This was my first trip to Minneapolis in over ten years. Not at all as I recall it. Way cooler in some ways, way sleepier in others.
I planned a short one-day trip specifically to check out Brad Kahlhamer’s show at the Minnesota Institute of American Art- it’s MAJOR! More on that below.
In prepping for my visit, I researched the city’s art scene and ended up extending my trip into a full-on 3-day cultural immersion. Extremely worthwhile!
That said, I have to preface this review of my 36 hrs in Minneapolis with a caveat. I am an action junkie. And I love high-energy, hip, emerging scenes, which is why I am going to start with my hotel.
The Hewing, in the North Loop/Warehouse District, is fantastic. I’m a total sucker for this type of hotel. Their lobby is amazing. It’s a vibrant spot where locals gather as much as hotel guests do. Unless you’re a Four Seasons’ fancy-pants kind of person, stay at the Hewing!
- It’s the epicenter of cool (in my opinion). Thank you, Neely Tamminga, for insisting I stay here.
- What I loved most about the Hewing was its vibe, along with its decor, and the location. This is where my tribe hangs out.
- It was formerly a farm equipment showroom, so its proportions are ginormous.
- It’s comfy but rough-hewn, rugged but chic. The custom wallpapers are fantastic, and I especially loved having my coffee in the morning ensconced in one of their window seats (spectacular when a major thunderstorm rolls through town).
- It reminded me a lot of Chicago’s Soho House.
- The staff is exceptional. Thorough, caring, and they have opinions about what you should order (and I love that)!
- There’s a rooftop lounge with glorious sunset views.
- They also have bikes available for hotel guests.
Having the Hewing as my home base (vs. the Aloft where I initially planned to stay), dialed up the quality of my visit immeasurably. And, by the way, I walked past the Aloft on my way to the Walker Art Center, and all I could think was, “Wow, so glad I’m not staying here – or in that part of town.”
So tip #1: choose your hotel wisely.
Tip #2: if you stay at the Hewing, make sure you book directly online and prepay – it’ll save you almost $100 a night.
While almost every aspect of my hotel experience was outstanding, there were a few peculiarities:
- For example, their highly-touted restaurant, Tullibee, had created a special Restaurant Week menu which offered a limited selection of two starters, two mains, and two desserts.
- However, at dinner, they relayed a few specials to us. One was a cheese plate. I said great, I’ll have the special cheese plate as my main. This is where it goes off the rails.
- The specials are only available as add-ons. Therefore you have to order two entrees. If I wanted the cheese plate, I would have to order it on top of one of the mains on the menu.
- To me, that’s bizarre. They did, however, suggest they could simply not serve me the menu entrée, but I would still have to pay for both dishes. Then it just turns into a weird kind of rip off – and I honestly don’t feel that was their intent.
- The second peculiar thing about the hotel is how dog-friendly it is.
- It appears to have become a top destination for professional dog walkers to hang out with their pack of hounds.
- While I was there, two dog walkers took over a few couches for their pooches. I know all my dog lover friends will think this is great, but I don’t want to sit on a couch that has just had five dogs slobbering all over it. But lest that dissuade you, they also have a stellar team of clean-up people who mop and vacuum after dogs have visited.
Those are, however, the only two misses. I would stay at the Hewing again in a heartbeat. And I did stay there again on Sunday night after my flight to NYC got interminably delayed. That’s also when I found out how much better it is to book and prepay at the Hewing. Scroll down for pics.
Also, read on below for more on the Minneapolis Culture Beat as well as other observations from my 3-day stay.
The Hewing Hotel
Lobby and Rooms
Bar/Restaurant, Rooftop, Bikes
The Walker Art Center
The Walker Art Center has an excellent permanent collection, some of which is currently on view in an exhibition titled “Five Ways In” (up through September 2021). Great show.
I also managed to see The Body Electric on its last day – outstanding. See pics below.
The Body Electric Show
The Minneapolis Sculpture Park (adjacent to the Walker) – one of the best installations of outdoor art I’ve seen.
MIA (Minneapolis Institute of Art)
Currently showing “Hearts of our People” by Native Women Artists. It’s up thru August 18 (I haven’t heard if it is traveling). It’s gotten well-deserved, rave reviews from critics all over the country. Highly recommend.
Aside from this show, the museum has much to offer. I was particularly intrigued to see Turkish Rugs on Tudor Walls, but I had overspent my time with the Native Women artists.
MIA reminds me of NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in terms of the depth and variety of its collections.
This is where Brad is showing “A Nation of One.” Major kudos also to the museum team for this beautiful installation of Brad’s work. It’s up until August 25 before traveling to Fargo, ND.
This is a non-profit, ultra-professional but community-oriented printmaking shop. They work with leading artists with sales of those print editions going towards supporting local school initiatives and keeping rates for co-op members affordable. Thank you again, Neely, for the introduction!
We saw Guys and Dolls which I knew very little about except it was from the 1950s. I was curious to see how it held up – especially in light of Oklahoma’s revamp, which garnered it a Tony Award for musical revival on Broadway this year.
Guys and Dolls has gotten an update. They took liberties with the casting – all of which are spot-on and go a long way in refreshing this musical for modern times.
I found it extremely entertaining – only one musical number felt dated to me.
At the intermission, my friends insisted we head up to the 9th floor. Totally worthwhile. The views are magnificent.
While I had not been to Minneapolis for many years, I was nevertheless surprised by how unfamiliar the city felt to me.
I don’t recall where I stayed in the past. Most likely it was in the business district among those tall office towers vs. the super cool, warehouse district.
In any event, on this trip, virtually everything felt like a new experience – not always for the better.
The city felt surprisingly small to me.
But incredibly well-maintained and orderly. I don’t know if that’s because it’s the middle of the summer and people are away (up north?) or if the warehouse district is quiet and less populated (not unlike how Tribeca in NYC feels)?
But for whatever reason, I did not experience the vibrancy I had expected. There were no crowds, no chaos, no litter (which is good). There was not even a sign of homelessness (also good).
I was only there for three days and had a very specific agenda around art, so this all has to be taken with a grain of salt, but I was surprised that the city was so low key. Milwaukee, which I visited last year (pop: 595K vs. Minneapolis pop: 422K), felt much more dynamic. I don’t get it – was I just in the wrong places at the wrong time of year?
That said, the North Loop/ Warehouse District is fabulous. Everything here is cool from the old warehouses to the retro signage to the retail, e.g., Warby Parker, Lululemon, Knoll. There’s also a Spaces (co-working) and Whole Foods – but that’s in a brand-new condo building in the area.
The culinary scene was a bit of a letdown. I ate at Tullibee, Spoon and Stable and Sea Change. All were good, but none knocked my socks off. I am sure locals have all manner of favorites, but I also hadn’t done specific restaurant research for this trip. So although all the places I picked were on the “best of Minneapolis” lists, they had not been vetted by any local foodies.
Micro-Mobility Solutions are a big hit in the Twin Cities, i.e., e-scooters are everywhere. And it’s made me even less of a fan (if that’s possible).
Uber, on the other hand, works like a charm. No need to rent a car when visiting Minneapolis.
Minnesotans are mad for marriage — three weddings at my hotel and one nearby. At one point, two brides got into the elevator with me at the same time. Awkward! Also lots of babies and kids. This is a family-friendly city.
Home to the largest population of Somalis in America. This was the biggest surprise for me as I got off the plane and saw groups of Somali women in abayas, awaiting family and friends. I had not been aware that Minnesota is home to 74,000 Somalis as of 2016.
Of course, it shouldn’t have been a surprise since Ilhan Omar (who has been much in the news with her on-going tussle with Trump), represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs.
I even got an abaya-wearing Uber driver. She was extraordinarily chatty, so I learned a little bit about the culture as well. I hear the Somali food marts and restaurants are amazing. I missed out on this trip.
I loved my hotel (highly recommend), loved the art which brought me here in the first place and loved getting together with friends (new and old). Overall, people are incredibly friendly here.
On the other hand, I couldn’t quite get in sync with the city. I may just be too hardwired for a more hectic, high-energy, fast-paced style of life.