A view of Nicollet Mall, a major shopping hub in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

#2. Minneapolis

One of many things that stands out about downtown Minneapolis, Minn., is that it’s surrounded by parks, lakes and rivers providing residents quick access to a variety of outdoor recreation, including cross-country skiing in the winter. Most Minneapolis residents live within six blocks of a body of water. The downtown area’s low vacancy rate, high percentage of new homeowners, walkability and array of entertainment options make it one of the Top 10 Best Downtowns.

Downtown Minneapolis is a big reason why the city was ranked one of the best Cities for New College Graduates in 2014. Much of the city’s historic core remains in the Gateway District, despite the demolition of several treasured buildings during the 1950s and 60s. This area hosts some of Minneapolis’ best examples of modern architecture, including the Minneapolis Public Library. A web of covered walkways, known as Skyways, which were built above streets, connect many downtown buildings, making it easy for pedestrians to get around no matter what the weather or traffic is like. A light rail line connects downtown with the southern section of Minneapolis. The Mississippi River adds to the visual interest that Minneapolis offers. Downtown is dotted with parks and gardens that allow residents and visitors to relax, take a stroll, and play. 

Sports fans fill the downtown area during football, baseball and basketball season when the Vikings and Twins take the fields at their home stadiums, and the Timberwolves (NBA) or Lynx (WNBA) take the court at Target Center.

Even out of season, downtown Minneapolis pulsates with energy and creativity. Walk down North First Avenue at night, and you’ll hear the beat of music pumping out of hot nightclubs. The Mill District and Hennepin Avenue host a variety of musical performances, live theater and shows. Chefs at restaurants like 112 Eatery, Butcher & The Boar and The Capital Grille keep diners coming back for more with inventive recipes and fresh ingredients.

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