Hi loves. In this blog post, I am going to share with you all about my favorite dining, shopping, entertainment, and attractions in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. In case you didn’t know, I used to live there for over 8 years before moving to Seattle.
These are the places that I have been and always be coming back when I’m back there to visit my family. Please note that things are quite far apart, so I do highly suggest you get a car for ease and convenience. Clothing and grocery are free from tax, so definitely hit up the Mall of America and many local shops while you’re here!
As in many of my previous Travel Guides (Seattle Travel Guide), I do not recommend a place or any specific hotels/AirBNBs to stay. The reason is that I do not mind where I stay personally, so I usually just look for an affordable option with free parking along the way using Hotel Tonight, Expedia, or Google. So let’s start!
A (*) denotes my favorite place/location.
ICONIC MUST-SEE PLACES!
Mall of America (Nickelodeon Universe, Crayola Experience, SEA LIFE Center Minnesota – aquarium, great for kids- & Moose Mountain – adventure golf)
Minnehaha Park – waterfalls, great for an afternoon stroll
Como Park Zoo & *Conservatory, Japanese Garden – picturesque zoo and botanical gardens
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska – garden display and walking trails
Minneapolis Institute of Art – free to the public
*Walker Art Center & Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – Spoonbridge and Cherry
*Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge, Mill Ruins Park & *Guthrie Theatre (take the escalator up to the iconic yellow room in the Nine Floor, watch a play.)
Minnesota State Capitol, The Cathedral of St. Paul & Basilica of Saint Mary – beaux art historic landmarks
Downtown St. Paul: Rice Park, Landmark Center, Raspberry & Harriet Islands, Science Museum of Minnesota
Valley Fair – amusement park
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
University of Minnesota & Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
Target Field for Twins games, Minnesota United FC (soccer), Xcel Energy Center, US. Bank Stadium for MN Vikings, TCF U of M for Golden Gophers
Nicollet Ave. aka Eat Street in Minneapolis:
*Quang – Vietnamese (very busy and famous)
Pho 79 – get their Canh Chua Ca (fish sweet and sour soup in a hot pot), turmeric stir-fried squid, and braised cat fish dish
*Lu’s Sandwich – best banh mi in town
Eat Street Social
Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine
Cathedral Hill on Selby Ave.:
*W.A. Frost – great patio for brunch and fancy dining
Moscow on the Hill – great Russian place, must get a hot vodka!
Red Cow – burgers
*The Happy Gnome – American, HH, bar food
*Revival – Southern, fried chicken, and BBQ meats (other busier location is in Minneapolis)
U Of M/Dinky Town:
*Shuang Cheng (must get fried walleye with meat sauce dish. My family goes here all the time for birthdays and celebrations.)
Pagoda (to me, it’s more like a great pregame party place before hitting the clubs back then.)
Kowloon – Chinese
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers (multiple locations)
Markets for food/Food Halls and art:
Midtown Global Market on Lake Street – Moroccan, Mexican, Somalian food & African art
Keg and Case
Seventh Street Truck Park
Juicy Lucy burgers:
The Nook Bar, St. Paul
The Blue Door Pub (they have Jiffy burger, yes peanut butter on a burger! I also love their fried cheese curds.)
*St. Genevie – French, brunch
*Cafe Latte in Grand Ave. – They make the best cakes in the entire world! I love their Tres Leche!
Cossettas in St. Paul – Italian food complex, bakery, cafe, pizza & pasta
*Mandarin Kitchen: weekend dim sum
*Grand Catch & Crazy Cajun: Viet-cajun seafood/crawfish boil
Stella Fish Cafe in Uptown – oyster bar
Sea Salt Eatery
*Spoon and Stable
*Bar La Grassa
*Pizzeria Lola & Young Joni – Korean influenced pizza & fun food
Dakota Jazz Club – live Jazz & Southern
Manny’s – fancy! I’ve had steak here once for a birthday celebration ~$65/piece of steak
Brasa Premium Rotisseries – Mexican/Caribbean rotisserie cooking
Butcher and the Boar
Japanese: Sa Ji-Ya, Ramen: Zen Box, Moto-i
Thai: *Amazing Thailand in Uptown, *On’s Thai Kitchen, Phad Thai on Grand Ave., Naviya’s Thai Brasserie
Korean: *Mirror of Korea, *Hoban Korean Barbecue (Bloomington & Uptown), Korea Restaurant, the Rabbit Hole
Vietnamese on University Ave., St. Paul: *Bun Bo Hue at Tay Ho, Ai Hue, grocery at Ha Tien Supermarket, Trieu Chau, Hoa Bien, iPho by Saigon
Happy hour/late night:
Chino Latino in Uptown – happy hour & international eats
*Checker Bar & Liquor – order fried dry chicken feet, Hmong sausage & sticky rice, papaya salad (Lao’s style), and you’ll be in heaven!
Salut Bar American on Grand Ave.
Tango Sushi, Uptown (Woodbury and Uptown location – HH oysters, state fair shrimps & beef tataki)
Shish Cafe* on Grand Ave. – Mediterranean
World Street Kitchen (next to Milkjam Creamery on Lake Street)
The Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant in Cedar-Riverside – where I used to frequent with coworkers!
Victor’s 1959 Cafe – Cuban
Anchor Fish & Chip
All-you-can-eat sushi: Kyoto (multiple locations)
And here’s my to-do food list for my next visit:
Travail, Burch, 112 Eatery, Pig Ate My Pizza, Hai Hai – really famous Viet-fusion Pan Asian, Grand Cafe – French, Tilia (Linden Hills), Martina – Argentinian (known for their ice cocktail that looks like a bird nest, called ‘The Egg’), & Hello Pizz (third sister restaurant of Young Joni and Pizzeria Lola, owned by Ann Kim), The Copper Hen – award-winning brunch, Borough, Parlour.
*Brit’s Pub – watch soccer on the rooftop in the summer
Psycho Suzy’s Motor Lounge – tiki bar & tropical cocktail
Breweries in Northeast: *Indeed Brewing Co., *Bauhaus Brew Labs, Fulton Brewing – where I used to frequent after work with coworkers
Surdyks – huge liquor store on Hennepin Ave./Northeast
*Izzy’s Ice Cream – don’t forget the Izzy scoop
Milkjam Creamery – you can order a flight of 4 scoops of ice cream or ‘all of them’ for a total of 16 different kinds. Also, try the Black cocoa ice cream.
Glam Doll Donuts on Eat Street – fancy donuts (popular ones: Cosmopolitan Girl, the Flirty Frenchie, & the Vanilla Darling.)
*Spyhouse Coffee (locations: Whittier, Uptown, Northeast, North Loop, St. Paul, & Downtown/Emery) – great study and work-from-home places (not the downtown one since you’ve got to pay for parking)
*Groundswell in St. Paul
*Nana’s near the Cathedral
*Cafe Astoria – IG-worthy coffee shop, get their 24k Latte (yes, it’s topped with real edible gold!) – I think their coffee is just alright! Great for other cute looking brunch items though.
Black Coffee & Waffle Bar
Waffle Bar MN
*Kungfu – boba tea shop (U of M campus is my personal favorite.)
Shopping Streets & Districts:
Mall of America
Nicollet Mall, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, downtown Minneapolis & walk the Skyways without braving the cold air in the winter
Edina – Edina Galleria (indoor mall – check out RH, the Macy’s store here carries designers), 50th and France: upscale independent stores and restaurants
*Grand Avenue, St. Paul – packed with many lifestyle stores and restaurants (my uncle’s tailoring shop is located here, called Tom’s Tailors)
Downtown Stillwater – antiques, restaurants with river view
Uptown Minneapolis: CB2, Calhoun Square
St. Anthony, Northeast Minneapolis – clusters of boutiques and restaurants, attractive architecture & historic buildings
Linden Hills, Southwest Minneapolis – Victory Vintage (next to Penny’s Coffee)
North Loop – D.Nolo (women’s designers), MartinPatrick 3 (menswear, home & interior design), PARC shop (hip, IG-worthy shop), Russel & Hazel (stationary), The Foundry
My favorite consignment shop for all things designers on sale: **Opitz Outlets (2 locations: *St. Louis Park & Minnetonka)
Antique & vintage shops: Mall of St. Paul, Ax-man Surplus Stores, Hunt & Gather
Red Balloon Bookshop
Anthropologie, Patagonia, Fjah Raven on Grand Ave.
Mother Co.: unique cacti shop
*Lake Calhoun & Lake Harriet (Uptown) – kayaking, stand up paddle-boarding, canoeing, watching people and sunset
Duluth – Canal Park, Aerial Lift Bridge, & Lake Superior, Black sand Beach – great day trip (about 3-hour drive North from the Twin Cities)
Day trip to Taylor Falls
Willow Falls – located in Hudson, Wisconsin, but it really is not too far to get here! It’s a fun day hike I used to take my cousins there.
Split Rock Lighthouse
Superior Hiking Trail
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Jay Cooke State Park
Black Sand Beach
Grand Old Day – St. Paul’s hugely popular summer kickoff festival, here the first weekend of June.
Twin Cities LGBT Pride Festival in Loring Park – June
*Minnesota State Fair – August (I used to go at least 2 or 3 times a years. Go with a group and everyone order one thing to try! My favorites are the fried pickles, Sweet Martha’s cookies, deep fried everything, and the ride/game section! They have the most outrageous foods every year, so make sure you try them as well!)
Lake Harriet Band Shell – fun-filled concerts on the green in spring & summer.
Zombie Pub Crawl – Halloween time, dress up as zombies, bar crawl, & dance the night away.
Afton Alps, Buck Hill, & Lutsen Mountain (Trollhaugen in Wisconsin. it’s not far from the Twin Cities) – skiing & snowboarding
Holidazzle in Loring Park – Christmas lights and art fest in downtown
Phalen Park in St. Paul – decked out with lights and ice sculptures
*Minnehaha Falls – in the freezing cold winter, climbing underneath/behind the falls late at night is quite fun, but be careful!
Basilica Block Party – 2-day music festival right in front of the Basilica of St. Mary church
Uptown Art Fair in August
Minnesota Renaissance Festival
MY FAVORITE HIDDEN SPOTS:
*Father Hennepin Bluff Park – park here: 44.9833340,-93.2528852 – and hike down to the Lower trail via sets of stairs, you’ll get an amazing view of the Stone Arch Bridge both day and night time
Witch’s Hat Water Tower – peaceful night view of the city
*Shadow Falls in St. Paul – hike to the cliff with views of Mississippi River & waterfalls
Swedish American Institute – pretty architectural building and art display (photos below)
Outdoor Terrace at Walker Art Center – super-bright sun-lit open area, great for photos
The sunroof hideout area right outside of Walker Art Center is amazing!
FUN GROUP/FAMILY ACTIVITIES:
- Up-Down in Uptown – 21+ adults, skeeball, pinball, vintage video games
- Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul – mini goft
- Air Maxx in Eden Prairie – trampoline park & fun center
- Grand Slam in Coon Rapids – family fun center
- Punch Bowl Social in St. Louis Park
If you have a day, go do: Mill Ruins Park, Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge, Lake Harriet, Minnehaha Park, & Mall of America
I hope this has helped some of you pin-pointing and navigating what to do and where to go in the Twin Cities. Let me know in the comment section below if you have any questions regarding the places I’ve recommended above.