mound. This park highpoint was created as a tribute to the sacred burial grounds built over the centuries by the Twin Cities’ original Indigenous inhabitants.

The park remains a place for community gatherings and quiet contemplation. Settle in and enjoy stunning views of the cityscape. After sunset, sit back and take in the otherworldly beauty of park benches lit up with blue LED lights.

Mill City Farmers Market

If you’re a fan of the fresh and the handmade, wend your way to the Mill City Farmers Market. Set in what was once a rail yard for Minneapolis’s historic flour mills, this Mill District icon has become a foodie go-to.

Nestled between the Guthrie Theater and the Mill City Museum, the Mill City Farmers Market sets up shop every Saturday from May to October, rain or shine. Savor the laid-back vibe as you browse a colorful array of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and fresh foods from the area’s best local growers.

Soak up the amazing historic ambiance of the Market’s century-old exposed brick walls, massive iron beams, and domed glass canopy. Look down, and you’ll see that you’re walking on a historic gem: the original rail tracks that brought train cars loaded with grain into the Washburn A Mill.

Take your pick of organic produce, fresh-baked goodies, gorgeous in-season flowers, and unique handcrafted items to fill out your Saturday dance card.

Stone Arch Bridge

If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy set, take yourself and your camera for a stroll along the Mill District’s Stone Arch Bridge. Built by railroad tycoon James J. Hill to carry Canadian and Red River Valley wheat across the Mississippi, the bridge sparked Minneapolis’s explosive growth as a mill town.

Dating back to 1883, this Minneapolis icon remains the only arched bridge made of stone on the Mississippi. The Mills faded away in the mid-1900s, but the Stone Arch Bridge continued to buzz with rail and car traffic into the 1990s. Today, it’s a pedestrian-only thoroughfare – making it a magnet for sightseers.

Stone Arch Bridge in Winter

Take a moment to admire the beautiful symmetry of this 23-arch National Historic Landmark – still a powerful symbol of the railroad age. Then head up top for a leisurely hike or bike along the bridge’s 2100-foot span.

Keep your camera handy, because you’ll want to capture the spectacular panoramic views of Saint Anthony Falls and the Minneapolis Mill District.

RELATED: Recommended Day Trips from Minneapolis

If you happen to be in the City of Lakes in mid-June, be sure to check out the Stone Arch Bridge Festival for fireworks, art displays, live music, and other merrymaking.

The Depot Minneapolis

Feeling primed for a trip back in time? Enjoy a brush with the past at The Depot Minneapolis. Set in Minneapolis’s historic Gateway District, this site is the legacy of a bygone era when rail travel was a rare adventure.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Depot Minneapolis was a bustling hub for the Minnesota Central Railroad in the late 1800s. This was where passengers disembarked when they visited the City of Lakes – making it the “gateway” to the booming 19th-century mill town now known as Minneapolis.

Built in 1899, this Renaissance Revival-style building is one of the last remaining truss-roofed railway structures in the US. For nearly 70 years, the Depot’s atrium buzzed with life as travelers arrived and departed. The last train left the station in 1971, but The Depot still stands as a testament to the romance of the railroad era.

After being meticulously restored and renovated in the late 1990s, the Depot is home to a different kind of buzz. Check out its 21st-century incarnation as the crowning jewel of a lively complex of attractions that features two hotels, an event space, cafes, condos, and a theater complex.

Where to eat & drink

If you’re in Minneapolis, you’re in the bread basket of the Midwest – so you can count on a cuisine scene that features fantastic fare made with locally-sourced ingredients. You’ll find some of the top places to eat fresh in the Mill District.

Looking for a lively eatery with a friendly neighborhood vibe? Park yourself at Bushel & Peck in the Mill City Museum. Dive into offerings ranging from organic salads made with locally-sourced produce to hearty artisan burgers served on fresh, homemade buns.

If you want to experience true North American cuisine, check out mouthwatering Indigenous offerings at Owamni by The Sioux Chef. Sample from a menu that includes tacos, salads, game meat dishes, and a wide range of plant-based selections. This is super-healthy fare – all naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and soy-free!

If you’re a fresh food fan, drop into Farmers Kitchen + Bar for a next-level farm-to-table experience. Owned by the farmer members of the Minnesota Farmers Union, this kitchen guarantees fresh-from-the-field eats. Chow down on Minnesota 8-Grain Griddlecakes, fresh salads, or stick-to-your-ribs sandwiches. Pair your meal with a Minnesota-made craft brew.

Caribou Coffee makes a pretty convincing case for its star product: “Life is short. Stay awake for it.” This premium coffeehouse features a mind-blowing array of coffees made from small-batch roasted beans sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified® farms. Pair your jolt of joe with to-die-for goodies like a chocolate croissant or red velvet cake.

If you’re hankering for a touch of the Irish, you’ll get it at Pog Mahone’s Pub & Grill. Known for its friendly vibe, this homey gastropub serves up hearty comfort food like Pot Roast and Guinness Beef Stew. Slake your thirst with a pick from their great craft beer selection.

Looking for a friendly neighborhood sports bar that dishes up great food & drink? Snag a spot in the Crooked Pint Ale House. Chill out with a brew during their afternoon Happy Hour, then chow down on hearty favorites like Chicken Pot Pie or their famous Juicy Lucy cheese-stuffed burger.

Where to stay

The historic industrial hub of the City of Lakes has undergone a renaissance, and today the Mill District’s lively urban energy makes it one of the most popular places to stay in Minneapolis. You’ll find a great selection of contemporary lofts and other modern accommodation options to make a perfect stay.

aloft Minneapolis

Aloft Minneapolis

Perched in trendy East Town, this recently-renovated hotel reflects the vibrant neighborhood around it. Relax in your spacious, loft-inspired room. Luxuriate in features like an ultra-comfortable signature bed, oversized rain showerhead, and bath goodies by Bliss® Spa. Stay connected with WiFi, or chill out in front of your in-room 55” LCD TV, pre-loaded with streaming apps. Mix and mingle at the XYZ bar, or grab a bite in the Re:mix lounge.

Residence Inn Minneapolis Downtown at the Depot

Residence Inn Minneapolis Downtown at The Depot

Looking for a place to hunker down for more than a night? Settle in at this modern, extended-stay hotel, where you’ll find a home away from home. Rental units include all-suite options, complete with a kitchen. Enjoy features including free Wi-Fi and a complimentary hot breakfast. You can grab a workout in the fitness center or pool, then refuel at the on-site restaurant.

Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot

Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot

Set in the beautifully renovated Depot in the heart of the Mill District, this hotel blends traditional warmth with high-end design. Guestrooms offer your choice of modern or historical styling, along with luxury bedding and complimentary Wi-Fi. Relax in the heated indoor pool, then unwind in style with a craft cocktail at the hotel’s bar, fireplace, outdoor fire pit, or patio.

Treksplorer

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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