The Top Things to See and Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul photo.ua / Shutterstock.com

The Top Things to See and Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Most travelers wouldn’t rank Minneapolis Minnesota highly on a bucket list of their top places to visit. The city’s bleak, dreary cold winter weather tends to be where most minds wander and images are conjured. However, the truth is far different. In actuality, Minneapolis is a destination with a rich variety of sights to see and places to visit for tourists. From natural beauty and scenery to arts and entertainment, there’s something everyone can enjoy in the Twin Cities. Here are 10 things to see and do in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

10. Lake Nokomis

One of several lakes in Minneapolis, Lake Nokomis is named in honor of Nokomis, the grandmother of Hiawatha, hero of the poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’. The lake is located at the southern part of the city and when initially purchased in 1907 it was a very shallow 5 feet deep, in its deepest spot. Thanks to some dredging, the lake has taken on a different look in more modern times.

More recently, Lake Nokomis has undergone a preservation project to create more native vegetation along its shores in addition to a number of artificial ponds being added to areas where flooding was such a regular occurrence. Locals use the lake for fishing and sailing, with the surrounding area including facilities for jogging, softball, cycling and other sports. Lake Nokomis makes for a perfect afternoon getaway for a family picnic, some physical activity, or just a little relaxation.

Lake Nokomis

9. Weisman Art Museum

Located on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, the Weisman Art Museum was designed by renowned Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and was completed in 1993. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River it’s one of the major landmarks on campus.

The building features a two-face style design, with a brick façade blending in with the existing brick design on the campus side, and a curving, angled, brushed steel on the opposite –a style that Gehry is well known for. This complex design is said to act as an abstract of a waterfall and a fish (you can be the judge). The museum is often referred to as a “modern art museum” and the more than 20,000 image collection features works by Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer, Charles Biederman as well as Native America pottery and Korean furniture.

Weisman Art Museum Minneapolis

8. Minneapolis Skyway System

The Minneapolis Skyway System is an interlinked collection of closed pedestrian footbridges that allows for easy navigation and foot travel throughout the city. For a city known for having colder temperatures, these covered walkways offer a chance for walkers to step out of the cold, and into the climate controlled warmth of the skyway.

The system connects 69 full city blocks over 11 miles of downtown Minneapolis. It should be noted that the skyways are privately owned in Minneapolis, so there are no uniform opening or closing times. The 8 miles of skyway connect to a number of different buildings including restaurants, hotels, banks, government offices, shopping malls, and the sports facilities at Target Center and Target Field. Several condominiums and apartments are also connected to the skyway, allowing local residents the chance to live, work and shop downtown without ever having to leave the skywalk system.

7. Target Field

One of the newest baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball, Target Field opened in 2010 and is home to the Minnesota Twins. The stadium was home to the 2014 MLB All Star game, and since opening has been consistently considered to provide one of the best fan experiences in baseball thanks to a design that provides excellent vantage points, amazing amenities and special features.

With a capacity just under 40,000 Target Field is an open-air design that provides great sightlines for spectators from anywhere in the stadium. This field also scores high in amenities featuring some of the best and most diverse food retailers in the league. One of the more unique features to the stadium is the Budweiser roof deck in left field; it’s designed for standing room and includes the only bonfire in MLB. The field also includes three prominent sit-down bars and restaurants, each specializing in local cuisine.

6. Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre is located in downtown Minneapolis, and is one of four beautifully restored theatres on Hennepin Avenue. Originally opened in 1921 and known as the Hennepin Theatre, the building technically features two separate structures. The first being a long lobby, and the second the actual auditorium.

The restoration of the lobby features six terra cotta bas-relief sculptures, while the auditorium is adorned with a number of decorations including 30,000 squares of aluminum leaf. Inside, the building seats 1500 guests on the main floor, and an additional 1100 on the three-level balcony. During the time period from 1979 through 1988, musician Bob Dylan owned the theatre before selling it to the City of Minneapolis. Today the theatre plays host to many performances throughout the year including musicals, concerts and plays. Check out what’s playing during your visit and consider taking in a show at this great historical venue.

5. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an 11-acre park located near the Walker Art Center, which operates the garden in conjunction with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. The garden is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the United States, with 40 permanent fixtures and a number of temporary pieces that are switched out periodically.

The sculpture garden first opened in 1988 and expanded again in 1992. You might recognize the centerpiece of the garden; the famed ‘Spoonbridge and Cherry’ fountain designed by husband and wife sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The site also includes the Cowles Conservatory, which features more flora and sculptures including a piece by Frank Gehry, as well as a pedestrian bridge connecting to Loring Park.

4. Foshay Tower

Now known as W Minneapolis – The Foshay Tower is a hotel skyscraper modeled after the Washington Monument. The building finished construction in 1929, just months before the stock market crash in October of that year. The Foshay has 32 floors, and stands 447 feet high and includes an antenna that extends its height all the way to 607 feet.

The building is credited as beginning the push toward upward development in the city, as it was the first structure taller than the city hall. It remained the tallest building in Minneapolis until the IDS Center surpassed it in 1972. Inside the hotel, few luxuries were spared as the interior includes African mahogany, Italian marble, terrazzo, gold-plated doorknobs, and even a silver and gold plated ceiling. The tower was the lifelong dream of art student turned businessman Wilbur Foshay. On the 30th floor of the tower you’ll find the Forshay Museum and Observation Deck where for an $8 admission you can learn about the building’s history and impact on the city as well as take in some magnificent views.

Office Buildings

3. Xcel Energy Center/Mariucci Arena

A trip to the “State of Hockey” isn’t complete without taking in a live game of ice hockey and the Twin Cities don’t disappoint with 2 different options for hockey lovers. The home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, Excel Energy Center is located in St. Paul and offers sports fans the opportunity to catch a major league game in a city that absolutely loves hockey.

While getting to see big time hockey stars up close and personal is a great experience, it can be a costly one considering ticket prices. If you’re looking to save while still catching some exciting hockey action, Minneapolis has you covered. Stick to the larger of the Twin Cities and catch a game at Mariucci Arena, home of the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher’s. The arena is located on the university campus, and can accommodate around 10,000 fans for an ice hockey game. The arena opened in 1993 and is named after local legend and longtime Gopher coach John Mariucci. Contrary to the NHL games played in St. Paul, the ice surface at Mariucci Arena is built to the somewhat larger international dimensions. The arena even drew praise from Sports Illustrated in 2007 when it was named as one of the top venues in college sports (the only hockey venue to make the list).

2. Minneapolis Institute of Arts

A fine art museum located on a site that covers nearly 8-acres of land, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (or MIA as it’s commonly called) is a large government funded public museum, and as such charges no entrance fee except for special exhibitions –a great options for budget travelers or families looking for a bargain. Another benefit of the institute is that unlike many museums, photography of its permanent collection is allowed -provided that it’s used for personal or scholarly use.

The collection found within the Minneapolis Institute of Arts includes 80,000 objects, spanning 5,000 years of world history. The collection boasts paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, textiles, architecture and decorative arts. The institute is known for its exceptionally impressive collection of Asian artwork, one of the most intricate in the United States.  In 2015 the museum celebrates its 100th birthday year and plans to celebrate are well underway so there’s no better time to check out MIA than right now.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

1. TCF Bank Stadium

No trip to any major American city can truly be complete without a trip to the local football stadium. Currently, the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings are in a transitional phase, as the team leaves its former home at the Herbert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and into the new Vikings Stadium that is under construction.

For the time being, the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers are sharing the 52,000+ seat stadium at the university campus. Having just opened in 2009, the stadium is serving as a nice transitional home for the Vikings while the team awaits completion of the new stadium at some point in 2015. Because of this, the stadium is currently the smallest in the NFL. While this may at first seem like a downfall, visiting during this time actually provides visitors opportunity to be apart of a more intimate experience for a large-scale professional game –a chance that doesn’t come around very often.

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