Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in the Twin Cities, MN

  • Published 2023/03/10

The state of Minnesota is proud of its Twin Cities, Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

They are also the state’s largest cities, located around three river connections: the Mississippi River, the Minnesota River, and the St. Croix River.

The Minneapolis area lies mainly on the Mississippi River’s west side, while Saint Paul lies on the river’s eastern part.

The Twin Cities are Minnesota’s central political, cultural, and economic district.

You’ll find thriving businesses, shopping and dining locations, and historical attractions in their downtown areas.

Both cities also enjoy the embrace of woods, hills, lakes, and creeks.

Here are the best things to do in the Twin Cities, MN:

Spark Your Love for Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Exterior of Minneapolis Institute of Art

EQRoy /

The Minneapolis Institute of Art, commonly called Mia, is one of the country’s biggest art museums and hosts the most prominent art educators.

The museum holds over 90,000 artwork collections that represent different continents and subjects.

See examples of Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Textiles & Sculpture, Paintings, Photography and New Media, Prints and Drawings.

Likewise, check out the Arts of Africa & the Americas and Asian Art.

The eros sculpture on the grounds of Minneapolis Institute of Art

Jeff Bukowski /

You can enter the institute for free, and you can do self-guided or virtual tours.

Kids can also enjoy the Art Adventure program.

They also have a monthly Family Day where you can play and get creative with your kids at their in-studio programs and Family Center.

The museum also holds talks, screen films, art classes, and sketching sessions at the galleries.

They also present music, drinks, and capers every third Thursday.

Entrance doors of Minneapolis Institute of Art

Jeff Bukowski /

Learn Fun Science Facts at the Science Museum of Minnesota

Exterior of Science Museum of Minnesota

Joe Ferrer /

Founded in 1907, the Science Museum of Minnesota in Saint Paul focuses on natural history, physical science, technology, and math education.

Drop by the Collector’s Corner, where kids and adults can bring and trade objects they find and discover outdoors.

They can trade all sorts of things, from remarkable rocks to leaves or petals, for points.

Meet the five-story Giant Astronaut floating in the Science Museum atrium and imagine yourself floating in space.

A giant astronaut suit inside the Science Museum of Minnesota

Jacob Boomsma /

Experience live science action at the Science Live Theatre with featured shows to wow you.

See dinosaur fossils like the Allosaurus and Diplodocus at the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery.

Try being a scientist at the Experiment Gallery, and discover the parts and functions of the body at the Human Body Gallery.

Enjoy other fun permanent exhibits like the Light Gallery, Math Moves, Sportsology, Wonder Years, and more.

Dinosaur skeleton exhibit in Science Museum of Minnesota

Steve Skjold /

See the Outdoor Sculptures at Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Spoonbridge and cherry sculpture at Minneapolis Sculpture Garden /

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an 11-acre park near the Walker Center.

It’s one of the largest urban sculpture parks in the United States.

This art space opened in 1988 and has hosted more than 40 contemporary outdoor sculptures from artists from ten different countries and different generations.

It’s open to the public daily.

Rooster sculpture at Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

CK Foto /

Visitors can view the artworks and the garden’s natural scenic landscape, making it one of Minnesota’s most frequently visited attractions.

See the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry, one of the iconic pieces in the garden, along with other structures where you can pose and take photos.

These artworks include Okciyapi by Twin Cities artist Angela Two Stars and Adam and Eve by Simone Fattal.

Hare on a bell sculpture at Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Faina Gurevich /

Learn Local History at the Mill City Museum and Mill Ruins Park

Exterior of Mill City Museum

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The Mill City Museum opened in 2003.

It highlights Minnesota’s historical developments, particularly the flour milling and various industries dependent on Saint Anthony Falls’ hydropower.

The National Register of Historic Places added the abandoned Washburn A Mill Complex to its record.

Built in the 1870s, the mill was the flagship of Washburn-Crosby Co.

A dam under Mill Ruins Park's bridge

Craig Hinton /

Back then, the facility was the largest and most advanced flour mill in the world, revolutionizing the milling process and making wheat available to the public.

This booming industry made Minneapolis the world’s flour milling capital until the 1930s.

Nearby is the Mill Ruins Park, where you can view the waterworks, take a relaxing stroll on the walking path, or enjoy a bike ride.

Aerial view of the flour milling industry ruins at Mill Ruins Park

melissamn /

Listen to Live Music at First Avenue

Exterior of First Avenue

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Cap off the evening with great music from featured artists and talented performers at First Avenue.

This music house venue derived its name from the building’s location at the corner of First Avenue and 7th Street.

Over the years, it has opened its doors to various musical talents and music lovers of different genres.

Wall of musician stars near the entrance of First Avenue

Steve Skjold /

It became a launching pad for many bands and artists like Prince, Soul Asylum, and Lizzo, to name a few.

So book your tickets at their website and enjoy a night of music.

You can also take your pictures of the “stars” backdrop, which lists the names of bands and artists who’ve performed at First Avenue.

Buy some cool and awesome merchandise at their online store.

A band performing in First Avenue

Andy Witchger, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Shop, Dine, and Have Fun at the Nicollet

Street of the Nicollet mall /

Formerly called the Nicollet Mall, the Nicollet has become downtown Minneapolis’ “Main Street” for over a century.

It’s also the first transit mall in the country.

Nicollet is the city’s central shopping, dining, and entertainment district.

It also doubles as a pedestrian skyway, connecting people to 80 different blocks in the city.

Enjoy outdoor dining and try the Brit’s Pub for an English meal and some beer.

If you crave some Latin American tacos, tapas, and a margarita, you can try these at Barrio.

Buildings at the Nicollet mall street

Bobak Ha’Eri, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the English Garden Park on the rooftop.

Otherwise, watch a soccer or rugby game on the 10,000-square-foot green lawn, or enjoy a bit of the sun.

You can drop by the Meet Minneapolis Visitor Center.

Buy handcrafted works of local artists through Minnesota Makers.

Find all your shopping needs at the two-level Target Store.

Check the Downtown Farmers and Makers Market every Thursday for farm-fresh produce and locally-made goods.

Station of the Nicollet mall

Michael Hicks, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring Your Family to Lake Harriet Park

The bandshell of Lake Harriet Park

Near and Far Photography /

Lake Harriet Park is one of the picturesque public parks in Minneapolis, and also a summer favorite.

You can enjoy lakeside activities at the North and Southeast Beach with your family and catch free concerts and movies at the fabulous band shells.

Enjoy the lake waters with a canoe, kayak, boat, or paddleboard you can rent at Wheel Fun.

Boats on the water of Lake Harriet Park

Runner1928, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also catch fish at the pier and boat docks.

Likewise, enjoy a family picnic at the designated areas, with a playground and tot lot for small kids.

Take a stroll on Harriet Park’s garden and walking path and have a peaceful nature escape.

You can also have a good meal at Bread & Pickle at the Pavilion.

People dining at the bandshell and pavilion area of Lake Harriet Park

Steve Skjold /

See the Minnesota Orchestra at the Orchestra Hall

Exterior of the Orchestra Hall

Robert Mullan /

The Orchestra Hall is one of the significant landmarks in downtown Minneapolis.

The auditorium is home to the Minnesota Orchestra and hosts various events.

Interior of the Orchestra Hall

Beast 0110, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The venue presents state-of-the-art facilities and equipment with a 2,089 seating capacity comprising balconies above and on the sides of the main floor.

See the Grammy Award-winning orchestra under Music Director Osmo Osmo Vänskä.

Enjoy classical music through featured concerts.

Building sign of the Orchestra Hall

Jeff Bukowski /

Play Golf at the Como Park Golf Course

The Como Park Golf Course offers a par 70 sporty course suited to the average golfer.

The 18-hole golf course has more rolling well-bunkered greens and practice green to help you improve your golf swings.

The Como Golf Course boasts excellent customer service, helping you enjoy hassle-free tee time with friends and family.

Stop by the Cozy Club after your tee time to grab a hearty lunch, dinner, and happy hour specials.

Explore the Scenic Minnehaha Regional Park

Beautiful minnehaha falls at Minnehaha Regional Park

Eva Hawker /

Minnehaha Regional Park is one of Minneapolis’ oldest city parks and among the most visited.

In 1883, the landscape architect Horace W.S. Cleveland designed the park.

It was part of the famous steamboat “Fashionable Tour” along the Upper Mississippi River during the 1800s.

People riding bikes along Minnehaha Regional Park

Steve Skjold /

The park also has historic sites that feature early transportation and classic architectural styles.

For example, check out the Minnehaha Princess Station, a quaint 1870 train depot, the 1849 John H. Stevens House, and the Longfellow House.

Marvel at the staggering 53-foot Minnehaha Falls and the impressive views of limestone bluffs and river overlook.

Enjoy other amenities at the park, including a wading pool, disc golf course, volleyball court, garden, picnic area, walking path, biking path, and playground for children.

Tour the Minnesota State Capitol

Exterior of Minnesota State Capitol

Paul Brady Photography /

Learn more about Minnesota by visiting the State Capitol, the state’s seat of government.

The building houses the state’s Senate, House of Representatives, the Attorney General’s office, the Governor’s office, and a chamber of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Marvel at the grand design of the Rotunda and a mural by Edward Simmons, “Civilization of the Northwest.”

Beautiful ceiling of Minnesota State Capitol

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Peek inside the Governor’s Reception Room, and marvel at the ornate decors, paintings, and furnishings.

Explore the state government chambers where the Senate and House meet and observe the excellent designs of each room.

Visit the Rathskeller cafeteria, a space open for public dining designed like a German dining hall, reflecting the historic 1905 setting.

Grand interior of Minnesota State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

Master Baseball at the City of Baseball Museum

If you’re a solid Saints fan or interested in some baseball history, you better not miss the City of Baseball Museum.

Take a trip down memory lane at the St. Paul Sandlot, which shows how people played baseball there in the early 1900s.

Learn about the Black Pioneers, early African American baseball players who suffered discrimination as they entered the major league.

See the St. Paul exhibit featuring the city’s ballparks, homes of baseball legends like Joe Mauer, Charles Schultz, Jack Morris, Toni Stone, and more.

Check out Monty Sheldon’s fantastic baseball drawings, Graig Kreindler’s exceptional paintings, and Al Papas’ nostalgic sports cartoons collections.

Meet the Animals at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Exterior of Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Kids will love Como Park Zoo & Conservatory because they’ll meet various animals, from polar bears to giraffes.

Explore the wild safari featuring the cougar, lion, tiger, and zebra.

Discover unique creatures like the emperor tamarin, the Galapagos tortoise, green anaconda, saki monkey, etc.

Visit the wonderful landscaped gardens like the Centennial Garden and Sunken Garden.

Beautiful flowers inside the Como Park Conservatory

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See the vibrant colors of blooms at the Orchid House and tranquil Ordway Gardens.

You can also check out the sculptures and installations at the Conservatory.

You can also visit the historic Cafesjian’s Carousel and the Leonard Wilkening Children’s Gallery, where they can learn hands-on about plants and animals.

Bring your kids to the Ribbit Zibit, an excellent frog conservation exhibit.

Sleeping lions at Como Park Zoo

Robert Francis on behalf of Natalie Martin (Natalie Erin at en.wikipedia), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover Art at Western Sculpture Park

The two-acre Western Sculpture Park is west of the State Capitol.

In 1998, the Fuller-Aurora Neighborhood Association, Public Art Saint Paul, and the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department worked together to refurbish the deteriorating park.

Today, this amusing green space houses 17 sculptures placed around the plazas, with pines and deciduous trees filling the landscapes.

Take a peek at the works of Minnesota-based artists, national artisans, and international artists.

See the park’s centerpiece, “Grace á Toi,” created by famed artist Mark di Suvero.

Appreciate the works of Alexander Liberman with “Above, Above,” Roger Cummings’ “Writer’s Block,” and architect Souliyahn Keobounpheng’s “Aardvark Shed.”

You can also catch some activities and cultural events hosted by PASP and community organizations.

Let Your Kids Have Fun at Minnesota Children’s Museum

Exterior of Minnesota Children’s Museum

McGhiever, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Minnesota Children’s Museum promises to give your kids a delightfully informative time.

The kid’s museum offers ten interactive permanent exhibits and programs.

These activities let them experience and explore different activities to build creativity, enhance problem-solving skills, communication, and more.

Kids can dive into the Shipwreck Adventure, exploring Lake Superior and navigating the pilot house and the 20-foot-long ship hull.

They can play at Best Buy Gallery’s pretend-town and take on roles, make friends, or act out some scenes.

The Target Gallery is where they can express their creativity and practice their art skills.

The Scramble is one of the highlights at the museum, where your kids can climb, jump and test their courage on the 40-foot catwalk.

Watch a Performance at Guthrie Theatre

Exterior of the Guthrie Theatre

Jeff Bukowski /

Guthrie Theatre is your indoor performance entertainment distraction from the bustling streets of the Twin Cities.

Founded in 1963, this theater brings to life contemporary works of playwrights.

Its performances also include works within dramatic and classic literature.

Laugh along to Shakespeare’s tragedies and feel inspired by bold characters in adventure plays.

Watch original performances from local writers and directors.

Come by with your family, too, and consider it a bonding experience for everyone!

Guthrie Theatre also has a gift shop.

Head over to South 2nd Street to get to this theater.

Go on a Scenic Drive along Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway

Are you a fan of road trips?

Then, you might like driving along Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway.

This trail system goes on a loop around Minneapolis and its park spaces.

Under the vision of Horace W. S. Cleveland, this byway served to connect these parks while circling nature preserves and landscapes unique to Minneapolis.

It spans over 4,000 acres and has access points from 12 parkways.

Drive by golf courses with their maintained fairways, charming woodlands, and flowering gardens.

Stop by information kiosks along the route to learn more about the byway system.

Some of the parkways you can go to access Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway include Theodore Wirth Parkway and Stinson Boulevard.

Browse through Eccentric Art at Weisman Art Museum

Exterior of Weisman Art Museum

Sam Wagner /

Make your art journey along the Twin Cities more memorable with a drop by Weisman Art Museum.

First opened in 1934, this museum was once a University of Minnesota extension.

In 2011, the museum reopened and, with it, an expansion that still stands in the current time.

This art museum houses a variety of art mediums, including ceramics, furniture, and paintings.

Facade of Weisman Art Museum

James Kirkikis /

But perhaps, what makes the museum stand out is its stunning exterior.

The stainless steel building features Cubist shapes and protruding architecture.

Weisman Art Museum is on East River Parkway.

Look Through Model Railroads at Twin City Model Railroad Museum

Exterior of Twin City Model Railroad Museum

McGhiever, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Twin City Model Railroad Museum offers a different kind of history to its visitors.

Founded in 1934, this museum sheds light on railroad history with model train layouts on display.

Its exhibits include the O-Scale route and Lego model train sets of the Twin City.

There are also scales and modeling methodologies of these tracks for an in-depth perspective on their history.

All around the museum are artifacts and historic equipment from actual railroad stations, too.

Twin City Model Railroad Museum spearheads the Night Trains, which paints the layouts in magical lighting.

Come by Transfer Road in Saint Paul for this quirky museum.

Spot Native Fowl at Roberts Bird Sanctuary

On Roseway Road in Minneapolis, Roberts Bird Sanctuary is a tranquil nature escapade filled with green foliage all around.

In fact, this sanctuary’s primary habitats are woodland forests and wetlands.

It got its name from Thomas Sadler Roberts, a prominent professor at the University of Minnesota, in 1947.

Several years later, this preserve becomes one of the city’s hidden birdwatching jewels.

So, if you’re planning to come by this preserve, pack your binoculars in advance!

Roberts Bird Sanctuary is a part of Lyndale Park within the East Harriet neighborhood.

Final Thoughts

The Twin Cities offer numerous exciting attractions for everyone.

This busy metropolitan district hosts exciting art and specialized museums to satisfy the imagination.

It also offers an endless list of recreation and entertainment spots.

Book your trip to the Twin Cities today!

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