The USA is the place to visit if you love yourself a road trip, and with a country of that size there are plenty of routes to choose from.
You may have already driven up the west coast of California, or road tripped along some of the iconic Route 66, so now it’s time to follow the mighty Mississippi River and drive along the Great River Road.
Starting in Minneapolis / Saint Paul
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are the biggest and capital city of the state of Minnesota respectively. These often overlooked cities are an ideal place to start and/or end your great gay road trip along the Great River Road.
The twin cities were historically some of the first to adopt bans on anti-gay discrimination, making its fierce determination to be welcoming and inclusive a great reason to make it your starting point.
Minneapolis & St Paul is also a hub for US airline Delta, making it easy to fly directly in and out from Heathrow.
No specific gay neighbourhoods
Unlike a lot of other major cities, Minneapolis & Saint Paul doesn’t have a defined gay neighbourhood. Instead you’ll find gay bars and venues dotted throughout the city, the most prominent being Gay 90s, the supposedly straight-friendly gay venue that is home to the city’s beautiful people. The downside being that, like many mainstream gay venues, it is starting to become overrun with straight people, watering down some – but not all – of its appeal as a gay bar.
The Saloon on 9th and Hennepin is another popular gay spot for a drink and a dance, while the Eagle/Bolt is more like a leather/bear bar if you’re looking for something a little different. If you’d rather do a big gay brunch instead of – or as well as – a big night out, LUSH have a Saturday and Sunday brunch menu, as well as hosting drag nights and all sorts sorts of big gay fun!
Non-gay things to do in Minneapolis /St Paul
In addition to plenty of gay things to do, there are a few non-gay things that are still quite enjoyable. Grab lunch in the Seventh Street Truck Park, an indoor, super hipster dining experience with a variety of food trucks and beer on offer. Take a selfie or two in the Sculpture Garden or see a show or just grab a drink in the Guthrie Theater, and there’s some great guy-watching to be done in Riverfront Regional Park with plenty of hotties in short shorts, well in the summer anyway. All-in-all a genuinely lovely city that I’m looking forward to visiting again.
Before you hit the road
Once you’ve seen enough of the city and decide it’s time to hit the road and travel down the mighty Mississippi, take the opportunity to take a leisurely river cruise along the river (we dare you to try and not sing Tina Turner constantly), and if you have time, Minnehaha Park is a delight with lots of wide open park space next to a cascading waterfall.
And don’t forget that just outside the city is the imaginatively-titled ‘Mall of America’. This is a quintessentially American experience that you do not want to miss. Loads of shopping (with no tax on clothing or shoes), an indoor theme park, and all the fried food you could eat.
While there we stayed at the Renaissance Minneapolis Bloomington Hotel, a fabulously millennial hotel a short drive from the world-famous shopping centre. Featuring great design, gorgeously comfortable rooms with big beds and big-screen TVs, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and would highly recommend it if you’re wanting to visit MOA as they have regular shuttles to take you there and back.
The Great River Road
OK, so once you’re on the open road you could actually follow it all the way down to New Orleans if you have the time and petrol money, but that article would go on forever so I’ll just cover a few of my favourite stops along the Great River Road.
National Eagle Center
One of the highlights of the trip for me was the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, where you can learn about the country’s national bird and see rescued birds sitting casually just a few feet away.
Minnesota Marine Art Museum
This tiny little town somehow manages to house some of the world’s most famous paintings, including works by Van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Another spot I wish I had had more time to explore, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the location of the most civilized prehistoric civilization in the country, with archaeological remains dating back thousands of years.
When to drive the Great River Road
This kind of road trip is ideally suited to the summer months, as winters in Minnesota and Wisconsin can be brutal. However, with all the beautiful wide-open plains you may enjoy seeing the leaves change in autumn for something a little different.
For more information visit exploreminnesota.com