I landed at Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport one day in early November with no idea about my fam itinerary — other than it would take up only 24 hours.
The #mpls24 program starts with a fun, eight-question online quiz to determine which of four site-visit tracks best suits a planner’s interests: Parks to Prada, Muskie to Monet, Big Games to Household Names, or Four-Star to Stargazing. While I didn’t take the quiz first, my Meet Minneapolis hosts, Matt Laible and Alicia Schindle, correctly guessed the Parks to Prada track was most up my alley. The itinerary shows off the city’s generous green space — the Trust for Public Land has credited Minneapolis with having the best parks system in the country — and its thriving retail sector, home to Target headquarters as well as a growing number of high-end, one-of-a-kind shops.
Our half-hour ride from the airport to downtown via the Metro Transit Light Rail gave me a close-up view of construction on U.S. Bank Stadium. When it opens in time for Super Bowl 2018, the stadium will usher in plenty of natural light — thanks to its translucent roof and tall, movable front windows — along with hordes of fans. It’s the centerpiece of a larger redevelopment project in the Downtown East neighborhood that will include residential space and a new park.
NEW AND OLD
We hopped off the train to check out the brand-new visitor center that Meet Minneapolis has opened on Nicollet Mall — a 12-block, walkable stretch of stores in the heart of the city that is under reconstruction to create an even more pedestrian-friendly experience. The 5,000-square-foot visitor center sells all kinds of merchandise crafted by local artists, and features a conference room and social-media command center where CVB staff members can post information, especially during major events taking place in the city.
Next, we walked via skyway — Minneapolis has a system of interlinked, enclosed pedestrian bridges that spans 69 city blocks over 11 miles — to the industrial-chic Monello, a restaurant specializing in coastal Italian fare. Over lunch — sea-bass crudo with caviar and crème fraîche, and fragrant rigatoni with lamb, carrots, and tahini — Matt and Alicia filled me in on the growing list of city-development projects in the works. In 2014 alone, Minneapolis issued a record $2 billion in building permits.
Monello is housed in The Hotel Ivy, a Luxury Collection Hotel, and my host hotel for the evening. The property integrates the historic Ivy Tower, built in 1930, into a new, 25-floor skyscraper that includes 136 hotel rooms, 70 condos, and the Ivy Spa Club, a full-service luxury spa and state-of-the-art fitness club.
After lunch, we took a short drive to the North Loop for further evidence of the city’s transformation. The lofts of former flour mills and surrounding historic buildings are being restored into stylish boutiques, trendy restaurants, and residential units along a stretch of the Mississippi riverfront. We browsed the aisles of MartinPatrick3, a stylish menswear and housewares boutique, before circling back to Nicollet Mall and the upscale JB Hudson Jewelers, a Minneapolis institution since 1885, now occupying a corner of a 1920s-era department-store building. The jewels gleaming from antique display cases — a compatible mix of modern designer and estate pieces — reinforced my Twin City experience so far, with new elements complementing historic assets.
We set off next to take a look at two gems of the meeting-planner variety, starting with a walkthrough of the 821-room, 25-story Hilton Minneapolis in the city center. Events of all sizes can be accommodated in 77,000 square feet of flexible function space, including a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, the 3,400-square-foot Gallery, and 35 meeting rooms. The property boasts stunning views of the city outside and inside — its walls are lined with local artists’ interpretations of local landmarks.
The Hilton is connected via walkway to the Minneapolis Convention Center, whose 475,000 square feet of exhibit space and 87 meeting rooms have achieved Level One certification for the ASTM Standard for environmentally sustainable meeting venues. We rounded out our tour of the airy center — which is on the verge of a refresh that will include new paint and upgrades — with drinks and appetizers at the balcony Craft Bar and Lounge, overlooking the lobby.
I appreciated the chance to settle back for an evening car ride as we wound our way around the southwest area’s chain of lakes. Their dark tranquility was only a short distance from the bright lights of Uptown, where we dined at the popular, casual Chino Latino. After sharing a platter of slow-cooked beef barbacoa and chipotle-spiked chicken tinga served with Cuban black beans, guacamole, salsas, and fresh corn tortillas, I was ready to turn in for the night.
My visit wrapped up the next morning with a breakfast feast at Basil’s Restaurant. From our balcony seat, I had a bird’s-eye view of the IDS Center’s Crystal Court, but needed a lion-sized appetite for the serving after serving of surprising and delightful local fare. Much like my previous 24 hours in Minneapolis.
For more information: minneapolis.org