True story: When I first traveled to Minneapolis, I looked up lesbian bars online and came up empty. What I did find, instead, was the sage advice of some random Internet commenter that to find other queer women, one must look for them at the local Home Depot or Petco.
She was right about one thing: You will indeed find lesbians at the pet store. But while the City of Lakes may not have a dedicated full-time lesbian bar (not unlike most cities these days), it didn’t take long for me to figure out that you don’t need to adopt a puppy to discover a vibrant, welcoming scene for lesbian and queer women in the Mini-Apple—you just need to know where to look.
Many coastal queers were shocked—shocked, I tell you!—when The Advocate named Minneapolis the gayest city in the United States a few years ago. The assessment was, in some ways, a joke; criteria included the amount of LGBTQ yellow-page listings and the number of Tegan and Sara appearances. Still, people who had never set foot in the land o’ lakes took notice. Could a landlocked state in the frigid north of the country really be a gay haven? Indeed, it could. And it is.
The city, along with its twin of St. Paul, is home to dozens of queer-owned businesses, as well as several Fortune 500 companies that have proven their LGBTQ-friendliness in recent years. Instead of a single gayborhood, Minneapolis has pockets of multiple neighborhoods just teeming with queer homeowners. Culture of all kinds thrives in this city, which is as proud of its number of theater seats (second-most per capita after New York City!) as it is its number of lakes (way, way more than New York City!). Its food is divine, its athletes are winning and its nightlife is non-stop. There might not be a lesbian bar anymore, but no one venue could contain everything Minneapolis has to offer to queer residents and visitors alike.
Whether you’re just passing through or planning to put down roots, we’ve got your guide to enjoying the northern life in Minneapolis.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
The closest thing Minneapolis has to a gayborhood is Loring Park, a collection of tiny condos dotting the streets that surround serene green space of the same name. The area, just west of downtown, plays host to the massive, winding Twin Cities Pride Festival (tcpride.org) each June. The neighborhood tends to skew male and mature, a fact that’s luckily not reflected in its Pride festivities.
For a higher concentration of queer women, head to south Minneapolis—Powderhorn Park to be exact. The neighborhood is home to edgy artist types (and edgy artist mommies) who congregate in glorious pagan wonder at the park’s annual May Day Festival (hobt.org/mayday), a crunchtastic event.
Cross the Mississippi to Northeast (aka Nordeast), so-called for its proximity to downtown. Once primarily an enclave for Eastern European and Lebanese immigrants, its converted warehouses have been beckoning artists for years. The annual Art-a-Whirl studio tour (nemaa.org/art-a-whirl) each spring lets the public in to see where the craft-making magic happens.
Look for Airbnbs in any of these neighborhoods for an authentic overnight experience. If it’s a hotel you crave, however, then the swank W Minneapolis in Art Deco skyscraper the Foshay should do the trick (821 Marquette Ave S, 612-215-3700, starwood-hotels.com, around $300).