There’s a reason why Prince loved Minneapolis. Aside from it being the city that spawned a musical genius, it’s a gorgeous place. Although its position in the Midwest of the country means it has a well-deserved reputation for cold winter weather, it has more to offer than the places where Prince made his mark on the world of entertainment. It’s an amazing place to visit and if you also love Prince, or are just curious about his life and where he created most of his many hits, it should be on the itinerary for your vacation plans.
Minneapolis and its adjoining city, St. Paul, may just not have done enough to sing its tourist praises. Midwestern cities like Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis are better known as urban hotbeds where many African-Americans have family and friends. Minneapolis is but a day’s drive from all three cities and a short flight from the East and West Coasts. (2 hours from the East Coast, 3.5 from the West).
To be sure, Minneapolis is the whitest city of all three, but from a hardened East Coaster’s perspective, it has some of the friendliest wypipo in any city I’ve traveled to (and I’ve been to almost half the states in the country.)
It may just be that Minneapolis’ open roads, bucolic suburbs and plethora of lakes and green spaces makes its residents happy. One thing’s for sure – the most famous Black man from the area is a demigod in the city where he started his career and where his iconic Paisley Park Studios are.(Well, Paisley is in Chanhassen, Minnesota, about 20 minutes away from downtown in one of those bucolic suburbs.)
To see all the landmarks at once, including the Capri Theater, where a young Prince did his first live show as a Warner Bros. artist, catch up with Captain Randy, whose ‘The Tour” features the theater, the outside of Paisley, the Electric Fetus record store that Prince frequented and more.
Paisley Park itself can be toured and its well worth it. Though the four-day annual Celebration is in April, on the Paisley Park tour you will see varying exhibits including his downstairs office, the famous A recording studio and the soundstage where he performed, made movies, recorded concert films and more.
At the 2017 Celebration, tours were suspended due to the event, but normal offerings have included Prince’s 15 cars on display, the opportunity (depending on what day you go) to do a live recording, and/or see a concert film and a varying group of different exhibits.
I saw the Purple Rain room (pretty cool) as well as his downstairs office and the soundstages where much of the Celebration took place. It’s worth it just to walk into Paisley Park, where you imagine so many people have great memories. I’m one of them, as I interviewed Prince there in the 90’s. Good times. For into and tickets go HERE.
The local music scene is amazing in Minneapolis, no surprise there. Both Bunkers and the Dakota Jazz Club features live performances of local and national acts. The green spaces and lakes provide plenty of fun outdoor experiences including biking, hiking, boating and all the other fun things you can do in a city whose license plates aptly read “10,000 Lakes.’ And yes, one of them is Lake Minnetonka!
Minneapolis.org is your best planning resource for a trip to Minny. It features resources and information on just about every aspect of a trip there and you can call the good folks there to assist you. They won’t book anything for you – they aren’t travel agents – but they can help you in putting a trip together and taking advantage the best of the Twin Cities.
One of the great things about Minneapolis is that it’s a sports town that boasts ALL of the major four sports including the WNBA. Three of the four sports play in arenas within walking distance of each other, so it’s very possible if you come the right time of year and plan it right, you can see a baseball, WNBA and hockey game or a football, NBA and hockey game in a matter of a few days. The 2018 Super Bowl will be played there at the US Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018.
The Minnesota Wild, though, play in St. Paul, which is only about 7 miles away. While the Timberwolves, the NBA team, hasn’t been so great lately, the Minnesota Lynx were 2011 and 2013 WNBA Champs, anchored by former UConn star Maya Moore. As of this writing, they are undefeated in the WNBA 2017 season.
Minneapolis offers a tremendous asset for those fond of retail therapy. The Mall of America, which turned 25 this year, is in Bloomington, right by the airport, and is the biggest mall in the United States. (Not the biggest in retail usage, though, that distinction belongs to the King of Prussia Mall, outside of Philadelphia.)
It’s the largest because aside from all of its stores and restaurants, The Mall of America includes three big attractions: Nickelodeon Universe, Minnesota Sea Life and FlyOver America, as well as just about every mall retail offering your shopaholic dreams can ever imagine. It will likely mean a day to get through it all, so factor that into your Minneapolis plans. It is near the airport, so one tip is to spend your last night at a hotel near the airport so that you can shop, drop and then hop on your plane the next day. Just don’t forget those baggage fees for overweight luggage!
Overall, Minneapolis is a great place to spend your time and money for a packed long weekend or an even longer stay. It’s a fun city with various options for indoor and outdoor entertainment and if you love Prince, you can enjoy the landmarks dedicated to his life and legacy, as well as seeing where he worked and lived.
Where to Stay:
Loews Minneapolis is the gold standard. It’s downtown, its well-appointed and is down from the Nicollet Mall and directly across the street from the Target Center, Target Field and the legendary First Avenue nightclub. The Stearns and Foster mattresses are amazing. If you want to ball out, the Performer Suite, where Prince and Adele have stayed, features some Prince artwork, including him as Mozart, a grand piano and a kitchen and dining space.
You can play the piano with Prince watching knowing that you’ll never be as good as he was. Not only does the Loews’ have a Starbucks, it’s attached to the walkway to the Target Center and the Nicollet Mall. The only drawback is that construction to the Target Center and the Nicollet Mall made things a little noisy during my stay.
A family outside the Prince Kids Day Party at First Avenue nightclub during Celebration 2017 Weekend.
Just up the street from the Loews, the Radisson Blu is an upscale Radisson Hotel. It’s comfortable, contemporary and the staff is accommodating. When we were there Celebration weekend, the hotel lobby also had a cool video screen with alternating Prince photos that made a great backdrop for Facebook live recordings and selfies. The Fire Lake Grill House and cocktail bar boasts Minneapolis comfort food like bison. Yup, bison, which we imagine is plentiful out in the Minnesota woods.
Wall art in my room at the Radisson Blu.
Other eateries in town include Hell’s Kitchen, known for its lemon ricotta hotcakes and eclectic décor. It’s a 5 minute Uber ride from any of the downtown hotels. Food is hearty (that bison again) service is friendly and they have both a Saturday and Sunday brunch.
If you need to work out while in town, both hotels offer adequate workout areas, but the Lifetime Fitness, attached to the Target Center and still open during construction, is a warehouse-size gym that offers classes, an indoor track, a café and every workout option in creation. If you stay at Loews’ you pay just a $10 guest fee per workout.
PHOTOS: Tonya Pendleton (Radisson, First Avenue, The Tour) Minneapolis.org