Pride Celebrations in Minneapolis and St. Paul
The Twin Cities Pride celebration in Minnesota is a well-attended bash, and — bonus! — Minneapolis and St. Paul just happen to be a haven come summer. Here’s how to spend your time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes during Pride, and beyond.
What is it about the Twin Cities that draws Pride crowds of almost 400,000, making theirs one of the country’s largest Pride celebrations? It’s likely because Minneapolis and St. Paul are vacation-worthy destinations, brimming with both world-class urban amenities and postcard-perfect natural beauty. And the lovely summer weather doesn’t hurt, either — the mercury rarely climbs above 30 degrees Celsius in June, when the festivities get underway.
Pride celebrations in the Twin Cities last for a full week. The cities kick things off with the Family Picnic at Como Park, a waterfront park in St. Paul, while the Pride Festival and Parade take place the following weekend in and around Minneapolis’ Loring Park. Outside of the city’s official Pride celebration, there are plenty of lively venues to experience the local gay scene — and plenty of places to slip away and enjoy the Minnesota summer. Here’s how to make the most of your stay in the Twin Cities.
Soak Up St. Paul
Begin your Twin Cities Pride experience in the “twin” known as St. Paul, Minnesota’s state capital and a city full of both Victorian charm and pleasant green space. Head to Como Park — a 155-hectare park that’s home to a zoo, conservatory, golf course and more — for the Pride Family Picnic, and then spend some time strolling by the lake or wandering the (free!) botanical gardens. A few kilometers south of the park, you’ll arrive in an area known as Grand Avenue, where you’ll find a treasure trove of locally owned restaurants and boutiques. While in the neighborhood, be sure to explore the historic district along nearby Summit Avenue, which is known to be the longest stretch of Victorian-era mansions in the U.S., built between 1890 and 1920.
Discover Downtown Minneapolis
You’ve got a few days before the Pride Festival and Parade, so use this time to explore all that Minneapolis has to offer. Get your bearings in the heart of it all: the downtown quarter bordering the mighty Mississippi River. On the south side of the river, you can easily spend a day wandering the vibrant Mill District, once home to the city’s bustling flour trade. Pack a picnic and enjoy the views from the scenic Gold Medal Park, or take a stroll over the river along the very Instagrammable Stone Arch Bridge.
In the evening, you’ve got plenty of options downtown. To see a live stage performance, check the calendar at the renowned Guthrie Theater, which operates year-round and has been open since 1963. For dancing, try The Saloon, which has multiple dance floors and a welcoming crowd. 19 Bar is more of a low-key dive with history, serving the local gay community for over 60 years. Order a local beer, play a round of pool, and strike up a conversation with the friendly locals.
Wander the North Loop
The fast-growing North Loop, also known as the Warehouse District, is considered one of the hottest neighborhoods in Minneapolis. There are enough quality shops, eateries and coffee shops to fill an afternoon and evening, so block off enough time to explore — and come hungry. Most of the Twin Cities’ nationally recognized restaurants call this neighborhood home, from sustainable, seasonally oriented bistros to restaurants offering high-end takes on Midwestern comfort food — steak and potatoes, mac and cheese. Laugh off those calories at stand-up club Acme Comedy Company, or hit one of the many dance floors at mega-club Gay 90’s.
Take a Lake Break
The Twin Cities are bordered by numerous lakes, which become paradise during summer. The neighborhood of Linden Hills has three of the most stunning — Bde Maka Ska, Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet, which is a great jumping-off point to fun summertime experiences. Head to Wheel Fun Rentals to rent a bike and ride around Lake Harriet, which is surrounded by greenery. Relax at the fairy tale-esque Lyndale Park Rose Garden, which is filled with majestic oak trees. Make another stop at the castle-like Lake Harriet Bandshell, where concerts are held. Whether or not a performance is on, it’s a great spot for admiring the picture-perfect park with ice cream. On your way back to town, make a stop at Matt’s Bar and Grill, where the star of the menu is a Minnesota classic: the Juicy Lucy, a burger filled to the core with gooey American cheese.
Linger Around Loring Park
The 116-hectare Loring Park is ground zero for the main Twin Cities Pride events. The two-day festival features more than 400 vendor booths, four entertainment stages and plenty of food-and-drink stalls. The free concert known as Pride in Concert tends to draw big-name acts, and the parade attracts hundreds of thousands of revelers to the surrounding neighborhood.
After the festival, there are still plenty of reasons to spend time in the area — particularly if you’re an art lover. Known as one of America’s Midwestern arts capitals, Minneapolis has a robust cultural scene and is home to the highly recognized and celebrated museum in the city, Walker Art Center. Specializing in modern and contemporary art, the permanent collection contains 13,000 pieces plus a 4.5-hectare sculpture garden, where you can wander amid 40 works that sit alongside manicured trees. In other words, it’s heavenly in summer.