Peru, Shanghai, Madagascar…Minneapolis?

Despite its bland, Midwestern image, Minneapolis has a lot to offer.

Illustrator: Morgan Wittmers

Recently, the Wall Street Journal released their 2018 Travel Guide. Guess which destination ranked fourth on their 10-location list of the best spots to see around the world. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef? Nope. Italy’s scenic Amalfi Coast? No, again. Minneapolis, Minnesota? You betcha.

While the Journal mentioned Prince, Bob Dylan, and the imminent Super Bowl in their justification, they focused primarily on the Twin Cities food scene. The list itself was crafted to appeal to “adventurous sophisticates, curious foodies, and deep-pocketed beach bums,” according to the Journal. So, I guess they picked Minneapolis to please the foodies?

While I agree with their choice, Minneapolis has so much more to offer than its food, musicians, and football. In fact, cities shouldn’t be evaluated on their restaurants, sporting events, or shows. Instead, free attractions should take precedent, since these are things anyone can access and enjoy. When tourists visit a city, they want to experience its vibe and culture, but not necessarily pay to do so. Luckily in Minneapolis, free attractions are everywhere.

Nature, both free and abundant, sets the tone for Minneapolis. The Mississippi River divides the city and brings trees and wildlife mere blocks from the bustling downtown. In Chicago and New York, remnants of nature fill city parks, but in Minneapolis nature is the city’s vein. Minneapolis also has an extensive network of walking and biking paths that crisscross the city and run parallel to the river, providing visitors with free and easy access to nature.

The Mill District straddles the Mississippi and richly echoes Minneapolis history with its repurposed buildings and authentic vibes. Stone Arch Bridge provides visitors with a mesmerizing view of St. Anthony Falls and other traces of Minneapolis’s industrial past. The District supplies a historical perspective that intertwines the Mississippi with Minneapolis milling history.

The foodies the Journal aims to reach would appreciate the organic produce, homemade goods and innovative food trucks of the Mill District’s weekly farmer’s market. Minneapolis does have a spread of exquisite cuisine, at least for a Midwestern city, but health-conscious travelers will be drawn to the market and Minneapolis’s many vegan and vegetarian restaurants.

In Chicago and New York, remnants of nature fill city parks, but in Minneapolis nature is the city’s vein.

For those impressed by the market, a stroll downtown reveals food trucks galore. On the way, visitors can view the intricate architecture of Minneapolis’s stone buildings and the modern skyscrapers that spring up as they reach downtown.

There, they can explore shops along the nearly refinished Nicollet Mall and take in views of the city from the observation deck at Foshay Tower (which yes, does require an admission fee).

From downtown, visitors can hike to the Walker Art Center’s free sculpture garden to see the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, as well as a wide variety of interactive and striking sculptures that provide a fresh and innocent perspective on art. The world-renowned Walker Art Center itself is a great stop, but there is a cost to visit it.

At the Walker you’re nearly in Uptown, a section of Minneapolis that, for me, has some of the most appealing vibes. Uptown is the definition of upscale, and would appeal to the Journal’s “adventurous sophisticates,” if shopping, people watching, and expensive dining can be considered adventurous.

After perusing the shops of Uptown, visitors can walk a few blocks west to the Lake of the Isles. Lake Calhoun (aka Bde Maka Ska) and Lake Harriet are beautiful and offer wonderful framed vistas of the Minneapolis skyline. For those deep-pocketed beach bums, the lakes have charming beaches by Midwestern standards, and these deep-pocketed visitors only need to glance at the gigantic houses lining the lakes to feel at home. Even for those who don’t have such deep pockets, dreaming about owning these houses is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

While Minneapolis may not be an obvious stop for the world-traveler, it is a worthy destination. Minneapolis offers an eclectic mix of history, food, renowned art, shopping, and historic houses, all framed by nature and the bustle of the city. It has a reputation as a city of lakes, snow, and the Vikings, but Minnesotans have much more to offer. While Minneapolis undoubtedly appeals to the Journal’s sophisticates, foodies, and wealthy beach bums, as a city, we encompass and invite a much more diverse range of visitors. In fact, Minneapolis welcomes diversity, a quality the Journal’s nomination ignores in favor of more superficial attractions. Minneapolis is a worthy nominee, and not for the reasons the Journal notes.