Minnesota is bursting at the seams with new places to meet, foods to eat, and experiences to enjoy. Groups never have a shortage of new options to explore, and this year is no exception. Make sure you know about these recent and upcoming openings and offerings when planning your next gathering.
After initial plans to begin construction in April 2020 fell through, The Lowlands is finally set to open in St. Paul in spring 2023. A few highlights of the space include an indoor terrarium, a terrace overlooking downtown, and The Ladyslipper Lounge, a basement bar that will be open to the public one night a week— offering planners and potential clients the opportunity to experience the space before committing to a full buyout of the 14,000-square-foot venue.
Equestria West at Bavaria Downs will open just a few months later in Chaska. Although the project from the team behind A’Bulae and The Edward Anne Estate uses the stables on the property, it is not a barn venue—rather, the design is a nod to the venue’s equestrian history and usage, says designer Ed Hawksford. The venue has four ceremony spaces, and Equestria West can accommodate up to 350 people in its 27,000 square feet of space.
Having come from different cultural backgrounds, David and Phuong O’Neil had to have two separate weddings at two separate venues on the same day to showcase both of their cultures. The O’Neil weddings are what led the couple—along with business partner Chanti Miller—to create Mosaic, a venue opening in January 2023 in downtown Minneapolis with a goal of welcoming and accommodating many cultures and traditions into the space. “Having a place like this is creating a sense of belonging in a community that needs it,” says Miller. “We have such a diverse demographic within the Twin Cities, and there aren’t always proper representations of each culture in these spaces. So, by us providing this great kind of upscale, elegant venue that is open to all cultures and not charging a premium for you showing up as your true self is what’s really needed in the industry at this time.” The co-founders will work with any vendor their client requests for the 13,000-square-foot space.
The O’Neils are not the only couple who has struggled to find the perfect venue. After getting engaged in 2018, Kevin and Andrea Swanson were having a hard time getting everything they were looking for without traveling to the Twin Cities from Duluth. Instead of settling, they built and opened Ivy Black Weddings & Events in Saginaw just north of Duluth, and they were the first couple to marry there last August. The modern, all-black barn has three different outdoor ceremony options, plus plenty of indoor space that is perfect for holiday parties, retreats, and more for up to 288 people.
Also outside the Twin Cities is The Clearing in Sauk Rapids. The property has been opening in phases, but its largest event space, the Riverside Terrace, opened in summer 2022. The building overlooks the Mississippi River and can host larger events of up to 150 seated and 214 standing.
The Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis opened June 2022 with a whopping 20,000 square feet of event space. The indoor options, including two ballrooms and several smaller rooms, are on the second floor to provide easy access to the city’s maze of skyways. When it comes to outdoor spaces, the largest, Riva Plaza, can hold up to 350 outside the fourth floor.
Just a few blocks away is the Rand Tower Hotel, which has four event spaces with additional options for private events in the hotel’s restaurants and cocktail bars, totaling 7,600 square feet. The fifth-floor restaurant, Blondette, is known for its retractable roof, and Miaou Miaou for its playful cocktails. On the ground level, Bar Rufus will take group reservations of up to 15.
Finally, Salt Hotels has plans to restore four historic buildings in the North Loop and debut The West Hotel in late 2023. It will have 123 guest rooms, six event spaces, and a restaurant from legendary Minnesota chef Tim McKee.
The Twin Cities’ restaurant scene is ever-changing and always growing—which for planners means there are even more places to entertain groups and host private events with the bonus of tasty food and libations. One of those places is Apostle Supper Club in St. Paul. The 1960s Palm Springs supper club-themed restaurant has a “rec room” that planners can rent for private events. The restaurant’s second location can be found at the top of the Radisson Hotel Duluth-Harborview, with a different menu and a one-of-a-kind setup: The entire dining room spins, providing rotating views of Lake Superior and downtown Duluth. Both locations are available for full buyouts.
In Minneapolis, a much-anticipated opening downtown was Billy After Dark, a basement bar underneath Billy Sushi. Groups of 20 to 50 can rent out the space full of neon signs, greenery, and a ceiling illuminated by lights that look like stars. One thing to note: It lists feelings and emotions as descriptors of the drinks—rather than the actual ingredients in each cocktail—on the menu, inspired by hip-hop and R&B music from the 1990s and early 2000s. “It’s more with every sip that you take, thinking, what is this drink giving you in a sense of feelings, emotions, memories,” says Stephen Larson, beverage director and general manager of Billy After Dark. “What ends up in your face is something that you probably would have never ordered but you actually have fallen in love with.”
Also downtown is noa, within the IDS Center. Small groups can book the restaurant’s patio in the atrium of the Crystal Court. “It’s a year-round ‘outdoor’ space,” says Dustin Dye, utility general manager for Infuse Hospitality, which operates the restaurant. “People get the feeling of being outside during the wintertime, when in Minneapolis it’s cold.” The restaurant has two other private dining spaces inside, while noa doubles as a great choice for after-work happy hours for professionals in the skyways.
Many more soon-to-be spots have popped up outside of downtown Minneapolis. One of them is Eat Street Crossing, which has plans to open early this year. Spanning burgers, ice cream from Bebe Zito, and ramen from the chef behind Zen Box Izakaya thus far, the food hall will have no shortage of variety. The private event space located on the mezzanine level will hold 30 seated and 50 standing. However, planners can rent out the entire hall for larger events of up to 450.
There’s plenty to be discovered in the suburbs as well, but a highlight is Hackamore Brewing Co. in Chanhassen. Zac Gleason, the man behind @sotaeats on Instagram, is stepping out from behind the smartphone to pursue his passion for craft beer. “It was a no-brainer for me that starting a brewery was the route I wanted to go,” he says. The brewery will open this spring with 16 rotating taps, a golf simulator, and a stage. Groups can choose between full and partial buyouts for networking events, private parties, and more.
Explore & Experience
While restaurants and happy hours are often enough to keep groups satisfied, up the ante by booking the agenda with activities and experiences unique to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Keep an eye out for Elusive Botanical Bar by Dashfire, which opened in Northeast Minneapolis in December 2022. Not only is the cocktail room available for private events on Sundays to start—and Mondays and Tuesdays in time—but Dashfire also has an expanded educational program that’s perfect for groups. While classic cocktail-making classes are an option, sessions also focus on how to make spirits from scratch—down to the botanicals that go into a batch of gin that attendees get to take home after it proofs. “I wish I had these classes available to me when I got started, because I had to do this all through 3 a.m. rabbit holes on the internet,” says Jeff Rogers, bar manager for Elusive Botanical.
If a small group is particularly into sports, check out Tom’s Watch Bar in downtown Minneapolis. The space airs any sporting event a fan could dream of, with no shortage of TV screens—and soon will have a new meetings and events room as well.
If live music captures more of the group’s interest, check out The Ledge Amphitheater in Waite Park near St. Cloud, which opened in summer 2021. The amphitheater hosts live music, comedians, and more in shows for up to 6,000 people at a time. The outdoor venue is located between two abandoned granite quarries and has beautiful walking trails nearby as a natural bonus to the entertainment.