Visit Like a Local
Minnesota Monthly editor-in-chief Rachel Hutton prefers to explore a new city at her own pace
St. Paul Riverfront
photo by erica loeks
When I visit other cities, one of my favorite things to do is just walk around. If I don’t get to every site, attraction, or museum—all the things the visitors’ guides tell me I absolutely must see—so be it. I start my day by finding the area’s best indie coffee shop and chatting up the barista. And then I simply stroll.
I take in the architecture, the parks, the sounds and the smells, from honking horns to smoldering cigarette butts. I pop into shops, stop for a drink or a snack, and eavesdrop on conversations. But mostly I just walk, picking up the neighborhood’s rhythms through the soles of my feet.
As I explore, I don’t like to be one of those ambulatory zombies with her face buried in her phone, so I tend to let myself be guided by the Force. Sure, it’s led me to a dead-end alley or two, but also to many a serendipitous gem—a folk-music jam session in a public plaza, tasty street food from a portable cart—that offers a true (and often literal) sense of the local flavor.
You don’t have to travel far from home to have such an experience—they can be found just beyond our own backyards. In fact, this month we’ve featured eight of the Twin Cities metro area’s most interesting neighborhoods to enjoy and explore (“Best Neighborhoods,”). Whether Excelsior or Woodbury, Linden Hills or West Seventh, each area offers things for foodies, families, shoppers, arts-lovers, and active types. To give you a sense of each community’s unique character, we’ve outlined a few of its classic landmarks as well as the new arrivals shaping its evolution. Use each profile as a starting point for your visit and then make your own discoveries—we’d love to hear about your favorite neighborhood finds through online comments or social media.
Photo by Erika ludwig, hair and makeup by margo gordon