Edit ModuleShow Tags

Where to Shop and Eat at MSP—the 6th Best Airport in North America

MSP Airport's revamp just bumped it up to 6th best in North America—now with indoor food trucks, local brews, therapy dogs, and a golfing simulator


Photo by Tony Webster/Flickr

We’ve come a long way since the pre-9/11 days of airports, back when my family would drive all the way simply to sit at the gate and watch the planes take off.

Now, the word "airport" tends to evoke stress, hassle, and running to the gate after a painfully slow TSA line. Maybe that's why airports are stepping up their service game. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, for example, is perhaps the only place in the world where you can pick up a Minnesota-published book, grab a craft beer, and then head over for a golf lesson—all in the same building. Yes, you can do all of this now, rain or shine, at the airport. And it isn’t even your final destination.

MSP now ranks 6th in North America on the list of “mega-airports,” as reported in a J.D. Power survey of nearly 35,000 airport travelers. Topping the list was Orlando International Airport, with a score of 778 out of a possible 1,000 (Disney World, anyone?). This year, MSP rose up from its 17th-place ranking, tying at 762 points with an unlikely southern cousin, Charlotte Douglass International Airport in North Carolina.

Why the big jump? Passengers pointed to the remodeled check-in area, updated security technology, and amenities ranging from free wi-fi to therapy dogs who walk the airport (with handlers) to provide stress relief. Much of the credit also goes to the airport’s new focus on bringing in local restaurants and shops along with the usual chain fare, as well as artwork installations and the promise of a new hotel on-site.

Here are some of MSP’s newest highlights:


Opened in February, Open Book (Terminal 1) is a new bookstore with connections to local literary giants Milkweed Editions, Loft Literary Center, and Minnesota Center for the Book Arts, offering a mix of Minnesota titles and national bestsellers. The store also features locally made, book-inspired crafts such as handmade journals and stationery.

While every airport has convenience stores and gift shops, MSP recently renamed some of its own with a local flair: Como Park Essentials (Terminal 1) was remodeled in July 2016 to evoke the glass walls of the Como Park Conservatory. Opened last November, Minnesota State of Nice (Airport Mall) offers souvenirs and apparel designed in Minnesota, because everyone needs a Babe the Blue Ox T-shirt.

For a last-minute gift or a Minnesota souvenir beyond a T-shirt, Inspired Life + Art (Terminal 1), opened in February, is a gallery-style boutique displaying pottery, glasswork, scarves, and jewelry by both local and not-so-local artists.


July brought the grand opening of Food Truck Alley (Concourse E), an indoor plaza that serves as a winding parking lot for trucks featuring three local restaurants: Holy Land Deli (Mediterranean–style gyros, kebabs, and shawarma), Red Cow (pub-style food and craft beer), and Salty Tart (pastries, quiche, and salads).

Last November, the old Chili’s patio in Terminal 1 became Stone Arch, a restaurant that works with breweries throughout the state such as Indeed, Bauhaus Brew Labs, and Bad Weather Brewing,to bring 30 Minnesota-brewed beers to travelers and locals alike. Several of these brews are only available at the airport, with names like “Business Class,” a light IPA brewed with honey and lavender, and “Leg Room,” a New England–style IPA.

Black Sheep (Terminal 1) holds the honors of being both the first coal-fired pizzeria in Minnesota as well as America’s first coal-fired oven in an airport, as of last March. For those early morning flights, they’re also baking breakfast pizzas starting at 6 a.m.

Everything Else: Hotel, Golf, and Art

Set to open in summer 2018, the InterContinental Hotel will offer nearly 300 upscale rooms, as well as dining, a ballroom, and a top-floor “observation bar” where guests can relax after their flight with cocktails and a 12th-story view of planes taking off and landing. A skyway will allow passengers to walk directly to their terminal without braving the looming Minnesota winter (yes, looming even in summer).

What to do when you’re feeling restless between flights? Practice your golf swing, of course! PGA’s Total Golf Experience (Terminal 1) offers golfing simulations, professional instructors, a real putting green, as well as a food/drink lounge and golf shop. Opened in February 2015, this airport golfing facility was the first of its kind, a less-than-subtle nod to the stereotypical businessman hopping from city to city.

Terminal 2 now boasts four art installations celebrating Minnesota’s northern spirit in light and color. “Migration” features zeppelin airships, and “Aurora Borealis” lights up the walkway with a colorful glow, both unveiled in July. Other installations include mosaics and the first-ever airport film screening room, which has offered free showings of documentaries and short films made in the Midwest since 2014.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

It's Farmers Market Season

No matter where you live in Minnesota, fresh produce, flowers and homemade goodies await

Origami in the Garden

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's latest exhibit puts the art of folding paper on full display with a garden and metal twist

New Ways to Explore 3 Classic MN Destinations

From Fort Snelling to the North Shore, check out this summer's technological updates to historic and wild Minnesota places

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

What to Wear + Where to Go: Music Festivals

Your style guide for Minnesota music festivals

Mesabi Trail Offers New Views in Northern Minnesota

The Mesabi Trail, a 120-mile paved cycling and hiking trail that spans the Mesabi Iron Range, recently opened a new connection in Virginia, MN that crosses the state's tallest bridge and offers amazing views of former minelands.

Glensheen Mansion Bonfire Nights

Enjoy this summer tradition from one of the most iconic estates in the state

Twin Cities Festival Spring Babies

If April showers bring May flowers, spring babies bring fun for the whole family

Record Store Day: Where to Find Rare Releases in MN

On April 21, rock out at mini-music festivals around the state, dig into gourmet donuts, and collect the rare vinyls available one time a year

Catch the Lyrids Meteor Shower

The meteor shower peaks April 21 and 22, just in time for Earth Day

A Day Trip to Excelsior

Just 20 miles west of the Twin Cities, this waterfront town is complete with charming shops and lakeside dining

Night Art Gallery Is Your Sober Night Out

The Lindstrom art gallery entertains with hors d'oeuvres, tons of art available for purchase, and non-alcholic drinks

Treasure Island Resort & Casino 2018 Summer Concert Series

Check out the awe-inspiring lineup of summer concerts at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Weekend Activities to Satisfy Your Inner-Child

Check out these weekend activities that will have you feeling like a kid again.
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags