No Passport Required: The Twin Cities' Ultimate Staycation | Midwest Living

No Passport Required: The Twin Cities' Ultimate Staycation

Try looking a little closer to home next time the travel bug bites. Here are 10 ways to satisfy a case of global wanderlust with art, food and cultural experiences found throughout the Twin Cities.

International destinations tempt adventurous travelers, but unique cultural experiences can often be found much closer to home, regardless of the size of your town. Here are 10 ways to travel the world without crossing the Twin Cities’ borders.


Minnesota is home to the largest population of Norwegians and Swedes outside of Scandinavia. Explore historical and contemporary aspects of these two cultures at the American Swedish Institute, housed in the 1908 Turnblad Mansion—which also happens to be Minneapolis’ only castle. Be sure to stop at the museum’s nationally acclaimed cafe FIKA for tartar and meatballs.

American Swedish Institute

American Swedish Institute. Photo courtesy of American Swedish Institute


Patisserie 46 brings France’s renowned cafe culture to a quiet corner in South Minneapolis. The award-winning pastry shop serves exquisite treats like petit gateaux, tarts, éclairs, macaroons, bon bons and sorbet. Not to mention cappuccino, house chia latte and hot cocoa. The list goes on to include an array of breakfast and lunch items best enjoyed while dining in at this sunny cafe.


Calm a “monkey mind” with a visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Japanese Garden. Enjoy natural seclusion from the outside world within the garden’s walls while discovering traditional design elements from the Edo Period (1603-1869).

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum


Get a taste of Minnesota’s large and lively Latin culture at Boca Chica Restaurante Mexicano y Cantina, the oldest Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities. Come for the food, but stay to admire the hand-painted murals depicting the history of the Mexican people. These works of art by a Merida, Yucatan-based artist help preserve the community’s cultural heritage.

Boca Chica Restaurante Mexicano y Cantina

Photo courtesy of Boca Chica Restaurante Mexicano y Cantina


Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the United States and the only museum dedicated to its culture in North America. The Somali Museum of Minnesota uses traditional artwork, artifacts and educational programs to connect young Somalis with their culture, as well as educate Minnesotans of other ethnic heritage.


“Kramarczuk’s” is nearly impossible to pronounce, yet synonymous with some of the best sausage in town. Since the 1940’s, the deli and restaurant specializing in East European cuisine has turned out links, breads and piroshkies made by hand, from scratch, using local ingredients.


Photo courtesy of Kramarczuk’s


Learn how to speak the language, dance a waltz and bake the perfect lebkuchen at the Germanic-American Institute in Saint Paul. Various artists’ series are presented throughout the year, as well as big annual celebrations like Deutsche Tage (German Days) held every June for the past 60 years.

Germanic-American Institute

Special events at the Germanic-American Institute include a biergarten at Deutsche Tage in June and St. Paul Oktoberfest in September. Photo courtesy of Germanic-American Institute.


As in many cultures throughout Asia, Miao artists from China use textiles, clothing and accessories to express their age, marital status, history and beliefs. Check out Minneapolis Institute of Art’s display of nearly 50 items from a collection of more than 1,200 textiles and 450 pieces of jewelry made by contemporary Miao artists, on exhibit through July 1, 2018. Also stop by Enchanted Mountains, Chinese Landscape Paintings from MIA's Collection (through Nov. 18) and Power and Beauty in China's Last Dynasty: Concept and Design by Robert Wilson (through May 27).

Miao clothing and jewelry

Miao clothing and jewelry. Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art


Visit The Museum of Russian Art for the simple fact that it’s the only one of its kind in North America. Housed in a historic former church, the changing collection of exhibits and live performance art feels surprisingly fresh and modern.

The Museum of Russian Art

The Museum of Russian Art. Photo courtesy of Don Wong Photography

Afterwards, embrace the Russian tradition of “zakuski” (a bite and a shot) at Moscow on the Hill. Sample a vodka or two from their list of over 300 varieties. Then soak it up with some Russian favorites, such as caviar, spicy lamb kebabs with pomegranate sauce, and potato and mushroom pierogi. Pro tip: their patio is one of the best-kept secrets in town.


Films are a big part of the Italian cultural experience and are deeply woven into the country’s fabric. The Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul presents free screenings of outstanding contemporary films in their CineForum series. Playing this month: Io Sono Li, a 2011 Italian drama. Check the listings often for new additions to the lineup.

Love this idea but don't live in the Twin Cities? Challenge yourself to find expressions of global culture near your home. Check out museums, restaurants, nearby towns with a strong ethic heritage, local festivals and more. 

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