31 can’t miss events in Minnesota this July

Not much gets better than July in Minnesota! There’s plenty to do with long summer nights. Bonus: you don’t have to spend 20 minutes putting on a parka and scraping ice off your windshield!

I compiled a list of events happening around the state. Many are your suggestions! Is there one I forgot? Let me know! Fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Happy summer!

  1. July and fireworks go hand in hand. Here are Minnesota cities with great 4th of July shows:
  2. Check out a good ol’ fashioned community festival:
  3. Sing with the Twin Cities Beer Choir. The concept is simple and quite fun. The group gathers as a brewery, bar or restaurant and hand out “hymnals” to attendees. The music are melodies you are familiar with, but the words are switched out to involve drinking beer. Many Twin Cities Beer Choir participants are alumni from those really good Minnesota Lutheran college choirs, so as a group, they sound quite good. It’s a very lighthearted time. Their July meetup takes place at Spring Cafe, located at the Como Lakeside Pavilion in Saint Paul. (July 3)
  4. The PGA Tour stops in Minnesota with the brand new 3M Open. The field has yet to be announced when this list was published, but Phil Mickelson has already announced he will play. Tournament play takes place July 4-7, but festivities go all week at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. (July 1-7)
  5. Head down to the Mississippi River in Northeast Minneapolis to watch a Twin Cities River Rats show. Every Thursday night, this ski team puts on a free show filled with stunts, jumps and pyramids all on the water. They do have a show on the 4th of July, which is followed by fireworks. They also have a bonus performance on Friday, July 5th. They’re super family-friendly. Bring a blanket! (July 4, 11, 18 and 25)
  6. Little Mekong is the Asian business and cultural district in Saint Paul. It runs along University Avenue between Mackubin and Galtier Streets. At the tail end of the 4th of July weekend, businesses in the area hold the Little Mekong Night Market, which is a huge street festival with really good food,  unique shopping and lots of entertainment. It’s inspired by the night markets you would find in southeast Asia. It runs from 5-10 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. (July 6-7)
  7. The Minnesota Orchestra starts their annual Sommerfest concert series by performing the soundtrack to the Disney Pixar movie, “Coco.” Sommerfest 2019 has a Latin American theme, with concerts throughout the month of July. It should also mark the expected debut of the new Peavey Plaza, the public park space next to Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. (July 6-7)
  8. If you can’t wait for the Minnesota State Fair to start, check out the Ramsey County Fair in Maplewood. Admission is free. (July 10-14)
  9. There’s no need to head west to catch a classic rodeo! The town of Hamel is just west of Plymouth and since 1981, has hosted a rodeo with barrel racing, steer wrestling and more. More impressive: the Hamel Rodeo is operated by 5 non-profit groups; the large event doesn’t have a single paid staff member. (July 11 – 14)
  10. Kacey Musgraves, Semisonic, Jason Mraz and Hanson headline the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis. The two-night outdoor concert first started in 1995 to raise money for the Basilica of St. Mary. (July 12-13)
  11. A spot featuring one of the best meat raffles in the Minnesota is hosting a parking lot fish fry. Stop by Bull’s Horn in south Minneapolis on July 13 for a fishing tournament, music, drinks, and of course, fried fish.
  12. Celebrate French independence, Bastille Day, on either side of the Mississippi River. In Minneapolis, Barbette hosts its annual block party from 2-9 pm. In Saint Paul, Alliance Francaise and Meritage host an outdoor family-friendly celebration outside of Landmark Center from 12-6 pm. (July 14)
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      Cafe Lurcat in Minneapolis is one of more than 50 restaurants participating in MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s Restaurant Week July 14-19.
  13. Enjoy $10-25 lunches and $15-35 dinners at some great Twin Cities restaurants during MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s Restaurant Week. Over 50 spots are participating. My personal favorites include 4 Bells, Cafe Lurcat, Corner Table, FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar, The Freehouse, Holman’s Table and Lela. (July 14-19)
  14. The Minneapolis Movies in the Park series continues all month with free films shown at parks across the city. Stop by the Nicollet Island Pavilion on Monday, July 15 for “Free Solo,” a National Geographic documentary following Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan at Yosemite National Park without any ropes. I recently saw it and it’s riveting.
  15. Once a month, The Spring Street Tavern in Northeast Minneapolis hosts Pundamonium, a pun slam competition. Those who think they are punny are welcome to show off their skills. Participants are selected first come, first serve. The five judges are pre-selected members of the audience. (July 17)
  16. Italian restaurant, Pazzaluna hosts its annual Wheels of Italy street party in downtown Saint Paul on Thursday, July 18. Stop by to see some of the finest street cars along with live music. The car show is free to attend.
  17. Twin Cities Summer Jam at Canterbury Park in Shakopee features three days of big names in music: Tim McGraw, Aerosmith, Pitbull, REO Speedwagon, Soul Asylum, and others. (July 18 – 20)
  18. People from around the Twin Cities will make their way to the Rondo neighborhood of Saint Paul for the Rondo Days Festival and Parade on Saturday, July 20. The parade begins at 10 am with the festival running from 12-7 pm.
  19. Enjoy Celtic music, Highland dance and a bag pipe band competition during the Minnesota Scottish Fair & Highland Games at Central Park in Eagan. (July 19-20)
  20. Minnesota Monthly hosts its Fine Spirits Classic inside Orchestra Hall. Sample cocktails from the best mixologists in the state. (July 24)
  21. Competitive eater Joey Chestnut will be at The Great Midwest Rib Fest at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake. His mission: to eat more than 13.76 pounds of pork meat in 12 minutes. The three day festival is free to attend and also includes performances by Gretchen Wilson and Sugar Ray. (July 25-27)
  22. The iconic Porky’s drive-in diner in Saint Paul has a new home in Hastings. It’s a part of the Little Log House Pioneer Village, a collection of historic buildings which are restored to make it feel like you are stepping back in time. The village is open to the public one weekend a year. Stop by the last full weekend of July for the Little Log House Antique Power Show, which allows you to walk through the Village. This year, they welcome artifacts from the Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove. (July 26-28)
  23. The British choral group, Libera, is astonishing. Boys range in age from seven to 16 and members are from schools throughout London. They tour internationally and are visiting Saint Paul once again. I had the privilege of hearing them the last time they were in Minnesota and I just wanted to melt in my seat. The venue is ideal, too: the gorgeous Cathedral of Saint Paul. (July 26)
  24. Fitness studio Alchemy 365 is taking over the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and will offer a free class as part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial festivities. All fitness levels all welcome, just bring your own yoga mat. Check in begins at 5 pm with the class starting at 6:00. (July 26)
  25. Watch (or walk in) a parade of dogs in northeast Minneapolis. The gathering point is right on the shores of the Mississippi at St. Anthony Main. (July 26)
  26. Say ‘ooh, ahh’ at one of the largest fireworks displays in the country. The Minneapolis Aquatennial fireworks display start promptly at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The best viewpoint is near the Guthrie Theater.
  27. The Loring Park Art Festival in Minneapolis features 140 juried artists in a beautiful setting. (July 27-28)
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  28. Avoid downtown Minneapolis traffic by taking a water taxi! That’s right, the Minneapolis Water Taxi is a solar powered boat and is currently privately operated, meaning that you can book it for your group of friends for an intimate ride down the Mississippi River. The Water Taxi can fit two to six people and does private events for up to one hour. It goes from 10 am to 10 pm.
  29. Rent a Lime or Spin scooter for a ride. They’re very simple to use and their max speeds only get to 15 MPH, so it’s hard to lose control. Pro tip: find someone who has already rented the scooters to refer you before you download the app. That way, you both get a free credit!
  30. Be in control of how much beer you want to sample. Stop by the new First Draft Taproom & Kitchen near Target Field in Minneapolis. They have over 50 beers, wines, ciders and kombucha on tap. You get to control how much you would like. If you’re curious, the average pour is about 5 ounces.
  31. Make sure you dine al fresco. Watch my Twin Cities Live segment featuring the 5 best restaurant, brewery and winery patios in Minnesota!Also on Give Me the Mike: Best places to play bingo in Minnesota

Is there something I missed? Please let me know!



What you should know before visiting Minneapolis

This article was updated in May 2019 with current information.

Minneapolis, the largest city in Minnesota, often gets overlooked. It’s considered ‘flyover worthy’ by some and ‘too cold’ by others.

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U.S. Bank Stadium hosted Super Bowl LII in 2018 and NCAA’s Final Four in 2019.

Despite the stereotypes, the city won bids to host big events. U.S. Bank Stadium hosted Super Bowl LII  in February 2018. ESPN’s X Games are repeatedly held in Minneapolis and the NCAA Final Four was here in April 2019. And you don’t get those big ticket events by just applying. You need to have culture.

As a native Minnesotan who has lived in Minneapolis proper for years, I have a list of tips you’ll want to know about the City of Lakes before you plan a trip.

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Your best and cheapest way to get from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to downtown Minneapolis is by light rail. Operated by Metro Transit, light rail trains run frequently throughout the day and most of the night. Currently, peak time rides cost just $2.50 one way; $2.00 outside of rush hour. You’ll be able to catch the train from either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at MSP. If you’re heading downtown, you will take the blue line train northbound.

Since I first published this article in 2017, car sharing services like Lyft and Uber finally figured out how to get travelers to and from the airport. A $6 airport surcharge is now gone. The queue for drivers waiting to be matched is closer to the arrivals doors than it previously was. The airport is adding signage so you can get to the car sharing pickup zone faster (note: it is a bit of a walk). At the zone itself, they created ‘Door A’ and ‘Door B’ to help spread things out. Typically, a ride from the airport to downtown Minneapolis in a Lyft will set you back around $20-25. Since the drivers have to wait off-site, secure your ride BEFORE you get close to the pickup zone. I hit confirm when I walk out of the gate area.

Hotels are quickly popping up in downtown Minneapolis.

Thanks to the Super Bowl, Minneapolis saw a boom of new construction, especially when it comes to hotels. The Hilton Minneapolis is the largest hotel in Minnesota and in 2017, finished a complete renovation to their lobby, resulting in a much improved, more open concept, dragging it out of the early 1990s.

For something more boutique, look at the Hewing Hotel, which opened late 2016. The former warehouse in the North Loop neighborhood has completely unique rooms with vibes of “the north.” From the patterns on the wallpaper to what you’ll find in the mini-fridge, the Hewing lives Minnesota luxury.

Like the Hewing, the Hotel Ivy is on the more luxurious end and gets high remarks.

I’ve had good luck at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, located just a block off of Nicollet Mall. Their rates are cheaper.

If you’re coming to town for something at the Minneapolis Convention Center, consider the Hilton, the Hyatt Regency or Hotel Ivy, as they’re all attached to the hotel by skyway (keep reading for more on these sidewalks in the sky).

Minneapolis and Saint Paul aren’t conjoined twins.

Saint Paul, Minnesota’s capital city, is separated from Minneapolis by the Mississippi River. However, if you’re planning a trip from downtown to downtown, it’s not a simple walk across a bridge. There’s a 12 mile trip by car, and a light rail trip will take over 45 minutes. However, don’t let that stop you from taking a trip over to the Capital city.

Never pay more than $6 for parking downtown Minneapolis weeknights or weekends.

I repeat this message to people who live in the Twin Cities, too. There’s a huge scam when it comes to what is being charged for parking downtown Minneapolis. If you’re headed downtown after 4:00 p.m. on a weekday or on a weekend, please don’t pay more than $6 to park. Seriously. You’ll frequently see event rates for $10 or $12. The $6 after 4:00 p.m. and all day weekend lots are located near 8th Street and LaSalle Avenue. Another ramp, attached to the Crown Plaza Hotel at 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, charged me $4 when I headed downtown for a Sunday evening dinner, and there happened to be a concert that evening at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Be on high alert with meters. Minneapolis meters run by zone. On one side of a street, meters might have a two hour limit, and on the other side, you can park there for eight hours. Some end at 6:00 p.m., others go until 10:00 p.m. If you are within a mile or so of U.S. Bank Stadium, you’ll hit meters following event parking rates. Right before I found that ramp for $4, I was at a meter asking me to pay $25 to park on the street.

Summers are epic. And in the best way possible.

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Mid-June to Labor Day is the perfect time to visit Minneapolis. The Twin Cities, along with surrounding suburbs, plan a plethora of outdoor events. A big highlight is the Minnesota State Fair, a 12 day event ending on Labor Day.

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Just a small dose of food from the Minnesota State Fair.

If you like to bike or run, check out The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul have their own routes, which take you along the river and through parks. (The Minneapolis route is much more established, so start there). Trails are well-marked, too.

And you can’t forget Minnesota is the “land of 10,000 lakes” (actually, there are 11,842 lakes which are 10 or more acres). Minneapolis is home to many lakes featuring beautiful views of the downtown skyline. Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) in the Uptown neighborhood is your best bet for time on the water, sunbathing, hammock-lounging and people watching.

Skyways are a blessing and a curse.

If you’re walking around on street level in downtown Minneapolis or Saint Paul and notice it’s a ghost town, look up. Both cities feature miles of skyways which shield Minnesotans from rain, snow and more importantly, cold. There’s another world on the skyway level, including businesses with second level locations you wouldn’t see from the outside (Starbucks, Chipotle, etc).

I love the skyways because they are a great way for downtown workers to leave their winter coats at their desks and walk three buildings over to get lunch. The biggest issue I have is that they’re not visitor-friendly, especially on the weekends. Downtown Minneapolis doesn’t regulate the skyways; the individual building owners do. The effect: they don’t have consistent hours — some don’t even open on Sundays. If you stay near the Convention Center, you’re fine, but don’t venture further north of the IDS Center.

During the 2016 Vikings season, the Minnesota Vikings and downtown businesses created a route spanning the skyways across downtown. The problem: not all the business owners caught that memo, meaning locked doors and a waste of time. I still don’t recommend the Vikings’ skyway route on game day as they haven’t figured it out.

Some Minneapolis business owners and citizens are calling for the end of the skyway. They claim it makes downtown look less populated. I’m not calling for their end, but they definitely need some regulation.

Looking for something to do when you’re in Minneapolis? Check out what’s happening at these venues:

Looking for a place to eat? Here are my best bets:

$$$ — make reservations for all these spots

$$ and $

If you need to plan a dinner in a private setting at a restaurant, check out my guide.

If you are planning a trip to both Twin Cities, get my guide on what you should know before visiting Saint Paul.

You’ll want to talk like a Minnesotan, and I don’t mean sounding like a character in Fargo. Get a list of Minnesota lingo here.

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