Perhaps because the biting weather forces months of indoor-only activity, the Twin Cities have long been home to an exhilarating music culture. Local heroes the Replacements, who just announced they were reuniting after 22 years, even wrote a song, “Skyway,” about the protective, Habitrail-like walkways between downtown buildings in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Along with Husker Du, Soul Asylum and seminal alt label Twin/Tone, the band helped make the Twin Cities a post-punk hotbed. Of course, around the same time, Prince exploded out of the electrifying Uptown funk scene to stardom. More recently, local hip-hop acts like Brother Ali, Atmosphere and Dessa have proved increasingly influential. Owl City and indie-rock acts like Cloud Cult and Motion City Soundtrack have also contributed to the area’s continued musical vitality. There’s a plethora of vibrant neighborhoods worth exploring. Semisonic singer and Grammy Award-nominated Adele songwriter Dan Wilson says, “Uptown is my spiritual home. It’s always had the funky vibe that makes a city walkable and beautiful.” North Loop, meanwhile, is where the hipsters congregate. But for a bit of history, Harry Fox Agency president/CEO Michael Simon points to his hometown St. Paul’s Summit Hill, “where John Dillinger lived and F. Scott Fitzgerald drank.” After the cold recedes, the streets come alive with festivals: The Basilica Block Party (basilicablockparty.org), headlined by Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox 20, is just around the corner (July 12-13).
STAY W Minneapolis (whotels.com/minneapolis) has become the fashionable party place. It’s located in the Foshay building, which former label exec and current Clinton Foundation organizer Julie Panebianco calls “a true Art Deco icon. I love the Prohibition Bar on the roof.” Tom Waits’ “9th and Hennepin” was likely written about the former flophouse where the chic, art-filled Le Meridien Chambers (lemeridienÂchambers.com) now stands. The massive Mall of America (mallofÂamerica.com), next to the airport, features 400 stores; pop-star promo shows from the likes of Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen; and now, a celeb-worthy hotel, the sleek new Radisson BLU MOA (radissonblumoa.com).
EAT “Minneapolis has at least one of everything New York has a lot more of,” Simon notes of the local restaurant scene, saying he celebrated a recent deal over a bottle of wine at Lucia’s (lucias.com). Jim McGuinn, PD of noncommercial KCMP (89.3 the Current) Minneapolis-St. Paul, points to the rise of local craft beer brands Surly, Summit and Fulton coinciding with a “slew of new James Beard-nominated places to eat, with Heartland [heartlandrestaurant.com] and Meritage [meritage-stpaul.com] topping my current rotation.” Cloud Cult’s Shannon Frid loves the Indian food at Namaste Cafe Â(namastechai.com), located in a renovated Victorian house, while Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack says the bread is “amazing” at classy Italian Rinata (rinataÂrestaurant.com), both in Uptown. Rapper/singer Dessa praises cool cafe Muddy Waters (muddyÂwatersmpls.com), where “the food is good and the people are interesting,” but she heads to Fuji Ya (fujiyasushi.com) in Whittier for sushi and “a killer cocktail called the Blackbelt.”
PLAY “First Avenue [first-avenue.com] is still the best place to see bands,” Twin/Tone founder Paul Stark says. The legendary club is credited with launching Prince, who featured it heavily in his 1984 film “Purple Rain.” It also houses a smaller room, 7th St. Entry, where “Minneapolis rock essence seeps from the cinder block walls,” Simon gushes. Big Deal Music co-founder Dave Ayers says the Turf Club (turfclub.net) “leads the pack of scrappy newish rock venues,” but he’s also a fan of nonprofit the Cedar (thecedar.org). McGuinn makes the case for “funky, smaller rooms like the Triple Rock [triplerocksocialclub.com] and Amsterdam [amsterdambarandhall.com],” while Ed Holmberg of buzz band Bloodnstuff raves, “The stage at Hexagon Bar [hexagonbar.com] is one I fantasize seeing every great rock band on.” For a respite from rock, Wilson heads downtown to Dakota (dakotacooks.com) for “great jazz shows.”