Difference between revisions of "Minneapolis"
Revision as of 16:37, 10 December 2012
Minneapolis was destined to be a center of commerce due to its location at the Falls of St. Anthony, which was named by the French explorer Fr. Louis Hennepin in 1680. St. Anthony Falls is by far the largest source of water power on the Mississippi River. The falls were harnessed to power lumber mills in the 1840s and later for flour milling. By 1870, Minneapolis on the west bank and St. Anthony on the east bank formed the largest flour producing center in the world. In 1872, Minneapolis absorbed its older neighbor. Most of the old St Anthony township is now known as Northeast Minneapolis. A small part of the old township comprises most of the current suburb of St. Anthony.
The name "Minneapolis", meaning "The City of Lakes" in a mash-up of the Dakota word minne and the Ancient Greek word polis, refers to the city's 22 natural lakes. The local jewels are the "Chain of Lakes": Cedar, Isles, Calhoun, Harriet, Nokomis, each 3-4 miles around. The city's excellent parks department maintains walking and biking paths around the lakes, offering residents a place to exercise or stroll. The Lake Harriet Bandshell is a popular summertime event host often featuring the renowned Minnesota Orchestra. Don't miss a ride on the restored trolley between Lakes Calhoun and Harriet operated by the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.
The city has done an excellent job fostering developed neighborhoods, each with a distinctive feel. Downtown is the visual anchor featuring the high-rise suites, sporting events (Timberwolves, Vikings, and Twins all play downtown), and nightclub scene. Northeast is the oldest part of the city, showing off its working-class and immigrant roots in great ethnic food, neighborhood bars, and social clubs, and more recently home to an arts and riverfront redevelopment movement. Uptown historically has been one of the city's youth centers featuring funky food, drink, theater, and plenty of tattoos and mohawks, but is orienting more towards yuppies and young families as real estate anywhere near the lakes becomes an ever more prized commodity. Uptown and the Lakes area dissolves into quiet, tucked-away Linden Hills (a one-time bedroom community) to the south and Lyn-Lake, home to many indie stages, music-oriented cafes and boozers, and alternative lifestyles and hangouts of all sorts, to the east. The University of Minnesota's main campus straddles the Mississippi River in the southeast surrounded by the usual college campus environs.
With neither mountains nor large bodies of water nearby to moderate the climate, the Twin Cities experience extreme temperatures at both ends of the scale. Winters in Minneapolis can be very cold, summer is often warm to hot and frequently humid, snowfall is common in the winter and thunderstorms with heavy rainfall occur during the spring, summer, and autumn. The winter cold from December to March can be brutal to the unaccustomed body, as can the summer heat from June to September. In fact, it's not uncommon to have temperatures below zero, as well as temperatures reaching well into the mid-nineties in the same year!
If you are not fond of the cold, May-October would be the best time to visit Minneapolis, but a comprehensive skyway system makes visiting in the winter very reasonable.
Smoking is prohibited by city law at all restaurants, bars, nightclubs, workplaces, and public buildings. This includes smoking in and within 45 feet, of all county buildings. Violating the ban can result in a misdemeanor charge and a $300 fine.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, (IATA: MSP, ICAO: KMSP), . The airport is divided into two terminals: Terminal 1-Lindbergh and Terminal 2-Humphrey, with most flights arriving at the former. Savvy travelers should check to make sure they know which terminal they are arriving at/departing from.
The Hiawatha Line light rail is convenient to get downtown from the airport. Fare is $1.75-$2.25 depending on time of day. The trains are fast and clean. They also serve the Mall of America and parts of South Minneapolis. The light rail has stations at both terminals.
Delta Air Lines, a member of the SkyTeam alliance, maintains a hub at MSP and dominates the airport by nearly 90%. Delta offers non-stop overseas service from MSP to Tokyo-Narita, Amsterdam, London-Heathrow and Paris-CDG, among others. Sun Country also calls MSP home, making it easier to find discount fares within the continental United States. Icelandair, the only foreign intercontinental carrier, offers seasonal service to Keflavík with Boeing 757-200s. Air Canada Jazz is the only other foreign carrier, offering service to Toronto.
Airlines serving Terminal 1-Lindbergh:
Airlines serving Terminal 2-Humphrey:
Interstate Highways 35W and 94 are the main arteries into town. Both will take you to the edges of downtown. I-35W runs north and south (for the most part) and I-94 east and west; both interstates will connect you to the I-494/694 beltway around the metro area. I-394 runs west from downtown to I-494, where it becomes US Hwy 12. Be sure to keep an eye on which lane you're in, as freeway interchanges come up fast, and traffic back-ups will occur at any time, day or night; the morning (7-9AM) and evening (3-7PM) rush hours are predictably congested.
Amtrak, . Daily service to Midway station, located just off University Avenue in Saint Paul near the border with Minneapolis. The Empire Builder, Amtrak trains 7/27 and 8/28, serves the Twin Cities area, terminating at Chicago and Seattle or Portland (the train splits in Spokane, Washington). This train covers a route similar to the historic Empire Builder of the James J. Hill Great Northern Railway.
Taxi is probably your best bet for getting to your final destination from the train station, particularly if you're coming from Chicago or other points east. The train arrives at 10:30PM or later, when the heavily reduced night shift bus schedules have gone into effect. If a wait doesn't worry you the #16 bus runs along University Avenue, a block south of the station, and it will take you to downtown Minneapolis or Saint Paul. Consider fueling up at The Dubliner on University Ave across from the station. It's a great, friendly little pub and the #16 heading into Minneapolis stops on its doorstep.
Northstar Line, . This commuter train connects the northwest suburbs to Downtown Minneapolis, terminating at a station near Target Field with connections to the light rail. The weekday schedule is oriented to rush hour commuters, with five trips heading to Minneapolis in the morning and five trips leaving Minneapolis in the late afternoon; there is only one reverse trip in the morning and in the afternoon. There are three trips in each direction on Saturdays and Sundays, and occasional special trips scheduled to take commuters to Twins or Vikings games.
Greyhound and Jefferson Lines buses arrive at the Hawthorne Transportation Center, located at 950 Hawthorne Ave (at 10th St, one block west of Hennepin) in downtown Minneapolis. It's just a few minute's taxi ride away from most of the downtown hotels. It's 4-5 blocks away from a few major bus routes and the light rail. The depot is near a homeless shelter, so it's not uncommon to see a few homeless people hanging out nearby. The area is well-patrolled and quite safe. Some routes make additional stops.
The city streets have a grid system that's helpful if you learn it. Minneapolis is divided into quadrants: North, South, Northeast and Southeast. Hennepin Avenue forms the divider between streets labeled N and S near downtown. This division continues through the smaller portion of Minneapolis east of the Mississippi, dividing it into Northeast (NE) and Southeast (SE). Further west of downtown, this division lies along Linden Avenue, just north of the I-394 freeway. In North, Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis, all roads carry N, NE, or SE prefixes on street signs. n South Minneapolis, the north-south avenues are marked S. The east-west streets are marked with W or E, depending if you are west or east of Nicollet Avenue. Even though street signs show these directions before the names, most locals read the addresses with them at the end. Thus "York Avenue South" appears on signs as "S York Ave" and "N 33rd Ave" is pronounced "33rd Avenue North".
Minneapolis is one of few cities to use multi-colored street signs. The colors o indicate the priority of plowing during winter storms. Although plowing has since changed, they still indicate what sort of street. Blue signs indicate major roads which are "Snow Emergency Routes". These are still the first to be plowed. Rust-colored signs indicate roads that run primarily east-west. Light green signs indicate roads primarily north-south. Dark green signs indicate scenic parkways that ring the city and the lakes.
Metro Transit, ☎ +1 612 373-3333, . Operator of the public transit system in the Twin Cities.
Unlimited ride passes are available in 1-day, 7-day, and 31-day formats. Stored value passes (pay-per-ride) are also available. Day passes are $6 and can be purchased online , at a Metro Transit Store, from a bus driver, or a ticket machine at any light rail station. 7-day ($22) and 31-day ($59-$113.50) passes must be loaded on a Go-To card , which can be purchased online, at a Metro Transit Store, or participating Metro Transit sales outlets. Stored value passes can be loaded on a Go-To card in increments of $10 (up to $400), and come with a 10% bonus on each purchase (e.g. a $10 purchase would give you $11 in fare value, $20 would give you $22, and so forth). Once in possession of a Go-To card, reloading it with new unlimited ride passes or stored value is easy and can be done online, at Metro Transit stores and outlets, or at light rail ticket machines.
An Introduction to Minneapolis via Public Transit
The northern head of the LRT is a station opened in November 2009 at 5th Street and 3rd Avenue North, next to the Minnesota Twins' (baseball) new home of Target Field. The Target Field station is also the southern terminus of the Northstar Line. Before the extension of the LRT to Target Field, the northern head was farther south in the downtown area, on Hennepin Avenue and South 5th Street near the Warehouse District and the Target Center. Along Hennepin next to the LRT station are bus stops for Route 6, connecting Uptown, Downtown, Dinkytown/University of Minnesota. This Route 6/LRT nexus is a good start for first-time visitors, as most hotels (provided you're staying in the city and not some airport/suburban business traveler hovel) are within a few minutes' walk. If you stay at the airport you can get here via the LRT. Other suburban accommodations are likely to be located near express buses, which largely terminate one block over at Hennepin and South 4th Street. Ask your concierge.
Taking the LRT south from downtown, the first stop you might be interested in is The Metrodome. Home to the Minnesota Vikings (football) and the occasional rock concert, and formerly home to the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Golden Gophers (University of Minnesota) football, it's a landmark. Alternately known as the Dome, the Homer Dome, and the Humper Dome, among others, it's roof is instantly recognizable.
East on Riverside Avenue is the Hard Times Cafe. Hard Times is only closed for two hours every day, from 4AM to 6AM. The food can vary widely depending on who is on duty. They offer good coffee, (often) loud music, games, etc. The Nomad  is a little further south on Cedar Ave. It has a nice outdoor patio for smoking and inside a stage where you can see a variety of local rock or jazz shows. Across the street from The Nomad, is Palmers. Palmers gets a little rough if you don't know how to behave yourself while drinking. Not for the weak of heart or mind. Mind your own business if you go there. Keep heading back south down Cedar Avenue and you'll come to the Triple Rock Social Club , one of a number of Twin Cities music venues which seem to have arisen out of someone's dream of parking a bar in their basement rec-room. The bar side has great food with a lot of vegetarian options. The club side has a big stage and fantastic sound system. Check their web site above for listings.
Still further down Cedar Avenue are the Whiskey Junction and The Cabooze. Whiskey Junction is a favorite hang out for bikers, but a good number of those are the suburban type with expensive Harley Davidsons. The crowd and atmosphere at the Cabooze varies widely, depending at least in part on who is doing their best interpretation of blues that night - from all those people who disappeared from campus freshman year to long-haired exurbans with Polaris ballcaps. Both venues offer live music most nights. If you make it to the Cabooze, you're already near the Franklin Avenue Light Rail stop. Get back on and head down to Lake Street.
Lake Street/Midtown has a lot to offer on weekend days in the spring and summer. Namely an outdoor market with lots of good food and locally made goodies. The neighborhood has become a center for Mexican and Central American immigrants, and hence the food of those regions, in Minneapolis. See the Eat section for more information. Worth a stop for sure. You can also catch a 21 bus from here to Uptown (make sure the bus is going west).
The next few stops take you to mostly residential neighborhoods. While there are things to do along them, they're not easily accessible on foot, so we'll skip ahead to 50th Street/Minnehaha Park. The Minnehaha Park station is adjacent to a park and Minnehaha Falls. You can see the 53 foot falls and walk along the creek on its way to the Mississippi River.
The Fort Snelling station is located after the VA Medical Center station. Fort Snelling makes a great day trip. It's the original settlement in Minnesota and an early wilderness outpost.
Next is the Airport and then the Mall of America, the gargantuan monument to advanced capitalism. The MOA is not quite as sparkling as it was on its opening over a decade ago, but it is still the largest mall around and by some accounts the leading tourist destination in the United States. Tour operators from as far away as Japan organize charter flights and hotel bookings for the single purpose of experiencing "The Mall". It offers an indoor amusement park, movies, restaurants and more shopping than is comprehensible. It's a day trip in itself, but not for the thrifty. Food, shopping and the Camp Formerly Known as Snoopy (now Nickelodeon Universe) can burn through your wallet fast. Not for those with poor impulse control. For the tourist in you, check out local kitsch such as the Lake Wobegon Store.
The return trip: by disembarking at the Lake Street Station and catching a #21 Bus going west, or by returning to the LRT headwaters at Hennepin Avenue and catching a #6 Bus bearing south, one can end up at Uptown and the jewel of Minneapolis, the gorgeous Chain of Lakes. If you're here between Memorial Day and Labor Day, rent a canoe  at Lake Calhoun (stop at the nearby Lunds grocery on Lake Street for picnic materials) and see four lakes, three enchanting sheltered canals, two islands, and one classic creosote-tastic railroad trestle from a duck's eye view.
The 21 brings you past the Midtown Market and Lyn-Lake on the way, while the 6 takes you through downtown and past the gleaming Loring Park area, featuring the spectacular Basilica of St. Mary , the infamous Spoon and Cherry , and the shiny metal Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em Robot head that is the new Walker Art Center  expansion. Heading north on the 6 will take you across Nicollet Island, another of Minneapolis' abundant urban havens, and through the original Minneapolis/St. Anthony milling district and a touch of the ethnic food and drink haven that is Northeast Minneapolis on the way to Dinkytown and the University of Minnesota (including an old campus district which is on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as some of the top libraries in the world).
NiceRide bike sharing let's you jump on a bike in downtown and take it anywhere. The cost is minimal but the convenience isn't!
Biking in Minneapolis is a big deal. Over the years, it has invested heavily in bike trails, lanes and "bicycle boulevards," and a good chunk of its populace uses the man-powered two-wheeler to get around. The larger Twin Cities area also offers a good mix of off-road bike trails; for example one can bike from Chaska to St. Paul using only bike trails, some thirty miles. A variety of maps  show the web of on and off-road routes that span the greater metropolitan area. During the winter, major bike trails such as the Midtown Greenway are plowed at the same time as major streets. In some neighborhoods like Downtown, Dinkytown, Uptown, and near the University of Minnesota campus, bikes are seen almost as often as cars.
One of the country's largest urban bike rental programs opened in the summer of 2010. Nice Ride Minnesota  two-wheelers are available for rent at 150 locations in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
The Twin Cities also offer a big variety of cycling shops from very race oriented ones (e.g Grand Performance  in St. Paul and Flanders Bros  in Minneapolis) to more consumer oriented shops (e.g. Penn Cycle , Erik's , Boehm's ) to the most women-friendly worker cooperative bike shop, The Hub Bike Co-op .
A very useful cycling shop for visitors and tourists is Calhoun Cycle , which offers, among other services, offers bike rental (both regular and tandem bikes).
For additional cycling information in the Twin Cities area please visit the Twin Cities Bicycling Club .
No discussion of getting around Minneapolis would be complete without mention of the Skyway. Covering most of an approximate 7x7 block region of central downtown, the Skyway is a series of public pedestrian spaces on the 2nd floor of downtown buildings connected by enclosed bridges between buildings. It is possible to walk through most of downtown and never go outdoors, a real advantage during winter. Additionally, the Skyway allows you to bypass stoplights and quickly move through the city. Beyond the core region, the Skyway reaches about 12 blocks in the north/south direction and 8 blocks east/west. The Skyway is home to multiple restaurants, stores, shops and malls. If visiting downtown Minneapolis during the winter, using a parking deck or staying at a hotel on or very near the Skyway is well worth the investment. Hours vary slightly, but most buildings are open noon-6PM Sunday, 6:30AM-9PM or 10PM M-F and 9:30-8PM on Saturday.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Although it is hardly appreciated locally, it is probably one of the best art collections in the country. You should not go to the Walker Art Center unless you visit here first. The MIA has work from just about any artist you can name, plus an extraordinary Asian collection. Best of all, it's free. If you go to Minneapolis, this is your target.
Minneapolis on the surface seems like a pretty but rather quiet tourist destination. If you properly do your research though, there is plenty to do.
Lakes and Parks
Clothing boutiques tend to be clustered near Uptown and Lyn-Lake.
The Twin Cities are a hotbed of independent presses and bookstores. Specialty and used bookstores can be found scattered across the city.
Southwest is home to the bulk of record stores in Minneapolis, including the Electric Fetus, Treehouse Records, Roadrunner Records, Yeti Records, Extreme Noise Records (specializing in punk), Fifth Element (specializing in hip-hop), and Cheapo. South is home to Hymie's Vintage Records.
Traditional foods associated with Minnesota, including hotdish (casserole) and lutefisk (a Norwegian fish delicacy) are rarely found in restaurants. However, one uniquely Minneapolitan item that can be easily located is the Juicy Lucy (sometimes spelled Jucy Lucy), a cheeseburger variation in which the cheese is cooked inside two molded-together meat patties rather than on top. The cheese inside the burger is gooey and piping hot. While the origin, and spelling, of the Juicy Lucy is disputed, popular places to order a Juicy Lucy include Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club in South Minneapolis, and a short distance across the river in Saint Paul at the Nook, among others.
Minneapolis has one of the most vibrant and independent music scenes in the country. The city is probably most famous for its purple pop wonder, Prince, but also has bands such as Soul Asylum, The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Atmosphere and Polara just to name a few. Several clubs in town play host to shows by local bands and your chances of finding a good one are better than average.
The nightlife in general can be vibrant in several areas. The Warehouse District is great for clubbers, Dinkytown is good for college party-goers, Uptown is good for those with a bit more money, and Northeast is great for dive bar aficionados. Minneapolis is not the 24 hour city that New York is, but bars close at 2AM so that is still plenty of time, especially if you find a party to go to afterwards.
Minneapolis certainly accommodates those seeking a good drink, a tendency which certainly compliments the alcohol culture endemic to the Upper Midwest. There are over a dozen Irish, German, or British pubs, such as The Local, Black Forest Inn, Brit's Pub, Gastoff's, O'Donovan's or Kieran's. Local dining, clubs, pubs, and bars in general compete for the best Happy Hour specials. It's a good idea to pick up a City Pages or to do an internet search to find the best deals. Thrifty Hipster is a great website to use. It lists every bar and restaurant in Minneapolis and breaks them down by neighborhood and provides the locations, a description, and Happy Hour specials.
The Scandinavian and north African influence can be seen quite clearly in the ubiquitous access to coffee shops in Minneapolis. This is a place where important things are discussed over a cup of coffee. Caribou  is a locally-based national chain that actually outnumbers Starbucks in Minnesota and has a similar feel and quality in the drinks, except the shots are 1.5 oz compared to Starbucks 1.0 ounce, and they usually offer free WiFi. Dunn Bros  is also locally-based and is third in chains for number of locations, and their coffee is fresh-ground daily in the shop but somewhat stronger than most places in town. Their fantastic brewed coffee is a little more impressive than the espresso, but their shots are at least a mighty 3.0 oz. Dunn Bros also excels at offering free WiFi access and (often) free Internet terminals. If you're looking for something a little less corporate, you can be rest assured that there will be a coffee shop nearby in most parts of town, as Minneapolis' independent spirit has yielded good cups of coffee in so many places that one can hardly throw a rock without it landing in a latte. The number of independent coffee shops per block reaches critical mass near Uptown and Lyn-Lake and around the University of Minnesota neighborhoods. The density of coffee shops isn't quite as great in South and Northeast Minneapolis, but there will still be enough options to keep you satisfied. Comparatively speaking, North Minneapolis is somewhat of a coffee desert, but there will still be a couple options to which locals are fiercely loyal. There is also a growing specialty coffee shop movement in Minneapolis if you're willing to pay an extra dollar (or three) for a better cup.
There is a good variety of hotels. Downtown hosts many independent and international hotel chains from the mid-range to the high-end. The University of Minnesota campus, not too far from downtown, has many mid-range options. South Minneapolis has limited options but they are also close to downtown. The Twin Cities' only backpackers hostel is located near Eat Street and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Travellers getting by without a car will want to avoid staying in a hotel outside the city.
Dial 911 for emergencies and 311 for non-emergencies.
As with any major American city, keep your eyes open and your wits about you. Crime is relatively low in most parts of Minneapolis that you're likely to visit, but is not unknown.
Be wary of the Near North, Camden, and Phillips communities, particularly at night. Violent crimes can occur and unfortunately have occurred in all parts of the city.
As in all other cities these crimes receive a disproportionate amount of attention from local media. These tragic events, however, are typically not random so they will probably not impact your visit. You are more likely to be a victim of crimes of opportunity.
When traveling, do not leave any items that can be quickly converted to cash in plain view in cars or unattended at restaurants and other public areas. These crimes can and do occur in all areas, especially where you would have your guard down.
When you take in the great park system or travel to the unique urban shopping destinations ensure that all valuables remain with you or are secured out-of-view in your vehicle.
Also if you are going to secure your valuables in a vehicle, make sure you store them prior to arriving at you destination. Thieves are experts at watching people store valuables in the trunk and then striking when they leave.
Minneapolis, along with the airport, the suburbs of Richfield and St. Anthony, and the entire University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus is in the 612 area code. From 612, it is not necessary to dial a 1 before the area code when calling numbers in the 651 (Saint Paul and east suburbs), 763 (northwest suburbs), or 952 (southwest suburbs) area codes.
Internet cafes are nonexistent in Minneapolis. Many coffeeshops offer free wifi, but very few will have computer terminals. Some Dunn Bros locations have computers for customer use.
The Hennepin County Library  has computer workstations with internet access at all of their locations. Access to a computer is on a first-come, first-served basis, and reservations can only be made in person. Out-of-town visitors will need to obtain a temporary internet pass from a librarian. The library also offers unlimited wireless internet access (no pass needed). See district articles for specific locations.
The city of Minneapolis maintains a number of free wifi hotspots throughout the city .
There are several day or overnight destinations near the city.
In the Twin Cities metro