24 hours in Minneapolis

Mary's city ... Peavey Plaza.
Mary's city ... Peavey Plaza. 

Katrina Lobley finds the colossal Mall of America isn't the only reason to explore Minnesota's largest city.

If, like me, you grew up watching 1970s American sitcoms, there's one compelling reason to head to Minneapolis - and her name is Mary Tyler Moore. Others will be more intent on heading to the Mall of America, especially while the exchange rate is still in our favour. Minnesota's largest city, whose famous sons include the Coen brothers and Prince, has Mary and the mall but also music, art and architecture.

8am

Enjoy an early-morning dose of the city's distinctive character by tucking in to breakfast in subterranean Hell's Kitchen. Waiters serve wild-rice porridge, bison benedict with tangerine-jalapeno hollandaise, applewood-cured bacon and coffee whichever way you like it - while dressed in pyjamas, bathrobes and slippers. By night, Hell's Kitchen is an edgy music venue; by day it's a restaurant serving made-from-scratch meals.

For more diner-like fare, step around the corner to Peter's Grill, a downtown institution since 1914. President Bill Clinton stopped by in 1995, inspiring the President Clinton special - Canadian bacon with egg on pumpernickel, vegetable soup, apple pie and Diet Coke, for $US11.95 ($11.20).

Hell's Kitchen, 80 South 9th Street, open from 6.30am weekdays and 7.30am weekends, see hellskitcheninc.com. Peter's Grill, 114 South 8th Street, open 7am-7.30pm weekdays, 8am-2.45pm Saturdays, closed Sundays, see petersgrill.com.

9am

Work off brekky by exploring downtown. Head to the corner of Nicollet Mall and 7th Street to pose with Mary Tyler Moore. A sculpture here depicts the fictional TV news producer tossing her tam o'shanter in the air while turning on that smile; the site was recently ranked No.3 on Virtual Tourist's top 10 list of worst public art - but make up your own mind. Continue up 7th to the intersection with 1st Avenue, where an art deco former Greyhound bus depot has become the revered music venue First Avenue (first -avenue.com). Prince fans will know this is the setting for his movie Purple Rain. Stars painted on the outside wall feature names of artists who have appeared here over the years, including Joe Cocker, the Kinks, De La Soul, the Neville Brothers and Tina Turner.

10am

Head towards the Mississippi River and St Anthony Falls (the natural falls collapsed in 1869 and were replaced with a concrete spillway). These swift waters are Minneapolis's raison d'etre - the hydropower was cleverly harnessed in the 19th century to power timber, textile and flour mills, some of which remain standing today to add unexpected drama to the skyline.

On the opposite bank to downtown is St Anthony Main, which has a thriving bar scene at night and is where you can join a Segway tour of the riverfront. On the river's downtown bank is Mill Ruins Park - poke around the excavated ruins of several flour mills and see how water powered them. For one of the best views over the river, mills and stunning Stone Arch Bridge, head upstairs to the indoor-outdoor observatory that is Guthrie Theatre's Endless Bridge.

Segway tours cost $US80 and run from April to November, see humanonastick.com. Entry to Guthrie Theatre is free, see guthrietheater.org.

Noon

Beyond downtown is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which features several Henry Moore works, Frank Gehry's impressive Standing Glass Fish and the postcard icon Spoonbridge and Cherry.

See garden.walkerart.org.

1pm

Across the road from the sculpture garden is the Walker Art Centre, where you can see contemporary art - and art on a plate. Grab an outdoor table to enjoy city views with a mod-American lunch such as slow-cooked wild salmon with faro salad, or a turkey burger washed down with ginger or lavender lemonade.

Walker Art Centre, 1750 Hennepin Avenue, open for dining Tuesday-Sunday, 11.30am-2.30pm; Thursday 5-9pm, see gatherbyamico.com.

2pm

If you're driving to the Mall of America, take note of where you park. On a Saturday, when 150,000 shoppers flock to the mega-mall, about 15 people will "lose" their cars and need help to relocate their wheels.

Some visitors focus their entire holiday on the mall - note the 51 hotels within a 10-minute drive. Children can visit the theme park or underground aquarium; beware leaving under-16s to their own devices on Fridays and Saturdays after 4pm, however; mall security will ask where their parental escorts are.

The mall is accessible by light rail from the airport or downtown. Instead of wandering aimlessly among the 520 shops, make a plan of attack: browse the website before your visit.

Mall of America is open Monday-Thursday, 10am-9.30pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-10pm; Sunday, 10.30am-7.30pm. There is no sales tax on clothes or shoes in Minnesota. See mallofamerica.com.

5.30pm

Drop the car with the Grand Hotel's valet and dump the shopping bags in your room. The 1912 building used to house the Minneapolis Athletic Club and the sporting facilities, including a running track and full-size basketball court, beat other hotel gyms hands down. Freshen up with a dip in the pool, where the weather's always delightful with a ceiling painted with blue sky and white clouds. Frock up and enjoy a sundowner in the hotel's seriously funky bar.

Grand Hotel, 615 Second Avenue South, has rooms from $US199, see grandhotelminneapolis.com.

7pm

The Dakota, a 10-minute stroll from the Grand Hotel, is considered the finest jazz club in town. It serves a la carte gourmet fare - look for walleye, the state's tastiest fish, on the menu - and a mean cocktail. The artist roster is ever-changing; on my visit, regular Gloria Commodore was holding court, backed by a quartet that included the keyboard player from Beyonce's latest album. Ms Commodore turned out to be the perfect finale to a day in Minneapolis, wrapping proceedings with a slow-groove rendition of Purple Rain. Prince would have been mighty proud.

Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant, 1010 Nicollet Mall, has a cover charge and tickets from $US5, varying according to artists, see dakotacooks.com.

Katrina Lobley travelled courtesy of Meet Minneapolis, Mall of America and the Grand Hotel.

Virgin Australia has a fare to Minneapolis from Sydney and Melbourne for about $1180 low-season return including tax. Fly to Los Angeles (about 14hr), then on Delta Air Lines to Minneapolis (about 4hr); see virginaustralia.com.au. Australians must apply for travel authorisation before departure at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

Comments