The “Mini Apple” is what the locals call Minneapolis, Minnesota's largest city. No one will mistake it for NYC, of course, but it's also a fun and cultural destination in its own right, with a vibrant arts scene, passionate local food movement, and natural escapes galore. A recent hotel opening earlier this month has only further upped the city's game. Best of all, a trip here won't blow your budget -- many of these offerings can be enjoyed for very little, if anything at all.
What to Do
The city's well known for its plentiful parks and lakes. This includes the 193-acre Minnehaha Park, with an impressive 53-foot waterfall as well as picturesque limestone bluffs. There, try stand-up paddleboard on Lake Calhoun, the largest of five lakes within the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, with $18 per hour rentals from Wheel Fun Rentals -- or hop into a kayak and canoe to explore the waters. Simply hiking or bicycling around the lake, just over a three-mile trip, is also a popular summer past-time.
Looking for some culture but don't want to sacrifice your outdoor time? Travelers can celebrate the performing arts en plein air this summer with live music and film screenings held in Minneapolis’ parks. Around 250 free events are on the books -- see them at the Music & Movies in the Park site. Otherwise, Walker Art Center offers two free admission days on the first Thursday and Saturday of each month, though the its sculpture garden is always free. Admission is always complimentary at Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which is especially known for its Chinese art. Of note are two temporary exhibits currently on show, one about Chinese figure painting and another about the art of Chinese lacquer, running through this November 2 and April 19 of 2015 respectively.
Where to Eat
Minneapolis is home to the world’s largest Somalian population outside of its home country. To get a taste, try the cuisine at Daalo Grill ($11 entrees on average) on Nicollet Avenue South, in a section aptly referred to as Eat Street. Another great place is bite into the city’s ethnic-dining scene is Midtown Global Market, where hungry travelers can grab a hearty Middle Eastern entree like Arabic chicken shawarma (around $13) -- Victor’s 1959 Café, where a Cuban breakfast of eggs Havana or Cuban hash makes for a great start to any day.
If you want in on the huge farm-to-table scene that Mini was a big pioneer of, try Lucia’s Restaurant (entrees $20-$30). We love that regular mealtimes aside, there's a Lucia's To Go section that sells quick and easy eats -- like coconut-walnut cake, just-baked croissants, and the fixings for a pulled-pork sandwich -- for those short on time and cash. Alternative, food and drink prices are slashes from 9 p.m. till 11 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday and till midnight on Saturday.
Where to Stay
Fresh off a $28 million renovation, the Radisson Blu Minneapolis opened its doors earlier this month as the city's newest hotel and the country’s fourth property under the brand -- most known abroad for a contemporary step up above the typical big chain. Considering its reputation, it's a pleasant surprise to know that the rates start just at $199 even in high season. Thanks to its makeover, the hotel's 360 rooms and 18-story lobby atrium are now awash in sleek neutrals, with pops of color here and there for a touch of whimsy. There's also an onsite farm-to-table restaurant called FireLake, where most dishes are served over an open flame.