There are two train lines in the Twin Cities. One runs through Minneapolis and the other runs from Minneapolis to St. Paul. Mercifully, they are connected. The MetroTransit trip planner is a reliable way to determine if your destination is near a train stop. Many of the places listed here are. Metro Transit, the agency that runs buses and trains in Minneapolis, has an app (iOS and Android) so you can buy fares right on your phone (buses and train stations also take cash, but have exact change).
There is also a bike sharing system called Nice Ride that has over 100 stations throughout the core cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Stations are usually pretty close to many of the attractions listed below, including right behind the McNamara Center. Passes are $6 for 24 hours or $15 for a month, you get bikes for 60 minutes at a time before additional fees accrue.
http://www.bunmisandwiches.com 0.2 miles 604 Washington Ave SE I know, I know–it’s Bánh Mì. See what they did there? You know what else they do? Delicious.
http://www.viewmenu.com/caspian-bistro-and-marketplace/menu 0.3 miles 2418 University Ave SE Persian market and Middle Eastern cafe. Has great service, is delicious.
http://www.punchpizza.com 0.1 mile (visible from McNamara) 802 Washington Ave SE or 2.1 miles 210 East Hennepin Avenue Fabulous pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven at 800 degrees for about 90 seconds.
http://www.villagewok.com 0.2 miles 610 Washington Ave SE A U of M institution serving Chinese food in “Cantonese, Shanghainese, Sichuan, Hunan, and Peking styles.”
https://www.dayblockbrewing.com 0.3 miles 1105 Washington Ave SE Reasonable beer and food—also, on occasion, live music.
http://www.haikujapanese.com 0.2 miles 620 Washington Avenue Southeast
http://www.northrop.umn.edu/visit/surdyks-caf-northrop 0.5 miles 84 Church Street Southeast If you can’t get to the full-stack Surdyk’s (vast liquor and cheese selections with fantastic sandwiches), their Northrup cafe will do just fine. Good coffee, too!
http://www.afrodeli.com/ 0.2 miles 720 SE Washington Ave African and Middle Eastern Cuisine
https://www.facebook.com/dinkytownannies 0.6 miles 313 14th Ave SE Malts! Malts! Malts! Also… Burgers! Burgers! Burgers!
http://www.thepurpleonioncafe.com 0.7 miles 1301 University Ave SE A great place to set up shop with a laptop, coffee, and something eggy.
http://www.shuangchengrestaurant.com 0.7 miles 1320 4th Street South East Minneapolis You love Cantonese food and you just need somebody to point you to the good stuff. Right over here, stranger.
http://surlybrewing.com 1.0 miles 520 Malcolm Avenue Southeast Surly makes really good beer right here in Minnesota. Really good. Unlike many breweries in town, they also have a full restaurant menu.
https://www.almampls.com/ 1.2 miles 528 University Ave SE Half of the building is dedicated to a fine-dining-ish restaurant, but in the last year a more casual cafe opened in the other half of the building. Great coffee and sandwiches during the day, and cocktails and a dinner menu at night.
http://kramarczuks.com/ 1.7 miles 215 E Hennepin Ave Old school Eastern European deli. We never sausage a fine place to dine!
http://foxyfalafel.com/ 1.8 miles 791 Raymond Ave, St. Paul Just off the Raymond Avenue stop on the Green Line (3 stops east of Stadium Village). Excellent falafel and shwarma. Lots of vegan, vegetarian and organic options. Great gluten-free cookies. Serves alcohol.
http://www.norsemandistillery.com/ 1.9 miles 451 Taft St NE #19 Distillery with a seasonal cocktail list whose cocktail room doubles as an art gallery. They recently introduced a short new-Nordic inspired food menu.
http://www.brasa.us 1.9 miles 600 East Hennepin Avenue Lip smacking, finger dripping Southern cooking.
http://surdyks.com 1.9 miles 303 East hennepin Avenue Select a picnic place (Gold Medal Park? The Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden?) and head to Surdyk’s to pick up cheese, crackers, sandwiches, fancy fizzy drinks, and desserts. You’ll never forget Minneapolis.
http://izzysicecream.com/locations/minneapolis/ 2.1 miles 1100 South 2nd Street Izzy’s ice cream is so, so, so good. And it’s right next to Gold Medal Park and the Gutrhie Theater.
http://www.urbangrowlerbrewing.com 2.4 miles 2325 Endicott Street, St. Paul This is a 10-15 minute walk from the Raymond Avenue stop (3 stops east of Stadium Village). It’s a little off the beaten path and surrounded by warehouses but worth a visit. A woman-owned and operated craft brewery that makes damn good beer and features a small but strong food menu. Two taprooms and a nice patio.
http://acadiapub.com 2.2 miles 329 Cedar Avenue A bazillion beers (er, 28) on tap + great food.
http://bauhausbrewlabs.com/ 2.7 miles 1315 Tyler Street Northeast There are in Minneapolis, but this one is perhaps the most picturesuqe. Great german-inspired beer, outdoor games, music, and usually have food trucks.
http://www.peacecoffee.com/locations/wonderland-park 2.8 miles 3262 Minnehaha Avenue If going out of your way for good coffee is a thing you do, it’s worth doing it for this place. The specialty drinks are bananas.
http://sociablecider.com/ 2.8 miles 1500 Fillmore St NE It’s hard to throw a growler in NE Minneapolis without hitting a brewery, but if you’re looking for cider (or just gluten free options) Sociable is your place.
https://www.youngjoni.com/ 2.8 miles 165 13th Ave NE One of the more buzzed about restaurants to open recently, featuring pizzas and Asian-influenced sides and salads. You probably need a reservation to get in the dining room, but there’s also a back bar with a more limited menu (expect a line).
http://www.112eatery.com 2.9 miles 112 North 3rd Street Oh crap. This place is a supernatural kind of good.
http://tattersalldistilling.com/ 2.9 miles 1620 Central Ave NE Arguably the best cocktails in the Twin Cities, in a beautiful space. Can get busy on weekend nights. No food, but there’s usually a food truck parked outside.
http://www.fasika.com/welcome.html 3.4 miles 510 N Snelling Ave There is no shortage of Ethiopian options in the Twin Cities, but there is an emerging concensus around the greatness of Fasika.
https://fairstate.coop/ 3.4 miles 2506 Central Ave NE Cooperative brewery with a penchant for sour beers. Great food options abound in the neighborhood; feel free to bring in your take out.
http://pimentokitchen.com/ 3.5 miles 2524 Nicollet Ave Casual Jamaican. This concept was a one-time winner of “Food Court Wars,” but don’t let that deter you — it’s good.
http://chimborazorestaurant.com/ 3.8 miles 2851 Central Avenue NE Excellent Ecuadorean food on Central Ave, which is a great eating street in general.
http://mattsbar.com 3.9 miles 3500 Cedar Avenue This is the place you go for the local novelty food: The Jucy Lucy (yes, that is how they spell it). It’s also where, not too long ago, POTUS went for the local novelty food. Here’s the thing: This novelty is also a legitimately great burger. And Matt’s a legitimately great dive. (The other claimant to the “Jucy Lucy” title is the 5-8 Club, a restaurant and bar on the same road but farther south, near the airport.)
http://holaarepa.com/ 4.6 miles 3501 Nicollet Ave Food-truck turned brick and mortar focusing on Venezuelan-style arepa sandwiches and a creative cocktail list.
http://khyberpasscafe.com 4.9 miles 1571 Grand Avenue The chutney sampler–oh my. And anything with lamb in it.
http://angrycatfishbicycle.com 5.4 miles 4208 South 28th Avenue If you like your coffee snobs humble, this is your place. This is fussy coffee at its fussiest, and it is a beautiful thing.
http://heydayeats.com/ 5 miles 2700 Lyndale Avenue S Dinner or Saturday/Sunday brunch, try to make a reservation just in case.
http://www.bryantlakebowl.com/ 5.25 miles 810 West Lake St. At the heart of the walkable LynLake area—food, drink, bowling, and shows.
http://www.lucias.com/ 5.5 miles 1432 W 31st St.
https://seasalteatery.wordpress.com 6.4 miles 4825 Minnehaha Avenue Let’s be honest—this is Minnesota, so we are also talking lake food. But you know what? Lake food is delicious and you’ll be eating it at an outdoor table within earshot (and from some tables within eyeshot) of Minnehaha Falls. And the whole thing is just a short walk from a lightrail stop.
7.4 miles 353 University Avenue West, St. Paul Just off the Western Ave station on the Green line. This has the best banh mi, the other one is good but this is better, and it’s a full Vietnamese grocery as well.
http://www.guthrietheater.org 2.2 miles 818 South 2nd Street The Guthrie was built for plays, but anybody can walk in anytime and step out onto their “Endless Bridge” which overlooks Mississippi River and the ruins of the city’s flour milling industry.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Medal_Park 2.2 miles Gold Medal Park is a lovely picnic spot. Its right next to the Guthrie, which means you can also get in on the magic of the Endless Bridge. It’s also right by Izzy’s Ice Cream (see above). Seriously–it is your destiny.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnehaha_Park_ (Minneapolis) 5.2 miles 4825 Minnehaha Avenue A waterfall, hiking trails, and a great seafood restauraunt. Oh, and you can rent those crazy four-person bikes and pretend you are in the things-are’splendid montage of a romantic comedy!
https://www.walkerart.org/garden/#map-overview/ 4.5 miles 1750 Hennepin Avenue You know that giant spoon with a giant cherry in it that appears on postcards and special broadcasts from Minneapolis? This is where it lives. And that is fine–it’s kind of cool. But there is so much more at the Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden. And they’ve got artist-designed mini-golf! It also got a serious upgrade this past year and just re-opened in June.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Landscape_Arboretum 26.4 miles 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska, MN If you need a quiet place for a stroll, or just want to sit and think while surrounded by pretty growy things, you might think about the arboretum. It’s a rental car thing for sure. There is a pretty insane LEGO exhibit there now. And then there is a Prince perk: To get there you have to drive by the compound he calls Paisely Park (which is also where he holds his occasional 2am concerts). If we’re being honest, it is not aging well. But Prince!
http://www.riverrides.com/ Dr Justus Ohage Blvd, St Paul 9.7 miles A river boat ride on the Mississippi between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
http://www.wheelfunrentals.com/Locations/Minneapolis 3000 E. Calhoun Pkwy 5.7 miles Fittingly enough, the biggest city in the Land of 10,000 Lakes features quite a few lakes of its own. Four of them — Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska, Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake — are connected by continuous parkland and feature pedestrian and bike trails. You can also rent bikes, pedal boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for lake-splashing enjoyment.
These bookstores are vetted. There are plenty more that could (and maybe should) be on the list, but you can’t go wrong with any of these (unless, of course, if you hate science fiction and decide to truck it out to Uncle Hugo’s). Two things worth noting: Common Good Books is Garrison Keilor’s bookstore (Wait! Come back!) and Wild Rumpus is a bookstore for kids that has LIVE ANIMALS running around. And we’re not just talking about bookstore cats. There are chickens!
http://www.bookhouseindinkytown.com 0.7 miles 1316 4th Street Southeast #201
http://www.midwaybook.com 3.6 miles 1579 University Avenue West
http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/index.shtml 3.9 miles 2864 Chicago Avenue South
http://www.onceuponacrimebooks.com 4.8 miles 604 West 26th Street
http://www.commongoodbooks.com 4.9 miles 38 Snelling Avenue South
http://dreamhavenbooks.com 5.2 miles 2301 East 38th Street
http://www.magersandquinn.com 5.4 miles 3038 Hennepin Avenue
http://www.wildrumpusbooks.com 7.6 miles 2720 West 43rd Street Children’s books only, and featuring a rotating cast of live animals roaming the store.
Like the bookstores, these record stores are vetted! Three things worth noting: Fifth Element is the record store of the Minneapolis Hip Hop collective Rhymesayers (Atmosphere, Brother Ali, P.O.S.), Electric Fetus is a super gross name and a really great store, and Treehouse used to be called Oar Folkjokeopus and was sort of the uniffial HQ of Twin/Tone records, early home to Minneapolis bands like The Replacements, Babes in Toyland, Soul Asylum, and The Jayhawks. It’s also where the guys from Husker Du met.
http://www.barelybrothersrecords.com 1.8 miles 783 Raymond Avenue
https://www.facebook.com/aghartarecords 2.3 miles 2512 University Avenue
http://hymiesrecords.com 2.7 miles 3820 East Lake Street
http://www.electricfetus.com 3.4 miles 2000 4th Avenue South
http://treehouserecords.blogspot.com 4.8 miles 2557 Lyndale Avenue South
http://fifthelementonline.com 4.6 miles 2411 Hennepin Avenue South
You can find the multiplexes easy enough. These are the special theaters. Oh, and the Riverview puts real butter on your popcorn!
http://www.stanthonymaintheatre.com 1.9 miles 115 Southeast Main Street
http://take-up.org 2.7 miles 3258 Minnehaha Avenue
http://www.riverviewtheater.com 4.1 miles 3800 42nd Avenue South
http://www.weisman.umn.edu 0.7 miles 333 East River Parkway
http://www.walkerart.org 4.5 miles 1750 Hennepin Avenue
http://new.artsmia.org 3.5 miles 2400 3rd Avenue South
http://www.millcitymuseum.org/ 1.9 miles 704 S 2nd St. Does a really great job of telling some of the key history of Minnesota—the flour industry. Plus you can get a great view of the city, St. Anthony Falls ,and the Mississippi River from the top of the museum. Also great for children!
http://intermediaarts.org/ 5 miles 2822 Lyndale Avenue S
http://www.soovac.org/ 5.2 miles 2909 Bryant Avenue S Suite 101
http://highpointprintmaking.org/ 5.4 miles 912 W Lake St
http://www.thecedar.org 2.1 miles 416 Cedar Avenue
http://www.patrickscabaret.org 2.8 miles 3010 Minnehaha Avenue
http://www.triplerocksocialclub.com 2.3 miles 629 Cedar Avenue
http://turfclub.net 2.4 miles 1601 University Avenue West
http://first-avenue.com/calendar 4.2 miles 701 North 1st Avenue
http://khyberpasscafe.com 4.9 miles 1571 Grand Avenue
http://www.icehousempls.com 4.3 miles 2528 Nicollet Avenue South
http://www.thewarminghouse.net/ 5.9 miles 4001 Bryant Ave S The Twin Cities’ only “listening room,” the Warming House is a forty-seat venue below a bike shop. There’s no booze on sale, which has the advantage of people coming to actually listen to the mostly acoustic and Americana focused acts.
http://www.mcm.org/ 7.5 miles 10 7th St. W., St. Paul Essential, especially because they just re-opened June 2017 after a massive renovation and expansion. Ideal for toddlers to age 8, but we’re hearing that some of the new exhibits will cater to kids even a little older than that.
http://www.comozooconservatory.org/ 5.9 miles 1225 Estabrook Drive, St Paul Small, but really nice, zoo; a conservatory; a really cool historical carousel (to ride!); and an amusement park called Como Town that has rides and a splash pad. The rides are geared toward younger kids (toddler through middle school). Como Town and the carousel cost money, but the zoo is free (they ask for donations, however).
https://www.theworks.org/ 14 miles 9740 Grand Ave S., Bloomington
http://www.raptor.cvm.umn.edu/ 4.5 miles 1920 Fitch Avenue, St. Paul
https://parks.co.ramsey.mn.us/tamarack/Pages/tamarack.aspx 20 miles 5287 Otter Lake Rd, White Bear Township
http://www.ax-man.com 3.2 miles 1639 University Avenue West The most freakishly delightful surplus store this side of the Mississippi. Not military surplus, but everything surplus. People walk through the aisles making joyful sounds. For real.
http://houseofballs.com 2.2 miles 1504 South 7th Street Just trust…
http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2014/walker-green-artist-designed-mini-golf 4.5 miles 1750 Hennepin Avenue Exactly what it says. And no windmills allowed. (For weather-related and course closure information, call 612.375.7697.)
http://www.exploreminnesota.com/travel-ideas/prince-tour-of-minneapolis/ Since the death of Prince in April 2016, a sort of “tour” of key sites has developed. The biggest destination is Paisley Park, which offers daily tours. Paisely Park is located in a suburb south of Minneapolis called Chanhassen. (Sorry the trains don’t run that far). The link above has details and a list of other sites that Prince fans have been visiting.
http://www.cancanwonderland.com/ Located in St. Paul, right on the border with Minneapolis, this is a new venue for adults to be more like kids. Mini golf, amusements, bar and restaurant, arts-based flora and fauna. Unfortunately it’s not close to the train line, but would be a short cab or Uber ride from the conference hotel.
http://www.franconia.org 47.5 miles 29836 Saint Croix Trail, Shafer, MN There is a house suspended from wires, a sculpture made of boom boxes that reaches towards the heavens… Many of the sculptures are welded, formed, and banged together on site. It’s sprawling and it’s amazing.
150 miles It’s a 2.5-hour drive, but it’s a great little city on a really big lake. If you are a Dylan person, he was born in Duluth and lived there at 519 N. 3rd Ave. E. until he was six. Or maybe you are a Prince person…
http://www.citypages.com/best-of This covers a lot of other ground, especially in food and entertainment.