8 Hidden Gems in Minneapolis and St Paul (with some trivia that will make you SUPER smart!)

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I don’t exactly know why, but Minneapolis and St Paul often get passed up as prime tourism destinations in favor or their warmer, more posh companions.  I don’t know why…there are a lot of great hidden gems in Minneapolis and St. Paul just waiting to be discovered.

Do people really think that winter here lasts all year?  Or that mosquitos are going to pluck them off and carry them away in the summer?  Here are some suggestions for hidden gems in Minneapolis and St Paul along with some travel tips and local trivia!

If you find this useful, please check out these other Minnesota travel posts when you are done!

My Favorite Places on the Lake Superior North Shore MN

The Best Bloomington MN Hotels for Families

Hidden Gems in Minneapolis

8 Hidden Gems in Minneapolis and St Paul

1) Prince was a long time resident of the Minneapolis area and his music video for Purple Rain was filmed all over downtown Minneapolis.  First Avenue, one of the filming sites for the movie, is a great place to see live music when you are in the area!  Seeing a show at First Avenue is one of the best hidden gems in Minneapolis.  The venue is small and intimate and it is sure to be an experience that you won’t soon forget!

First Avenue Minneapolis Wall - hidden gems in Minneapolis

2) The Mary Tyler Moore Show (A sitcom from the 70’s for anyone that is too young to know) was filmed in Minneapolis!  Scenes in Mary’s apartment were filmed in a house on Kenwood Parkway and the opening sequence of the ground breaking show was filmed all over Nicollet Mall.

For TV history buffs, there is a statue of Mary in her famous hat throwing pose that you can see as you shop on Nicollet Mall and take a break at one of the great restaurants with outdoor seating (only in the summer…winter, brrrr!)

3) Speaking of winter…downtown Minneapolis has approximately 8 miles of elevated, indoor walkways connecting many of its buildings.  You can shop and wander all day and never have to go outside.  The skyways are great for getting a warm view of the Holidazzle Parade (get there early and camp out for a good seat) after you have had a fabulous brunch at Hell’s Kitchen (the best news?  Its FREE!)

Downtown Minneapolis Buildings - hidden gems in Minneapolis

3) The 32 story Foshay tower was the tallest building in the Minnepolis skyline from its completion in 1906 until it was replaced by the IDS Center in 1972.  The Foshay Tower is now home to the swanky W Hotel and its top floor bar Prohibition where you can get great views of the downtown skyline (happy hour happens daily from 5-7pm where you can feel posh enjoying $5 martinis and fancy finger foods!)

4) Minneapolis has a chain or urban lakes right next to downtown!  This is like our version of central park, and 5 million people visit the lakes and the paths around them each year.  After you have gotten your recreation on around the lakes, check out nearby Uptown/Eat Street in Minneapolis for some great food (and some of the most authentic ethnic food you will find in the whole city as well as lots of other tasty options!)

Minneapolis Skyline - hidden gems in minneapolis

5)  The Twin Cities area (Minneapolis and St Paul) has the nations oldest Winter Carnival (is anyone really surprised?  Minnesota regularly sees some of the coldest temperature reading in the country…it is frequently referred to in the national media as the ‘icebox of the nation’ – the coldest temperature in the state was recorded in Embarass, MN at -60 Fahrenheit!  Yikes!)

6) The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis is one of the best places for live theater in the country.  What you might not know is that it also has one of the longest cantilevered bridges ever built (it stretches for 178 feet or half a block from the main theater building over the Mississippi River and it is one of the prettiest views in the entire city.)  You don’t have to be seeing a play to enjoy the view, entrance to the public areas of the theater is free and they have free wifi!

7) The University of Minnesota boasts a number of impressive achievements including the first open heart surgery in 1954, the invention of the transistor in 1956 and and invention of the pacemaker in 1958.

A visit to the U of M campus is a nice way to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Minneapolis.  Check out one of the free concerts on Northrup Mall (a pleasant grassy area in the middle of campus, perfect for a picnic) throughout the summer.

Once you have had you fill of chilling and enjoying the great people watching on Northrop Mall, head over to Dinkytown.  Dinkytown is a hip, budget friendly area of shops and restaurants on the U of M campus.  Check out the Vescios in Dinkytown for authentic, home made Italian food since 1956!  Bob Dylan fans can check out the Loring Pasta Bar (he lived upstairs from the drug store that used to be here from 1959-1960!)

Dinkytown is another of many hidden gems in Minneapolis that you should definitely check out if you like an authentic, off the beaten path experiences!

Stone Arch Bridge at Night Minneapolis - hidden gems in minneapolis
Photo Credit: Atica Crooms (https://www.facebook.com/photosbyatica)

8) F. Scott Fitzgerald (the author of “The Great Gatsby” and other famous literary works) called St. Paul home.  He lived the playboy life in a palatial mansion on Summit Avenue.  You can spend a lovely day in St. Paul walking on Summit Avenue, seeing the lovely historic mansions there.  Once you are done drooling, head over to Grand Avenue in St. Paul for  a unique area full of eclectic shops and great restaurants.

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