Thinking about booking a trip to Minnesota? Don’t miss a chance to fill out your vacation with all the best things to do in Minneapolis. The state’s biggest city and most interesting urban travel destination, Minneapolis is the perfect addition to any Midwest itinerary.
Known for its amazing art scene, museums, bountiful natural beauty, and famous residents like Prince and Bob Dylan, Minneapolis and neighboring Saint Paul—known as the Twin Cities—are the perfect places to spend a few days. Exploring the city’s top tourist attractions, you can kick back and relax at Minnehaha Park, admire contemporary art at the Walker Art Center, or catch a glimpse of the city’s industrial past at Mill Ruins Park. After a long day of sightseeing,
Not sure what to do or where to go on your vacation? Plan the perfect getaway with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Minneapolis, MN!
Must-see places to visit in Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Experience beautiful, quirky art in an open-air atmosphere at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Located in Loring Park at the end of Hennepin Avenue, this outdoor sculpture park is one of the most interesting places to see in Minneapolis and the perfect place for art lovers to spend a lovely summer day outdoors.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has become an icon in the Minneapolis art scene. The open-air art gallery features over 50 permanent and temporary exhibits spread out over 11 landscaped acres.
While exploring the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, keep on the lookout for the striking Spoonbridge and Cherry piece by Claes Oldenburg and his wife Coosje Van Bruggen. Unveiled in 1988, the now-famous pop art fountain sculpture was the first piece commissioned by the garden—and its most celebrated.
Other iconic sculptures to spot here include Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch, Salute to Painting by Roy Lichtenstein, and the two 2021 works: Okciyapi by local artist Angela Two Stars and Adam and Eve by Simone Fattal.
Mill Ruins Park
Add an industrial and historic edge to your vacation with a visit to Mill Ruins Park. Located in the historic Mill District on the west side of St. Anthony Falls, the park offers an overgrown dive into Minneapolis’ past and is peppered with the remnants of buildings dating back to the 19th century.
As Minneapolis was once known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World,” flour industry relics and abandoned factories pepper the cityscape. At Mill Ruins Park, about twenty of these old buildings and structures have been turned into a wonderful and unique park that’s been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971.
Walk along the catwalks to see the mill ruins and archaeological excavations up close. Along the way, signposts let you learn more about the ruins and the neighborhood’s history.
After enjoying a history lesson in the fresh air, meander across the historic Stone Arch Bridge to snap some iconic photos of St. Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River for your Instagram feed.
Mill City Museum
Celebrate Minneapolis’s history and milling heritage at the Mill City Museum. Located on S 2nd Street, just south of Mill Ruins Park, this popular Minneapolis museum skates through the city’s humble beginnings to its apex as the world’s foremost flour-milling powerhouse.
Opened in 2003, the Mill City Museum is housed in the old Washburn A Complex. Established in the 19th century, the historic building was once the largest mill in the world and is now a designated National Historic Landmark.
Kids and adults alike will love perusing the interactive exhibits at the Mill City Museum. Take a trip through eight levels of multimedia presentations at the Flour Tower to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the milling process. Delight all your senses at the Baking Lab, tasting samples baked with various grain flours. Or marvel at the engineering genius of harnessing the Mississippi River to power the city’s industries at the Water Lab.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Need a dash of culture to complement your historical sightseeing? While away a few hours taking in some of the world’s most iconic artwork at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Known locally as the MIA, this famed art museum in the Whittier neighborhood is the perfect spot to add to your itinerary.
With over 80,000 pieces of art spanning centuries and hailing from all over the world, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is bound to have a piece that speaks to your soul. Browse galleries featuring everything from terracotta shrine heads from Nigeria and Japanese samurai art to Ancient Greek and Roman antiquities to pre-Columbine American artifacts. Or check out MIA’s modern & contemporary collections to spot artwork from famous artists like Van Gogh, Rubens, and Picasso.
It’s worth noting that the Minneapolis Institute of Art is closed on Mondays; be sure to factor that into your travel plans if you’re planning to visit.
General admission to the art museum is free; you’ll have to pay extra for special exhibits, however.
Stone Arch Bridge
Don’t leave Mill City without taking a stroll across the iconic Stone Arch Bridge. Located just east of St. Anthony Falls, this Minneapolis legend is the second-oldest surviving bridge crossing the Mississippi River. As you walk across the famed bridge, be sure to snap an iconic photo of downtown and Mill Ruins Park on the eastern riverbank.
Built in 1895 to boost railway passenger numbers, the Stone Arch Bridge quickly became one of the most instantly recognizable sights in Minneapolis. Whether you want to sit and people watch, take in the views of Saint Anthony Falls, or build up a sweat cycling across it, the former railroad bridge is one of the must-visit places to go in Minneapolis.
If you’re in Minneapolis on the 4th of July, perch yourself on Stone Arch Bridge for breathtaking views of the fireworks displays.
Minnehaha Regional Park
Need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get back in touch with nature? Minnehaha Regional Park is the wilderness paradise you’re after. With its hiking trails and relaxing green spaces, this calming oasis is one of the top Minneapolis attractions for outdoor activities.
Located along the Mississippi River, a short 20-minute drive southeast of Downtown Minneapolis, Minnehaha Park is dominated by the thunderous 53-foot Minnehaha Falls. As the waterfall flows from Minnehaha Creek, follow the sound of the water, trickling until it gets louder and louder until you finally reach Minnehaha Falls itself.
One of the top-rated day trips from Minneapolis, Minnehaha Park also offers bike rentals, children’s play pools in the summer, and plenty of spaces for family picnics.
Walker Art Center
If you love contemporary art, don’t miss the chance to visit the legendary Walker Art Center on your City of Lakes vacation. At this art museum on Vineland Place in the Lowry Hill neighborhood, you’ll browse a collection of over 13,000 pieces from famous artists like Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Edward Hopper, Yves Klein, and more.
The popular art museum is home to a staggering ten galleries, cafes, theater spaces, cinemas—and even a full restaurant; you can easily spend half of your holiday exploring the Walker Art Center. Browse through the permanent exhibits featuring diverse media, including photos, paintings, books, drawings, and sculptures. With its unique and thought-provoking temporary collections, there’s always something new to uncover here, too.
The Walker Art Center hosts various special events throughout the year; check out their events calendar before you plan your visit. You might be able to time your visit with something truly spectacular!
Weisman Art Museum
Shake up your usual museum-going experience with a visit to the striking Weisman Art Museum. Located on the University of Minnesota campus, this modern art museum combines beautiful art with world-class architecture.
Even if you’re not an architecture aficionado, you might recognize that the building, with its distinctive shimmering angles and curves, was designed by the legendary architect Frank Gehry. Inside the Weisman Art Museum, the quality doesn’t drop, either. Browse a 20,000-strong collection with exhibits ranging from Korean furniture to Native American pottery and everything in between.
The art museum is named after Minneapolis native art collector Frederick R. Weisman. He moved to LA to make a name for himself before creating an art foundation that benefits massively from the museum’s entry fee. A visit here is all for a good cause!
Boom Island Park
Enjoy a backdrop of scenic and peaceful views of the Mississippi River and the Minneapolis skyline at Boom Island Park. Located just across the river from downtown via the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, the park is the perfect spot to sit, relax, and enjoy the view!
You may have noticed on a map that Boom Island Park’s name is a bit of a misnomer. The park used to be an island; now, it’s been reconnected to the East Bank, accessible via the riverside trails.
For some fun on the water, Boom Island Park offers boat launching spots and canoe rentals. Or, if you’re just looking to relax with your friends or family ashore, there are plenty of picnic areas and great views of Saint Anthony Falls. So, gather everyone up and stake out your spot on the waterfront!
Chain of Lakes Regional Park
With almost two dozen lakes within Minneapolis city limits, it’s fair to say that Minneapolitans like to enjoy the water. And the crowning jewel of the “City of Lakes”? Chain of Lakes Regional Park. Located just 30 minutes northeast of the city center, the park is the perfect location to escape the town for some outdoor fun.
Left to develop on their own during the 19th century, this series of lakes—including Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun), Lake Harriet, Cedar Lake, Brownie Lake, and Lake of the Isles—all started to merge into one another. It created a landscape resembling a necklace, hence the name Chain of Lakes.
The family-friendly Chain of Lakes Regional Park is a great spot to visit year-round. In summer, the ideal season to visit Minneapolis for many travelers, visitors can take to the hiking trails and biking trails for a walk or bike ride around its lakes. In winter, the park features ice rinks and cross-country ski trails.
Lake Harriet Park
If you’re a fan of sailing or just getting out on the water, be sure to add Lake Harriet Park to your Minneapolis itinerary. As it’s just 15 minutes from the city center, the park is an easy addition to any Minnesota vacation plan.
Part of the Chain of Lakes Regional Park, Lake Harriet Park has garnered a reputation as being the lake in Minneapolis to get your sailboat out and enjoy the skyline from the water. Plenty of sailing schools dot the lake; if you want to learn more about this fascinating water sport, this is your chance!
If you want to get out on the water but don’t have a boat, you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards from the beaches along the shore of Lake Harriet.
Need to get some retail therapy on your trip to Minneapolis? Look no further than the Nicollet Mall. The avenue, located in the heart of Downtown West, is one of the city’s most popular points of interest for shopaholics.
Spanning twelve blocks in the center of Minneapolis, Nicollet Mall is a shopper’s paradise with all the major chains as well as some independent boutiques and designer stores. After a long day of shopping, settle down in one of the area’s many bars and restaurants. Enjoy delicious Latin American food at Barrio or upscale Italian cuisine at Zelo. Or wet your whistle with some craft beer or cocktails at The Local or Brit’s Pub.
Nicollet Mall has been the city’s main street for all things retail, entertainment, and hospitality for a century; it’s a Minneapolis staple!
Don’t forget to pick up all the souvenirs while you’re there —and, of course, get one or two things for yourself too, of course.
Engage with the local community or just kick back and relax in the heart of the city at The Commons. Opened in Downtown Minneapolis in 2016, this 4.2-acre central park is a fantastic spot to catch a local event, get some exercise, or enjoy a day in the fresh air.
Although small compared to Minneapolis’ many other green and blue spaces, this two-block downtown park is pretty and well-maintained. The Commons offers free community events all through the year, from workshops to concerts to farmer’s markets and much more.
If you’re looking to travel like a local, head to The Commons and check out whatever event is on this week. It’s always unique and entertaining—and definitely worth adding to your Minneapolis trip itinerary!
Inject some culture into your Minneapolis escapade at the beautifully designed Guthrie Theater. Perched on the riverfront, this landmark performing arts venue is one of the most popular attractions in Minneapolis, hosting a variety of performances throughout the year.
The venue was founded by the world-renowned theater director Sir Tyrone Guthrie in 1963. The Guthrie Theater was relocated to its current location in 2006 and quickly became a Minneapolis hub for all things performing arts. With approximately nine productions a year, there’s a variety of popular performances and lesser-known shows to dive into at the Guthrie Theater.
If theater isn’t your thing, but you’re into architecture, be sure to head down to the Guthrie to check out the building. Designed by Jean Nouvel, the $125-million building is a sight to behold. Don’t forget to bring your camera with you to snap photos from every angle!
The Mall of America
No visit to Minnesota is complete without spending a day browsing through the massive Mall of America. Sitting in the South Loop District south of Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport, the Mall of America is one of the city’s must-sees—even if you’re not into shopping! With hundreds of stores, restaurants, and attractions, this 4-level mega mall offers something for everyone in the family.
As the largest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America is not your average shopping experience. With interactive experiences from Nickelodeon, Crayola, and even an aquarium, there’s plenty to keep the kiddos entertained here. Add in hundreds of shops and other amenities on offer, and you could literally spend your entire trip here!
After a long day of exploring the Mall of America, kick back in the food court, complete with over 60 vendors to choose from. You’ll truly be spoiled for choice with this behemoth of a Minneapolis tourist attraction!
Minneapolis might not be the first place you’d think of for authentic Latin American cuisine. But the bustling Mercado Central in the Phillips neighborhood might prove otherwise!
Located on Lake Street and Bloomington Avenue, Mercado Central is easy to spot, thanks to the beautiful, vibrant murals and the heavenly smells. The market offers over 35 vendors, all specializing in different foods and produce.
Tuck into authentic tacos, tortas, and quesadillas at Tacos del Sol or mouthwatering tamales at La Loma. Or go shopping for clothing, accessories, and essentials at local shops like El Callejon and Candela.
Whether you’re craving a tasty spot for lunch or want to pick up some high-quality produce to whip up dinner with, visiting Mercado Central is one of the most popular things to do in Minneapolis, MN.
Fort Snelling State Park
For history buffs, no Minneapolis visit is complete without a trip to Fort Snelling State Park. Located southeast of Minneapolis in Saint Paul, this Minnesota state park is one of the area’s top points of interest for historical sightseeing.
Home of historic Fort Snelling, the state park was the site of a training center for Union soldiers during the American Civil War. Fort Snelling was initially used in 1819 and was only decommissioned after the end of the Second World War. Over 200 years of military history predate the current site.
Prior to the US military usage of the site, the Dakota people, who refer to the area as Bdote, lived here, amassing almost 10,000 years of history. With re-enactments from different eras, Fort Snelling State Park truly is history coming to life.
If you want to get active, lace up your shoes for a walk along some of the over 18 miles of hiking trails crisscrossing Fort Snelling State Park. Or tune up your bike for a ride along the over 5 miles of biking trails. The hiking and biking routes also connect to trails in Minnehaha Park and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
In winter, wax up your cross-country skis and sweat out the winter blues on over 24 kilometers cross-country ski trails, suitable for beginners.
Where to stay in Minneapolis for sightseeing
If you’re trying to tackle all of the city’s highlights, the top choices for where to stay in Minneapolis are Downtown Minneapolis, the Warehouse District (North Loop), and the Mill District. These areas are home to many of the city’s top hotels and accommodations options. Although you’ll pay higher prices in these neighborhoods, each is within close proximity to plenty of attractions and activities to fill up your Minnesota getaway.
Whether you’re traveling as a family, couple, or solo, this top Downtown hotel should fit the bill. Sweat out your stresses in the well-equipped fitness center or relax in the evening with a drink on the outdoor patio.
Add a splash of elegance to your stay with this boutique hotel in the heart of the city. The Hygge-inspired decor reflects on the area’s Nordic heritage while wide picture windows unleash beautiful views over Downtown Minneapolis. Be sure to stop in at the on-site Tavola Kitchen & Bar to indulge an authentic taste of Italy.
For the ultimate in Midwest luxury, spend a night in this glorious 4-star hotel. Besides soaking away all your stress in an upgraded suite with a saoker tub, sashay over to the 27th-floor speakeasy for a cocktail and to enjoy spectacular views over the city from the bar’s outdoor observation deck.