Let me start by saying locals pronounce this area of downtown Minneapolis as Nick-uhl-let or Nick-oh-let Mall, not Nick-lit or Niko-let, or, as the French would say, Nicollay. I only tell you this because, when I was the new girl in Oregon, I asked a Portland resident for directions to “Couch” street, only to have him smirk at me before responding, “You mean Kooch street? That’s over there.” (Well excuuuuse me. It’s spelled C-O-U-C-H. And I’m the dumb one?!)
But I digress.
Any way you pronounce it, Nicollet Mall is the place to be in the summer months (and the place to be right before Christmas, to watch the Holidazzle Parade, but let’s not talk about winter right now; the wounds are still fresh from the Never-ending Winter of 2013). It’s a portion of Nicollet avenue that runs through the heart of downtown Minneapolis and includes independent and chain stores, restaurants, the Minneapolis Central Library, great architecture, and a busy corporate environment.
I love Nicollet Mall. I’ve worked downtown for over eight years, and to me “the Mall” has come to epitomize the essence of downtown. When the weather cooperates, this clean, safe, pedestrian-friendly area is bustling with a wide variety of people—professionals, students, and tourists—who are either looking for something to eat, looking for something to drink, looking for something to buy, looking for a free concert at Peavey Plaza, or just hoping to catch some rays on a nice afternoon.
On Thursdays in the summer and fall the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market runs along Nicollet Mall between 5th and 12th streets (imagine the smell of cinnamon-roasted nuts and booth after booth of fresh fruit, veggies, honey, bread, pickles, nuts, meat, cheese, bundles of brightly-colored freshly cut flowers, and some of the best hummus I’ve ever tried); it’s the kind of expansive market that becomes a destination in and of itself.
During the spring, summer, and fall, Nicollet Mall also becomes Food Truck Central. Some of my favorite food trucks are Dandelion Kitchen, Hola Arepa, Turkey To Go, and World Street Kitchen, but there really is something for just about everyone.
Nicollet Mall is also the primary downtown shopping street with Macy’s, Marshall’s, Sak’s Off Fifth, and a massive two-story Target located along the strip (not to mention the many stores within Crystal Court and Gaviidae Common). If it’s too cold to walk outside, you can always take the skyway.
If you appreciate TV history, you can take a photo with the statue of Mary Tyler Moore’s fictional TV character Mary Richards tossing her tam o’shanter cap in the air—a gesture made famous in the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was filmed—you guessed it—right on Nicollet Mall.
It also comes alive during the evenings as home to many fun restaurants and bars (I recommend the patio at The Local and lawn bowling at Brit’s Pub) and concerts at Orchestra Hall. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take a bus—free of charge—when boarding along Nicollet Mall. This comes in especially handy to anyone visiting Minneapolis for a show, event, game, or competition at the Minneapolis Convention Center, one of the stops along that particular route.
The Mall is one of the first places I recommend to out-of-town visitors who want a little taste of Minneapolis life.
And I even promise not to laugh at them if they pronounce it wrong.