One highway exit away from Minnesota's largest city, there’s an oasis of free parking, great shopping and a bustling social scene. “We like to say that we’re so close to Minneapolis, we share a ZIP code,” says Becky Bakken, president and CEO of Discover St. Louis Park. “We’re convenient and near all the experiences and activities that meeting and event participants want.”
Bakken assures planners that the CVB makes a meeting or event in St. Louis Park a valueadded proposition. “We love providing addons,” she says. “We work with planners in advance to arrange special maps, gift certificates and other amenities with our very accommodating vendors."
While the “affordably close to everything” description has kept St. Louis Park at the forefront of meeting planners’ minds, these days it’s receiving increasing attention as a destination-worthy location in its own right.
Vibrant and Convenient
One of the biggest reasons for this new status, Bakken says, is The Shops at West End—a St. Louis Park development that offers the highconcentration and walkability of a city center, but features suburban amenities like heated indoor parking and ample ramp and street parking. “It’s a new and vibrant place, and it’s walkable from both of our convention hotels,” she says. “It’s a happening area, but it still retains that small-town feel, so a group can fee they really ‘own’ the space when they’re visiting here.” The high-energy development, centrally located just off of Interstate 394 and Highway 100, features more than 50 locations for shopping, eating, working out, playing games, seeing a movie or having a convivial drink.
Shops include local boutiques and national brands like Anthropologie and Lululemon Athletica. Dining and bar options include Cooper Bar & Restaurant, The Loop, CRAVE, Bluefox and Yard House. Entertainment comes in the form of the ShowPlace ICON movie theater and the newly opened Punch Bowl Social, a 24,000-square-foot space with eight bowling lanes, two private karaoke rooms, an outdoor patio and a custom-built 360-degree bar (flip to page 42 to read more about Punch Bowl Social’s new West End location).
While socializing in The Shops at West End will be appealing to many attendees, the more outdoorsy types will find plenty to do in St. Louis Park, too. “We have 24 miles of connected trails,” Bakken says. Right across the highway is Brookview Golf Course & Lawn Bowling, which is great in the summer and offers fat tire biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skijouring and walking in the winter. A multiuse outdoor recreational facility opened in January 2017 and features a covered ice rink in the winter for hockey, open public skating, broomball and other special skating events; it can be used year-round for special community events.
If you’d like to electrify an outdoor excursion, consider arranging an outing with Evolve Segway of St. Louis Park. “We offer rentals and group tours for Segways and electric bikes, which are intriguing and fun for an outdoor outing,” says President Brad Benyas. The shop is adjacent to the Greenway Recreational Trail, and is a quick hop to nearby Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun.
“We offer great technology that’s fun for people to operate,” Benyas says. “Our location is really a gem of an area in terms of scenery, parkways and people watching. We’re flexible in what we do and how we arrange it. If it’s a technically minded group, for example, we can show them what’s inside the machinery, or we can just offer a fun ride in a beautiful area.”
Hollywood Glamour, St. Louis Park-style
In late October every year, there’s a feeling of Sundance or Tribeca in the air, as filmmakers from all over arrive in St. Louis Park for the Twin Cities Film Festival. “More than 120 films are screened in 11 days,” says Jatin Setia, the festival’s founder and executive director. All films are screened at the ShowPlace ICON movie theater at The Shops at West End. The festival expects more than 15,000 filmgoers to attend this year. “All the shows are premieres, from big blockbuster studio films to independent gems,” Setia says. In addition to the nightly parties at the development’s entertainment venues, the festival offers opportunities for private events and screenings. “Not everyone wants to go to a sporting event, but lots of people get excited about the red-carpet glamour of our festival,” Setia says.
“Meeting planners love to book at the DoubleTree by Hilton Minneapolis – Park Place, because it’s a win-win for everyone,” says Michael Kottke, the property’s director of sales and marketing. “It’s a mecca for restaurants, with 25 eateries within a one-block radius of our front door, and more being added all the time.” The property includes 297 guest rooms and 26,000 square feet of meeting space. Kottke says his team works to surprise and delight attendees and meeting planners alike. “We offer complementary 300-megabyte Wi-Fi service, a dedicated free parking lot, quick shuttle transfers to area attractions like sporting events or the Mall of America, and a lower lodging sales tax than Bloomington or Minneapolis,” he says. “We have all the conveniences of downtown without the downtown hassle.”
After completing a major renovation that wrapped up in spring 2016, Minneapolis Marriott West is touting its updated public space, function space and guest room corridors. “Our lobby area has a ‘great room’ feel, with community tables, five media centers with televisions and a fireplace,” says Director of Sales Dan Maurer. “Even the on-property Starbucks has been updated.” The hotel has 195 guest rooms and three ballrooms with over 10,000 square feet. While the property is close to many great restaurants, Maurer notes that many guests appreciate the authentic Irish pub that’s right on property. “Many guests enjoy wrapping up a meeting by gathering for a drink on the patio at Kip’s,” he says.
On-premise fermentation and brewing are big draws for events, and St. Louis Park can quench attendee’s desire for “spirited” evenings. Warehouse Winery is an authentic private winery and event space that can seat 150 for dinner or 200 for a standing cocktail event. The space includes one-of-a-kind artwork and five flat-screen TVs for slide shows or presentations. “All the wine we serve is made on-premise, aging right in wine barrels that are part of our décor,” says Sales and Event Manager Carly Dauffenbach.
If beer is more your group’s style, consider an outing to Steel Toe Brewing, the only nonchain brewery in St. Louis Park. Steel Toe brews a variety of beers, including golden ale, stout, scotch ale, West Coaststyle IPA and barley wines. Open for private events Sunday through Wednesday, the space can accommodate 100 people. “We offer a casual atmosphere, and we’re very flexible to work with,” says Taproom Manager Chelsea Carlson. “We can accommodate food trucks year-round or outside catering as part of your event, as well.”
Looking for something truly unique? “Take your group to the Roller Garden, and you can step back to the roller skating-crazy 1970s, disco ball included,” Bakken says. The throwback venue can comfortably skate 300-400 people for private events. Or plan a private event at the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting, one of the world’s most significant collections of vintage radio and television equipment; there are two spaces that can be rented, and its boardroom can fit a maximum of 60 guests with no tables. If there are budding artists in your group, Brush Studio can be a fun team-building activity for groups of 50-170 people. “They serve wine and beer, and everyone ends up with a painting that’s pretty good, no matter what your artistic capabilities,” Bakken says.