Minneapolis’ must-see neighborhoods

Minneapolis, Minnesota (CNN) — Nobody can 100% predict the outcome of this weekend’s big game, but it’s a sure bet the winners will include Minneapolis-St. Paul, the host of Super Bowl LII.

Like most Midwesterners, Minnesotans hate to brag, but they looooooove the kind of attention that comes with the NFL spotlight. And they have good reason to be proud: Modern Minneapolis is a hot spot for culture, design, food and fun in the USA.

Looking to score some winning weekend travel? Check out these four neighborhoods.

Downtown Minneapolis: Center of the action

The renowned Guthrie Theater is an architectural landmark and a first-class performance venue.

The renowned Guthrie Theater is an architectural landmark and a first-class performance venue.

Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

The MVP of this year’s Super Bowl will doubtless be US Bank Stadium, backdrop to the big game. Completed in 2016, the Minnesota Vikings’ new billion-dollar home gleams with glass and metal and sports a cantilevered corner that resembles nothing so much as the prow of a Nordic longboat.

The behemoth structure dominates the city skyline, but it’s not the only noteworthy building in town. Check out the Guthrie Theater (with stunning views of St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River), the Wells Fargo Center (which glows like an ice palace at night), and the IDS Center — all a short walk from the stadium.

Staying at the swank Marquette Hotel (in the IDS) or the chic W, formerly the historic Foshay Tower, puts you near Nicollet Mall, the city’s central pedestrian mall.

Hungry? Try Keys Café for a king-sized breakfast, Ike’s for a cocktail and the Mercury Dining Room for a tasty dinner.

For entertainment, you’ll have to wander west to Hennepin Avenue, where the State, Orpheum or Pantages theaters regularly feature touring shows and big-name entertainers. Prince devotees and other music fans should check the roster at First Avenue, a former Greyhound bus depot turned night club — and the Purple One’s favorite place to play.

The North Loop: Millennial mecca

The Freehouse is a go-to for craft brews.

The Freehouse is a go-to for craft brews.

Photo Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

Once a collection of derelict warehouses, Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood has become the city’s white-hot creative center in recent years — attracting inventive chefs, daring mixologists, niche retailers and throngs of stylish millennials seeking the perfect Instagram fodder.

Among the neighborhood’s newest additions is the Hewing, a boutique hotel with a distinctly Scando-Minnesota design vibe and a reception staff that gladly welcomes even guests traveling with dogs.

The finest dining can be found at nearby Spoon and Stable and Bar La Grassa. But for an authentic Minnesota experience, order the Swedish meatballs at The Bachelor Farmer.

Menswear aficionados will be stunned by the carefully curated selection at MartinPatrick3, and Russell+Hazel is stocked with twee paper goods if you need a journal to record your time in Minneapolis.

Happy hour? Try Freehouse for craft brews. Nightcap? The libations at Parlour usually include such exotic ingredients as beet juice, smoked figs, sesame oil and chocolate bitters.

St. Paul: Become a kid again

Minneapolis stands shoulder to shoulder with Minnesota’s capital, St. Paul. The Twin Cities are similar in size, but they are far from identical siblings.

Minneapolis can be raucous. St. Paul is known for its respectability and reserve.

The past is revered in St. Paul, as demonstrated by the city’s upkeep of its historic landmarks, like the Cathedral of St. Paul and Landmark Center, an old post office that looks like a red-granite castle.

Another reason to visit is to see the Minnesota State Capitol, a beautiful old pile designed by famed native Cass Gilbert and recently polished to near perfection during a yearslong renovation.

St. Paul is also kid-friendly, a place where families can spend hours romping in the newly expanded Minnesota Children’s Museum or ogling dinosaurs at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

In June, another kid magnet, the Bell Museum of Natural History, will reopen its doors at a new location on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. The Bell’s diorama displays, depicting ducks in midflight, muskies midgulp and foxes midleap, have always engaged people of every age.

Uptown and the lakes: Shop, stroll and sunbathe

Nicknamed the City of Lakes, Minneapolis contains more than a dozen lakes within its boundaries. The most prominent include Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles, and Bde Maka Ska (formerly Calhoun, but recently renamed to honor the native people who once lived on its shores).

Year-round, the lakes are a hive of activity — drawing skaters and cross-country skiers in winter, cyclists and runners in summer. It’s also a beauty to behold. Stop at nearby Lunds & Byerlys for some provisions and have a picnic. Or visit late and watch the sunset.

Nature not your thing? Nearby, at the nexus of Hennepin and Lake are a slew of shops — including the bookstore Magers & Quinn, a North Face, an Apple store and even a Penzeys Spices.

Film buffs can catch the latest art house offerings at the Uptown/Lagoon theaters. And a variety of restaurants, like Barbette and Chino Latino, offer outside seating as soon as the snow melts and the sun emerges.

Of course, you may not want to sit outside. Go on. We get it. You can head inside and watch the game.

Joel Hoekstra is a writer who lives in Minneapolis.

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