• Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport - The airport is divided into the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals with most flights arriving at the former. Savvy travelers should check to make sure they know which terminal they are arriving at/departing from.
The new light rail train is extremely convenient for those who need to get downtown from the airport. Fare is $1.50-2.00 depending on the time of day. The trains are fast and clean. They also serve the Mall of America and parts of South Minneapolis. The light rail is free between the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminal stations, and only that between those stations.
Airlines serving the Lindbergh Terminal:
• Air Canada
• Air Tran Airways
• American Airlines
• Comair Airlines
• Continental Airlines
• Delta Air Lines
• Frontier Airlines
• Icelandair (service suspended until March 13, 2006)
• Mesaba Airlines
• Northwest Airlines
• United Airlines
• US Airways
Airlines serving the Humphrey Terminal:
• Casino Express
• Champion Air
• Miami Air International
• Omni Air International
• Ryan International
• Sun Country Airlines
• Midwest Connect (Midwest Airlines)
Interstate Highways 35W and 94 are the main arteries into town. Both will take you very close to downtown. 35W runs north and south (for the most part) and 94 east and west. Both highways will connect you to the 494/694 beltway around the metro area. Be sure to keep an eye on which lane you're in, as freeway interchanges come up fast, and traffic back-ups can occur at any time, day or night.
Amtrak - Daily service to Midway station, actually between St. Paul and Minneapolis. The "Empire Builder", Amtrak train 7/27 and 8/28, serves the Twin Cities area, terminating at Chicago and Seattle or Portland (the train splits in Spokane, Washington). This train covers a route similar to the historic "Empire Builder" of the James J. Hill Great Northern Railway.
The number 16 bus route runs along University Avenue, a block south of the station, and it that will take you to downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul. Taxi is probably your best bet for getting to your final destination from the train station.
Greyhound Bus Lines - A station is located in downtown Minneapolis. It's just a few minute's taxi ride away from most of the downtown hotels. It's 4-5 blocks away from a few major bus routes and the light rail. Check the web site above for schedule details. The depot is near a homeless shelter, so it's not uncommon to see a few homeless people hanging out nearby. The area is well-patrolled and quite safe.
Mississippi River. The river runs through town, but passenger boats don't serve the area. Huck Finn fantasies aside, arrival via the Mississippi is not recommended. (Besides, Huck floated down river.)
The city streets have a grid system that's helpful if you take the time to learn it. Minneapolis is divided into four 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 that lies east of the Mississippi River, dividing it into Northeast (NE) and Southeast (SE). Further to the west of downtown, this division lies along Linden Avenue, which is just north of the I-394 freeway. In North, Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis, all roads will carry the N, NE, or SE prefixes on street signs. In South Minneapolis, the north-south running avenues are marked with an S. The east-west running streets are marked with a W or E, depending if you are west or east of Nicollet Avenue. Even though the street signs show these directional designators before the street names, most locals will read the addresses with them at the end. Thus "York Avenue South" appears on street signs as "S York Ave" and "N 33rd Ave" is pronounced as "33rd Avenue North".
Minneapolis also is one of the few cities to use multi-colored street signs. These colors were originally developed to indicate the priority of plowing during winter storms. Although the plowing system has since changed, they can still be helpful to indicate what sort of street you are on. Blue signs indicate major roads which are "Snow Emergency Routes" in winter. These are still the first streets to be plowed after a storm. Rust colored signs indicate roads that run primarily east-west. Light green signs indicate roads that run primarily north-south. Dark green signs indicate scenic parkways that ring the city and the lakes.
• Metro Transit
• Light rail. Serving downtown, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the airport, the Mall of America, and all points in between. This is probably the easiest, fastest, and safest bet for first-time visitors. There's a lot to do along the route, and since currently there only is one route, the odds of getting lost are considerably reduced.
• Bus. The routes and fares are notoriously confusing to non-natives. The web site, however, is very user-friendly. It gives you the option of entering your beginning and ending points and times and points you in the direction of the best route(s) to get where you want to go. While some improvements have been made recently, you should still carry a schedule and map for any bus route you are riding. Bus stops are located very nearly everywhere throughout the city, but some are served only very infrequently, and most are not labeled as to which routes serve them at which times. The route with the most attraction is the number 6 bus which passes through Uptown, Dinkytown, and Downtown. The 16 bus connects Downtown with the University of Minnesota and Twin City, St. Paul.
Public Transit Tips for First-Time Visitors
There are loads of things to do downtown once you get there, and you can walk to most of them, so we won't focus a lot on the downtown stops. Let's assume you're starting downtown in a hotel somewhere. The first stop you might be interested in is The Metrodome, home to the Minnesota Vikings (football), The Minnesota Twins (baseball), various University of Minnesota games and the occasional rock concert.
Next stop, Cedar/Riverside. If you walk a few blocks east to Cedar Avenue, there's a vibrant, diverse and sometimes dangerous neighborhood known as the West Bank. When I say dangerous, I'm not talking about Cabrini Green level crime, but rather, a neighborhood where one should stay in well-lit areas and cab home if you have a few too many or stay a little too late. (Bars are open until 2 a.m.) Before you are frightened away, there's much this neighborhood has to offer that really shouldn't be missed. The 400 Bar is one of the top clubs in town. It used to be a place where local bands played on pool tables. Now they offer national touring acts from all over the country. The drink prices are a little inflated. The 400 is located on the corner of Cedar Ave and Riverside Ave. The Falafel King restaurant is across the street. If you head east on Riverside Avenue, you'll encounter the Hard Times coffee shop. Hard Times is open 24 hours. The quality of the food can vary widely depending on who is on duty. They offer good coffee, (often) loud music, games, etc. The Nomad is just a little further south on Cedar Ave. It's a relatively new club, so I can't report much at this time. Across the street from The Nomad, is Palmers. Palmers gets a little rough, if you don't know how to behave yourself while drinking. Not for the weak of heart or mind. Mind your own business if you go there. Keep heading back south down Cedar Avenue and you'll come to the Triple Rock Social Club , one of the best venues for music in town. The bar side has great food with a lot of vegetarian options. The club side has a big stage and fantastic sound system. Check their web site above for listings. Still further down Cedar Avenue are the Whiskey Junction and The Cabooze. Whiskey Junction is a favorite hang out for bikers, but a good number of those are the suburban type with expensive Harley Davidsons. The Cabooze is mostly a college hang out. Both venues offer live music most nights. If you make it to the Cabooze, you're already near the Franklin Avenue Light Rail stop. Get back on and head down to Lake Street.
Lake Street/Midtown has a lot to offer on weekend days in the spring and summer. Namely an outdoor market with lots of good food and locally made goodies. Worth a stop for sure. You can also catch a 21 bus from here to Uptown (make sure the bus is going west).
The next few stops take you to mostly residential neighborhoods. While there are things to do along them, they're not easily accessible on foot, so we'll skip ahead to 50th Street/Minnehaha Park. The Minnehaha Park station is adjacent to a park and Minnehaha Falls. You can see the 53 foot falls and walk along the creek on its way to the Mississippi River.
The Fort Snelling station is located after the VA Medical Center station. Fort Snelling makes a great day trip. It's the original settlement in Minnesota and an early wilderness outpost.
Next is the Airport and then the Mall of America, the gleaming, gargantuan monument to advanced capitalism. It offers an indoor amusement park, movies, restaurants and more shopping than is comprehensible. It's a day trip in itself, but not for the thrifty. Food, shopping and Camp Snoopy can burn through your wallet fast. Not for those with poor impulse control.
Although biking can be more difficult the colder half of the year, Minneapolis offers biking lanes and biking trails throughout the city. Major bike trails such as the 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.