The Twin Cities: Insider’s Guide

Pssst! Wanna rock the Twin Cities like a local? There are a multitude of unique and awesome things to do in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. There are hidden gems, places the locals enjoy, but protect, much like a fisherman never reveals the exact location where he’s reeling in the keepers.

I lived in the Twin Cities for 25 years and have some insights to share, so you can truly expand your horizons as you visit the Twin Cities for a day trip or a weekend getaway. There are oodles of things to do, and these suggestions are in no way all-encompassing.

What you do, of course, depends on your interests and how you like to spend your time. Here is just the tip of the iceberg of ideas for exploring and enjoying your visit to the Twin Cities. 


There are several unique neighborhoods in Minneapolis, each with its own distinctive character and charm. The hottest area of the Twin Cities right now is undoubtedly the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. Nestled in the warehouse district, near Target Center and Target Field, the community is a hotbed for art galleries and eclectic shops, as well as upscale and fun restaurants and nightclubs.  

Not to be overlooked, Northeast Minneapolis has re-invented itself as a trendy and relevant neighborhood. Once neglected and disregarded, the neighborhood has emerged in the past few years as the home to numerous amazing bars and restaurants. If you’ve never been, you really do owe it to yourself to visit Psycho Suzie’s Motor Lounge to see what the fuss is all about. True, this Tiki bar is best enjoyed during the warmer months, but it’s still a delight any time of the year. Also located in Northeast Minneapolis is Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit. This is a rollicking German restaurant and on weekends they have polka bands in Mario’s Keller Bar on the lower level. The polka bands are insanely popular with Millennials. 

South Minneapolis is also home to several fantastic restaurants and clubs. Café Maude is a stand out: This hip hotspot has been serving up “civilized leisure” in a bistro and craft bar setting for nearly 10 years.

For dining options outside of the metro area, Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge on Lake Minnetonka is always a delight. Lord Fletcher’s, a long-time Lake Minnetonka institution, offers lake views and chef-inspired dishes in a rustic resort setting.  


The holiday season is the perfect time of the year to take in a performance at one of the extraordinary theaters in Minneapolis or St. Paul. “A Christmas Carol” is playing at the Guthrie from November 16 to December 30. The Ordway has a festive lineup of several different performances including “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” from December 8-31, and “Handel’s Messiah” from December 17-18. The Orpheum, State, and Pantages Theatres all have an impressive variety of performances booked as well.  

Plan ahead for the St. Paul Winter Carnival, a great family event. This annual kid-friendly event will be held January 26 to February 5, 2017.   


For shopping experiences, the granddaddy of them all is the Mall of America. This shopper’s nirvana has been delighting old and young alike for over two decades. Because the Mall of America is ever-changing, it seems like a new destination just about every time you visit. Edina’s 50th & France is upscale and unique, and if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind items, this is the definitely place for you. 

Other fun shopping destinations include Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan and Albertville Premium Outlets. Each has something for the entire family. With a wide variety of stores, these are great options for completing your holiday shopping.  

If you like thrifting, the Twin Cities is a thrifter’s paradise. There are several huge thrift stores in the metro and its great fun to select a few thrift stores, plot your route, and make a day or weekend of it. 


The Twin Cities is home to several well-regarded craft breweries and tap rooms. Minneapolis is home to Surly, Indeed, Summit, Dangerous Man and several other notable and completely drinkable adult beverages. 

Speaking of adult beverages, there is no shortage of fantastic wine bars in the Twin Cities that are definitely worthy of a visit. Great wine bars include the Sample Room, Toast Wine Bar & Café, Terzo Vino Bar and Lucia’s Wine Bar, among several other options. 

While we’re on the topic of wine, be sure to visit Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls on your way to or from an outing in the Cities. Cannon River’s wines are, hands down, my personal favorite.


The Twin Cities caters to young visitors, as well. The Science Museum of Minnesota is always popular with the kids. Located in downtown St. Paul, this is a great educational experience for families to share. If you have children in tow, no visit to the Twin Cities is complete without a few hours spent at Nickelodeon Universe, the seven-acre amusement park located smack dab in the middle of the Mall of America. 

Other great family fun activities include the Water Park of America located a short shuttle ride from the Mall of America. Another excellent option, perfect for cold weather, is the Eagles Nest in New Brighton. This indoor playground is a great way for kids to have fun and burn off some steam. 

There are hundreds of activities to enjoy in the Twin Cities, and the most difficult decision will be determining how you want to spend your time. One thing that may make the decision-making easier is the fact that you can return again soon. 

Cindy Mennenga, owner of Straight Talk Wellness, is a health coach and freelance writer based in Rochester.