Minneapolis is a vibrant hub of cultural, recreational, and outdoor activities. From the sparkling lakes and parks to the world-class museums and theaters, there’s a never-ending list of things to do in downtown Minneapolis.
Whether you’re renting an apartment in downtown Minneapolis or considering living in Minneapolis in the future, you’ll want to check out these 9 must-see attractions that make this city so unique. So pack your bags, grab your walking shoes, and get ready for a memorable experience in the heart of the Midwest.
1. Take in live music at the iconic First Avenue
Although Prince is no longer around to grace its stage as he did so often in the 80’s, many people still recognize First Avenue from the movie Purple Rain. The intimate downtown venue hosts acts big and small, so you can catch a national act when it comes to town and discover new music through its support of diverse local artists.
2. Sightsee in style on the Minneapolis History Tour
Explore miles of the Mississippi riverfront without getting tired by sightseeing on a Segway tour. You’ll get to hear about the city’s storied past from a knowledgeable guide so that when you’re ready to explore on your own, you’ll already feel like an expert.
3. Cruise the Mighty Mississippi
Once you’ve gotten the lay of the land, it’s time to get your sea legs on a paddleboat ride down the river. Learn about the sights on a narrated tour during the day, or take a sunset dinner cruise and just enjoy the scenery.
4. Explore the Mill District
Named after the now-defunct Washburn A Mill, the district pays tribute to the Great Mill Disaster of 1878 that killed 18 people. The mill was rebuilt and later became Gold Medal Flour, but that mill was abandoned after another fire partially destroyed it in 1991. The iconic neon signs still stand atop an intact building, however, and the site was eventually turned into the Mill City Museum, where visitors can tour the ruins and learn how the Mighty Mississippi powered the mill in its heyday.
The Mill District also features Mill Ruins Park and the Mill City Farmers Market, which both offer exciting things to do in downtown Minneapolis. Get the most out of your visit by browsing local produce, getting a snack, and taking a stroll along the river.
5. Spend the afternoon at Brit’s Pub
Brit’s has been “serving scholars and scoundrels” for over 30 years. In the colder months, you can down a pint and watch the game at the classic mahogany bar, grab a table with friends and enjoy some bangers and mash, or snag a leather chair in the Long Room and take your time with a glass of scotch. When things start to heat up, you’ll want to head outside to the amazing rooftop garden deck and bowling green. Whether you choose to play or just watch, you’re sure to have a jolly good time.
6. Try cross-country skiing at Theodore Wirth Park
It’s one of many winter sports that help Minnesotans stay fit all year round. The park offers rentals and even lessons, plus 14 miles of groomed and lighted trails for skiers of all experience levels. If you need a break from the cold, there’s even a restaurant that serves food, coffee, beer, and wine all day.
7. Travel the world at Midtown Global Market
Another one of the best things to do in downtown Minneapolis is visit the Midtown Global Market. This huge building in midtown houses a diverse array of restaurants and shops where you can find everything from arepas to zaalouk. There’s live music on the weekends plus unique events like global cooking competitions and festivals to celebrate holidays from all over the world.
8. Enjoy a show at the Guthrie Theater
Founded in 1963 as an alternative to the Broadway style of theater, the Guthrie has since won a Tony award for Best Regional Theater and become a cornerstone of the Twin Cities theater scene. Each of its three unique stages offers a different theatrical experience, enabling “the exploration of both classic and contemporary plays,” including the annual Shakespeare production. Build in some time before or after your show to explore the amazing building itself, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel; the many windows and Endless Bridge offer spectacular views of the river and downtown Minneapolis.
9. Dine at Chef Sean Sherman’s restaurant, Owamni
Chef Sean Sherman (who is actually Lakota) began offering his modern Indigenous menu in 2021 using only ingredients native to Minnesota, meaning none that were brought to North America by Europeans. Owamni has since won the 2022 James Beard award for Best New Restaurant (yes, in the whole country).
Sherman’s “ironically foreign” dishes–like bison tartare, traditional corn sandwiches called choginyapi, and sorbet made from hand-harvested wild rice–are all made without wheat flour, cane sugar, dairy, or the meats that now dominate Americans’ diets, like beef and pork. The only exception is the small drink menu, so you can enjoy the views of the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi with a glass of wine while you wait for your culinary adventure to begin.
No matter where you end up someday, if you check off this list and experience all of the things to do in downtown Minneapolis, you’ll be able to look back and say you were a true Minneapolitan.