Bars and Nightlife in Minnesota.

Minnesota. If you’re an outdoor type of person, then Minnesota is the state for you. Otherwise known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is a paradise for water-sport lovers. Well served with forests and parks, it’s equally popular with hikers, bikers and outdoor campers keen to get close to wildlife and nature (deer, moose , bald eagle and bobcat are commonplace, but watch out for wolves and black bear). The 12th largest of the US states, it borders Lake Superior, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota. It’s the most northern state after Alaska, so winters are COLD but there are endless winter sports to choose from, including ice fishing, skating and mucking about on sleds and snowmobiles (a Minnesota invention – as is spam).

Historically, Minnesota was home to Native American tribes including the Anishinaabe and the Dakota, until European fur traders turned up in the 17th century. East of the Mississippi River became part of the US when the Treaty of Paris was signed after the American Revolutionary War, the rest being acquired with the Louisiana Purchase. Grist and saw mills were later built where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge and it was from this that Minneapolis grew, the second settlement of Saint Paul growing downriver. Minnesota became the 32nd state in 1858, troubled only by the Dakota War of 1862, which saw the single largest mass murder of Native Americans in US history.
Today Minnesota has a much ‘nicer’ reputation, with a particularly literate and well educated resident population of around 5 million. Some 60% lives in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area, aka the Twin Cities. The rest of Minnesota consists mostly of forest, prairie grassland and farmland, main cities outside the Twin Cities metro area being Rochester and Duluth, the latter created as a port for the iron ore mining industry. Today Duluth is still important for transporting out agricultural products, coal and ore.
Culture figures highly in Minnesota and the state is home to several fine art museums, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Centre, the Minnesota Orchestra, St Paul Chamber Orchestra and The Guthrie Theatre. Indeed, the Twin Cities is said to be second only to New York in its diversity of performing arts. Music is particularly important here and the state has produced several well known artists including The Andrews Sisters, Eddie Cochran, Prince, Soul Asylum……….but, most influential of all, Bob Dylan. Live music is still very much a part of the nightlife scene and in both The Twin Cities you can take your pick from jazz and blues to rock and pop.

Three quarters of Minnesota’s population can trace its heritage back to Germany, Ireland or Scandinavia and you’ll still find evidence of this throughout the state. Lutheranism is still strong here; locals have a pronounced accent and will come out with the odd Scandinavian phrase and put lutefisk on the menu; and – yes you’ve guessed it, there are A LOT of Irish pubs (especially in St Paul).

Minneapolis and St Paul (the capital) owe their fortunes to the flour mills powered by St Anthony Falls. It was in 1805 when Zebulon Pike persuaded Native American to sell him some land where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet. Later, in 1820 US captain Josiah Snelling set up Fort St Anthony here, soldiers building the first water powered mills. Several folk thought this seemed a good place to live and started to settle here, but the army turfed them out and, following frontiersman Pierre Parrant, they set up home ten miles down river – thus St Paul was born. Today both cities have preserved much of their history and look, with beautiful Victorian architecture – both commercial and residential, although Minneapolis has a more modern downtown area.

So, what about nightlife in the Twin Cities? Going to the theatre is a regular past-time and there are several to choose from ; Minneapolis is said to have more theatre tickets per head than anywhere apart from the Big Apple – venues include The Guthrie, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, State, Orpheum, Pantages and the Fitzgerald (in St Paul).
But where do you go for a beer – maybe before the theatre, maybe after, maybe instead of? Minneapolis has the edge over St Paul – more hip, more dynamic, later and livelier. In Minneapolis, the Warehouse District has historically been the place to head (Cafe Havana on Washington Ave is a trendy Cuban bar/club and restaurant) , although more and more places are springing up round 6th and 7th Streets, Hennepin and 1st avenues – an area known as Block E.

If beer is all you want, Buster’s on 28th (Ave S) has 25 or so varieties on offer – local and imported – while Gluek’s Brewing Company on N 6th St tempts customers with 15 or so beers on draft as well as live music nights, karaoke nights and dancing to a DJ on Saturdays. Homesick Brits can sup Fullers and eat Cornish pasties at the Brit’s Pub and Eatery on Nicollet Ave. Amble down West Bank (Cedar Ave) for a super selection of bars and pubs: Whiskey Junction, Red Sea, Five Corners Blues Saloon and the Nomad World Pub will all quench your thirst.

1st Avenue North is teaming with venues from one end to the other. Excellent live music and dancing is on offer at the Fine Line Music Cafe (318), including jazz, blues, reggae, soul, rock and more; First Avenue and Seventh St Entry (701), a converted bus station and one of the city’s most popular joint venues (Prince got his break here) and the Foxfire Coffee Lounge (319). For bars, head to The Loon Cafe (500) sports bar, and 0’Donovans (700), said to have been shipped piece by piece from Ireland to Minneapolis (yes really). And for pure clubbing – Empire (319), smart and gay friendly; Axis (322); and Envy (400), great DJ’s, lots of special nights, a great vibe.

Other must try places for live music include the 400 Bar on Cedar Ave in West Bank, another Minneapolis institution (no jazz here, this is more rock, punk, more rock); The Times Bar & Cafe on E Hennepin Ave ( jazz and salsa); The Cabooze on Cedar Ave (rock, reggae, blues); Dakota Jazz Club on Nicollet Mall; Babalu on Washington Ave N (Latin American, Spanish and Cuban style food); and Rossi’s Blue Star on S 9th St (jazz).
Live music in St Paul is harder to find but the Minnesota Music Cafe on Payne Ave, East St, is trying very hard to make up for it with blues, jazz and rock acts, plus heaps of memorabilia paying tribute to Dylan, Prince etc. The Turf Club on University Ave promotes alternative and rock acts, mostly to a student audience, while Mancini’s Char House on W 7th St is a popular hangout with live music from Wednesday to Saturday. Also good for jazz are Dakota on Bandana Square and The Artist’s Quarter on St Peter St.
Of course, there are Irish bars galore, frequently featuring live celtic music during the week or at weekends. The Liffey Irish Pub at the Holiday Inn on W 7th St brings out traditional Irish instruments at the weekends and is well worth a visit. Dubliners on University Avenue is as authentic as they come. For up to date information on what’s going on in the Twin Cities once you’re there, grab a copy of City Pages.

Outside the Twin Cities metro area, Duluth is worth visiting for its wonderful location on Lake Superior alone. This is not a big nightlife city, but the Lakewalk area is a must; featuring some superb bars and restaurants such as Bennett’s on the Lake and Grandma’s Sports Garden Bar and Grill. Head for Stargate Nightclub on Tower Ave, which is just outside Duluth in Superior for late night dancing; otherwise you’re best off staying in Duluth and just enjoying the bars and restaurants. Duluth Athletic Club Bar and Grill on N 4th Ave and Sneakers Sports Bar and Grill at the Holiday Inn are both good choices, or for home brewed beer it has to be Fitger’s Brewhouse on E Superior St.

Festivals and events. Minnesota loves its festivals and there’s always something going on somewhere. The Minnesota State Fair is one of the US’s best and most famous. It attracts almost 2m visitors and covers every aspect of Minnesotan life from science to seed art, butter sculptures to blues. Others include the Minnesota Fringe Festival, a summer event at which over 800 performers take part in theatre, dance, and music; the Saint Paul Winter Carnival; the Detroit Lakes 10,000 Lakes Festival. During the summer, the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis sponsors Monday night music and movies in Loring Park, while the Cedarfest on the West Bank in August features a wide range of live music. If you’re in town on Labor Day Weekend, the Mill City Music Fest in the Warehouse District is a must.

Smoking. Smoking has been banned in all restaurants and bars since October 2007 as part of the Freedom to Breathe Act. The ban does not prohibit smoking outdoors, but certain counties and cities have enforced harsher rules. Bloomington, for example, bans smoking within 25ft of entrances and in 50% of restaurants outdoor eating ears. In McLeod County, smoking is banned within 10ft of entrances to bars and restaurants. So check locally.