Farther Out: Waconia
Located 40 minutes west of downtown Minneapolis, Waconia is no longer the rural outpost it once was. Situated on the southern edge of Lake Waconia, the town of almost 11,000 recently ranked as the fastest-growing economy in Minnesota. Some perks? Three farm wineries, two craft breweries and one craft distillery. Numerous watersport activities can be had on the town’s 3,200-acre lake. And it sits beside the 44-mile Dakota Rail Regional Trail, threading bikers and walkers through scenic lakesides.
Scenic City Spot: Upper Landing, St. Paul
Built along a plateau above the Mississippi River, the Upper Landing development embraces both the river and nearby historic downtown. With multiple buildings and developers, the area offers condominiums, apartments and retail along the riverfront, all sitting near a regional trail system and downtown St. Paul’s theaters and restaurants. The area also boasts great views of the Cathedral of St. Paul, the State Capitol and beautiful Harriet Island.
Superb Suburb: Maple Grove
About 20 minutes west of Minneapolis, Maple Grove is one of the fastest-growing suburbs in the Twin Cities. Residents have fallen in love with new developments, single-family homes, and ample apartments and townhouses. Serene parks nearby include a 36-mile loop of paved paths, plenty of playgrounds and the Elm Creek Park Reserve, the largest of Hennepin County’s parks at 4,900 acres. Residents gather at the Town Green amphitheater for music, dance and movies alongside one of the area’s 10 lakes. Nearby, the community center houses a mini indoor water park, an Olympic-size ice arena and a skate park. Maple Grove doesn’t have a traditional downtown, but the area surrounding the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes fulfills that need with more than 150 open-air shops, restaurants and other businesses lining the streets.
Close Quarters: Richfield
Find a variety of housing options in this inner-ring suburb, from single-family homes to condominiums, apartments and senior-living spaces. Its proximity to Minneapolis, MSP International Airport and Mall of America provides recreation and entertainment while, nearby, Lyndale Gardens offers retail, office space, an open market, a stage, a children’s splash pad, a community oven, organic gardens, outdoor seating, and walking and biking paths along Richfield Lake.
Urban Update: Payne-Phalen, St. Paul
Minutes from downtown St. Paul, Payne-Phalen is the largest of the capital’s 17 designated neighborhoods, with a rich architectural history and Lake Phalen itself. Strong schools, green parkways and a committed, diverse community make Payne-Phalen vibrant. Its affordable commercial and residential spaces are likely to attract more and more artists and entrepreneurs in the coming years.
Delicious Destination: Uptown, Minneapolis
The name may sound familiar; Prince’s hit “Uptown” immortalized this area as the artist’s ’80s hangout. Still, this southwest Minneapolis neighborhood is for everyone (and for young professionals especially). Uptown borders the scenic Lake Bde Maka Ska/Calhoun, which is part of the city’s chain of five lakes that boast 13 miles of paved year-round biking and walking trails. Restaurants represent cultures from all corners of the globe. Area favorites include Chino Latino, the Pourhouse, Origami Sushi, Stella’s Fish Café & Prestige Oyster Bar, Uptown Tavern & Rooftop, and Muddy Waters. Check out the new Piggy Bank for American fare and the new Fig + Farro for vegetarian choices. Families flock to beautiful 20th-century homes, but there are plenty of classic apartments and new rentals that can place you right in the center of this mini-city.