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Minneapolis-Saint Paul actually contains two separate cities. These cities, right across the river from each other are know as the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. It's most known for its hockey, and for hosting the largest indoor mall in the United States, hosting over 520 stores, an amusement park, underwater adventures, a waterpark, and attracting over 40 million visitors per year. It's also know as the "Icebox" of the nation for having such extreme cold temperatures, although there are many more smaller places with colder conditions.
The major fine art museum in town is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Whittier, which covers 5,000 years of art and has a particularly strong collection of Asian art. Not too far away is the Walker Art Center near Loring Park, one of the big five modern art museums in the U.S. Another (mostly) contemporary art museum is the Weisman Art Museum on the U of M East Bank campus; it tends to be more known for its Frank Gehry-designed building than any of the art collections inside. A more recent addition to the collection of art museums in Minneapolis is The Museum of Russian Art, housed in a former church in Southwest Minneapolis; its focus is on 20th century Russian art which naturally means there is also a strong collection of Soviet art.
For history buffs, there's the Mill City Museum near the Downtown riverfront, housed in the former Washburn "A" Mill. The museum chronicles the development of the flour milling industry in Minneapolis; the city was the world's leading producer of flour around the turn of the 20th century. Down in Whittier near the MIA is the Hennepin History Museum, a somewhat low-key museum with permanent and rotating exhibits covering the history of Minneapolis and Hennepin County. They also have an archival library (free and open to the public) covering local history.
With neither mountains nor large bodies of water nearby to moderate the climate, the Twin Cities experience extreme temperatures at both ends of the scale. Winters in Minneapolis can be very cold, while summer is often warm to hot and frequently humid. Snowfall is common in the winter, with at least a few blizzards occurring within the season. Thunderstorms with heavy rainfall occur during the spring, summer, and autumn. The winter cold from December to March can be brutal to the unaccustomed body, with temperatures sometimes dipping below zero. The summer heat from June to September can also be harsh, with temperatures sometimes reaching into the nineties or above, with high humidity. Spring and autumn can be pleasant, with temperatures ranging between the forties and seventies, but during particularly rough years weather-wise those two seasons may either start late or be cut short.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) is the main gateway to Minneapolis-Saint Paul. It has dozens of airlines serving hundreds of destinations throughout the country and outside. Destinations include London, Cancun, Reykjavik, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, New York, Anchorage, Las Vegas, Toronto, Tokyo, Puerto Vallarta, San Francisco, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Amsterdam. There are many more flights within the region and the US.
To/from the airport
Several large parking ramps are available for cars. Most other connections are made at the Hub Building and adjacent Transit Center, which has city and shuttle bus, taxi, light-rail, and rental car service.
The Empire Builder, operated by Amtrak, travels between Chicago, Illinois and Seattle, Washington, stopping en route in St. Paul/Minneapolis.
Interstate Highways 35W and 94 are the main arteries into town. Both will take you to the edges of downtown. I-35W runs north and south (for the most part) and I-94 east and west; both interstates will connect you to the I-494/694 beltway around the metro area. I-394 runs west from downtown to I-494, where it becomes US Hwy 12. Be sure to keep an eye on which lane you're in, as freeway interchanges come up fast, and traffic back-ups will occur at any time, day or night; the morning (7-9:00am) and evening (3-7:00pm) rush hours are predictably congested.
Greyhound offers buses throughout the US.
The city streets have a grid system that's helpful if you learn it. Minneapolis is divided into quadrants: North, South, Northeast and Southeast. Hennepin Avenue forms the divider between streets labeled N and S near downtown. This division continues through the smaller portion of Minneapolis east of the Mississippi, dividing it into Northeast (NE) and Southeast (SE). Further west of downtown, this division lies along Linden Avenue, just north of the I-394 freeway. In North, Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis, all roads carry N, NE, or SE prefixes on street signs. In South Minneapolis, the north-south avenues are marked S. The east-west streets are marked with W or E, depending if you are west or east of Nicollet Avenue. Even though street signs show these directions before the names, most locals read the addresses with them at the end. Thus "York Avenue South" appears on signs as "S York Ave" and "N 33rd Ave" is pronounced "33rd Avenue North".
Minneapolis is one of few cities to use multi-colored street signs. The colors indicate the priority of plowing during winter storms. Although plowing has since changed, they still indicate what sort of street. Blue signs indicate major roads which are "Snow Emergency Routes". These are still the first to be plowed. Rust-colored signs indicate roads that run primarily east-west. Light green signs indicate roads primarily north-south. Dark green signs indicate scenic parkways that ring the city and the lakes.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Metro Transit, ☎ +1 612 373-3333, is the operator of the public transit system in the Twin Cities. Single-ride fares (including unlimited transfers for 2.5 hours) for local and limited-stop services (including the METRO Light Rail) are $2.25 during peak service hours (M-F 6am-9am and 3pm-6:30pm, excluding certain holidays) and $1.75 at all other times. For express services, the fares are $3 during peak hours and $2.25 during off-peak hours. Other fare options are described below.
Unlimited ride passes are available in 1-day, 7-day, and 31-day formats. Stored value passes (pay-per-ride) are also available. Day passes are $6 and can be purchased online, at a Metro Transit Store, from a bus driver, or a ticket machine at any light rail station. 7-day ($22) and 31-day ($59-$113.50) passes must be loaded on a Go-To card, which can be purchased online, at a Metro Transit Store, or participating Metro Transit sales outlets. Stored value passes can be loaded on a Go-To card in increments of $10 (up to $400), and come with a 10% bonus on each purchase (e.g. a $10 purchase would give you $11 in fare value, $20 would give you $22, and so forth). Once in possession of a Go-To card, reloading it with new unlimited ride passes or stored value is easy and can be done online, at Metro Transit stores and outlets, or at light rail ticket machines.
Covering most of an approximate 7x7 block region of central downtown, the Skyway is a series of public pedestrian spaces on the 2nd floor of downtown buildings connected by enclosed bridges between buildings. It is possible to walk through most of downtown and never go outdoors, a real advantage during winter. Additionally, the Skyway allows you to bypass stoplights and quickly move through the city. Beyond the core region, the Skyway reaches about 12 blocks in the north/south direction and 8 blocks east/west. The Skyway is home to multiple restaurants, stores, shops and malls. If visiting downtown Minneapolis during the winter, using a parking deck or staying at a hotel on or very near the Skyway is well worth the investment. Hours vary slightly, but most buildings are open noon-6pm Sunday, 6:30am-9pm or 10pm Monday-Friday and 9:30-8pm on Saturday.
Biking in Minneapolis is a big deal. Over the years, the city has invested heavily in bike trails, lanes and "bicycle boulevards," and a good chunk of its populace uses the man-powered two-wheeler to get around. The larger Twin Cities area also offers a good mix of off-road bike trails; for example one can bike from Chaska to St. Paul using only bike trails, some thirty miles. A variety of maps show the web of on and off-road routes that span the greater metropolitan area. During the winter, major bike trails such as the Midtown Greenway are plowed at the same time as major streets. In some neighborhoods like Downtown, Dinkytown, Uptown, and near the University of Minnesota campus, bikes are seen almost as often as cars.
One of the country's largest urban bike rental programs opened in the summer of 2010. Nice Ride Minnesota two-wheelers are available for rent at 150 locations in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Rides are priced at $4 per half-hour, or you can buy a 3-day pass for $10 which allows for unlimited free rides in 30 minute increments; extra charges can be avoided if you simply return the bike to a station and hop on a new one. If staying in town a bit longer, you can get a 30-day pass for $18, which has the extra benefit of allowing you to use a bike for one full hour without extra charges. You need a credit card to rent a bike or purchase a 3-day pass at a station; 30-day passes can only be purchased online.
Traditional foods associated with Minnesota, including hotdish (casserole) and lutefisk (a Norwegian fish delicacy) are rarely found in restaurants. However, one uniquely Minneapolitan item that can be easily located is the Juicy Lucy (sometimes spelled Jucy Lucy), a cheeseburger variation in which the cheese is cooked inside two molded-together meat patties rather than on top. The cheese inside the burger is gooey and piping hot. While the origin, and spelling, of the Juicy Lucy is disputed, popular places to order a Juicy Lucy include Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club in South Minneapolis, and a short distance across the river in Saint Paul at the Nook, among others.
Minneapolis has one of the most vibrant and independent music scenes in the country. The city is probably most famous for its purple pop wonder, Prince, but also has bands such as Soul Asylum, The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Atmosphere and Hüsker Dü just to name a few. Several clubs in town play host to shows by local bands and your chances of finding a good one are better than average.
There is a good variety of hotels. Downtown hosts many independent and international hotel chains from the mid-range to the high-end. The University of Minnesota campus, not too far from downtown, has many mid-range options. South Minneapolis has limited options but they are also close to downtown. The Twin Cities' only backpackers hostel is located near Eat Street and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Travellers getting by without a car will want to avoid staying in a hotel outside the city.
|Hostel||38th Hiawatha Ave||Hostel||-|
|Minneapolis International Hostel||2400 Stevens Avenue South||Hostel||-|
There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
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