If You Only Have Three Days in the Twin Cities

The Twin Cities are well connected with footpaths, bike lanes, and public transportation, so you can enjoy the main landmark sites and the tastiest bites in three days. Spend two days getting to know Minneapolis and the perks and quirks of its various neighborhoods, and then slow down for a day in the more leisurely and charming Saint Paul.

413 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414, USA
This James Beard America’s Classics winner hangs its medal modestly behind the bar with just about everything else: currency and postcards from around the world, cups, hot sauce, a pile of plastic dinosaurs, and yellow booklet records of regulars who pre-paid for their breakfasts (a tradition stemming from railroad workers who would deposit a portion of their monthly paychecks to guarantee getting fed even when their funds started to run low). Only 14 stools fit counter-side in this 10-foot-wide diner, the narrowest in the city. Those waiting for a seat will hover jealously behind those being served breakfast favorites like buttermilk blueberry pancakes, jelly omelets, the Jose (poached egg, salsa, and hash browns), corned beef hash, and bacon waffles.
Minneapolis, MN, USA
This riverfront Main St. strip is scattered with historic buildings from the 1850s and while a bit sleepy has points of interest like the movie theater and the beginning of the Stone Arch Bridge. Start your crossing from here to get the full effect of walking from the quaint past into the modernized Minneapolis skyline.
Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis, MN, USA
This former railroad bridge, built across the Mississippi River in the 1880s, is now a pedestrian and bike path perfect for strolling between parks. With panoramic views of the downtown skyline, river, and St. Anthony Falls, Stone Arch Bridge is a favorite trail for locals.
704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA
Located along the Mississippi riverfront, the Mill City Museum rises eight stories from the limestone ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. Today, this National Historic Landmark houses antique milling equipment, vintage advertising, and exhibitions on the wheat farms, and visitors can ride the grain elevator, watch a movie about Minneapolis’s humble beginnings, learn how the Mississippi River powered all the local mills, and sample freshly made treats in the Baking Lab. There’s also an observation deck with panoramic views over the city, and the Ruin Courtyard, which hosts events and live music throughout the year. When hunger strikes, head to the on-site restaurant, Bushel & Peck, for lunch fare like burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
818 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55415, USA
Although the new Guthrie Theater was only completed in 2006, it has a rich history in the resident-theater movement of the 1960s. Architect Jean Nouvel created this stunning masterpiece that is worth visiting even if not attending a show, although attending one would be ideal. The space has three, differently sized theaters, and the “Endless Bridge” lobby extension leads to panoramic views of the Mississippi River, Stone Arch Bridge, and St. Anthony Falls.
Minneapolis, MN, USA
The Twin Cities are known for their extensive downtown Skyway systems, blocks of climate-controlled covered footbridges that connect buildings and allow residents (and visitors) to comfortably navigate the area anytime of year. Hubs of indoor shopping, dining and business are connected to major museums and sport stadiums, making foul weather a fool’s excuse.
211 N 1st St, Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA
James Beard Award–winning chef Gavin Kayson returned to his Midwest roots in 2014 to open Spoon and Stable. Here, he uses techniques learned from around the globe to transform the Heartland food that he grew up eating into an upscale experience, all inside an actual old stable.
4801 S Minnehaha Dr, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA
One of the unique things about the Twin Cities is just how much nature is part of the urban landscape. Few places exemplify this better than Minnehaha, one of Minneapolis’s oldest and most popular parks. Here, visitors will find everything from limestone bluffs and river overlooks to a majestic 53-foot waterfall that freezes in winter. Explore the area via various walking and biking paths, or bring your furry friend to the epic dog park. There’s also a disc golf course, picnic area, playground, volleyball court, and wading pool, making the park perfect for family outings.
240 Summit Ave, St Paul, MN 55102, USA
Scattered with Victorian mansions, St. Paul’s tree-lined Summit Ave. is one of the most beautiful residential streets in the Midwest, with famous former residents including author F. Scott Fitzgerald and early railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill. Guided tours are offered from the James J. Hill House Wed–Sun, but it is also a worthwhile independent stroll. Make sure to start or end at the gorgeous St. Paul Cathedral, overlooking downtown St. Paul.
Office-G10, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407, USA
The Twin Cities’ diversity is displayed with full fanfare at this vibrant, internationally focused market of food, grocery, and craft vendors from around the world. Favorites include East African dishes like the camel burger and sambusas at Safari Express, Middle Eastern gyros at Holy Land, Korean staples like the kimchi fried rice and bibimbap bowls at Rabbit Hole, and Mexican tortas at Manny’s.
Minneapolis, MN, USA
With over 20 lakes, Minneapolis is truly a water city—which is roughly what its name means in the Dakota language of the area’s original American Indian inhabitants. The 1555-acre Chain of Lakes district highlights the best of this water-filled landscape. From the active water and ice sports of expansive Lake Calhoun to the more leisurely picturesque shoreline of Lake Harriet, each lake glistens with its own unique personality.
Bde Maka Ska, Minneapolis, MN, USA
A trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes wouldn’t be complete without spending some time on, well, a lake—even if you’re only visiting the cities. In Minneapolis, everyone heads to Bde Maka Ska, the largest of five in the city’s Chain of Lakes. Located in the Uptown neighborhood, the 401-acre lake is surrounded by parkland and trails, making it a favorite of locals for everything from ice fishing in the winter to swimming, biking, and volleyball games in the summer. Along the shore are rental options for nearly every water sport, from sailing and kayaking to paddleboarding, plus lockers for stashing your stuff when you’re out on the water. For those who prefer dry land, there are also several Nice Ride stations where you can access the city’s bike-share program, and a seasonal restaurant serving sandwiches, wings, and tacos.
18 W 26th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404, USA
Eat Street Social’s new bar-within-a-bar, the Torpedo Room, serves artisanal tiki cocktails with tasteful kitsch and Midwest flair. Flavors like sweet corn cream (instead of coconut cream) and apple cider (instead of pineapple and orange juice) are termed “Minnesota exotic” for their twist on the classic Painkiller. There are 45 rums to be turned into cocktails and topped with an umbrella or finished with fire, as well as an alcoholic sno cone menu for some added fun.
10 Mounds Blvd, St Paul, MN 55106, USA
Six out of what was once at least 16 Native American burial mounds remain preserved atop the bluffs overlooking St. Paul and the Mississippi River. These sites, 1,500–2,000 years old, are thought to have been built by the Hopewellians and then added to by the Dakotas. Upon excavation, archaeologists discovered a variety of offerings, such as mussel shells, arrowheads, copper ornaments, and bear teeth, as well as an unprecedented clay death mask with the imprint of the original face fully intact in the mold.
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