This is your go-to hipster travel guide to Minneapolis, MN. Hipster travel guides are not just for hipsters. They are for anyone who likes to go off the beaten path and live like a local when they visit cities. Here you will find the most happening hood, sights to see, fare to eat, and more!
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Nicknames: The 612, Mill City, City of Lakes, Mpls
Population: 3.5 million in the Twin Cities area
Happening ‘Hood: Northeast
The Minnesotans of the Twin Cities metropolis embody the rare combination of friendly scenester and soft-hearted cynic you can only find in the northern Plaines. The city is quiet and homey, maintaining a certain laid-back coolness that nurtures its thriving independent arts scene. For intimate music shows, quirky businesses, cozy non-chain coffee houses, shimmering lakefronts, and the tastiest ice cream around, we had to make a trip to the land of Purple Rain and the Coen Brothers. Here’s what we found.
For some, getting to Minneapolis — seemingly the last outpost before the vast Canadian tundra — takes more that a flight or a multi-hour road trip: it takes gravity. Several unique annual festivals and events can help pull you off the couch and onto the road. Check out the annual independent arts showcase Sound Unseen, or the collaborative Rock the Garden, coordinated by the Walker Art Center and the Twin Cities’ local independent radio station, The Current (last year’s show featured Andrew Bird and Bon Iver).
If kitschy local flavor is more your style, don’t miss the Minnesota State Fair(second only to the Iowa Fair in size). With live butter statue carving, endless animal barns, quilting competitions, all-you-can-drink milk, all-you-can-eat warm cookies, and just about any fried food item offered “on a stick,” the good times are endless.
If you end up in Minnesota without an event to attend, fret not. The Cities offer plenty of destinations for your itinerary. In the Land of 10,000, the obvious place to start looking for fun is lakeside. Grab some picnic fixins atThe Wedge and head over to Lake Calhoun for a stroll or a cheap canoe rental. If photo ops are more your thing, take yourself on a tour of the newGuthrie Theater building during daytime hours and pose for some shots on the “endless bridge” balcony or in front of the yellow glass windows on the ninth floor.
There are also a few quirky museums worth checking out, like the Bakken Museum of Electricity in Life, housed in a creepy old mansion. Whatever you do, promise us you’ll at least try to see a show or snap a photo at First Ave. & The 7th Street Entry — it’s iconic and completely worthy.
If you’re like us, vacations are all about snacking, snacking, snacking. Luckily, Minneapolis happens to rock one of the best coffee shop scenes in the country — a likely retort to Minnesota’s wintry cold snaps and the cabin fever pandemic. We like Spyhouse, Uncommon Grounds, and Crema (which offers Sonny’s ice cream, a locally made favorite), but if you want a brew to go along with your snack, don’t miss Happy Hour at Liquor Lyle’s.
For your other meals, nosh for cheap at the Mill City Farmers Market on a summery afternoon, or wander the stalls of the Midtown Global Market year-round. The latter is located in a stunning Art Deco Sears building on Lake Street. If you’re feeling a fancy splurge (hey, you’re on vacay), spend the evening at Nick & Eddie or sit down to an organic feast at Red Stag.
Ok, you’ve seen the lakes, you’ve chatted with some friendly baristas, and you’ve eaten your share of down-home Midwestern cookin’. Now it’s time to hit the scene, and see the real Cities. For the best live independent music and theater shows, you have to check out the schedules at the venerableBryant Lake Bowl, the retro-chic Varsity Theater, or the dive-tastic Hexagon Bar. Just don’t miss Wednesday at Triple Rock (where they offer free bacon and $2.50 cans of PBR, no joke).
Save our two favorite spots for your last night in town: Nye’s Polonaise and the Chatterbox Pub. Just across the Mississippi River from downtown, Nye’s classic Formica tables and paneled walls are mere accessories to the lounge singers wearing vintage duds like they never went out of style (because at Nye’s, they actually never did). The Chatterbox, tucked into a South Minneapolis neighborhood, is furnished with couches, board games, and old-school video game positioned for group play. They’ve also got a tasty veg-friendly menu and home-brewed beer. It’s the coziest spot on the block for sure.
Thrifty ladies will appreciate Minnesota’s 0% sales tax on clothing, and the abundance of cute and high quality thrift stores with truly one-of-a-kind retro garments. Poke around at Everyday People Clothing Exchange for vintage and new stuff, or check the racks at local designer boutiques, Intoto andCliché for some snazzier goods. The Northeast neighborhood is a hot spot for second-hand — we recommend Rewind Vintage and Crafty Planet. On your way out of town, pick up some locally-grown tunage at the Electric Fetus, a required shopping venue in the 612. Don’t forget to tell them Venus Zine sent you.