As a California girl, I haven’t spent much time in the Midwest. There is so much to do here in California—the perfect blend of city life, beaches and deserts. As a child, when my family wanted to get away, we’d head to the mountains in central California or up to lakes and rivers in Idaho.
But the more I’ve traveled, the more I desire to see every place I possibly can. When the opportunity presented itself to take a short trip to Minneapolis, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. While my friends didn’t seem to understand my excitement, I knew that my city-loving heart would find something to love about Minnesota’s biggest city.
Where to Learn
One of my favorite things about traveling is learning, and Minneapolis’ Mill City Museum is the perfect place to do so. Situated on the bank of the Mississippi River, the museum is housed in the old Washburn A flour mill that flourished throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. After sitting abandoned for nearly 30 years, a fire badly damaged the structure in the 1990s before the city stepped in, rebuilding it into the currently museum—a seamless blend of historical stone buildings and modern ones covered in smooth glass.
The museum contains some excellent exhibits revealing the history of flour milling in the city but it also details Minneapolis’ history as a whole. A film called “Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat” is the perfect introduction to what has taken place in the city over the last 400 years while audio in the outdoor courtyard reveals the rivers influence on the Dakota people that once settled there. They also have two interactive labs—a water lab and a baking lab—that give guests a chance to see how flour is used in the kitchen as well as how St. Anthony Falls, which lies just outside, powered the mills.
My favorite part of our visit was the Flour Tower, a show that provides more insight as to what it was like to work at the mill during its heyday. Ushered into seats that had been installed in an old freight elevator, we were swept up and down the first seven floors of the tower; each time the doors would open, we were presented with a different set: assembly lines, offices, rooms filled with machinery. Videos of actual footage from the mill or audio from former workers aimed to tell the story of working there as well as about the explosion that resulted in the Great Mill Disaster of 1878. Once the show is finished, visitors can stop by the eighth floor to see some old machinery up close or the ninth floor to visit the observation deck that overlooks the river, the falls and the Minneapolis buildings across the way.
Where to Play
During your stay in Minneapolis, be sure to check out the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a free museum filled with a good variety of artwork. MIA blends modern and contemporary galleries with those on ancient art, featuring works from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. They also have a selection of photography as well as a plethora of ever-changing special exhibitions. Some of the better-known pieces include artwork from van Gogh, Gauguin, Manet and El Greco. Housed in a building with Roman columns rivaling those of European structures, MIA is a lovely place for art lovers and otherwise to spend an afternoon.
By night, consider seeing a play or concert at Guthrie Theater, a big part of the city’s cultural history. Originally built in the 1960s, the theater has been remodeled a few times since, resulting in three different stages, classrooms and rehearsal facilities. Located next to the Mill City Museum, the theater’s design reflects its industrial neighborhood, with a rounded exterior composed of metal and glass. As a major staple of Minneapolis nightlife, the Guthrie Theater has presented everything from To Kill a Mockingbird and A Christmas Carol to Julius Caesar and Hamlet.
Where to Eat
My sister has been living in Chicago for a while now and is always complaining about not being able to find good Mexican food—something that is everywhere in Southern California. So when we stumbled across a little Mexican restaurant in Uptown, we had to try it.
Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar has an excellent selection of meats to add to tacos, enchiladas, flautas or quesadillas, but they also have plenty of other dishes to enjoy. We’re talking ceviche, pozole, nachos, salads…they even have six different types of salsa. Pair that with over 50 different kinds of tequila and you’re in for a good meal (margaritas, anyone?). But my favorite thing about Nico’s was its quaint setting, within an old house. The balcony patio, old wooden staircase and strings of colored lights created a relaxing, enjoyable environment.
Where to Stay
If you enjoy the hustle and the bustle of the city, stay downtown at the Radisson Blu Minneapolis. The hotel offers beautiful views of the skyscrapers surrounding it and is close to both Target Field and the Target Center, some other places that are great for concerts, shows or sports. The sleek, modern décor and comfortable rooms with pops of color make it a luxurious place to stay the night—and the room service isn’t too shabby either.
If you have additional time to spare, visit nearby St. Paul, get your thrills at the Mall of America or explore Minneapolis’ cultural history. Don’t forget to let us know what you love most about the Twin Cities!