Let’s be honest. How many of the Twin Cities’ bounty of attractions have you actually experienced? Sure, we’re blessed with great theater, cool museums and hot restaurants. We brag about them, but we often take them for granted. When weekends come, we tend to hunker down, tackle household chores and errands, haul the kids to and from their activities — until we finally collapse in front of the TV or unwind at the nearest suburban eatery or multiplex.
Burned out — and a bit bored — with the same-old weekend routine a few years ago, my husband and I decided to treat the family to a downtown staycation. We would book a hotel and experience Minneapolis as though we were tourists, putting the chores on the back burner, just having fun together and seeing our own backyard through fresh eyes.
We had a blast! We finally made it to the Mill City Museum, walked the Stone Arch Bridge and tried one of the buzzy restaurants we’d been hearing about. The next year, we crossed the river and spent a weekend exploring St. Paul.
It may seem extravagant to shell out money for a hotel room in a metro area where you already have a comfy bed. But it’s a refreshing getaway from the daily grind — without the airfare or a long car ride. Just leave work Friday afternoon, and within the hour, your vacation has begun.
Neither Twin Cities tourism office tracks local staycationers, “but we do know it’s increasing, on weekends especially,” said Brent Foerster, senior vice president/destination sales for Meet Minneapolis. New venues, such as U.S. Bank Stadium, are bringing more events downtown, which in turn lure locals, some of whom opt to spend the night.
With a fresh crop of new hotels open, the Twin Cities have more tempting staycation destinations than ever. Many of them offer more than just a place to crash after a day of sightseeing, they are an experience — in distinctive surroundings with a sense of place.
In Minneapolis, the newest hotels are smaller “boutique” properties.
“On the tourism side, more and more people are looking for that unique experience,” said Foerster. “They’re looking for unique hotels that reflect the culture of the city. Often, it’s the only hotel like it.”
The same thing is happening in St. Paul.
“The new hotels are doing things to make it feel more local,” said Nick Cusick, marketing and media relations manager for Visit St. Paul.
Chain hotels are now borrowing from the boutique playbook, launching new sub-brands that offer a boutique experience. That’s why you’ll find more hotels serving local craft beer and farm-to-table fare in their restaurants, and showcasing work by local artists in their guest rooms and lobbies.
And more hotels are coming. With the Super Bowl less than a year away, several downtown hotels, including a “brewtel” with an on-site brewery, are now in development. Just in time for next year’s staycation.