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My Guide to the Twin Cities

I’ve lived in the Twin Cities since 2009, and have become pretty familiar with the city and its activities. If you’re visiting, these are all things that I’ve either personally visited or done, or someone close to me has told me is worth visiting or doing. This is something I plan to continue adding to as I find new things around town. Please let me know if I’m missing anything!

Table of Contents

Food

  • Pizza Lucé - The best pizza in Minnesota in my opinion
  • Chimborazo - An Ecuadorian restaurant that my wife and I just recently discovered, and has become one of our new favorites.
  • Kyatchi - My favorite sushi restaurant. They also serve Japanese style hot dogs.
  • French Meadow - Great organic and vegetarian food.
  • Wok in the Park - My favorite asian (non-sushi) restaurant.
  • The Blue Door Pub - Home to the famous Juicy Lucy, a hamburger with cheese inside the patty.
  • Holy Land Deli - A well known Middle Eastern restaurant.
  • J. Selby’s - A new vegan restaurant in town.
  • Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream - Simply put, the best ice cream in town.
  • Donuts - There are lots of donut places, so they get their own category
    • Glam Doll Donuts - A donut shop with weird and fancy donuts with ingredients like bacon, sriracha sauce, and surly beer. (Don’t worry, they have normal donuts too if that’s more your style)
    • Bogart’s - Simple, classic style donuts.
    • A Baker’s Wife - According to my wife, these are the best donuts in town. They’ve also got lots of other great baked goods.
  • Brit’s Pub - This one could fall under both the food and entertainment sections. I actually haven’t had much of the food here (although I hear it’s good), but the highlight is their rooftop lawn bowling. They also show movies on the roof from time to time as well. (Thanks to Luke Schlangen for reminding me of this one!)
  • Birchwood Cafe - A great place for fancy breakfast / brunch. They also serve other meals, and beer and wine. Also great gluten free options (they serve my favorite gluten free beer, Burning Brothers’ Pyro!)
  • Kramarczuk’s German Deli - No, I don’t know how to pronounce the name, but I do know that they have the best German sausages I’ve had outside of Germany. My wife and I get fancy sausage here frequently.
  • Ghorka Palace - This is my favorite Indian restaurant in town (it’s actually Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan). This is a dream for gluten free folks. Do not skip their veggie pakora!

Drink

Places for drinking alcohol and/or coffee/tea.

  • Breweries - Minnesota is known for its many breweries.
    • Surly Brewing Beer Hall - Surly is the most well known Minnesota brewery. Their beer hall is an architectural beauty. Even if you don’t drink, it’s worth checking out, and they’ve got great food as well.
    • Burning Brothers Brewing Tap Room - The best (and only) gluten free brewery in Minnesota. I’m gluten free due to allergies, and this place has my favorite gluten free beer of any I’ve tried (and I’ve tried plenty): the Pyro “π ρ” American Pale Ale.
    • Sociable Cider Werks - Sociable makes tasty ciders, and has recently started making beer as well. It’s a great summer destination, with a sunny outdoor patio.
    • Tattersall Distilling Cocktail Room - Inside a rustic former warehouse space, with a large outside patio. Fancy drinks, and often host to a food truck or two, it’s a great afternoon or evening place to lounge and talk.
  • Merlins Rest - Go here if you like Scotch or you’d like to try it. They’ve got the most options I’ve ever seen at a bar.
  • Marvel Bar - A fancy “mixology” bar that can make fancy, fussy mixed drinks.
  • Five Watt Coffee - Five Watt’s Kingfield location (on Nicollet Ave) is my favorite coffee shop in town. Great drinks, an excellent atmosphere, and they’re always playing great music. Seriously, always.
  • Rustica Eden Prairie - A coffee shop inside the historic Smith Douglas More House.
  • The Riverview Wine Bar - A great little wine bar in South Minneapolis that often hosts live jazz music, and also serves fancy food.
  • Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese Shop - The place to go if you have… expensive taste. They’ve got a large selection of wines, whiskeys, and other alcohols from around the world.

Entertainment

  • Can Can Wonderland - This is that mini-golf place I was telling you about. It’s a really unique space.
  • Vertical Endeavors - Indoor rock climbing at its finest. All of their locations are great. I know Marie and Sri both love rock climbing, and so do my wife Jenifer and I.
  • Minnesota Zoo IMAX - IMAX means giant screen. A great way to watch movies if they’re playing something interesting.
  • Puzzle Rooms / Escape Rooms - I love puzzle rooms. It’s basically a 3D version of an adventure game. Here are two that I like especially.
    • Puzzleworks - This place has the best puzzle rooms I’ve ever done. Fantastic.
    • Lock & Key - This place is run by the husband of Lacey, one of the people in our group from Minnesota that attended Marie and Sri’s wedding. They’ve got two new rooms that I haven’t tried yet, so hit me up if you want to check it out!
  • Sports Game - These are the professional sports teams that will have games in February you could attend.
    • Minnesota Wild (Hockey) - Schedule
    • Minnesota Timberwolves (Basketball) - Schedule
    • Minnesota United (Soccer/Football) - Schedule
  • Walker Art Center - Beautiful museum known for its modern art exhibits. They’ve also got a great sculpture garden (newly remodeled) that’s worth checking out if it’s not too cold when you’re here.
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art - A large museum known for its classical art. Some beautiful stuff here, including local art.
  • Guthrie Theater - Even if you don’t like theater performance, this building is an architectural marvel. I go here once a year or so just to admire the building itself.
  • Mall of America - Many locals would roll their eyes at me suggesting this place because it’s basically a monument to American capitalism, but I think it is an interesting thing to see. It is the second largest mall in the world (the largest in the United States), and there’s in indoor amusement park with roller coasters and stuff.
  • Minnesota Science Museum - I love science museums for their fun interactive exhibits. Minnesota’s science museum is a fun excursion.
  • Nerdy Meetups - There are lots of great meetups in town for programmer nerds like us. Below are my favorites, but checkout Meetup.com for other groups too.
  • First Avenue - The “Danceteria” (music venue) famously started by Prince in 1970. Home to some of the best music in town.
  • The Trylon Cinema - A “microcinema” that shows independent and foreign films.
  • Riverview Theater - A two screen theater showing a good mix of popular, independent, foreign, and second screening films. Their ticket prices are pretty cheap too.
  • Valleyfair - The Twin Cities’ own amusement park has some great roller coasters and other thrill rides. There’s even a water park, and other attractions. Good for the whole family.
  • Ax-Man Surplus - This is one of the weirdest stores that I’ve ever been to, but I’ve found it’s also sometimes the only place I can go to get something weird and specific. The last thing I bought here was little pieces of foam to use as padding for the sound system in my car. Not only does Ax-Man have a wide and strange variety of surplus goods, they’ve also got a hilarious sense of humor. There are little signs and labels throughout the store that tell jokes — often quite self-aware — about the store itself or the products.
  • Up-Down - A very large arcade bar, home to many great arcade and pinball classics, and alcohol. This place gets really busy on the weekends, which can be good or bad depending on your disposition. Consider yourself warned.

Outdoor Activities

It may be pretty cold when you’re here, but depending on your temperature resilience, these could still be worth checking out.

  • Minnehaha Falls - A water fall right in the city. It will probably be frozen when you’re here, which will be cool to see.
  • Lake Superior - The largest of North America’s “Great Lakes”, and the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. This is about a 3 hour drive from Chanhassen, and the lake will probably be frozen, but still might be worth seeing.
  • Afton Alps - There are a few ski resorts near the Twin Cities, but Afton is the closest. It’s pretty small, but would be a good place to try it for your first time.
  • Chain of Lakes - Possibly Minneapolis’ most unique feature is its lake system within the city (David Byrne is supposedly a big fan). The chain consists of Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet (my favorite of the lakes). These are all connected by bike trails (see the Grand Rounds below), and also by waterways, allowing them to be traversed by canoe.
  • Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System - Minneapolis is sometimes called the “best city in the world to be a bicyclist” (the award goes back and forth each year between us, Portland, OR, and some European cities). The Grand Rounds is a trail system spanning all of the major lakes within the city, to the beautiful river parkways.