8 Suburbs Near the Twin Cities You Should Absolutely Visit
You could use a little space.
There are so many amazing neighborhoods in the Twin Cities proper it can be easy to forget that first, second, or even third-ring suburbs have equally enticing food and entertainment options. Many of us are ready for a change of scenery these days, so it’s the perfect time to mix up your routine and check out a new part of the metro that may not have crossed your mind. These are the coolest suburbs, just outside the Minneapolis/St. Paul city limits.
This quaint waterside city is about 25 minutes west of downtown Minneapolis on the southeast side of Lake Minnetonka. Visiting Excelsior feels like going on a mini-vacation—minus the hassle of travel. In the summer, you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards at Tommy’s Tonka Trolley and paddle out into Excelsior Bay or head to the public beach, located on a peninsula with a great view. There are also public boat cruises covering the 23-square-mile lake, many of which offer lunch, dinner, and brunch options—check out Paradise Charter Cruises or Lady of the Lake. If you have your own boat, you can also head over to Big Island where you can tie up to others and party like it’s spring break.
If good food is more your thing, Excelsior has no shortage of delicious dining options. Maynards has a huge waterfront patio, strong drinks, and a stellar chicken sandwich. Just off the water, kid-friendly Red Sauce Rebellion has amazing pasta, and you can’t go wrong with Yumi Sushi’s specialty rolls—they’re some of the best in the greater Twin Cities. Top your meal off with dessert at Adele’s Frozen Custard, serving scoops for over 35 years, or a Big Island Blonde ale at Excelsior Brewing Company.
You may not even know Mendota—separate from but next to Mendota Heights—even exists but the village has a ton of history. Mendota is located where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet and has two National Register Historic Districts that date back to 1805. There’s a whole network of hiking trails in the area including the Big Rivers Regional Trail, the Crosby Farm Trail, and the best-known Pike Island Trail. You can either tackle the trails on foot or two wheels- Lee Tours Bike Rentals can set you up with an electric fat tire for the afternoon.
Fort Snelling State Park is just west from Mendota across the river—the former military outpost was built in 1819 and tours are usually available. Back in the village, you can also tour Sibley Historic Site, home to the oldest structures still standing in Minnesota. If you need to refuel after adventuring, Mendota is home to both the casual Lucky 13’s Pub and slightly more upscale Axel’s restaurant—both of which have great burgers.
The southern suburb is most notably home to the Mall of America, which attracts both tourists and locals alike (even though we make fun of it.) MOA has more than 500 stores, five roller coasters, a million-gallon aquarium, and a Chapel of Love—all under one roof. For some, the people-watching alone is reason enough to make the trip… while for others, it’s the opportunity to visit luxury stores like Burberry or Gucci that have just one location in Minnesota.
There are tons of restaurant options at MOA but some of our favorites are Crave and Cedar + Stone Urban Table for American, Masu Sushi & Robata for fusion/sushi, and Sugar Factory for spiked milkshakes and the 24-scoop King Kong Sundae. For entertainment (besides shopping, of course) there’s Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, which attracts top comedians, The Escape Game escape room, and—if you have kiddos—Nickelodeon Universe and SEA LIFE. Of course, there’s more to Bloomington than the Mall of America… but given that the mall is basically a suburb in and of itself, we’ll leave it there for now.
This southwestern suburb is known for entertainment—whether you’re into rollercoasters, water parks, horse racing, or card games, Shakopee’s got a lot to offer. During warmer months, hit Valleyfair Amusement Park to experience more than a dozen thrill rides and rollercoasters. On superhot summer days, Valleyfair’s sister waterpark Soak City has you covered with a wave pool, plunging slides, and a pint-sized kiddie area.
If you’d rather hedge your bets, Shakopee is home to Canterbury Park horse racing. You can not only gamble on the ponies but also at the only outdoor blackjack pit in Minnesota or at the indoor, smoke-free card casino. Craft beer is on tap throughout the park including at Summit Stables, which offers the best of the St. Paul brewery. (If you’re looking for a bigger casino—or a major concert—Mystic Lake is just 10 minutes away.)
Finally, if you’re near Shakopee in the Fall, there are a ton of seasonal activities—watch knights do battle in live jousting competitions at the Renaissance Festival or visit the state’s largest corn maze at Sever’s Fall Festival. Around Halloween, Valleyfair also transforms into ValleySCARE and the Renaissance Festival woods host the Trail of Terror.
Although Edina is technically just southwest of Minneapolis, it makes the cut because of the great shopping and restaurants in the vicinity. Even better, the 50th & France area recently got some new retail space as well as a much-needed parking ramp so you no longer have to parallel park while trying to avoid a metro bus.
Solid bets to meet friends for a meal in this part of town include Coalition for trendy American food, Pajarito for modern Mexican, and Coconut Thai for authentic curries. Two of our favorite bakeries are also at 50th & France: Sweet Retreat, which makes seasonal, custom cakes and cupcakes, and Breadsmith for specialty loaves, croissants, and scones. When you’re done dining, head to the art deco-style Edina Cinema, which has been in business since 1934—you know, when movies were actual films.
If you hop further south to the Galleria—Edina’s upscale, designer-centric mini-mall—you’ll find lots of high-end shopping along with the swanky new Restoration Hardware rooftop restaurant. The opulent chandeliers, lush greenery, and glass roof will make you feel like you’re living your best life in LA—not in a Minneapolis suburb.
This affordable northwestern suburb features top-notch dining along its quaint main street, Broadway Ave. You’ll immediately spot people waiting outside of the wildly popular Pig Ate My Pizza for their thick, buttery pies with loads of meat. Just down the street is Pig’s older sibling- the creative, trendy Travail Kitchen & Amusements. The restaurant is known for experimentation, and this spring their menu will center around the basement bar’s unique cocktail flights paired with snacks.
If there’s a wait at PAMP or Travail, hit up Wicked Wort Brewing Company for locally brewed craft beer like the Birdtown Blonde Ale or MN Made IPA. The brewery usually has live music Thursday - Saturday, too. For a more active idea, Minnesota’s first Topgolf location is pretty close to downtown Robbinsdale in Brooklyn Center. Topgolf has more than 100 covered, warmed hitting bays that are open practically all year—rounding out the perfect trip to the north ‘burbs.
Similar to Excelsior but on the northeast side of Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata has upscale shopping, dining, and drinking covered—all along the water. Start your day on CoV’s patio for brunch—it’s a see-and-be-seen sort of place with an east coast vibe. (Plus, the signature caramel rolls are not to be missed.) If you’re more in the mood for caffeine, Penny’s serves fantastic La Colombe coffee and the interior is super-Instagrammable. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with 6Smith (steak and seafood) or Sushi Fix (sushi and sake). Later this spring, acclaimed chef Daniel del Prado will also open his third restaurant Josefina, featuring Italian food and gelato.
When it comes to activities, Wayzata has some cute local shops, a nice city beach, and even a salt cave. The Cave is part yoga studio, part spa offering meditation, yoga, and pilates classes as well as sound baths and facials. If you’re looking for an outdoor workout, try stand-up paddleboarding on Wayzata Bay. If you don’t own one, Wai Nani Surf & Paddle offers rentals by the hour as well as fun yoga and core fitness classes on the lake.
Depending on what direction you’re coming from, Stillwater is approximately 20 - 40 minutes away from the metro proper. Although it’s a separate city and not technically a suburb, Stillwater is such a nice drive for weekend brunch or dinner that we had to include it. With a slew of amazing restaurants, many right along the scenic St. Croix River, you’ll easily find a spot for a bite or brew.
When it comes to food, if you’re craving authentic Mexican portions at an affordable price check out family-friendly Nacho Mama’s. If small plates or a more trendy environment is up your alley, the popular LoLo American Kitchen or Feller at the Lora Hotel are must-trys. For drinks, you’ve got lots of options—nationally-recognized Domacin Wine Bar offers more than 600 wines by the bottle. There’s also The Velveteen Speakeasy with a “secret” underground entrance for craft cocktails and The Tilted Tiki, where you can order a tropical frozen beverage and pretend you’re on vacation. If beer is more your thing, stop at Lift Bridge Brewery’s taproom to try their signature Farm Girl.
Stillwater also has tons of boutique shops and is known for its antique stores. Stroll down Main Street and pop into Staples Mill Antiques, Stillwater Olive Oil Company, Cooks of Crocus Hill, or Valley Bookseller. Top off the perfect day with an ice cream stop at Nelson’s or MN Nice Cream.
Jenna Bennett Williams is a writer for Thrillist who loves mixing it up and trying new things in various parts of the metro + suburbs- especially cupcakes. You can catch her Instagramming @jennabennnettwilliams.