Twin Cities-Minnesota *A City Guide for Travel Nurses or Nurses who Travel*
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota - aka the Twin Cities-were my first stop as a travel nurse. Whenever I look, there are always postings at hospitals in this area, tempting traveling nurses and RTs with high pay and nice apartments. Hospitals in the Twin Cities include: Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Clinics, and University of Minnesota Medical Center.
This travel nurse hotspot was my first stop due to its close proximity to family and friends in Wisconsin, in addition to being the home of my cutie patootie little brother, Alexander, and his Italian Stallion boyfriend, Alberto - both of whom attended the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. Go Gophers!
While working at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minneapolis, and living in St.Paul- I was able to explore some really fun areas around the cities AND take some pretty fantastic day trips. This city guide - written by both myself and my brother - will highlight all the go to places that you just can’t miss.
Alexander: Hello everyone! Having lived in Minneapolis for about 5 years now, I’ve made a lot of the suggestions below. It’s no secret that our winters are unlike any other in the U.S.; luckily, the local population likes to go out year-round and stay warm with some good food. Enjoy!
Downtown Minneapolis is in major transition like many other similar cities. They recently built a new baseball stadium and football stadium, so try to catch a game while you’re in town! The best areas to explore within the downtown area are North Loop, Northeast, Hennepin Avenue, and the famous skyways connecting everything downtown.
Food In North Loop:
Smack Shack: The only seafood restaurant my brother trusts this far away from the ocean! Try the lobster roll, lobster guac, or the smack burger.
Bar La Grassa: Book ahead! If you’re looking for Olive Garden or Buca di Beppo then stay away! If you’re looking to try authentic and new dishes for a treat-yo-self kind of night, then book at least a week in advance. BLG (as the locals say) was given the stamp of approval from my brother’s Milanese boyfriend, so you know it’s good. You cannot skip the soft eggs and lobster bruschetta - it is at the top of my brother’s GET IN MY BELLY food.
Spoon and Stable: Definitely another treat-yo-self kind of meal as this is not a thrifty establishment. However, its chef was voted by Food & Wine magazine as the top chef in the Midwest and they aren’t wrong. It’s ever-changing menu based on the seasonality of the Midwest mixed with French-cuisine attracted Sarah Jessica Parker to come visit. If it’s good enough for SJP, then it’s good enough for me!
Food In Northeast:
Ginger Hop: British-Asian fusion...need I say more? Yes - it’s weird, but oh so good. This is a go to spot for casual dining. BONUS: Honey, an eclectic bar/club, is located below and has been known to have 90’s Pop/RnB nights, Destiny's Child nights, Spice Girls night, etc…
Maya Cuisine: If you’re like me and you’ve had an assignment (or 3) in the south, then you probably have high standards for Mexican food. Maya Cuisine is the only authentic Mexican joint in the cities that I’ve found.
Punch Pizza: Real Neapolitan pizza. This is not a drill! Don’t believe what other websites say about Black Sheep Pizza or Pizzeria Lola - Punch is the real deal!
Food in Downtown Minneapolis:
The Local: Located right on Nicollet Mall in Downtown, this happy hour hot spot is perfect to stop in for some corned beef or a pint. The inside is a historic Irish pub that was taken apart in Ireland and reassembled in Minneapolis - my Irish roots felt right at home!
The Newsroom: My brother can’t even count how many times he has been here. It is such a solid choice for when you cannot decide what to have - they have a bit of everything and the quality is fantastic for the price. Must haves include Brie Curds and the Mommie Dearest cocktail (it comes with a little wire hanger - how could you not?). BONUS: Their cocktails are strong as hell; perfect after a hard day/night nursing.
Food in the surrounding areas:
Milkjam Creamery: THAI ICE TEA ICE CREAM! #needisaymore? This Uptown ice cream heaven opened up just this year and is packed every night. They accommodate GF, Vegan, Lactose-free, and sweet-toothed little brothers. They are owned by the World Street Kitchen restaurant next door (also amazing) and offer unique, can’t-find-anywhere-else flavors, PLUS a special JAM BUN - a scoop of ice cream inside a donut from Glam Doll Donuts (the best donut house in the area). #whatdiet?
Cafe Lurcat: Affordable fine dining right on Loring Park. You can’t go wrong with anything here, especially their fresh-baked bread (I always fill up on this before my food comes…). They have a “Date night” every Sunday which is a 3 course meal for $50 per couple!
George and the Dragon: Though it is a bit farther from downtown, this British pub is worth the 15 minute drive. The cozy atmosphere is inviting and intimate - great for fish and chips and a pint. BONUS: While you wait for your table, run next door to Patina and look at their selection of cute accessories and fun Minnesota-themed gifts.
Lucia’s Cafe: A charming little cafe located near Lake Calhoun, perfect for a lunch and a coffee or picking up some goodies for a lakeside picnic.
Travail Kitchen and Amusements: Located in Robbinsdale, about 20 minutes from Downtown, this gem is one of a kind in the Midwest. Usually you find this type of innovation and creativity in the heart of Manhattan, but you can experience it for half the price in Minnesota. It sounds weird, but purchase your tickets to the “eating experience” ahead of time and come prepared to be amazed by new smells, tastes, and textures.
The Twin Cities are consistently voted as one of the most bike-friendly areas in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that you’ll be able to bike almost anywhere with a special little lane on the road or a private bike path. Like many progressive cities, there’s a local public bike rental system called “Nice Rides” - be sure to check it out before investing in a bike or hauling yours from home. Here’s two major biking destinations to try while you’re in the area - Minnehaha Falls and Lake Calhoun.
Minnehaha Falls: This fun-to-say waterfall is at the center of Minnehaha Park which runs all along the Mississippi. Enjoy a leisurely ride down the Mississippi and stop at this beautiful landscape or you can safely ride there from downtown. It’s not closeto downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis by any means, but the fit locals love it. While in the area, you can explore Lake Nokomis, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Lake Calhoun: Minnesota calls themselves “Land of 10,000 Lakes”...well they weren't lying - there’s a lot of them! Fortunately for us, beautiful Lake Calhoun is right near downtown Minneapolis. In the summer their beach is open to swimmers, kayakers, sunbathers, and water yogis! If biking is your thing - you’ll love pedaling around Calhoun and checking out all the fancy houses and local watering holes next door in Uptown.
Though Minneapolis-St. Paul is not the epicenter for tourism, there are a few things to check out in the area in which locals are sure to show off to visiting friends and family.
Sculpture Garden: CLOSED UNTIL 2017! Too bad, but if you’re reading this after then, make sure to check out the iconic Cherry and Spoon sculpture among a garden of modern sculptures and a beautiful botanical garden. Bonus - it’s right next to the Modern Art museum - the Walker Art Center. There’s always fun events to go to there!
North Loop: We all know that in every city, there’s that one #yuppiehotspot where you can find overpriced boutiques, a whole foods, warehouse lofts and trendy restaurants and bars. This is it, folks!
Theater District: Still developing after the $1 billion new stadium went up, Downtown East boasts the amazing Guthrie Theater! If you look up #minneapolis, you’re bound to see at least yellow-tinted skyline picture. Instagram guys and gals are going to LOVE the photo ops that can happen at the Guthrie’s balconies and top floor. Plus, it’s right next to the Historic Stone Arch Bridge - arguable the most instagramable locale in the Twin Cities.
Uptown: This area is where all the action happens at night - bars-a-plenty. However, by day, you can stroll down the street to explore affordable boutiques, right next to M.A.C. Cosmetics, Victoria’s Secret, and Apple.
While smaller than it’s counterpart, St. Paul still has so much to offer. The Mississippi runs right past the downtown area and offers a beautiful jogging/bike path. I loved the area surrounding Grand Ave. for it’s cute little shops and restaurants.
St. Paul Cathedral: Completed in 1958, this stunning cathedral is a must see. Being so large in size -seats 3,000 people - it’s quite hard to miss. Its beautiful domes and archways can be seen for miles.
Summit Avenue: Try to sneak into one of the open houses here for an awesome free tour of beautiful #oldmoney mansions. Just kidding...not really.
Grand Avenue: The best walking street in St. Paul for its cute little coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
Mickey's: Featured on countless shows and even Mighty Ducks and Jingle All the Way, Mickey’s Diner has damn good food. Period.
Cossetta's: Three words. Italian food heaven. This place has everything you could possibly want including a grocery, deli, restaurant, and patisserie/coffee shop. Their food is amazing and never disappoints.
Forepaugh's: Located in a beautiful Victorian mansion, Forepaugh’s is perfect for a fancy dinner or upscale brunch. The downstairs dining room serves more casual fare, while the upstairs is a bit more upscale. Sitting on their rooftop terrace, gazing over Irvine Park while sipping a mimosa is enough to make anyone feel like a southern belle.
Nina’s: This adorable coffee shop was my favorite spot to grab coffee before work or sit around and get some work done on my days off. Further away from the bustling U of M scene- you can almost always find a table to chill and sip a latte.
The Blue Door Pub: Home of the Blucy - their version of the famous local Juicy Lucy, two burger patties cooked together with cheese melted in between. Being just as good as it sounds; it’s no wonder this pub was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Sometime being so far north may seem isolating, but luckily there are some amazing things to do on your weekends or days off that are just a hop, skip, and a jump away.
Mall of America: The ultimate mall experience. Don’t be afraid to indulge your inner child and go on a few rides! This mall features something for everyone with thrifty to high-end shopping, great local restaurants, cheap chains, and the biggest parking structure you’ve probably ever seen.
Stillwater: Just about a half hour from “the cities,” Stillwater is a quaint town that fun to explore. It is located on the St. Croix river, where you can findpaddle wheel riverboat cruises and a historic downtown full of shops and restaurants.
Edina: This upscale suburb has great restaurants, a quaint downtown, and the most upscale shopping center in the area - The Galleria. Many locals like to boast that they have a Louis Vuitton store…..but who really needs to go to Minneapolis for that?
The Cities can feel pretty far from the rest of the U.S., so long weekends to surrounding cities are a bit out of reach unless you want to take a plane. Luckily, there are a few quick road trips that you can hop on the highway for.
Boundary Waters: Considered the only internationally recognized touristic site in the great state of Minnesota, the Boundary Waters are b-e-a-utiful! Take the 4 hour drive up there, even stop in Duluth on the way up, and be sure to bring or rent a canoe!
Badlands/Black Hills: Ok - this is a bit of a stretch because of the 7 hour drive. However, one of my most favorite memories from my summer in this region was my roadtrip to the Badlands with the boys. It’s not the most exciting drive through South Dakota - so make sure you bring good company - but the destination is well worth it. We did some amazing hikes through canyons and scaling rockfaces. For a good laugh, stop at the “famous” Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Seriously - who came up with this idea? Anyway, the Badlands area, not too far from Mt. Rushmore, is (in my opinion) the most underrated national parks in the U.S. BONUS: There’s a little outpost where you can cuddle and feed Prairie Dogs…I think we must have stayed there for hours.
Whenever you’re in a Midwestern city, you should not be surprised to see the amount of bars, clubs, and endless excuses to drink. Minneapolis - St. Paul is no exception; in fact, they take it quite to the extreme. No matter what area you are in on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, there will always be crowds-aplenty throwing them back to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer - any excuse, right? Top nightlife areas include, Hennepin Avenue, Uptown, Northeast, Downtown St. Paul, and the North Loop.
Crave Rooftop: Open only in the summer, this is where the cool kids hang out. Don’t be afraid though, the cool kids in the Cities are still "Minnesota Nice". Great music, drinks, and atmosphere located on Hennepin Ave. downtown Minneapolis- an all-around fun dance bar.
Marvel Bar: A modern speakeasy nestled underneath one of the best Scandinavian restaurants in the U.S., The Bachelor Farmer, right in the North Loop’s back yard. Grab an artisanal after dinner drink, then dance your little butt off at Jetset or Tangiers nearby.
Union: This downtown Minneapolis rooftop is open year-round due to it’s glass ceiling. This typical dance bar has some raging music to dance with your best friends and meet new ones. Come back for Sunday brunch for a great meal and bottomless mimosas!
Saloon: A city with such a large LGBTQ community cannot be complete without a bustling gay bar and the Saloon doesn’t disappoint! Being the highest grossing bar in Minneapolis, the Saloon pours stiff, cheap drinks, has multiple dance floors, and even hosts a shower strip show some nights! No pictures allowed ya cheeky!
First Avenue: Made famous by the beloved Price (R.I.P), First Avenue continues to thrive as a bar, club, and music venue. Even if you aren’t the type to go out on the weekend, you must stop by and pay tribute to the Prince of Pop’s old stomping ground.
Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge & Betty Danger’s: Found in Northeast and featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, this updated tiki bar is a BLAST! Get stiff drinks served in tiki cups and hang out on their patio overlooking the Mississippi River. Although it is best known as a tiki bar, they serve up some mean food for when you’re hungry and tipsy. Their sister bar, Betty Danger’s, is right around the corner and has an awesome ferris wheel in their backyard - WHAT?! Yes..a ferris wheel.