I know what you’re thinking. Why would I want to travel to somewhere I’ve heard is even colder than Evanston?
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I want to travel to somewhere I’ve heard is even colder than Evanston? To put it straight: it’s just as cold as Evanston, but its spring weather is a hell of a lot more beautiful. Minneapolis and St. Paul are known for their nice people, the beautiful Mississippi River flowing through them and a cheese-oozing burger called the Juicy Lucy. Minneapolis has some of the best ice cream shops in the world, is one of the top 10 most bike friendly cities in the U.S. and has three picturesque lakes located smack in the center of the city. Word on the street is they’re trying to rebrand as a part of the Northwest, but they’re not fooling anyone. They’re Midwesterners at heart. Hot take: Minneapolis-St. Paul is the Portland of the Midwest. Go see for yourself.
Getting there: The drive to Minneapolis takes about 6 to 7 hours if you have a car, which is quite the trek for a weekend. Amtrak will get you there in about 8 hours and costs around $70. Megabus will take you 8 to 9 hours and cost $50. I got a round trip flight to Minneapolis for about $150, and the flight was only an hour long. Minneapolis isn’t easy to get to, but trust me, it’s worth it.
I headed to the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District for dinner and a stroll. My boyfriend and I ate at Young Joni, a trendy restaurant combining pizza with Asian cuisines. The atmosphere was cozy and friendly, and if you’re smart about what you order, the tab won’t run too high.
Fair warning: the Friday night wait at Young Joni will last about an hour at peak dining time. Have no fear! You can go stroll around and find a few vintage stores, which Minneapolis is full of. You could also grab a drink at Dangerous Man Brewing Company right next door. After dinner, I walked all the way back to the neighborhood I was staying in: Dinkytown. This was a lovely walk along Minneapolis’ most beautiful attraction, the Mississippi River. We got great views of the original Pillsbury A-Mill, Gold Medal Flour and Minneapolis’ small but mighty skyline.
We got up early and got on our bikes. Getting around Minneapolis isn’t easy. The city has sub-par public transit and is not built for walking, so a car or a bike is ideal. One option is a 24-hour Nice Ride bike pass, which costs $6 per half hour. You can try and beat the system by switching out bikes every half hour and you’ll only pay $6 the whole day. Otherwise, it shouldn’t cost you more than $25 for the entire day.
We started out at Al’s Breakfast, which is so famous that it has a Wikipedia page. There are only 14 seats along a bar in the entire restaurant. Their website says they don’t have a freezer to ensure their food is fresh. We ordered the Jose, which comprises of hashbrowns, salsa, poached eggs and cheese. We also got their daily special, one blackberry pancake and two coffees, which cost us $25. It was greasy and decadent, but arguably one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.
While in a food coma, we got back on bikes and rode over to the Mill City Farmers Market via the Dinkytown Greenway (Minneapolis has a network of bike paths called Greenways). This Farmers Market is held between the Guthrie Theater and the old Gold Medal Flour Mill, which makes for a cool industrial vibe. I tried some sweet, delicious lemonade from a vendor called The Bolt. Just be warned: it is less of a farmers market and more of a local market (think of Smorgasburg in NYC). Although there was some produce, it was mostly vendors from restaurants selling ready-made food and local food producers selling goods like cured meats and honey.
We rode along the Cedar Lake Trail, a rugged-looking bike path next to train tracks. Minneapolis has been doing commuter bike paths long before Chicago built the 606. The trail took us all the way to Lake of the Isles (about four miles), a beautiful lake with even more beautiful homes around it. We ambled through the neighborhood and sat out by the lake. My boyfriend and I found room for dessert and headed to Milkjam Creamery. This iconic ice cream shop is a Minneapolis favorite for the fun flavors its menu boasts. Its namesake is a flavor called Milkjam which is made of condensed cow and goat milk. It is also famous for having black ice cream, which is a super dark vegan chocolate. I opted for raspberry chocolate chip. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of my choice, but I have been there before and can attest it is delicious. The shop also makes a really delicious ice cream sandwich on donuts from another Minneapolis icon: Glamdoll Donuts.
Finally, we took the Midtown Greenway back to Dinkytown. The Midtown Greenway is less industrial-looking because it is below ground level in the middle of the city, and it cuts right through quaint residential areas. In the 10 or so miles we biked, we only had to encounter cars once to get to the trails.
Minneapolis is a hidden midwest gem that boasts a wealth of good food and fun activities. Forget their rebrand; if you’re an outdoorsman at heart, but also love city life, Minneapolis is the perfect place for you.