If you’ve never been to the Twin Cities area or if it’s been awhile, we hope you have carved out time while you’re at the National Women’s Conference hosted by NAWBO October 15-17 to stay and play. After all, there’s so much to explore in the trendier Minneapolis as well as quieter, but no less interesting, St. Paul. Families appreciate the Minnesota Zoo and Fort Snelling, while culture hounds marvel at the distinct design hallmark buildings like the Walker Art Center and Guthrie Theater. Shopaholics peruse the windows in the Mall of America or downtown’s Nicollet Mall. And last but not least, the Chain of Lakes, a scenic byway located southwest of downtown, is popular among athletic travelers who enjoy jogging or boating. If you still have more energy, hit the food spots on Nicollet Avenue for dinner, and later, check out the bars and live music scene in Minneapolis (First Avenue nightclub is a must). Here’s how U.S. News ranks the area’s things to do:
No trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes is complete without a stroll around the five bodies of water that encompass the Chain of Lakes byway district. Each lake has something different to offer: Lake Harriet features a bird sanctuary, rose gardens and beaches, while Lake Calhoun draws a more active crowd with plenty of boat and bike rentals. The Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake are great backdrops for a picnic or a stroll.
This 2,100-foot granite and limestone bridge was constructed in 1883 and was vital to the city’s development by increasing movement of people and goods into and out of Minneapolis. Designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, it is the only stone arch bridge to have ever traversed the Mississippi River. Today, you can walk or ride bikes between the river’s east and west banks.
Named for founder Sir Tyrone Guthrie, the downtown theater is one of the city’s most beloved treasures. Opening in 1963, the theater’s repertory company has made a name for itself with its classical theater and avant-garde productions. The theater also boasts great food and cocktails and some of the best views of Minneapolis from the banks of the Mississippi River.
Mill City Museum (site of the conference’s opening reception!)
To learn more about Minneapolis’ industrious past, take some time to tour the Mill City Museum. Situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River and housed in what was once the largest flour mill in the world, the museum recreates an authentic mill experience with equipment, railroad cars and hands-on exhibits demonstrating milling techniques.
Sheltering more than 83,000 works of art that span more than 5,000 years, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is the place to go if you’re an art aficionado. Whether you’re interested in Ancient Egyptian artifacts or European masterpieces by artists such as Titian and Monet, this museum has what you need to get your fix.
This largest shopping mall in the country with more than 500 stores (2.5 million square feet of retail space) is the place to truly shop till you drop. It’s also home to the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center, Amazing Mirror Maze and House of Comedy.
Sprawling along the banks of the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Park offers respite from the fast-paced atmosphere of Minneapolis. Situated about 6 miles southeast of central Minneapolis, the 193-acre park is renowned for its 53-foot Minnehaha Falls made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.”
Even if you’re not incredibly passionate about art, a spin through the Walker Art Center is worth a few hours. It’s famous for its collection of modern and contemporary art comprised of paintings, sculpture and photographs from both American and European artists. One of the biggest draws is the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.
If you’re looking for a more unique shopping experience, skip the Mall of America and head to the Midtown Global Market, where more than 50 vendors sell food and trinkets ranging from local produce to Somalian Pastries, Middle Eastern olives and Asian spices. There are also cultural events.
Situated about 30 minutes south of downtown Minneapolis in the suburb of Apple Valley, this 485-acre complex shelters an impressive menagerie of more than 4,700 animals as well as an IMAX theater. If you’re interested in learning more about the animals native to the state, plan on visiting the Medtronic Minnesota Trail exhibit.
Designed by famed avant-garde architect Frank Gehry, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is the place to go for a glimpse at some of the USA’s most renowned contemporary art. You’ll find pieces by Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe and Roy Lichtenstein, not to mention an impressive collection of ceramics and Korean furniture.
Established in the early 19th century as a frontier outpost, Fort Snelling is the oldest structure in Minnesota. Its perch over the converging point of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers allowed it to successfully control trade routes in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Today, it acts as a living history museum with costumed tour guides.