Photo by Melanie Graves
With one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the U.S., Minnesota is a Midwest bastion of inclusivity.
From soccer bars and charming, small-town inns to drag brunches and farm-to-table dining, here’s how you can shop small and explore queer communities when you visit the state.
Apple blossoms have begun to perfume the crisp Minnesota air. As wildflowers start to pop up along the riverbanks, peppering the state in vibrant pink and purple petals, there’s another rainbow of diversity and creativity that helps define the state, the LGBTQ+ community.
For queer people across the country, spring represents the beginning of Pride season, a time of year for coming out and coming together for fabulous shows, advocacy, dance celebrations, and much more. As the first state in the U.S. to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and home to one of the nation’s largest free Pride festivals, Minnesota is one of the Midwest’s LGBTQ+ hubs. We recently sat down with Minneapolis resident and KARE 11 news anchor Jana Shortal, who also happens to be a new parent, to find out what they’re most excited about this spring in the Twin Cities and beyond.
Shortal has been out and a public advocate for the LGBTQ+ community for more than a decade, while covering important news across the state. Here, we collected some of their favorite LGBTQ+ businesses to support as you explore the North Star State, as well as highlighting some of our own.
Shortal met their wife for their first date at Bev’s Wine Bar in downtown Minneapolis. It’s a place they return to with family and to celebrate milestones. Another favorite is Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater, a bowling alley, bar, and 85-seat theater that Shortal still frequents. “It’s old and fantastic and feels like a community,” Shortal says.
For a taste of Indian street food check out Hot Indian Foods, a food truck business founded nine years ago that today features food trucks at the Minnesota State Fair and Target Field. Head Chef Janene Holig is a street food enthusiast and Minnesota native. Together with owner Amol Dixit the pair are cooking up a new Bussin’ Birria Taco concept for their Mall of America location, which opens this month.
Finish up an evening with a hoppy seasonal beer at the first women-owned microbrewery in Minnesota, Urban Growler Brewing Company. Check out their schedule for events such as open mic nights, “Paint your Pet,” and “Sukshana, Sunshine and Swear Words,” a class combining rage, yoga, and beer.
As the weather begins to warm, take a trip to the acclaimed Tangletown Gardens in Minneapolis, just a block from Minnehaha Creek. The center houses a collection of impeccable plants and flowers, specializes in interior plantscapes, and offers a number of curated CSAs from their farm outside the city. Tangletown Gardens is across the street from sister business Wise Acre, a farm-to-table eatery and market. Owners Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann met in horticulture school and have been tending to their inspired businesses ever since.
In Duluth, you can eat—and support the local LGBTQ+ community, too—when you sample the “farm-to-fork” dishes at Sara’s Table Chester Creek Café. Or try fine dining with Lake Superior views at The Boat Club, owned by Jason Vincent and Jeff Anderson, who also run the Vanilla Bean restaurant, just up the road in Two Harbors.
This summer, don’t miss out on the return of in-person events around the state. The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus will be returning to Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota in June to perform Avenue Queer, a show connecting Broadway musical songs to the stories of gay men in the choir. Or catch one of the many drag brunches across Minneapolis produced by former schoolteacher Chad Kampe, who founded Flip Phone Events. All of the shows have themes, which are as varied and inspired as ’80s Big Hair Drag Brunch, Snoop Dog and Martha Drag Brunch, and, of course, Prince Drag Brunch, an homage to the hometown hero.
While their nights out may be few and far between with the addition of three-month-old Isaac, Shortal looks forward to drag brunches at Lush and the reopening of Jet Set Bar this summer. The journalist is especially awaiting the moment they get to enjoy a beer and a game at St. Paul soccer bar The Black Hart.
For another way to experience the expanding and diverse LGBTQ+ scene here, get a taste of what happens when Western meets queer culture at events by the North Star Gay Rodeo Association, including the North Star Regional Rodeo in Hugo this July. You can also dip your toes in local culture when you head to Grand Rapids to pay homage to a gay icon at the Judy Garland Museum, which is housed in her restored 1925 childhood home.
To experience the pristine beauty of Minnesota’s landscape and the charm of its small towns, travel to the southeastern part of the state, where you’ll find the historic Stone Mill Hotel & Suites in Lanesboro. The hotel is owned and operated by partners in life and business Colleen Lamon and Mandy Smith, who are also behind Sweet’s Hotel in nearby LeRoy.
Also in the south, the American Eagle Bluff Bed and Breakfast is a restored 1870s farmhouse on 40 acres of land overlooking the Mississippi and Chippewa River Valleys in Reads Landing and owned by Perry Juenemann and Raynard Peterson.
Those who want to visit the North Shore have a laid-back lodging option with Mangy Moose Motel in Grand Marais. Owners Dave Rak and partner Don Bertolini call it a “pop and pop” in a town that has become increasingly LGBTQ+-centric, thanks to the number of gay artists who’ve moved to the area in recent years. Nearby in Embarrass, travelers can enjoy the serenity of a 17-acre farm and traditional wood-burning Finnish spa when staying at Northern Comfort Bed and Breakfast, a 1901 Finnish log home owned by Kathy Johnson and Pam Bennet.
For impeccable design and apparel, check out Pharmacie, a collaboration between Minnesota natives Roger Barrett and Sam Beberg. Currently only taking online orders, Pharmacie curates colorful and inspired pieces that will enliven any collection.
And, finally, for all your crystal, candle, and sage needs, head to The Future, a shop, community space, and residency program opened by Lacey Prpić Hedtke. Located in the emerging Witch District of south Minneapolis, the shop features tarot decks, apothecary jewels, books, and clothes made by women and queer and transgender Minnesotans who have more than an average inkling of just what the future holds.
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