Don’t get me wrong — I love Minneapolis.
I live downtown Minneapolis. I spend a lot of time downtown at restaurants and attending shows in the theaters. I support downtown businesses.
I explored the Tip-Off Tailgate on Nicollet Mall and the Final Four Fan Fest at the Minneapolis Convention Center mostly out of curiosity. I haven’t attended a Final Four, and it’s interesting to see how officials promote and highlight Minneapolis.
Walking through both venues is one long advertisement.
Everything you see is branded.
There’s the Wendy’s music stage. Every time I walked by, nothing was going on. Wendy’s had a “food truck” (that’s a stretch) where they were sampling food and handing out t-shirts. The lines were obnoxious.
Capital One has a ferris wheel. They also are the first thing you see upon entering the Fan Fest hall inside the Convention Center.
Ritz crackers has a booth.
Buffalo Wild Wings has a mobile bar on Nicollet Mall where they don’t serve food. Instead, you can only buy beer. Fail.
You can play basketball at the Geico booth. You can play basketball at the Buick booth. You can play basketball at the AT&T booth. Lots of choices.
If you have been waiting to sample Orange Vanilla Coke, get your booty downtown Minneapolis. They serve it everywhere. They’re trying really hard to make Orange Vanilla Coke a thing. On Nicollet Mall, they are sampling Orange Vanilla Coke in a Wendy’s vanilla Frosty. The line was too long for me to try one, but that sounds like a creamsicle. I would probably like that.
So is it worth going downtown Minneapolis for Final Four festivities? Not really. It pains me to say that.
If you have kids under 12 and are a Capital One cardholder, your family of 4 can get in to the Fan Fest for free. Then I would say it’s worth the drive downtown. Let the kids run loose inside the Convention Center for a while and they will be happy. There’s a cool rock climbing wall at the Cartoon Network booth. Pizza Hut hands out free pizza.
Pair that with a trip up to Nicollet Mall, which is just a couple blocks away. They did put some really cool signs up on Nicollet Mall providing for cool photo backdrops to remember your day.
If you don’t have kids under 12, it’s not worth your time. You can drink on Nicollet Mall (smart move by organizers), but every beer will set you back $8 or $9. Nicollet Mall is not worth the trip on its own. The ferris wheel isn’t anything special besides the fact that it is in downtown Minneapolis.
For a full list of Final Four activities happening in the Twin Cities, along with other events taking place this weekend, check out this guide.
If you are curious like me and decide to go, here are the highlights:
- ESPN is setup on Nicollet Mall between 4th and 5th Streets (they’re off the beaten path). They are broadcasting live on Saturday from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
- CBS Sports Network has a studio inside and outside of the IDS Center. Their broadcast schedule is below.
- The 3D Final Four bracket is outside the IDS Center at the corner of Nicollet Mall and 8th Street.
- The ferris wheel is at Nicollet Mall and 10th Street. There was a line when I went Friday night, but it wasn’t the most overwhelming line I saw. If you have a Capital One card, bring it — it will give you access to a shorter line. The ferris wheel is basically one you would see on the Midway at the Minnesota State Fair — it’s just downtown Minneapolis.
- Note if you’re driving downtown: 10th and 11th Streets are closed around Nicollet Mall — you won’t be able to cross by car.
- If you want a bottle of water or a Diet Coke, just run into Target at Nicollet Mall and 9th Street or Walgreens at Nicollet Mall and 6th Street. Don’t pay the $3 for a bottle of Dasani or the $5 for a Coca-Cola product on the street.
- You can take a photo with the NCAA trophy at the Pizza Hut booth. They also hand out free pizza.
- Buffalo Wild Wings has a giant game of beer pong. They sample wings and have a bar (drinks are cheaper in the Convention Center than they are on Nicollet Mall).
- Cartoon Network’s rock climbing wall is in the back corner of Fan Fest.
- AT&T has a Game of Thrones photo opp if you’re into that.
- Note: If you’re not planning to do a physical activity, you are able to skip the waiver line.