Hideaways, Escapes, and Secret Spots in the Twin Cities

Hideaways, Escapes, and Secret Spots in the Twin Cities

Photograph by Caitlin Abrams

interior of Landmark center

Hidden gems await within this 1890s architectural landmark.

Some of the best places to slip away from the daily grind are just around the corner. A cozy nook, a gallery for a stolen moment, an experience that takes your breath away. Places to leave the noise of life behind and get lost in a libation, a daydream, or some exploration. From the hippest place in the library to subterranean sazerac slingers to the hands-down best street in Minneapolis named after an obscure president, here is your guide to 43 of our favorite ways to get lost in the Twin Cities.

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

Architectural Antiques store

Architectural Antiques

Getting lost among old things is a great way to find yourself. Inspiration can be found in old windows that once hung in a Summit Avenue mansion or a patinaed brass wall sconce from who knows where. Winding your way through the pieces of Twin Cities past that are housed in Architectural Antiques is good for reflection. How do you know where you’re going if you can’t see where you’ve been? 1330 NE Quincy St., Mpls.

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

Juicy Lucys with a side of subterranean bowling at The Nook in St. Paul.

Juicy Lucys with a side of subterranean bowling at The Nook in St. Paul.

Basement Bars

Things are just better below grade.

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

como park zoo and conservatory

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

When cabin fever grips you and you need to go—somewhere, anywhere, if even for an hour—to reset, then St. Paul’s Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is for you. The ultimate haven that makes stepping out of your warm hygge cocoon worthwhile, this Victorian glass house is open 365 days a year and totally free of charge. Thaw out while wandering the Fern Room, Palm Dome, and Sunken and Ordway Gardens, and keep your eyes peeled for Chloe, the zoo’s resident sloth, who hangs in the trees of the Tropical Encounters rainforest exhibit. 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul

Photo by Rich Ryan

Three people in a hole in the ice

Deep Freezes

It’s not so much about the thrill of a one-time polar plunge; it’s about swimming in the outdoors from October through April for your health. Seriously. The Twin Cities Cold Thermogenesis Group believes so much in the restorative and energizing benefits of cold-water submersion that they maintain open swimming holes in the frozen ice on Harriet, Cedar, and other metro lakes. If you need a nudge into this community, book the private Nordic Nook: a backyard cold pool with a sauna and a yurt.

Photo by Rich Ryan

Stair case from above

Escher-esque Stairs at International Market Square

The double helix staircase at International Market Square is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Built in 1905, the onetime manufacturing facility was home to Munsingwear, and the design of the stairway was intended to maximize the efficiency of workers coming and going at shift change. Next time you’re there, ask one of the myriad interior designers, builders, or architects that office out of IMS to show you the nearly forgotten gem of a back stairway. 275 Market St., Mpls.

Hideaways, Escapes, and Secret Spots in the Twin Cities

Photo by John Haynes

FoshayObservation Deck

Foshay Observation Deck (and Prohibition Bar)

Hop in the elevator at the W Minneapolis - The Foshay, press “27,” and go straight back in time. What was Wilbur Foshay’s private penthouse when the Foshay Tower was built in 1929 is now Prohibition, a low-key throwback space to go grab a cocktail and nibble on some beer-braised wings. When you’re done, get back in that elevator and ride up four more floors and check out the view from the observation deck of what was, at one time, the tallest building in Minneapolis. 821 Marquette Ave. S., Mpls.

Goat Yoga Studio

Tranquil yoga studios not your jam? Head to Hastings for a 45-minute class at The Hayloft, during which you’ll downward-dog alfresco with some tiny goats that roam around the class. Fair warning: They probably won’t headbutt you with enough force to send you straight to the ground, but they might jump on your back or have a seat on your mat. Oh, and there’s no need to ’gram while you ohm: The Hayloft’s team knows who their audience is and provides a 15-minute photo sesh once you’re finished exercising so you can recreate the positions you and your new goat besties learned in class. 12407 S. 80th St., Hastings

Courtesy Walker Art Center

David Hockney pool painting


David Hockney might be the most accomplished painter alive. The living British legend, now 84, is known for his obsession with the swimming pools of his adopted Southern California. His exhibition David Hockney: People, Places & Things is drawn from a relationship with the Walker that reaches all the way back to 1983, including dozens of works that demonstrate the breadth of Hockney’s restless, curious eye. The man was always painting—on canvas, on paper, on iPad, even on stage sets for opera—and it’s all in this show. And those moody swimming pools will act as the perfect respite for the dog days of winter. 725 Vineland Place, Mpls.

Courtesy Ninetwentyfive

Plastic Igloo interior

Igloos with Bottle Service

Wayzata’s Ninetwentyfive has set up a series of plastic igloos to function as your COVID-safe bottle-service hideout. Perhaps you’ll order the Veuve Clicquot package, with a Lobster Tower Sushi Roll in your igloo? Or the Belvedere Vodka experience, with venison tartare? Book soon: There’s only so much winter. 925 E. Lake St., Wayzata

Rob Andres/James J. Fiorentino Foundation and Museum

wall of clocks

Jim Fiorentino’s Crazy Collection of Clocks

While making a small fortune installing garage doors, Jim Fiorentino spent every remaining minute doting on his more than 300 cuckoo clocks and dozens of banjo clocks and American regulator clocks. Fiorentino was an original North Loop character, and toward the end of his life, when he wasn’t refurbishing clocks, he sat out on the sidewalk and waved passersby into his warehouse of curiosities. Fiorentino passed away at the age of 94, but he’s left his collection intact as the James J. Fiorentino Foundation and Museum. “It’s truly a blue-collar museum,” director Rob Andres says. The museum is set to open in early 2022, once the sprawling collection is itemized and the building refreshed. 126 N. 1st St., Mpls.

three Kolaches

Kolache Spot

For those who desperately want a Czech friend who runs to the Russian market for the special authentic farmer’s cheese, then makes kolache for you by hand, meet Michaela “Míša” Giancarlo Kotek. A cottage industry baker, Míša (pronounced Meesha) bakes from her home in Savage. All you have to do is order—theczechbaker.square.site—and swing by her house to pick up kolache, or poppy seed–stuffed cake or a dozen more Czech specialties, anytime you’re longing for the real deal. 14836 Hillside Tr., Savage

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

Court—or, these days, maybe a fancy luncheon—is in session at one of the many historic spaces in St. Paul’s Landmark Center.

Court—or, these days, maybe a fancy luncheon—is in session at one of the many historic spaces in St. Paul’s Landmark Center.

Landmark Center

History and the chance to play a harpsichord and have a cocktail? Count us in.

Corey Gaffer Photography

Bakken Museum

Mini Museums

Make like Ferris Bueller and take a day off at one of these lesser-known museums.

National Parks

Did you know that we have a 72-mile, 54,000-acre federally protected corridor winding right through our Twin Cities? Yep, the Mississippi is more than just mighty; it’s the centerpiece of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. And it’s chockablock with rare opportunities if you know where to look. Find the heron rookery at Marshall Terrace Park in Northeast Minneapolis; the sandy Grey Cloud Dunes in Cottage Grove; or the multitude of North American river otters spotted close to the airport, off Picnic Island in Fort Snelling State Park.

Photo by Joe Ferrer/Alamy Stock Photo

St.Paul overlook

Overlooks of St. Paul

The battle between Minneapolis and St. Paul is competitive in many arenas, but when it comes to topography, it’s not even close. Truly, Minneapolis doesn’t hold a candle to the vistas of St. Paul. The man-made high-wire act that is the Smith Avenue High Bridge offers crazy-good, very intimidating views of downtown St. Paul and nearby Harriet Island, while Summit Overlook Park and its 1890 bronze eagle sit just across from the bridge, on the other side of West Seventh. But the best St. Paul overlook might be the one on the flip side of downtown. The view from Indian Mounds Regional Park’s perch above the urban core of St. Paul and the river flats beyond is something to behold.

Parkway Theater

To the south Minneapolitans for whom the Parkway is no secret, we apologize for letting the cat out of the bag. But it was bound to happen eventually, because the 1931 movie house that was reimagined in 2018 as a hybrid performance and screening venue is one of the most authentic experiences in town. Whether you go for a nationally touring concert like Sondre Lerche or a Saturday-afternoon family matinee of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, no matter where you live, you’ll feel at home at the Parkway. 4814 Chicago Ave., Mpls.

Photo by John Haynes

Cobble stone street

They don’t build ’em like Quincy Street anymore—literally, look at those cobblestones!

Quincy Street

Northeast Minneapolis cobblestone streets for the win.

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

MN NiceCream

MN Nice Cream

Courtesy of Victor Thorstenson/MN Department of Administration

The rathskeller under the Schmidt Brewery


Rathskeller or Ratskeller is the German name for a basement tavern. And the Twin Cities has a few. One is deep beneath the State Capitol (75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul) and was restored to the original 1905 design after being locked away for 70 years. And another is about to be once more revealed. The rathskeller under the Schmidt Brewery (882 W. 7th St., St. Paul) is being relaunched by Pat Mancini as an event space for the legendary Mancini’s up the road. You can probably expect a little Italian flavor to be added to the Germanic setting.

Sky Pesher

Behind the Walker, burrowed into the hill, you can find a work by one of America’s highest-profile contemporary artists. James Turrell’s Sky Pesher is one of over 80 of his “Skyspaces,” triumphs of the Light and Space movement—man-made caves with large overhead apertures. The edges of Sky Pesher’s roof frame a slice of Minneapolis’s sky, which visitors are welcome to contemplate from 6 am to midnight, 365 days a year. But the real magic happens at sunset, when Turrell accentuates the changing pinks and citrines and periwinkles with contrasting computerized light. 725 Vineland Pl., Mpls.

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

fancy drink on bar

Tiny Bars

Small bars are the best bars.

Guthrie man's room window

Urinal View

The greatest work of art at the Guthrie has nothing to do with a stage. No, the most immaculate thing you can see at architect Jean Nouvel’s creation is, in fact, only on view in the eighth-floor men’s room. There, directly above a urinal, Nouvel placed a tiny amber window with a view of one of Minneapolis’s most epic scenes: the Stone Arch Bridge slicing toward St. Anthony Main. 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.

Photo by John Haynes

Listing room at the Mpls. downtown library

Vinyl Revival Listening Room (at the library?!)

Think library cards are old-fashioned? THINK AGAIN! At dowtown’s Minneapolis Central Library, you can use yours to listen to vintage vinyl. So, er, wait a minute, maybe that actually does make them old-fashioned. But still, it also makes them extremely hip. Either way, a well-cared-for cache of vinyl, a pristine turntable, and two pairs of studio headphones are available to anyone with the ability to make an online reservation. Reservations—almost always available—go in 15-minute increments and are limited to two people at one time. 300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

Whiskey Room at Billy’s

Tucked into the back of the most boisterous sushi house in the city is a quiet room with a wall of whiskey. Billy of Billy Sushi boasts some great bottles of hard-to-find Japanese and international whiskeys, secured by no small effort. If you are so inclined, you can buy a bottle and lock it to the wall so that when you come for Wagyu nigiri and boats overflowing with toro sushi, your chosen bottle of Tokyo mash will be ready for the pouring. 116 1st Ave. N., Mpls.

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

12 Vultures

XII [twelve] Vultures

These darkest days are also a good time to dip into your darker sides. Which you can totally do when you lightly tread into the world of taxidermy and curiosities at Northeast’s new shop Twelve Vultures. You might not have known that you needed a taxidermy peacock from France, but now you do. Perhaps a tiny fruit bat skull is what’s missing from your bookshelf. It’s all artfully presented, and even if you don’t find a home for that bison head, strolling through gives you a new perspective. 507 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls.

Photo by Randy Clough

yurt wine bar

Yurt Wine Bars

Yurts are all the rage for camping and Airbnbs, but did you know that just 30 minutes outside of town, in Hastings, you can rent one in which to drink vino and snack on fine cheeses and charcuterie? At Alexis Bailly Vineyard, $50 buys you and five other folks two hours in your own private yurt. Make reservations in advance, and if you’re going to bust out an engagement ring, keep it in the box until you’re inside the yurt—looking for a diamond in the snow is a heckuva hassle. 18200 Kirby Ave. S., Hastings

Courtesty of Wesley Dean/University of Minnesota

Emily Zumwinkle skating with the puck

Zumwinkle, Emily (playing Golden Gopher hockey at Ridder Arena)

The second Breck Mustang Zumwinkle to play for the Minnesota Gophers Women’s Hockey team (her sister Grace just graduated), freshman Emily is just one reason you need to get your butt over to the U to see the pucksters play this year. The other is that the Gopher women are so prolific that not only are they routinely in the national top five, they are the only D-I women’s program to have their own rink, Ridder Arena, and it’s a downright magical environment on game day—and not just because it only costs $5 to get in. 1815 SE 4th St., Mpls.

Image placeholder

George Washington

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Ducimus itaque, autem necessitatibus voluptate quod mollitia delectus aut, sunt placeat nam vero culpa sapiente consectetur similique, inventore eos fugit cupiditate numquam!