How great is that moment of relaxation that washes over you when you sit down after a long day of tackling the trails to take your first sip of a locally brewed beer? Some might call it priceless, but most agree it’s at least worth the $5-7 price tag for a cold pint in the Twin Cities.
In addition to being a place where taphouses quadrupled (!) between 2013 and 2016, Minneapolis and St. Paul offer extensive outdoor activities. The area has taken home awards like the #1 Bike City and has been the only U.S. city on a global list of bike-friendly spots; not to mention the paddling opportunities on urban lakes and trails winding through some of the best parks in the country.
All of this adds up to one thing—you simply have to tackle a Trail to Tavern® adventure in this Minnesota metropolis the next time you have a long weekend coming up. Because the Twin Cities are just that—two cities smashed together—the area isn’t tiny, so the best way to approach a long weekend is to divide and conquer. We’ve done all the planning for you, so all you’ve gotta do is get yourself here!
Minnehaha Park is one of the oldest and most popular parks in the area. Adam Fagen
Your first day should absolutely be spent exploring the outdoors in Minneapolis. There’s plenty to choose from, but the beauty is that they’re all doable if you start your day early enough. Luckily, each option is also great all by itself, so you’re guaranteed a good time even if you only tackle a few.
Kick off your weekend with a trip to Bogart’s Doughnut Co. for a quick and delicious donut and coffee before you head over to Minnehaha Regional Park—a must-see for waterfalls, Mississippi River overlooks, and hiking that will make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the city. There are almost 10 miles of paved path at the park, so pick up a map when you get there and start exploring!
If you’ve got Fido in tow, there’s an excellent dog park within Minnehaha for more than six acres of off-leash glory—filled with trees, sand, and plenty of riverfront for your four-legged buddy to enjoy. (You do need to buy a permit in advance to take your dog to the dog park, though.)
When it’s time to take a break, relax on the patio or play some Skee-Ball at Pat’s Tap. This Skee-Club (yes, that’s right) and gastropub serves up squeaky cheese curds, full meals, and a wide range of drinks. With 20 beers on tap and more than 100 available in cans, you’re sure to find something to drink here (even if you need gluten-free). This south Minneapolis hot spot also welcomes dogs on its patio, so don’t feel like your pup has to stay behind.
After fueling up at Pat’s, biking the 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway is an excellent way to take a tour of the city itself while getting a few miles of cycling in. You can rent a bike from Nice Ride, the Twin Cities’ public bike sharing system, and it’s just $3 per half hour.
The Fulton Taproom is a local favorite. Photo courtesy of Fulton Beer.
When the sun starts to set, keep the day going by hitting up another of the city’s many amazing breweries. The Fulton Taproom is a local favorite (you have to try the Lonely Blonde) and Lakes and Legends is another super pup-friendly spot that has a variety of games like hammerschlagen—a German game that entails hitting a nail into a piece of wood with the narrow end of a hammer. Bauhaus in Northeast (or Nordeast if you ask a local) has one of the best patios in the city and a solid rotation of local food trucks to supplement their brews.
For those that are less into beer, head on over to recently opened Twin Spirits, the first one-woman owned distillery in the entire state. You can tour the distillery on Wednesdays or Saturdays, and be sure to taste Mamma’s Moonshine, which is more of a mead made with Minnesota honey instead of the traditional white corn whiskey.
Where to Stay
Like any big city, Minneapolis has many chain and boutique hotels. A couple of good options are the Nicolette Island Inn on an island in the Mississippi and the Alma Hotel and Cafe along the banks of the river. If you brought a four-legged companion, try the pet-friendly Kimpton Grand.
If Airbnb is more your style, look for something in South Minneapolis for a residential feel or Uptown (Lyndale / Lake area) to be close to all the nightlife action.
Paddling around the Lake of the Isles can be a peaceful experience. Michael Hicks
Start your second day at Al’s Breakfast, located in the heart of Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. This gem is counter service only, and is the go-to spot for traditional morning favorites like scrambled eggs and strong coffee. Then it’s off to the city’s signature lakes.
There’s a reason that the Chain of Lakes is one of the pride and joys of the Twin Cities—not many places can boast four major, connected lakes within their boundaries. Found near the bustling Uptown neighborhood, Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles, and Cedar Lake offer endless outdoor fun all year long. During the summer the lakes are filled with swimmers, beachgoers, and paddlers of all kinds, but even in the winter there are ways to enjoy the lakes. Ice fishing is popular, as is simply taking a walk across the frozen wonderland that the lakes become when they freeze over. There’s also an annual lantern festival, the Luminary Loppet held on Lake of the Isles, that is an incredibly unique event designed to celebrate Minnesota’s most extreme season: winter.
Paddling is a great way to spend your day at the lakes. One option is to put-in at Lake of the Isles Park and paddle through a tree-lined canal down to Lake Calhoun, a popular spot for windsurfing. From Lake of the Isles, you can also paddle up to Cedar Lake, where you’ll find a little beach. You can also put-in at Lynnhurst Park just south of Lake Harriet and paddle Minnehaha Creek east to Minnehaha Falls (it’s about six miles). For a real adventure, skip the lakes and head about half an hour west to Lake Minnetonka and take Minnehaha Creek all the way to the falls (this trip is about 22 miles).
Because the lakes are smack-dab in the middle of the city, there are plenty of options nearby for grabbing a quick lunch after building up an appetite. Bread & Pickle near Harriet Lake (only open from May until Labor Day) offers sandwiches, salads, and ice cream, using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. If you find yourself at the northern lakes, try Namaste Cafe for a great selection of vegetarian fare, or Stella’s Fish Cafe & Prestige Oyster Bar for tuna poke or blackened fish tacos. Stella’s also offers a handful of beers on tap and in bottles.
After you’ve had your fill of the water and your feet start to itch for solid ground, the lakes are also the perfect place to go for an afternoon run. Each lake is encircled by a fully paved running and biking path and they all connect for about 15 miles of trails, which means you can run or bike for exactly as long as you want.
Once you get cleaned up and are ready to explore the nightlife, Uptown is full of great places to hang with the locals. LynLake Brewery is located just a few blocks from the lakes in the heart of uptown. It has a rooftop complete with a fire pit and a view of the city to rival the rest. For the gamers in your group, Up-Down is a top notch spot filled with giant Jenga and Connect Four, craft beer, and a variety of video games like Mario Kart and Frogger in addition to 90s TV shows like Rugrats and Ah! Real Monsters on repeat. Bryant-Lake Bowl is the place to go to drink, eat, and bowl until 2 am. The best part? The bowling is totally free (as long as you’re buying a drink).
There are some excellent trails to discover at Fort Snelling State Park. Jeanne W
On your third and final day, make your way across the river to the less-explored St. Paul side of the Twin Cities. Here you’ll find fewer hipsters, but just as many outdoor opportunities and local beer options. The Minnesota River Trail is an expansive, 318-mile water trail that stretches from Big Stone Lake in the northern part of the state to where it meets the mighty Mississippi River near St. Paul’s Fort Snelling State Park. Here, you can take off for an exploration of the last few miles of the massive river trail or trot along any of the historic fort’s 18 miles of hiking trails.
If you’ve been dying to get some time on your mountain bike, continue east to Battle Creek Regional Park. The trail system here has 4.5 miles of singletrack and 3.3 miles of multi-use trails with rolling hills and steep climbs through the forest.
For lunch, catch a food truck and a pint at Bad Weather Brewing Company, a local favorite that prides itself on crafting beer that is “untethered and unpredictable, just like the weather here in Minnesota.” As such, their brews are always in flux, constantly offering something new to their loyal band of followers. If none of the seasonal options tickle your fancy, try one of the popular flagship brews, like the hoppy Windvane Red IPA or the citrusy Hopcromancer American IPA.
Post-feast, put in a solid climbing session at Vertical Endeavors, one of the largest indoor gyms in the country. They have a location in Minneapolis, too, but the one on Phalen Boulevard and Arcade Street/U.S. 61 is just a few miles from Bad Weather. With more than 18,000 feet of climbing space, offering top-roping, two bouldering spaces, an auto-belay device, and lead-climbing routes, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The gym also features a Nicros A.R.T.Wall™, made from molds of real rock for a natural look and feel.
Finish your weekend at the Summit Brewing Company, the source of the national favorite, or the Wabasha Brewing Company. You can’t go wrong with either, but the latter is “just a stone’s throw” from the Wabasha Street Caves—one of the most fun and well-kept secrets in the Twin Cities.
With so much to do, this itinerary is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adventure in the Twin Cities, and that’s not even touching the Great Lakes (a mere 2.5-hour drive away). As you can see, there is plenty to keep you busy for weeks, months, or even years, so you may want to carve out a few long weekends to visit this northern state.
Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.
Featured image provided by PunkToad