Minneapolis Redefines Experiential Tourism with Hip Group Events

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Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis
Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis

Experiential tourism is taking flight in Minneapolis this year following the October 2013 launch of Go Minneapolis Signature Experiences, a collection of 19 new tours, performances and demonstrations specifically for groups.

Major cultural attractions such as the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Brave New Workshop partnered with Meet Minneapolis to create the interactive activities over a 9-month period. The process involved scripting, staging, testing and training docents and guides.

“The work has been done for the meeting planners,” says Bill Deef, vice president of international relations for Meet Minneapolis. “We’ve created these brand-new experiences that did not exist before, and simply one call can book them for you. When I look at Minneapolis as a destination, I look at accessibility and affordability, and now you have these experiences and variety you can incorporate into a meeting.”

Deef thinks one of the most interesting activities is at the Midtown Global Market, where attendees can meet the merchants, several of which are immigrants from Somalia and Norway. Guests will have the opportunity to hear their stories and taste some of the food—even the area’s latest New Nordic cuisine, part of a food movement that modernizes traditional Nordic dishes such as meatballs and pickled herring.

Visiting the Guthrie Theater is an experience in its own, but in the Art of Stage Combat workshop, attendees will learn acting techniques that they can incorporate into their day-to-day work routine. “Everyone wants to be heard and understood, and this workshop teaches [attendees] how to make their voice more effective,” says Deef.

A similar experience called Inside the Writers’ Room is available at the Brave New Workshop, the oldest improv troup in the U.S. The 2-hour comedy sketch bootcamp teaches attendees the basic rules of improv, which encourage attendees to turn everyday ideas into comedy routines. These performance techniques will in turn help groups learn to explore creativity and not be so critical of one another.

Deef predicts that the experiential program will become so popular for groups that Meet Minneapolis will likely launch a Phase 2 of Go Minneapolis Signature Experiences later on in 2014. “We will dive deeper into the culinary opportunities here by doing things with restaurants and private dining,” he says. “There will be a more hands-on approach on the culinary side in the second phase as well.”

The striking stainless steel and brick Weisman Art Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry, also adds an experiential vibe to meetings. While not part of Go Minneapolis Signature Experiences, the venue overlooks the Mississippi river with some of the best views of the city, offering tours, art rental to spice up meetings and events—including early twentieth-century American artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley—and gallery rentals from 8 a.m. to midnight. The highly eclectic space breaks down into the Dolly Fiterman Riverview Gallery, with stunning clerestory lighting and reception seating for 350; the lecture-style William G. Shepherd auditorium for 300 reception, and the intimate, 30-seat Weisman Family Seminar Room.

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