Moon Minneapolis & St. Paul


By Tricia Cornell

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Bustling, modern, and hip, the Twin Cities are far from hibernating. See what makes them shine year-round with a local in Moon Minneapolis & St. Paul.
  • Explore the Twin Cities: Navigate by neighborhood or by activity, with color-coded maps of the most interesting neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul
  • See the Sights: Browse contemporary art at the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden (and play mini-golf on the roof!), learn about local history at the Minnesota State Capitol, shop at the Mall of America, or stroll along the banks of Lake Calhoun
  • Get a Taste of the City: Pop into a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant on Eat Street, sample the flavors of Minnesota’s Polish past, order from a fusion food truck, or grab a table at an innovative farm-to-table restaurant
  • Bars and Nightlife: Catch a performance at the Dakota Jazz Club, see where Prince got his start, sip fruity concoctions at a tiki bar, find the best spots for microbrews, or visit the Twin Cities’ most popular gay bars
  • Local Expertise: Minneapolis local Tricia Cornell shares insider know-how on her two favorite cities
  • Itineraries and Day Trips: Explore nearby Stillwater, Duluth, and Lake Superior, or follow city itineraries designed for budget travelers, outdoor adventurers, and more
  • Full-Color Photos and Detailed Maps
  • Handy Tools: Moon provides background information on the history and culture of the Twin Cities
See the Twin Cities with a local with Moon Minneapolis & St. Paul.

Exploring more Midwest cities? Try Moon Chicago. Craving some fresh air? Check out Moon 75 Great Hikes Minneapolis & St. Paul.



“I like Hollywood. I just like Minneapolis a little bit better.” Those are the immortal words of Minnesota’s favorite son, Prince Rogers Nelson, who famously made his home and recorded his music in the suburb of Chanhassen. You’d be hard-pressed to find a native Minnesotan who disagreed. Nothing against the rest of the world: We just like it a lot here. That kind of hometown pride is visible on T-shirts and caps you’ll see all around town. And it’s also evident in the way we live our lives. We’re out, enjoying what every corner of the cities has to offer. That means hitting the trails, seeking out the water (you won’t have to look far), finding a festival, going to a play or a concert every night, becoming a regular at a taproom, and developing strong opinions on the best bánh mì in town.

St. Paul is compact, pretty, and offers plenty in the way of sights and classic neighborhood bars. Minneapolis is the glitzy twin and the hub of the arts and music scene. Both cities are buzzing year-round. Far from hibernating, we embrace the winter. Joggers put on an extra layer, windsurfers transform into ice surfers, cyclists install winter tires, and skiers exult. And when temperatures climb back above freezing, the whole process begins again: the lakefronts, river paths, and outdoor restaurants fill with people who enjoy spring more than anyone else on earth. Yes, it can get a little cold here. And we love it.

You know how they say that the best part of having out-of-town guests is getting to play tourist in your own home city? Well, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, people turn that aphorism on its head: The best part of being a tourist in the Twin Cities is pretending you’re a local. The truth is, there aren’t any touristy areas here, because the best things to do are what the locals do.

Minneapolis waterfront along the Mississippi River

farmers market in Minneapolis

Minnehaha Falls

the St. Anthony neighborhood

Scandinavian-style sandwich

Lake Harriet


1 Get Out on the Water: Whether you’re interested in paddling and cruising or strolling and bicycling alongside the water, you’ve got options aplenty here, from the Chain of Lakes to the Mississippi River.

2 Experience Life in the Skyways: It’s a whole world up there in the elevated walkways connecting buildings in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, where you can shop, dine, and watch the locals in their native habitat.

3 See Live Theater: On any given night you can choose from a dozen or more shows ranging from the pioneering to the world-renowned.

4 Enjoy Summer Festivals: From events celebrating arts and music to the Minnesota State Fair, you’ll find a festival nearly every weekend in the season.

5 Sample Diverse Cuisine: From multiethnic Eat Street and Midtown Global Market to Hmong marketplaces, the Twin Cities benefit from their immigrant communities.

6 Go Bicycling: With hundreds of miles of bike trails, Minneapolis and St. Paul offer great options for exploration on two wheels.

7 Crawl the Brewpubs and Taprooms: With dozens of breweries in the Twin Cities, it’s not hard to find a taproom to fit your style.

8 Browse Farmers Markets: Farmers markets are beloved here, and on weekends especially it seems the whole city converges on neighborhood outposts to shop, snack, and schmooze.

9 Discover the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden: One of the premier contemporary art museums in the country is an indoor and outdoor delight right on the edge of downtown Minneapolis.

10 Embrace the Cold: Whether enjoying the Winter Carnival, skating, or cross-country skiing, the Twin Cities sinks into the wintry weather.



Divide and conquer is the best way to squeeze the best the Twin Cities have to offer into just two days. If you go by foot, plan on three or four miles of walking a day.


Start your tour where Minneapolis began, on the Mississippi River. On a summer Saturday, grab a pastry, coffee, and even an early-morning bratwurst at the Mill City Farmers Market.

There’s plenty right on the riverfront to fill a morning: the Guthrie Theater’s endless bridge, the 1.8-mile St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, the stunning Stone Arch and Hennepin Avenue Bridges, Mill Ruins Park, and the Mill City Museum (don’t miss the film Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat).

Mill Ruins Park and the Stone Arch Bridge

To get an even closer view of St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the Mississippi, stop at Water Power Park.

Spend the afternoon strolling down Nicollet Mall. Start at the Minneapolis Central Library and head southeast. Along the way, see the skyways by ducking into just about any store or office building and following signs. On Thursdays between May and October, the Nicollet Mall Market, a farmers market, sets up along most of the mall. At 12th Street, head down the Loring Greenway—a parklike path between two high-rise condo buildings—to Loring Park.

Nicollet Mall



In Minneapolis, busy Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) is where to go to walk, jog, bike, play volleyball, sunbathe, slackline, or just hang out in a hammock. Lake Harriet is popular with serious speed walkers. Lake of the Isles is for quiet contemplation, though Cedar Lake is the place to find true solitude (private enough, notoriously, for skinny-dipping). Lake Como is the center of outdoor recreation in St. Paul.


Rent a bicycle from any of the many Nice Ride stations throughout the cities. Or if you’re a seafaring type, rent a kayak, paddleboat, or stand-up paddleboard from Wheel Fun Rentals, which has outposts on most of the cities’ biggest lakes. For a true Minnesota water adventure, rent a kayak from Mississippi River Paddle Share for a paddle down the Mississippi itself. Inveterate strollers can head to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where you can walk for miles among beautiful and varied gardens.


Join the skaters at Rice Park or many of the city’s frozen lakes. For some downhill action, ski the easy hills at Como Park or the tougher slopes at Hyland Ski and Snowboard Center. If moguls are calling your name, they’re calling you from Buck Hill, where top racers train. If you’re all about the skinny skis, hit the groomed trails at Theodore Wirth Park or blaze your own trail across any city lake. And if skiing’s not your style, the park is also the best place to fly downhill on a snow tube.

Directly across the park from the greenway is the yellow-and-blue Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, which leads to the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden, home of the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Your evening options from here are great: Treat yourself to fine dining at Burch steak house or at one of the half dozen restaurants ringing Loring Park. For less expensive ethnic fare, head to Eat Street (Nicollet Ave. between 13th St. and 29th St.).

After dinner, if you don’t have theater tickets, the bars along 1st Avenue are always hopping. Or unwind with lawn bowling on Brit’s Pub’s rooftop or a jazz show at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant.


Start your day in St. Paul with Swedish pancakes at the St. Paul Hotel, then step right outside and enjoy beautiful Rice Park, flanked by some of the city’s most recognizable buildings. Spend a few minutes admiring the interior of the Landmark Center or spend an hour or so at one of the small museums inside. Before leaving the park, take a peek inside the reference library at the James J. Hill Center, find out what’s showing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and snap a few pictures with F. Scott Fitzgerald and his friends the Peanuts characters, cast in bronze.

Your next stop is the Minnesota History Center, which deserves as much time as you’re able to give it (the gift shop is a great place to get souvenirs).

The Cathedral of St. Paul, a short walk away, welcomes both the faithful and the respectfully curious.

Cathedral of St. Paul



You can absorb most of the history of St. Paul without ever paying anything at the door: It’s always free to tour the Minnesota State Capitol, Landmark Center, and Cathedral of St. Paul. And, while there’s plenty to do that costs money at the Mall of America, many use it as a free indoor entertainment venue on cold winter days. If you’ve got kids in tow, you’ll be happy to hear that the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory doesn’t charge admission.


For inexpensive (and delicious) eats, tour the Vietnamese, Thai, and Hmong restaurants on Eat Street (Nicollet Avenue) in Minneapolis or University Avenue in St. Paul, or find plenty of Mexican-American choices on Lake Street in Minneapolis and St. Paul’s District del Sol.


If you’ve got a fiver in your pocket, that’s enough to enjoy one of the area’s best improv troupes at the Brave New Workshop (Friday-Sat. 9:45pm).


Two top destination museums—the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden (Thurs. 5pm-9pm). and Minnesota History Center (Tues. 3pm-8pm) waive admission fees one night a week to attract a younger evening crowd. The Walker also hosts free first Saturdays with special hands-on activities for children. Some museums never ask a penny at the door: The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum showcases contemporary art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art reaches across nearly every era of art history and every continent, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art may be smaller in scale but it isn’t lesser in quality.


A stroll around Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) or Lake Harriet costs nothing, as does a self-guided tour of Minneapolis’s downtown riverfront or the view over St. Anthony Falls from the Guthrie Theater’s endless bridge (open to the public without a theater ticket).



From the sweeping curve of the Stone Arch Bridge, you can see St. Anthony Falls and the downtown Minneapolis skyline (click here).


The 32-story Foshay was once the tallest building between Chicago and the West Coast, and its observation deck is still a classic spot from which to view Minneapolis (click here).


Indian Mounds Park sits high on a bluff over the city and offers wonderful views of the downtown St. Paul skyline and river (click here).

view from Indian Mounds Park


Grab a seat on this restaurant’s dockside patio or rooftop and take in expansive views of Lake Minnetonka (click here).


From the public patio outside the museum, you can see the bridges crossing the Mississippi River, bluff to bluff (click here).

A little less than a mile away, the Minnesota State Capitol offers tours on the hour, or you can wander on your own. Leave a little time to explore the memorials on the grounds.

For dinner and entertainment, head back to downtown St. Paul proper. The classic American St. Paul Grill and the French Meritage are on Rice Park. For something way more fun than classic, try the New American dining at Saint Dinette.

Most of the Twin Cities’ livelier nightlife takes place in downtown Minneapolis, but a couple of taprooms, including Tin Whiskers Brewing Company, have opened in downtown St. Paul, and Vieux Carre hosts live jazz nearly every night.


If you’ve got an extra day in the Twin Cities and you’ve exhausted those rather ambitious itineraries for the first two days, it’s time to head out of the two downtown cores.

Get some fresh air on the walking paths around the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis or in St. Paul’s sprawling Como Park. Take a short hike around Minnehaha Falls, which inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha.

Minnehaha Falls

On warm days, dine alfresco at Sea Salt in Minnehaha Falls Park.

If you’re in the mood to shop, then St. Paul’s Grand Avenue is your best bet. To venture any farther out of town, you’ll need your own car. The only real exception to this is the Mall of America, which is a good option on a cold winter day.

For some kid-friendly sightseeing, head west to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum or south to the Minnesota Zoo.

orchids at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum



Grab a seat in one of the many skyway-level restaurants and notice people scurrying from place to place. You can also find a skyway over Nicollet Mall to watch the street life below (click here).


Stretch out on the grassy lawns on the south side of Bde Maka Ska and you’ll be in a hive of activity, with people engaging in volleyball, lawn games, slacklining, and occasionally juggling or yoga (click here).


Everybody comes to the Mall of America, from teens lining up to get their idol’s signature to parents letting toddlers run the wiggles out to tourists lugging suitcases to inveterate mall walkers in sensible sneakers. Park yourself on a bench anywhere on the outer ring, or find a seat in the central amusement park (click here).


This St. Paul shopping district holds indie stores and dozens of restaurants. Take a seat outdoors at one of the latter and watch the world go by (click here).


Grab a window seat at one of the chic restaurants along 50th Street, as people with fresh blowouts happily swinging shopping bags walk past (click here).



Raised indoor walkways, known as skyways, connect 70 downtown city blocks, creating an indoor network of offices, shops, restaurants, theaters, hotels, and condos. Outside, there’s even more to discover: the Mississippi riverfront, the hip shops and restaurants of the North Loop, the Guthrie Theater, the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden, and Nicollet Mall, home to some of the best dining and bars in the Twin Cities. Three of the Twin Cities’ four major sports franchises—the Twins, Vikings, and Timberwolves—have their homes downtown, too.

Mississippi riverfront at Stone Arch Bridge


The leafy green neighborhoods of South Minneapolis, popular with families and young professionals alike, are home to the Chain of Lakes, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Children’s Theatre Company, and The Museum of Russian Art. Recent college grads gravitate to the Uptown neighborhood, at the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue, for shopping and nightlife. The residents of South Minneapolis love to eat well, and the area is packed with great dining options, including the multiethnic Midtown Global Market.


Nordeast, or northeast Minneapolis, was once home to a thriving community of Eastern European immigrants, still reflected in the area’s landmarks, including Surdyk’s wine store and Kramarczuk’s deli. Today the area, still largely middle class, is also home to Somali, Middle Eastern, and Latin American communities. The area has also welcomed many of the artists forced out of the gentrified Warehouse District. Dinkytown, once Bob Dylan’s haunt, is inseparable from University of Minnesota student life.


St. Paul is known as the slower-paced twin but has plenty to offer in terms of culture, including the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Children’s Museum. The heart of downtown is Rice Park, bordered by the architecturally stunning Landmark Center. West 7th Street, heading southwest from the Xcel Energy Center, is a great destination for a night on the town. The Lowertown neighborhood anchors the eastern side of downtown St. Paul, centered on Mears Park and bordered by the Mississippi River. Artists’ lofts, trendy apartments, and hip restaurants have moved into former warehouses here. St. Paul’s West Side, southeast of downtown, now rebranded as the District del Sol, is the home to St. Paul’s deep-rooted Latino community.

Landmark Center

Rice Park


The St. Paul neighborhoods west of downtown are home to five colleges and universities, with all the bookstores and coffee shops you expect. Summit Avenue is the historical seat of St. Paul’s moneyed elite and still a wide, lovely boulevard for strolling. Grand Avenue is excellent for boutique shopping and people watching. Just north of I-94, which cuts St. Paul decisively into northern and southern halves, runs the more ethnically and economically diverse University Avenue, known for dive bars and great Vietnamese food.


The northern neighborhoods of St. Paul feel about as removed from urban bustle as you can get. St. Anthony Park, with its compact shopping and dining district, is almost like a separate small town, where you can browse a small selection of shops like Micawber’s Books. The “garden district” of Como Park attracts people from around the Twin Cities who want to run, boat, fish, ski, golf, or enjoy the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.

Como Conservatory


The older first-ring suburbs around Minneapolis and St. Paul are hard to distinguish from their gridded and green counterparts within the city limits. Once you hit the second ring and the exurbs, however, the streets start to curve, and suddenly the buildings all seem newer and more spread out. There are plenty of good reasons to venture beyond the cities proper, including Historic Fort Snelling, the Minnesota Zoo, and the excellent Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. And how could you go home from Minnesota and tell your friends you missed the Mall of America, in the southern suburb of Bloomington?


Note that Sight listings include links to Google Maps. Using a WiFi connection is advised to avoid roaming charges.


Downtown Minneapolis

South Minneapolis

Nordeast and Dinkytown

Downtown St. Paul and West Side

Summit-University and Mac-Groveland

Como and St. Anthony

Greater Twin Cities

Sightseeing Tours

When Minnesotans want to play or relax they head for the water, and visitors should do the same. The Mississippi River and lakes scattered throughout the Twin Cities are intertwined with daily life here. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul grew up on the riverfront.

Minneapolis City Hall

The river creates the northern and eastern boundaries of Minneapolis’s downtown zone, running downstream from the historic Warehouse District and past the eastern edge of downtown at the Guthrie Theater and adjoining parkland. Once powered exclusively by the mighty Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls, many of the flour mills and silos that put Minnesota on the map still stand but have been converted into lofts, art galleries, and museums, joined by recreation areas and restaurants.

St. Paul sits high on bluffs a few miles downstream from Minneapolis; the river separates the two cities for the most part. The stately Cathedral of St. Paul is perched on one hill to the west of St. Paul’s downtown, facing the Minnesota State Capitol, which is on another hill across the interstate. The central business district lies below these two domes, centered on Rice Park.

Getting oriented on foot in both downtowns is fairly easy and an enjoyable form of sightseeing in itself. See Minneapolis by strolling Nicollet Mall, starting from rolling Loring Park and heading toward Minneapolis Central Library. Move easily between the two downtowns using the light rail Green Line.


On Sale
May 28, 2019
Page Count
324 pages
Moon Travel

Tricia Cornell

About the Author

When Tricia Cornell returned to the United States after living in Central Europe for five years, she could have chosen to live anywhere, but she chose Minneapolis. The theater and arts scenes, the Twin Cities’ manageable size, the lakes (10 of them in Minneapolis alone), and, yes, even the weather, all proved irresistible to her. She’s still finding new reasons to love the area, as innovative new farmers markets open, greenways expand, and hometown chefs attract national attention.

During her time abroad, Tricia authored more than 15 guides to six European cities and wore out several pairs of shoes. Today, she edits Minnesota Parent Magazine and Minnesota Good Age. And she’s still wearing out a lot of shoe leather as a freelance writer for local alt-weekly City Pages and Minnesota Monthly, where she’s tracked down everything from the best breakfast joint to the best yarn store.

Learn more about this author