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Minneapolis and St Paul

The buzz of urban life combined with the neighbourliness of smaller towns

Minneapolis skyline. Credit: Westifer

The word Minneapolis combines the Dakota word for water (mine) with the Greek word for city (polis) — a fitting name for a city that contains 22 of Minnesota’s 12,034 lakes. As the state’s largest city, Minneapolis combines the buzz of urban life with the neighbourliness of smaller towns. Residents enjoy cultural and recreational opportunities in beautiful natural surroundings.

Both Minneapolis and nearby St Paul attract young people from the rural areas that stretch for hundreds of miles in all directions, making the Twin Cities the buckle of the northern farm belt. As with much of the Midwest, you will feel very welcome.

The Twin Cities are home to much of the cultural life of the region, with many stages for theatre and dance performances, an opera company and a symphony orchestra; there are also museums, film festivals and art-house cinema screenings.

Neither Minneapolis nor St Paul has a “gay neighbourhood” per se, though both have communities centred on their respective downtowns.

There are more than a dozen bars, clubs and pubs. In downtown Minneapolis, four Hennepin Avenue bars — Gay 90s, the Brass Rail, the Saloon and Gladius — are easily walkable between 4th and 11th streets. Bar 19 is to the south on 15th, near the Convention Center. For a Manhattan-style lounge, cocktail bar Jetset is a 15 to 20 minute hike northwest of Hennepin. The Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt complex is six blocks east of Hennepin, down Washington Avenue, and draws the leather crowd, bears and buff guys. There are also several theatres on Hennepin.

Quatrefoil Library is one of the oldest gay lending libraries in the country. Visitors are welcome to drop in for information on the local gay community.

The gay hotel at the Saloon has closed, but there are three large gay-friendly downtown hotels: the Graves 601 Hotel, the Marquette Hotel and the Millennium Hotel Minneapolis, right by the Convention Center.

When it comes to dining out, there’s a great diversity of restaurant options. Haute Dish offers classic Midwest cuisine (and others) interpreted with madcap ingenuity. Hell’s Kitchen serves great fresh food prepared from scratch, including an all-day breakfast, a gospel brunch and dinner; try their Bloody Mary during the popular happy hour. Mercado Central is a Latin daily marketplace and cultural centre, with Mexican and Salvadoran restaurants, coffeeshops, a tortilleria and a taqueria, and Latin grocery stores. The Wilde Roast Cafe has a Victorian look and serves breakfast (late on weekends), sandwiches, lunch and dinner, and hosts a range of community events.

Minnesota has no sales tax on clothing, so shopping is a big tourist attraction here. Mall of America, minutes from the airport, is one of the world’s largest retail centres, with more than 520 stores, 50 restaurants and 14 movie screens. Rainbow Road has new-release DVDs, thousands of gay titles and erotic films, clothing, cards and Pride items.

The Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport is about 26 kilometres from downtown Minneapolis and 19 kilometres from downtown St Paul. The Light Rail service of Metro Transit will whisk you to downtown Minneapolis in about 25 minutes for $2.25. Remember to buy the ticket at the station machine before boarding. Taxis can also get you to either city. A car is the most convenient way to get around. Buses traverse most of the city, and Light Rail Transit is a quick way to get to the top local tourist magnet, the Mall of America. For Minneapolis public transportation see Metro Transit.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Minneapolis and St Paul, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.