Twin Cities Travel Guide

Welcome to our Minneapolis travel guide. Here’s you’ll find key details about the city.

OverviewMapBest Time to VisitLogisticsCultureLocal Area

Overview

Minneapolis Details

Province/State: Minnesota

Country: United States

Population: 425,336

Time Zone: Central Standard Time

Languages Spoken: English

Currency Used: United States Dollar

About Minneapolis

Minneapolis Travel Guide
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

“Hey, look at that, the Twin Cities…You ever been to Minneapolis?” Fargo quotes aside, you should definitely consider Minneapolis and her sister city, Saint Paul, for a vacation any time of year.

Mostly, when folks outside Minnesota say “Minneapolis,” they’re talking about the Twin Cities metro area, chiefly comprised of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. There is no real border that separates the two, save a stretch of the Mississippi, but the Twins have their distinctive flavor.

Minneapolis is the bigger of the two, while Saint Paul is the state capital city. Minneapolis is regarded as the place to go for a night out, while Saint Paul is the quiet town where you want to hang your hat. But perhaps the best analogy might be that Saint Paul is the last city in the East, while Minneapolis is the first city in the West.

Best of all, the Twin Cities have every kind of attraction and activity for any kind of traveler. And it ain’t rinky-dink either; Minneapolis-Saint Paul is the best world-class destination you’ve never heard of. Museums, landmarks, parks, sports, arts, music, shopping – it’s all in America’s best-kept secret!

Map

Best Time to Visit

Minneapolis and Saint Paul are located in southern Minnesota and are year-round destinations. This is largely thanks to the defined seasons this part of the Midwest typically experiences annually. Winters are normally snowy, springtime brings blooms as the world wakes up, summers are scorching, and fall explodes in autumnal glory like nowhere else.

The busiest time of year is during Minnesota’s glorious summertime from June to August. Winter comes in at a close second when the cities become a haven for winter travelers.

Other than that, prices don’t fluctuate too much, so the best time of year to visit mostly depends on what you want to get out of your experience. Here’s a rough breakdown of the year in the Twin Cities.

SUMMER, June to August: Sweltering temperatures and long, blue-sky days epitomize the Twin Cities summer. There’s typically the odd epic thunderstorm, too. These months are best for those wishing to bask in the sun, have fun on or by a lake, and enjoy some breweries and al fresco dining. However, expect larger crowds and higher prices, particularly around the Minnesota State Fair.

  • Weather: Hot, humid, blue skies, occasional thunderstorms
  • Crowds: Moderate/High

FALL, September to October/November: As autumn descends, Minnesota explodes in a fireworks display of red, orange, and auburn. This period strikes a balance, offering pleasant temperatures with less crowded attractions. Expect mild weather, occasional showers or short snow flurries in late fall, and fewer tourists.

  • Weather: Agreeable-chilly, some rain and chances of snow
  • Crowds: Low/Moderate

WINTER, November/December to March: Winter in the Twin Cities can be enjoyed inside and out. Winters normally come with thick blankets of snow and extreme cold, so wrap up! The city comes to life with winter sports enthusiasts getting out and enjoying the freeze while museums and galleries provide refuge from the frigid cold. The Skyway systems also see peak crowds and become an attraction in their own right for the savvy traveler.

  • Weather: Very Cold
  • Crowds: Moderate (excluding holidays)

SPRING, April to May/June: Winter can drag, sometimes, into what should be late spring! But no matter how long or short, a Minneapolis spring is gorgeous. Flowers bloom, and trees find new leaves seemingly overnight. Chilly mornings lead to warmer temperatures, and blue skies are dotted with odd showers. Spring is ideal for those seeking mild temperatures and low numbers of tourists. Remember that melting snow can produce interesting aromas, particularly around the Mississippi!

  • Weather: Agreeable-chilly, blue skies, some rain, and chances of snow
  • Crowds: Low

Travel Logistics

How to Get Around

Getting around the Twin Cities is easy. While renting a car is always going to be best for speed, convenience, and independence, you can comfortably traverse Minneapolis and Saint Paul without them.
The Twin Cities have an extensive public transportation network made up of light rail lines and bus routes. The buses and light rail are cheap, frequent, reliable, and clean.
Minneapolis and Saint Paul are also extremely bike-friendly, being one of the most bikeable metro areas in the United States. You’ll find racks of e-bikes and e-scooters as well as independent bike and scooter rentals.
Most of the city’s best neighborhoods are also highly walkable, and you’ll never find yourself too far from anything you want or need. Ensure you’re wrapped up and don’t stay outside too long in winter.
And like any major U.S. metro area, you can find ride-shares like Lyft, Uber, and taxi services. The standard yellow cabs and the blur and white taxis are the most popular and reputable cabs.

Mode of Transportation Recommended For
Light Rail Quick, cheap, wide-reaching city travel, access to MSP and MOA
Bus Cheap travel, access to best attractions
Taxi/Ride-Hailing Comfort, convenience, late-night travel
Walking Short distances, immersive experiences
Biking Eco-friendly travel, accessible bike lanes, rentable bikes, immersive experiences

Transport Tips:

  • Investing in a Go-To Card can help you save big on public transportation if you plan on using it a lot.
  • The Light Rail works on the honor system. Make of that information what you will.
  • Minneapolis is slightly easier to navigate than Saint Paul, considering it’s a younger city, adhering more to a block system than her older sister.
  • If you’re outside for over 10 minutes in winter, ensure you are wrapped up!

How to Get There

If you’re flying into the Twin Cities, nine times out of ten, you will be flying into Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (aka MSP), in Saint Paul. If you’re flying a private domestic or corporate flight, you may fly into St. Paul Downtown Airport.

If that’s the case, you’re probably getting a private car, cab, or rideshare to your next destination. For us regular non-mister-moneybags types, here are the best ways to reach your next stop in the Twin Cities once you land at MSP:

  • Metro Blue Line Light Rail: Links MSP Airport to Minneapolis city center.
  • Bus: Route 54, riding the border of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, will get you to Terminal 1.
  • Taxis and Rideshares: Designated pickup and drop-off points at MSP.

A taxi or organized shuttle service might be preferable for those prioritizing convenience, although these are typically more expensive than public transportation.

You might also consider renting a car. The US is designed to be driven, and a car is especially handy to get around, especially in winter or if you’re in a group or bringing a lot of luggage.

Cultural and Social Information

Cultural Heritage

Like any major American metro area, Minneapolis and Saint Paul are cultural melting pots. The Twin Cities enjoys an extremely diverse patchwork of people.

You’ll find plenty of nods to the Twin Cities’ European roots, such as Anglo-Irish pubs, German-style breweries, and Polish delicatessens, as well as a small, proud community of Native tribes.

The cities are particularly proud of their Scandinavian heritage, with special attention paid to Norway and Sweden. Since the late 20th Century, the Twin Cities have also seen a sizable injection of Hmong, Central, South American, and Somali immigrants into the community.

Consequently, the Twin Cities is a foodie’s dream, with practically every global cuisine represented in fine form. You can also find all this at the enormous Minnesota State Fair.

With such a Smörgåsbord of cultures finding a home in the Twin Cities, you’ll find a huge array of interesting museums and galleries, from boutique art spaces to world-famous institutions, such as the American Swedish Institute to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

It’s also a huge destination for live music and performances after New York and Chicago, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul are home to the country’s biggest theatre scene. Broadway productions frequently pass through the Twin Cities, and it’s no joke that musicians love performing here.

The Twin Cities is also a very sporty destination, with major teams in every major sport. Baseball, football, and hockey are king here, with the Timberwolves and the Loons getting far less love than they deserve. Winter sports are exceptionally popular, with niche activities like broomball and snowshoeing as talking points.

Speaking of winter, that’s also part of the culture and the heritage. It’s practically obligatory to experience the Twin Cities at least once in winter. Winter is about finding a way to groove with it, whether inside or outside. It’s not just winter sports that people get psyched for. It’s also when you’ll see all the tabletop and board games come out.

Local Customs and Etiquette

Welcome to your crash course in “Minnesota Nice!” Expect locals to be warm and welcoming. As a visitor, it’s genuinely nice to be on the receiving end of, and given some time, you’ll recognize the nuances. Minnesota Nice is polite and helpful, warm yet reserved, and just ever so slightly passive-aggressive with a wry, dry sense of humor.

It’s based around a lot of pleasant small talk, similar to British small talk about mundane things like the weather, rather than about anything truly deep. A joke with some basis in truth is that folks here will be the first to help you in an emergency, but will never give you their home address!

They’ll rarely brag about anything, except how great Minnesota is, which is well warranted. If they ever tell you about themselves, they like you. And once you get one to start talking you’ll find they’re real chatterboxes!

Here are a few terms and phrases that you’ll likely come across in the Twin Cities:

    • No,  yeahYes, affirmative, in agreement.
    • Yeah, noNo, negative, disagreement.
  • Oof or Uuf Negative exclamation, like “dang.” Scandinavian in origin. E.g. “Oof, sorry to hear about that,” or “Oof! You see how expensive this Jucy Lucy is?”
  • That’s interesting – I’m bored, and I’m being polite.
  • That’s unique – That’s weird, and I’m being polite.
  • The Mall Only ever refers to the Mall of America.
  • Grey DuckI know it’s “goose,” but this is the hill I will die on.
  • Shorts n’ Boots Weather A sunny, snowy winter day with temperatures between about 20-50℉.
  • OpeAn exclamation of something gone awry, intended to inform surrounding parties of said awry thing, normally followed by an explanation and the word “there.” E.g. “Ope, I nearly knocked your elbow there,” or “Ope, you’re shoelace is untied there,” or “Ope, I didn’t mean to see that there.”

Neighborhoods

  • Northeast Minneapolis: Home to most of the Twin Cities’ best breweries
  • Downtown Minneapolis: Incredible bars, live music, theatre, and epic nightlife.
  • Lowertown Saint Paul: A hidden gem with great restaurants, seasonal events, and markets.
  • West Seventh: Boutique stores, pubs, bars, and cool eateries.
  • Nicollet Avenue: Diverse pubs, clubs, restaurants, and bars within a stone’s throw of downtown. Also home to the Holidazzle Winter Parade.
  • Lake Street: Important cultural landmark and foodie heaven.
  • Dinkytown: Super cute, studenty, chic.
  • Minnehaha Park: Gorgeous green spaces, home to the spectacular Minnehaha Falls.
  • The Mall of America: The largest mall in the country. A city in its own right.

Here is a neighborhood breakdown with key attractions and highlights of what makes them so truly special.

Neighborhood/Area Highlights
Northeast Minneapolis Fair State Brewing, Indeed Brewing, Bauhaus Brewing
Downtown Minneapolis Guthrie Theatre, The Skyway, Mill Park & Mill City Museum
Lowertown Saint Paul Union Depot, the Saints Stadium, Farmers Market
West Seventh Excel Energy Center, Tori Ramen
Nicollet Ave Brit’s Pub, The Dakota, Orchestra Hall, MIA
Lake Street Food, Craft Breweries
Dinkytown Weisman Art Museum, Varsity Theatre, The Main Cinema
Minnehaha Park Minnehaha Falls, Mississippi River Gorge, hiking trails
The Mall of America Shopping, dining, general entertainment

James Oliver
WRITTEN BY

James Oliver

James, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a British-American writer and editor for ViaTravelers who has been writing since he learned how to use a pen. As someone who has spent much time trotting around the globe, James appreciates traveling smart and comfortably and has every intention of helping ViaTravelers's readers do the same!

James is all about traveling light, enjoys hiking around old forts and ruins, loves boring people with military history, and is always on the hunt for the best place to grab a bite to eat.

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