Aug 13, 2023 - Things to Do

Twin Cities Arts Guide: Best museums, music venues and performances

Photo: Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Twin Cities is home to a multitude of arts and culture opportunities, from hyperlocal music venues to nationally acclaimed theaters.

  • Whether you're new in town or a longtime local rediscovering old favorites, there's something for everyone.

Museums

🎨 Walker Art Center: The home of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden features rotating exhibits by acclaimed artists from around the nation and world, a permanent collection, art-house film screenings and more.

πŸ†“ Minneapolis Institute of Art: The cities' largest art museum has nearly 90,000 works spanning 5,000 years. Aside from one rotating paid exhibit, it's free for everyone.

πŸ–Ό Cafesjian Art Trust Museum: The Shoreview art museum focuses on studio glass and brings the late St. Paul philanthropist and businessman Gerard Cafesjian's private collection under one roof.

  • Tip: Reservations are free and tend to go fast, but the museum often posts last-minute cancellations on Instagram.

πŸͺ Bell Museum: Great for kids and adults alike, the St. Paul natural history museum has the Twin Cities' only public planetariums with rotating shows.

  • Tip: Keep an eye out for Star Parties β€” late-night or early-morning events where guests can stargaze with the help of the museum's telescopes and astronomy team.

🌎 Science Museum of Minnesota: The state's premiere science museum has many permanent exhibits and the Omnitheater, a 90-foot dome screen showing films about space, animals and the natural world.

  • Tip: Don't miss the musical staircase, which plays a different note when you tread on each step.

Music venues

First Avenue is one of the most popular venues. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

There are dozens of spots of various sizes to see live music, whether local bands or national tours. Here are a few:

⭐️ First Avenue venues: The independently owned and operated company runs a host of venues around town, including its iconic namesake First Avenue, 7th Street Entry, Palace Theatre, Fitzgerald Theater, Fine Line and Turf Club.

  • Tip: You and a guest can get into any show free at select venues that take place on your birthday.

🍻 Local hangs: Grab a bite and a brew while enjoying live music at bar/restaurant venues like Icehouse, Palmer's Bar, Mortimer's, Dakota Jazz Club, Green Room, KJ's Hideaway and Amsterdam Bar & Hall.

🏟 Stadium shows: Major artists like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Billy Joel, Pearl Jam and more frequently book stops at venues like U.S. Bank Stadium, Target Center, Xcel Energy Center and Huntington Bank Stadium.

Performing arts

Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

From Broadway musicals to local improv, there's a stage for every kind of show, including these six:

🎭 Guthrie Theater: The nationally renowned Minneapolis theater produces contemporary and classic plays across three stages and runs professional training for up-and-coming performers.

🎢 Orpheum Theatre: The Hennepin Theater District venue frequently hosts Broadway tours, musicals and stand-up comedians along with sister sites Pantages and State theatres.

🌏 Theater Mu: As the second-largest Asian-American theatre organization in the country, the St. Paul company produces a variety of shows focused on the Asian-American experience.

πŸ—£ HUGE Improv: The artist-led nonprofit is dedicated to producing and training performers in the art of improvisation. It's currently moving to a larger space in Minneapolis, but will reopen in September.

🎀 Penumbra Theatre: The company is one of three professional African American theatres in the nation that offer a full slate of performances, including its popular Christmas show Black Nativity.

🎻 Ordway: St. Paul's non-profit performing arts center puts on Broadway musicals, opera, orchestra and cultural performances throughout the year.

1 local cinema to visit

Photo: Courtesy of the Main Cinema

The Twin Cities has a thriving independent movie theater scene, but The Main Cinema, formerly known as St. Anthony Main Theater, will always be one of my favorites.

  • It's run by MSP Film Society and has the widest selection I've seen in the Twin Cities β€” blockbusters, foreign flicks, arthouse films and the occasional cult classic.

Plus: It's in the heart of Main Street, arguably the most picturesque spot in the cities. I often show up early for a walk to the Stone Arch Bridge and a drink on Aster Cafe's riverfront patio.

🍿 Tip: Always get the popcorn. At $10 for a large and $4 for a small, it's cheaper than any chain theater around and so much better.

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