The biggest touring headliners and entertainment acts perform at Target Center, Xcel Energy Center and U.S. Bank Stadium year round. In summer, the outdoor Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium join the list. Those big-ticket venues aside, dozens of venues bring in musical and comedic talents—whether you’re looking to sing along for an evening, unwind with a drink or dance the night away.
The Twin Cities’ most iconic music venue is First Avenue, which adjoins with a smaller stage for up-and-coming artists called 7th St Entry. Prince helped vault First Avenue into the limelight, and it has since given performers something to aspire to: that they might get their own silver star on the building’s exterior—among more than 100 others naming Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Queen Latifah, Nine Inch Nails, Trampled by Turtles and, in gold leaf, Prince.
The First Avenue family has expanded to include the mid-size Fine Line Music Cafe a few blocks away and, over in St. Paul, the divey Turf Club, the historic Fitzgerald Theater and the two-level, 2,400-capacity Palace Theatre. Management has taken care to let each venue’s personality come through, and the music roster is as diverse as ever. The Fillmore is our most recent addition hosting big-name musicians in Minneapolis, under parent company Live Nation.
Other favorite music venues include the Varsity, Amsterdam Bar & Hall and the Armory, where Jennifer Lopez and P!nk performed during Super Bowl LII. Amsterdam’s moving wall dividers allow for a flexible performance space, and you can’t knock the Varsity’s layout or, as odd as it sounds, its aesthetically awesome bathroom. The Armory is a larger, amped-up venue with a spacious general-admission floor, high ceilings, seating on the upper levels and bars that line the walls.
For jazz, hang out in the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis and the Crooners Lounge and Supper Club in the northeastern suburb of Fridley. For a little taste of every genre, go to the Cedar Cultural Center, a nonprofit that has brought international talents to Minneapolis for 30 years through almost-daily events and programs.
Best Dancing Spots
Dance floors abound in Minneapolis, too. The Exchange & Alibi Lounge, in the enormous Lumber Exchange building, and the Living Room at the W, on the ground floor of the towering Foshay hotel, get ritzy. (There’s also a speakeasy, Prohibition, on the 27th floor of the Foshay.) The Front marries artsy, elegant digs with pop hits; Loon Cafe offers a small but inviting dance floor; and, over by the University of Minnesota, the Kitty Cat Klub hosts alternative, throwback and hipster-friendly acts. Nearby, Loring Bar & Restaurant becomes a dance club at night, with weekends dedicated to salsa dancing.
The welcoming-to-all Gay 90’s, Saloon and Lush are LGBTQ+ hotspots for dancing. The Gay 90’s alone sports three dance floors and six bars. Have a more laid-back evening at the 19 Bar, which, at more than 50 years, is the oldest gay bar in Minneapolis. The place exudes a neighborhood-bar atmosphere, similar to the vibes at eagleBOLTbar—and having a patio always helps.
Themed bar Psycho Suzi’s is known for tiki-inspired cocktails and a vast patio overlooking the Mississippi River. Other themed spots include the News Room, with its newsprint wallpaper (plus a giant ship for a bar that represents the “travel section”); Lawless Distilling Co., with ever-changing decor and cocktails; and Galactic Pizza, which lists specialty ’zas on menus that pop when you don 3D glasses.
Expert mixologists innovate throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, some at distilleries like Tattersall, others at restaurants like Martina and Town Talk Diner—and others still in the tucked-away back bars of Parlour and Young Joni.
If you prefer beer, you’re in luck—the brewery boom here is serious. In Northeast Minneapolis and the North Loop, you can hit up some of the best bars and taprooms in one night. The Twin Cities also have two huge breweries, Summit in St. Paul and Surly in Minneapolis. The latter boasts a Destination Brewery with two levels, a full food menu and outdoor concerts.
Breweries come in all shapes and sizes in the Twin Cities: Bang Brewing is in a two-story grain bin; Fair State Brewing Cooperative was one of the first co-op breweries in the state, and now others, like Broken Clock, have followed suit. Some breweries, like Lake Monster Brewing and Modist Brewing Co., have added local distribution, while others, such as Dangerous Man (known for its Chocolate Milk Stout), keep the experience exclusive to growler shops and a taproom.
For laughs, top-tier comedians routinely stop by Twin Cities theaters, but we also have a handful of comedy clubs. Acme Comedy Club, Joke Joint at Camp Bar, Comedy Corner Underground and the Mall of America-based Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy host weekly stand-up comedy. And at the longest-running satirical theater in the country, Brave New Workshop, check out sketch comedy and late-night improv. ComedySportz deals in snappier short-form improv, while HUGE Improv Theater delves into the less common long form.
No matter your poison, you’ll have a lot to pick from.