[ Minneapolis ] A Weekend Travel Guide for a Peaceful Getaway
Minneapolis is that hidden hole-in-the-wall that you never knew existed, or maybe you did but never felt an inclination to visit it. But as soon as you do, it opens up an entirely new world for you--complete with unique gems, refreshing landscapes, and a quiet peace you discover both within its scenery and within yourself.
I've found an unlikely affinity for this city that is barely acknowledged by a majority of my East Coast peers. I always return home fulfilled and whole, not just of beautiful memories, but also of an immersed resolve to a calming side of myself that is usually deeply buried under my highly-anxious, often-stressed self. I feel as though my habitual guarded wall has been shaved of a few layers if only to allow a bit of transparency to newness I'm otherwise hesitant about.
So the next time you think to yourself, "What's there to do in Minneapolis?", read this travel post because I'm sharing my favorite little moments from under the unmistakable blue skies out in the plain terrain of midwestern America.
Turtle Bread Company
Quaint and lowkey. You immediately smell the warm homemade bread as it's openly being made behind the counter. A simple breakfast/brunch spot tucked in a suburban corner. I'd recommend the quiche! And then take your receipt to Dock Six Pottery across the street to get a free handmade crystal coaster!
Lu's Sandwiches (multiple locations)
Viet. Sandwiches. And under $10. Although you can order takeout and eat inside, I recommend taking it to a park or the lake to enjoy with a view.
This is the perfect brunch spot. With a specific mission of sourcing ingredients from local farmers, Birchwood has the cutest atmosphere--from the sweet and attentive staff to all the decor displaying gratitude for the community. You can't help but feel like you, too, are contributing to important causes simply by eating here.
Full disclosure: I didn't actually go here, but it was on my list and has been thoroughly suggested by my friend who lives here. It's her favorite and she keeps raving about it so I felt it appropriate to add to my list. There is a waitlist weeks in advance, so I suggest looking it up to make sure you can reserve by the time you visit.
Centro Tacos at Popol Vuh (Northeast)
With only a few months under its belt, this new Mexican taqueria inside its upscale sister restaurant, Popol Vuh, is the trendy taco spot you'll want to check out. Another warehouse-turned-restaurant, Centro is colorfully decorated with Mexican inspiration, including its food and drinks. Highly recommend the Guava Goddess slushy (note: they don't hold back on the tequila).
Nico’s Tacos (Downtown)
I will convince you in very few words: half-priced tacos and margs after 9pm. That’s it. That’s the reason why you should go (of course, it’s also in a very cute home-turned-restaurant space!)
Hai Hai Vietnamese Restaurant (Northeast)
Who knew you could find really decent modern Vietnamese food in Minneapolis? I sure didn’t and I was ready to be disappointed by yet another Westernized diluted versions of my motherland’s cusine. I usually expect safe and bland takes on classics just to appeal to the Western tongue, who isn’t used to all the fish sauce, sweet & sour, tangy bites to our flavorful foods. But this place was amazing. The food was not the traditional Vietnamese dishes but rather modern versions that did not skimp out on the packed flavors and tribute to authentic origins. I highly recommend the Good Morning, Vietnam!, cocktail that boasts the beloved Vietnamese coffee with rum and cinnamon notes, and the Hanoi Sticky Rice dish (pictured right). But what I also have to commend this restaurant for is the attention to interior details such as the outdoor plastic chairs (if you’ve been to Asia you know how it is) and flowery wallpaper table covers (very Asian indeed). I truly appreciate the way this restaurant celebrated Vietnamese cuisine by leaning more to the traditional and authentic rather than toning down the food to play it safe for Western tastebuds.
Volstead's Emporium (Uptown)
This is a true speakeasy where you walk through an alley towards the back of some buildings a reach a metal door with a tiny window slot. From there, someone will slide open the window and ask for your party size. When you walk in, you're immediately traveled back in time to the Prohibition-era with jazz flowing entirely through the large room (where there is also a hidden room in the back) and private-style booths aligned across the wall. There's also a small wooden stage dimly illuminated for a possible musical performance. I'm obsessed with this speakeasy, mainly because it gave off Great Gatsby vibes.
A casual restaurant/bar setting with a rooftop area overlooking the main streets of Uptown. It's great for group hangs (giant beer pong lawn) and adopts a sociable ambiance, perfect for working millennials looking for happy hour happenings.
Betty Danger's Country Club (Northeast)
We came here for early drinks/pre-dinner but what really drew me in was the giant ferris wheel right outside the restaurant. Emulating a retro and eclectic country club, this place has everything from great food and drinks (order the Pink Drink!) to outdoor activities such as mini golfing and ferris wheel rides. The best part? You can eat and drink on the ferris wheel as you ride high overlooking the Minneapolis city skyline from afar. Instagram photos galore.
Parlour Speakeasy (North Loop)
What a swanky little cocktail bar that actually isn’t as little as I thought it’d be! It’s downstairs underneath the restaurant that has plenty of cool seats and booths, and play great music (I’m talking old school R&B and hip hop). I got the Do It For The Graham (I know, amazing name) that was the perfect dessert cocktail to have after our taco and margs meal at Nico’s.
Parallel Coffee (North Loop)
Discovered this new spot thanks to @FitFreedomLifestyle! I'm a sucker for coffee shops that are architecturally designed with natural lighting in mind. The floor-to-ceiling windows make lighting magic happen, especially during optimal sun hours. Not only that, but the space is huge as it is a warehouse turned coffee shop so you will find ample work space in this place. Also, special shout out to the barista who took the time to chat with me as a city stranger! It further proves that MPLS is a place of extremely friendly locals!
Spyhouse Coffee (multiple locations)
There are so many Spyhouse Coffee locations, it's comparable to Gregory's Coffee of NYC. But it's kind of a must-visit if you're the coffee shop goer like me. Though I've only been to one of their locations, I can see what makes it a popular coffee chain since they source and roast their own coffee within the Twin Cities.
Anelace Coffee (Northeast)
A coffee shop recommendation from the @nycxclothes girls! Located in the Northeast area, it's an open and spacious spot with outlets conveniently everywhere (ideal for doing laptop work) and tons of seating areas. And of course, my kind of natural lighting.
Things To Do:
Sculpture Garden/Walker Art Museum (Lowry Hill)
You've definitely seen that famous picture of the giant spoon and cherry sculpture, and if you didn't know it's from MPLS, it's here! The outdoor sculpture installations is part of the Walker Art Museum. Though there is an admission fee for the museum itself, the outdoor garden is free to walk around.
Como Park Zoo & Marjorie McNeely Conservatory (St. Paul)
hough the zoo itself is pretty typical of any zoo, I really came to check out this pretty conservatory (photo on the right). Since it's donation-based, I wouldn't spend more than an hour here so it's not a total waste.
Minneapolis Institute of Art (Whittier)
As with all cities and their art museums, it's a great (solo) afternoon pastime. And it's donation-based so why not!
Bike ride along the Lake of the Isles/Bde Maka Ska
Simply rent a bike for $2/half hour. Highly recommend doing this during golden to sunset hours. Otherwise, it's too hot but also because you'll get the perfect serene views of the calming lake as you pass by tons of locals going about their outdoor activities. Then end it off with a picnic as you watch the sun set. Don’t. Forget. The. Picnic.
Okay, not going to lie, I was kind of disappointed. Not that the falls weren't nice and the river leading to a swimming hole aren't a nice sunny afternoon activity, but more so because I was expecting an actual hike towards the falls where we could get close up. Instead, we found out that there are stairs and pathways leading to a fenced-off border surround the falls, which made it seem more of a distant photo op than an actual experience. Maybe it's because Minnehaha Falls has become a popular tourist attraction, but I didn't think it was worth as much hype as I've read up on.
Pedal Pub (anywhere)
There aren't many places you can participate in a pedal pub, especially for this East Coast gal, so you bet this is an activity worth doing for me! Buy your own beers from a local liquor store and bring it along the ride as you pedal with other people through a mini pub crawl in MPLS. Also note: you will actually be pedaling so prepare your legs (thank god my CycleBar workouts came in handy).
Brit’s Pub (Downtown)
This English pub has an amazing lawn area on the rooftop where they usually have live music, events, and display movies or sports games (I went when they showed the World Cup). The specific weekend I went, they had a Harry Potter movie marathon, complete with Butterbeers and kids all dressed up in HP costumes. So cute! But also a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, so definitely check out their schedule.
Breweries (Hit up some breweries and their weekly events to find out what's happening during your visit (these are just a few favorites but there are tons to check out!):
Sociable Cider Werks (Northeast)
Tattersall Distillery (Northeast)
Headflyer Brewery (Northeast)
First Draft (North Loop)
Surly Brewing (Prospect Park)
I've visited Minneapolis three times now and each time I tell people I'm headed there, they always say "Why Minneapolis?" And while I'd love to hit 'em back with this entire blog post about how Minneapolis is the underrated city people are sleeping on, it still wouldn't explain the connection transpired and deepened each time I've returned. As much as it's the people and places, it's also who I am out here versus who I am back home. It's not that I've changed altogether, but it's about the side of me that livens when I am effortlessly happy with the peaceful and open surroundings of this city, which doesn't happen as often back home in the bustling areas of NJ and NY. So why do I keep coming back to Minneapolis (other than the fact that one of my best friends is here)? Because it's a serenity all on its own and home to my blissful and serene persona.