Bet Your March Madness Bracket on Minnesota

By Erica Wacker

US Bank Stadium Minneapolis_@samholt83
The 2019 NCAA Men's Final Four will play out at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis / Photo by @samholt83

It’s still anyone’s guess which teams will make it to the 2019 NCAA Final Four, but one thing’s for sure: This year's college hoops champion will be crowned in Minnesota.

This April, U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings and Super Bowl LII, will transform from turf to hardwood for one of the greatest traditions in college sports. If you’re coming to Minneapolis for the Big Dance, you’re in luck: With so much to do in and around town, and almost 48 hours of free time between rounds, you simply can’t lose—no matter how your team fares in the tourney.

Fan Fest

NCAA Final Four logoWith ticket prices ranging from free (kids 12 & under and Capital One cardholders) to $8 for adults, it's easy to get in on the Final Four excitement at the four-day Fan Fest. Open daily April 5-8 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, this fun-filled event will feature a rock wall, home run derby, celebrity and athlete appearances, and photo ops with the championship trophy.

Other official festivities throughout the weekend include:

  • Free entertainment and interactive games at the Tip-Off Tailgate on Nicollet Mall all four days, complete with a Ferris wheel, concert stage, food and drink vendors, and interactive games
  • Free admission to the teams' practice and an all-star game on Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium
  • A kids parade on Sunday 
  • The March Madness Music Series at the Minneapolis Armory (acts TBA)

Hop between events on the Metro Transit light rail, downtown buses, or on foot via the city's enclosed skyways.

Fantastic Food

Juicy Lucy burger at The Nook, St. Paul
Juicy Lucy at The Nook, St. Paul / Photo courtesy Visit Saint Paul

Looking for a bite to eat? From casual fare to fine dining, Minneapolis and the surrounding area is teeming with tasty options. First-time visitors should make a beeline for Matt's Bar, The Nook, or one of the other popular spots that serve the Twin Cities' signature burger: the Juicy Lucy (a hamburger with molten cheese inside the patty). Another favorite Minnesota dish is walleye, the state fish, and it tastes great fried or grilled, on a bun or with a side of fries.

Midtown Global Market
Midtown Global Market, Minneapolis

If you want to sample specialties from our diverse immigrant groups, Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis is the place to find Somali, Vietnamese, Mexican, Middle Eastern and other cuisines under one roof. Other areas with large concentrations of international fare include Central Avenue and Cedar/Riverside in Minneapolis, University Avenue and Frogtown in St. Paul, West St. Paul's Cesar Chavez Street, and suburban Brooklyn Park, Burnsville, Columbia Heights and Eagan.

For fine dining, we have more than a dozen semifinalists in the running for this year's James Beard Awards, including Tilia, Young Joni, Hai Hai, Martina and Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis; and Hyacinth and In Bloom in St. Paul, the latter of which can be found in the much buzzed-about Keg & Case Market on West Seventh Street.

If you follow celebrity chefs, make reservations now for Gavin Kaysen's Spoon and Stable (Minneapolis) or Bellecour (Wayzata); Andrew Zimmern's Lucky Cricket (St. Louis Park); or Justin Sutherland's The Handsome Hog (St. Paul).

Famous Faces

Guys at Bob Dylan mural Minneapolis
Bob Dylan mural in Minneapolis / Photo by Paul Vincent

Chefs aren't the only celebrities who hail from Minnesota. Book a tour of Paisley Park in the western suburb of Chanhassen, Prince's former home and recording studio that's now an awe-inspiring museum and heartfelt tribute to the beloved pop icon. You can also visit his gold star at the iconic First Avenue nightclub, and find other sites with ties to Prince on this self-guided tour.

Music fans should also seek out the vibrant Bob Dylan mural (pictured above), about a mile walk from either the Convention Center or U.S. Bank Stadium, and explore the Dinkytown neighborhood, where he hung out while attending the University of Minnesota. Learn about other famous Minnesotans, including literary legend F. Scott Fitzgerald and "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, at historic sites and on tours in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Free Fun

Couple at Como Conservatory St. Paul
Como Zoo & Conservatory, St. Paul

Save your cash for souvenirs by visiting the many free attractions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. One of the most popular is Como Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul, a free zoo featuring polar bears, penguins and an impressive ape house, plus a beautifully curated, glass-enclosed conservatory.

For free art, look no further than the massive Minneapolis Institute of Art, the outdoor Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (site of the renowned "Spoonbridge & Cherry" sculpture), the architecturally stunning Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus, or the newly renovated Minnesota Museum of American Art in downtown St. Paul.

And while it's virtually impossible to leave Mall of America without buying something, admission to Minnesota's most-visited attraction is always free. On Final Four weekend, mall visitors can watch the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship, a high-energy 3-on-3 basketball tournament featuring Division I college players from all 32 conferences. The event is free to attend, and will be broadcast live on Twitter and ESPN2.

Far Flung

New Spam Museum
The free Spam Museum in Austin in worth the trip

With almost two full days between Saturday and Monday night's games, there's plenty of time for fans to take a quick day trip or even an overnight getaway. Within an hour's drive, you can explore the charming main streets of Stillwater, known as Minnesota's birthplace; Red Wing, home of the coveted pottery and one giant boot; and Excelsior, on the shore of Lake Minnetonka.

Try your luck at one of our many casinos, including Mystic Lake in Prior Lake and Treasure Island in Welch, or practice your swing at the indoor/outdoor Topgolf in Brooklyn Center.

Hermann the German statue in New Ulm
Hermann the German looks over New Ulm

Other destinations within a two-hour drive include:

  • Austin, the headquarters of Hormel and the free (and super fun) Spam Museum
  • Mankato, known for its bike trails, brewery, and a beautiful waterfall and native bison herd at Minneopa State Park
  • New Ulm, a German-influenced town with one of the country's oldest breweries, Schell's, which offers daily tours
  • Rochester, Minnesota's third-largest city and home of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic
  • St. Cloud, a Mississippi River city with century-old granite quarries to explore


To learn more about the 2019 NCAA Final Four and related festivities, visit finalfourminneapolis.com.