48 Hours In Minnesota’s Twin Cities

January 7, 2016 2:56 PM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Metro Light Rail (credit: Randy Yagi)

Metro Light Rail (credit: Randy Yagi)


How To Get Around

Despite being considered inferior compared to other major metropolitan areas of a similar size, the regional public transportation system remains the best way to get around the Twin Cities. Of particular importance is Metro Transit’s light rail system connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul, with stops at several major attractions including Target Field, the Warehouse District, the Mall of America and major transportation hubs like Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Union Depot. Regular fare for the bus and Metro light rail is $1.75, although fare for weekday rush hours is $2.25. A Metro visitor pass is just $4.50 and provides for unlimited rides until 2 a.m. after its first use, and a day pass with unlimited rides for 24 hours is $6.

If public transit is impractical, visitors can opt for a Twin City Tour or Minneapolis/Mississippi River Cruise with Grayline. Other more expensive options include taxi service and ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft.

Related: A 48-Hour Guide To Chicago

St. Paul Hotel (credit: Randy Yagi)

St. Paul Hotel (credit: Randy Yagi)


Where To Stay

The average cost of a room in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is $140, which is considerably lower than in Chicago but higher than in other major cities in the Great Lakes region, including Detroit, Green Bay and Madison. However, there are more than 200 hotels and motels in the Twin Cities region, ranging from about $50 for budget accommodations to over $300 for luxury hotels in downtown Minneapolis. Additionally, there are a number of B&Bs and vacation rentals in the area. Still, even for the budget-minded traveler, the recommendation is to book reservations at properties in the mid-range category.

Budget

Mid-Range

Upscale

Travail Kitchen (credit: Randy Yagi)

Travail Kitchen (credit: Randy Yagi)


Where To Dine

Visitors have literally thousands of dining choices during their stay in the Twin Cities, even if it’s just for 48 hours. What’s more, there are numerous choices to fit anyone’s budget, including food trucks, white cloth service with award-winning wine lists and everything in between. Visiting epicureans will be disappointed to discover that one of Minnesota’s most celebrated and most influential restaurants (La Belle Vie) closed in October. However, its James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee is associated with other local restaurants, such as Manny’s Steakhouse, Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue and Masu Sushi and Robata. In addition to Manny’s, there are four other recommended upscale restaurants which include Travail Kitchen, about eight miles from downtown Minneapolis, which would likely require a rental car or other form of transportation. Visitors interested in sampling local dishes should opt for items like walleye sandwich, Swedish meatballs, tater tot hotdish, lutefisk and any type of food on a stick, including deep fried s’mores on a stick and a deep fried candy bar on a stick.

Budget 

Moderate

Upscale

First Avenue (credit: Randy Yagi)

First Avenue (credit: Randy Yagi)


Bars & Nightclubs

With more than 200 bars and nightclubs in the Twin Cities, there’s something for most anyone’s taste or preference in nightlife. In fact, some major American bands and solo artists got their start in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, including Soul Asylum, Morris Day and the Time, The Replacements and two rock legends — Prince and Bob Dylan, born in Minneapolis and Duluth respectively. For a night out, the top choices would be First Avenue or Dakota Jazz Club, in that order.

Bob Dylan Mural (credit: Randy Yagi)

Bob Dylan Mural (credit: Randy Yagi)


Day 1

The first day begins in downtown Minneapolis, where visitors can choose a number of places to explore. By using the light rail, visitors can make stops at Target Field Station — next to Target Field, the home field of the Minnesota Twins of the MLB with Target Center, a major entertainment venue and home of the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA, just blocks away. The Target Field station is also one of two stops for the vibrant Warehouse District, featuring a host of hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

The next light rail stop is Warehouse/Hennepin Avenue, which is within walking distance to Minneapolis Central Library, major hotels like The Hotel Minneapolis and The Westin Minneapolis and Nicollet Mall, the premier shopping and entertainment center in the downtown area. To better explore the mall, Metro Transit offers a free bus that runs from the Nicollet Mall Station (following the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue) and the Minneapolis Convention Center.

One exceptional side trip from the Nicollet Mall Station is a bus ride down to the admission-free Minneapolis Institute of Art, the top-ranked Minneapolis attraction of Trip Advisor. Established in 1883, the museum is best known for its collection of European paintings from such illustrious artists as Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin and Pissarro, in addition to its large collection of Egyptian mummies. Travelers interested in public transportation from Nicollet Mall to the museum can take bus routes 17 or 18 from 5th and Hennepin Avenue, in the Hennepin Theater District.

After visiting Nicollet Mall and/or the Minneapolis Institute of Art, visitors can choose to continue on to Hennepin Theater District, the Mall of America or take a boat ride along the Mississippi River. Given its proximity to Nicollet Mall, the theater district is the most convenient spot to visit on the first day. With a two or three block stretch on Hennepin, visitors can see historic cities like the State Theatre, Pantages and the Orpheum Theatre, in addition to popular restaurants like the Capital Grille and Crave and the recommended Butcher & The Boar further down between 11th and 12th Streets. One recently completed major attraction in the Theater District is the enormous, kaleidoscopic mural of the rock legend and Minnesota native Bob Dylan, at the corner of Hennepin and 5th Street.

While the Mall of America is a must-see attraction while visiting the Twin Cities, it might take half a day to explore, so the more relaxing option might be to take a boat ride featuring panoramic views from tour operators like the Paradise Charter Cruises/Minneapolis Queen or Padelford Riverboats.

The complete day can be capped off by dining at any of the recommended spots followed by either returning to the hotel or checking out the local nightlife.

Landmark Center (credit: Randy Yagi)

Landmark Center (credit: Randy Yagi)


Day 2 

After a full day seeing many of the best attractions in Minneapolis, the second day should focus on St. Paul, the state capital and second largest city of Minnesota. Depending upon the location of the hotel or other form of lodging, the day can start by taking the Metro Green Line to Union Depot Station in downtown St. Paul. From there, visitors can enjoy scenic views of the Mississippi River before taking a leisurely stroll to see attractions like the Science Museum of Minnesota, Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL team Minnesota Wild, Saint Paul RiverCentre, Cathedral of Saint PaulFitzgerald Theater and the gorgeous Landmark Center. From there, visitors can hop back on the Green Line at Central Station at 5th and Cedar Streets to the Capitol/Rice Street Station to visit the Minnesota State Capitol.

Given the lack of available time, the remainder of the day is optional, but can include a trip to the Mall of America if not visited the previous day. Located in Bloomington and accessible by the Metro Blue Line, the Mall of America is the largest shopping mall in the country and the world’s most visited shopping mall. Drawing an estimated 40 million visitors annually, the mall features more than 500 stores and major family-friendly attractions. This includes Nickelodeon Universe, a seven-acre theme park, SEA LIFE Aquarium and the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Visitors taking the Metro Blue Line must take note that it takes approximately 35 minutes one way from Nicollet Mall to the Mall of America.

As with the previous day, the final day can be capped off dining at a recommended restaurant or even at the Mall of America at popular places like Benihana, Dick’s Last Resort, Tony Roma’s and Zio Cucina and Bar.

Related: A Long Weekend Travel Guide To Toronto

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com

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