Recommendations for Traveling to Minnesota

If you are considering traveling to Minnesota for the Supporting Student Mental Health Conference, I encourage you to stay for the weekend and experience all Minnesota has to offer. This is a great amount of time to experience the natural beauty of lake country and the urban offerings of Minneapolis.

This is what I suggest for an itinerary:

Tuesday, May 3rd

Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, though the actual count is 11,842. The Supporting Student Mental Health Conference is a chance to experience the Minnesota Northwoods in the Brainerd Lakes area. Fly into the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and either rent a car or take a shuttle to this beautiful area. 

If you are looking for a quick stop on the way to Cragun’s Resort, you can stop at the Albertville Premium Outlets for some tax-free shopping.

The Brainerds Lake area is full of cute boutiques and fun restaurants. I recommend Christmas Point Wild Rice Co, a shopping destination with over 26,000 square feet of furniture, home decor, kitchen gadgets, gourmet foods, clothing, shoes, toys, jewelry, and to top it off, a cafe that serves fresh baked goods, coffee, and a fantastic lunch.

If you are looking for dinner spots, I recommend the Boulder Tap House in Baxter. 

Wednesday, May 4th

The pre-conference offering of When your FBA is a Fantasy: Creating Brain-Based, Skill-Focused, Trauma-Informed Functional Behavior Assessment and Behavior Support Plans starts at 9am.

For dinner, the Legacy Grille at Craguns is a great spot to check out.

Thursday, May 5th

The Supporting Student Mental Health Conference has a full day of learning and collaboration ending with a Cinco de Mayo celebration/dinner for all conference attendees.

Friday, May 6th

1 p.m.: Our conference wraps at 1pm on Friday which will get you from the northwoods to downtown Minneapolis in just over 2 hours, but the weekend is only getting started.

I would recommend staying at the Loew’s Minneapolis Hotel, but there are many great options downtown.

3 pm: After you’ve freshened up, head over to the Walker Art Center. The art museum’s diverse galleries feature thousands of pieces across a wide array of visual and media arts. Beyond standard oil paintings and photography, the collection includes books, costumes, and multimedia projects, as well as live performance art and videos.

Afterward, meander through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Adjacent to the Walker Art Center, the garden is known for its iconic pieces like Spoonbridge and Cherry and is open every day of the year from 6 a.m. to midnight. Tickets to get inside the Walker Art Center are typically $10-15 for adults, but the sculpture garden is always free.

6 p.m.: Eat dinner at The Butcher’s Tale or the Union Rooftop.

8 p.m.: Catch a show at First Avenue. This live music venue is the epicenter of Minneapolis’ music scene and well-known for hosting some of the biggest names in music history. Two performance spaces are housed in the same building, each catering to different audience sizes and acts. You might recognize the larger of the two—the Mainroom—from the cult-classic music film Purple Rain, but the 1500-person room often hosts big-name acts to sold-out crowds. 

The smaller space, 7th St Entry, features local bands every night of the week and is where some now-famous musical acts got their start, including Prince, Semisonic, and Atmosphere. The venue often hosts megastars and can sell out quickly, so be sure to book your tickets ahead of your trip to see who will be in town and grab your seats. With its rich history and deep roots in America’s music scene, seeing a show at First Avenue is a must for avid music lovers. 

There are two bands playing on Friday, May 6th, Saba or Hovvdy.

Saturday, May 7th:

9 a.m.: Grab brunch at the Hen House Eatery. This downtown Minneapolis cafe serves up healthy morning eats all day long—all made from fresh and locally sourced ingredients. In addition to oats and berries, the menu also boasts omelets with quinoa and goat cheese and tiramisu pancakes with pure maple syrup. 

11:00 a.m.: Check out of your hotel and head down to Paisley Park, the unique home and studio space where the late Prince welcomed celebrated artists and neighbors for a creative, collaborative escape. Today it is still a space open to the public for tours and open at night for special inspiring arts and cultural events with the mission to promote diverse artists.

Today you can retrace the iconic singer’s steps and explore the place he called home, only minutes away from Mall of America. For any Prince fan, a trip to experience Paisley Park is a must. On the outside, Paisley isn’t too flashy, with it’s simple yet elegant white tiled exterior with purple hued lighting illuminating the building at night. On the inside, Prince’s style shines through! The Paisley Experience gives you access to a 90-minute guided tour of Prince’s home and creative sanctuary where you can visit the legendary sky-blue atrium, recording studios, soundstage, concert hall and private NPG Music Club. You will also be able to see some of his instruments, collectable photos, numerous Grammy Awards and of course, some pieces from his iconic wardrobe.

Next head over to the Mall of America. Anchored by Macy’s and Nordstrom, the Mall features more than 520 stores and 50 restaurants and, like everywhere in Minnesota, won’t charge you sales tax on clothing and shoes. Explore the upscale shops on South Avenue, which houses brands like Coach, Burberry, and Michael Kors. Also, don’t forget new stores to MOA, as it is lovingly called by locals, like L.L. Bean, Fabletics, and Lovisa. Aside from clothing, shoes and accessories, the Mall’s four levels are also filled with beauty products, toys, electronics, home decor, gifts and more. With an aquarium, full-size amusement park, movie theater, go cart track and more, it really is an experience.

I recommend you spend the night at one of the hotels attached to the mall, either the Radisson Blu or the JW Marriott. I always do Radisson Blu but both of them are great!

Enjoy dinner at CRAVE. The unique menu features tastes of the new American palate and fresh and innovative cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influences. Save room for one of the incredible desserts on the menu.

Sunday, May 8th

Begin your day with a farm-to-table breakfast experience at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar. Energize for the day with a hearty classic or a light and healthy breakfast. Head back to Mall of America for some additional shopping and entertainment before you fly out. The airport is a quick 5 minute drive from the Mall of America so you can eek out every last minute of fun.

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