Sep 1, 2021 - Things to Do
9 things to do around the University of Minnesota
university of minnesota mascot gopher in front of M logo
Photo by Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The University of Minnesota is welcoming droves of Golden Gophers to its campuses over the next several days.

What's happening: The school's Welcome Week starts Wednesday for what could be the largest freshman class in 50 years. The jump in enrollment is likely due to students deferring last fall, UMN Vice Provost Bob McMaster told KARE 11 in July.

  • Thousands of new students will move into their dorms and apartments this week, and attend orientation activities through Labor Day.

Are you a parent staying in the Cities for a few days? A student new to campus who wants to ditch the mandatory school spirit sessions?

  • We rounded up nine things to do near East Bank, West Bank and the St. Paul campus.

But first, a brief explainer to help you get your footing around town:

East Bank: What most people are referring to when they talk about the Twin Cities campus. It's the largest area of campus and has a little bit of everything.

West Bank: The area of campus west of the Mississippi River and closest to downtown Minneapolis. Primarily arts and social science buildings.

Dinkytown: The historic student neighborhood directly north of East Bank. A lot of the area is under construction, but it's mostly made up of student apartment buildings, bars and restaurants, plus the only Target within walking distance

Como: The neighborhood northeast of Dinkytown, primarily large houses occupied by students and families.

Stadium Village: Another neighborhood that begins east of Oak Street on East Bank. Named after the multiple stadiums in the area, including Huntington Bank (formerly TCF Bank Stadium).

St. Paul campus: The U’s smaller campus a few miles away from East and West Banks, primarily accessible via city and free campus busses. Mostly holds farming and agricultural buildings.

How to kick off the semester:
  • Looking for an easy bike ride? The Dinkytown Greenway bike path is just 1-mile-long and runs through West Bank, Dinkytown and East Bank, ending at Huntington Bank Stadium.
  • Head south on the Blue Line to explore Minnehaha Park, a 193-acre city park known for the Minnehaha Falls near the entrance. Tip: The park's seafood restaurant Sea Salt Eatery is one of the best in the Cities.
  • St. Anthony Main: A short walk from Dinkytown, this area has stunning views of the Minneapolis skyline and Mississippi River, an entrance to the Stone Arch Bridge, several restaurants and St. Anthony Main Theatre, a charming independent theater that's also the only one close to campus.
  • Al's Breakfast, a Dinkytown institution that's also the narrowest restaurant in Minneapolis at 10-feet-wide, is a must-try. Prepare to wait in line to squeeze onto one of the 14 stools, but it's worth it just for the experience. Tip: It's cash only.
  • St. Paul has plenty of museums just steps from the light rail or bus, including the Bell Museum (free for students) on the UMN St. Paul campus, the Science Museum of Minnesota downtown and the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
  • Walk, bike or take public transportation to one of the many sports games around the Cities. All the major stadiums, like Allianz Field and U.S. Bank Stadium, are next to light rail stops. Or, if you're a student, attend other University games, like volleyball, baseball and wrestling, for free with your U Card.
  • West Bank's House of Balls is a local sculptor's decades-long passion project and one of the weirdest, most fascinating museums in Minnesota. It's free to visit and truly indescribable.
  • See live performances at one of the many venues within walking distance of campus. Try Varsity Theater in Dinkytown and Cedar Cultural Center on West Bank for music. For theater, check out Mixed Blood Theatre and Theatre in the Round, both on West Bank.
  • The Como Zoo and Conservatory has everything: beautiful year-round botanical gardens, a free zoo and Como Town, a family amusement park with nearly 20 rides. Reservations and masks required.
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