In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, we have not only distinctive neighborhoods but also vibrant suburbs, so you can live throughout the metro and find yourself in a pocket of theater, a block away from a boutique bounty or right next to a nature lover’s haven.
The Twin Cities also provide the infrastructure you need to advance in your career, raise a family or support a hobby. In the past few years, the area has gained more and more attention as a travel destination; for instance, Minneapolis was named one of the top 10 best family vacation spots in the country by Stuffed Suitcase in 2019. The joy of living here is that you can mix the tourist highlights into everyday life, such as eating at a James Beard Award-winning restaurant and attending a Broadway show one night and going to your part-time graduate program the next.
Whatever stage of life you’re in, we welcome you to the Twin Cities and are confident you’ll build a good life here.
For newcomers to the Twin Cities area, here are 10 reasons people love living here.
1) You get two cities for one.
Downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul are less than 12 miles apart, but each has its own history and personality.
Minneapolis’ first economic golden age was back in the 1880s, when it was known as the flour-milling capital of the world. Now, the city is filled with headquarters for businesses including Target, Xcel Energy and a handful of other Fortune 500 companies. (General Mills, born out of the milling era, recently moved to nearby suburb Golden Valley.) Of the more than 200,000 people who work downtown daily, a good number work for the city’s shops, restaurants and attractions.
A quick jaunt through Minneapolis’ second-level skyway system—the longest continuous system in the world, at nine miles—gets you to some of our largest sports and entertainment centers, like Target Center and Target Field; department and grocery stores; a variety of banks; specialty shops; and dozens of eateries that serve everything from pho to coffee to steak.
Over in downtown St. Paul, the streets are less gridded due to the Mississippi River’s S-bend. Much of the architecture has a more storied feel, whether it’s the Landmark Center—an event and exhibit center—or the Hamm Building, whose range of tenants includes lawyers, Park Square Theatre, Heimie’s Haberdashery and the French restaurant Meritage.
Companies like Ecolab and Securian Financial are headquartered in St. Paul as well. On weekends and evenings, locals head to the St. Paul RiverCentre or the Xcel Energy Center for concerts and entertainment. Quieter recreation is found in the Wabasha Street Caves, where you can explore tunnels used by gangsters and bootleggers during Prohibition.
Beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul’s downtowns are districts with their own treasures. In Minneapolis, the North Loop houses some of the trendiest boutiques and restaurants in the area. Northeast Minneapolis encompasses the cobblestoned main street of St. Anthony Main, along with more than half a dozen breweries and the city’s arts district.
St. Paul’s Summit Avenue and Cathedral Hill area is so beautiful and historic, the Minnesota Historical Society offers walking tours of its Victorian mansions. The city’s West Seventh neighborhood is seeing a revitalization in dining and shopping, not least of which includes Keg and Case Market, the No. 1 new food hall in America, according to USA Today in 2019. No matter how long you live in the Twin Cities, the area’s creative and entrepreneurial forces keep offering more to discover.
2) Our suburbs are pretty great, too.
Minneapolis and St. Paul may be the epicenters, but the suburbs are more than just residential areas. Around the 100-plus miles of shoreline surrounding Lake Minnetonka, you’ll find pockets of lakeside—and dockside—dining, shopping and recreation, in suburbs that include Minnetonka, Wayzata and Excelsior. Go on shopping sprees in Edina’s Galleria and 50th & France district, in Hopkin’s quaint downtown or at Roseville’s Rosedale Shopping Center and neighboring strip malls.
In the western suburb of Robbinsdale, explore a mini food kingdom. The inventive Travail Collective consists of Pig Ate My Pizza (craving fancy tikka masala on your slice?) and its new brewery, the walk-up MN BBQ Co., along with the chef’s-table experience at Travail Kitchen & Amusements. Southern suburb Apple Valley is home to the Minnesota Zoo, an almost 500-acre campus where sea otters, grizzly bears, West African dwarf crocodiles, flamingos, a very sleepy red panda and hundreds more animals roam.
Suburbs farther away have their own gems. Chanhassen, southwest of Minneapolis, has Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the largest dinner theater in the country. It also has Paisley Park, the former home and recording studio of Prince. Nearby, there’s the 1,137-acre Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, the horse-racing track Canterbury Park in Shakopee, and the casino and event center Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake.
In the northwest and northeast, respectively, Anoka and White Bear Lake offer charming downtown areas that make for perfect weekend excursions. Of similar Mayberry esteem, Stillwater is nestled along the St. Croix River to the east of St. Paul. The city is known for its boutiques, eateries, gorgeous views of the river and, in the fall, its Honeycrisp-growing apple orchard Aamodt’s Apple Farm.
3) Public transportation connects major areas.
To help get around Minneapolis and St. Paul, Metro Transit’s award-winning public transportation system offers discounted downtown zones, limited and express rides for daily commuters, and easy-to-track buses, light rails and trains.
Light rail tracks run through both downtowns. The Metro Blue Line starts at Target Field in Minneapolis and has stops in popular areas like the Warehouse District by the Hennepin Avenue Theater District, Nicollet Mall, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnehaha Regional Park, the V.A. Hospital, both airport terminals and Mall of America. The Metro Green Line also has a bookend at Target Field, but it goes from east to west, stringing through the University of Minnesota campus to downtown St. Paul, the State Capitol and Union Depot.
Special limited or express buses around Minneapolis and St. Paul make it easy for residents outside of the Twin Cities to commute from suburbs, including outer-ring ones like Stillwater. Park-and-rides offer convenient access points, and you’ll find plenty of stops in residential areas. Some suburbs create their own bus systems, like the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, which serves southern suburbs like Burnsville. If you need to go farther than the Twin Cities, Greyhound and Megabus stops are in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Northstar train connects northwest communities like Elk River and Big Lake to Minneapolis, where the stop at Target Field provides access to the light rail and, from there, to both downtowns. In St. Paul, the Amtrak stops at Union Depot, connecting you to many parts of the country by Amtrak train.
If you don’t want to take a bus or train to get downtown, there are always places to park downtown. Minneapolis has the gigantic ramps A, B and C on the northern part of downtown that offer $8 early-bird parking and contract pricing—including a $20-per-month carpool deal.
4) There’s always green space nearby.
Minneapolis and St. Paul have the top two park systems in the country, according to Park Score. Minnesota is also the Land of 10,000 Lakes, according to someone who actually bothered to count them (we actually have more than 11,000). Minneapolis makes its claim to fame with the Chain of Lakes: Bde Maka Ska, Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet. With biking and walking trails connecting the lakes and beaches and boat slips, the area is abuzz in the warmer months.
Bde Maka Ska, the biggest lake in Minneapolis at 3.2 miles in circumference, serves as a great loop for those training for a 5K; for delicious beachside food, with Urban Eatery; and for all sorts of recreation, with bike and boat rentals as well as the Minneapolis Sailing School. Another favorite beach is at Lake Nokomis, and, 20 minutes northwest, people flock year-round to Theodore Wirth Park.
See a 53-foot waterfall in south Minneapolis at Minnehaha Regional Park, or walk along the Mississippi River trails for the views. In St. Paul, Fort Snelling State Park encompasses a Dakota memorial. You can find more history at Minneapolis’ Gold Medal Park, right by the ruins of the Washburn A Mill. Roses bloom at the Lyndale Park Gardens and near the State Capitol, and blossoms await at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Sanctuary.
At Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, stroll through the park by Como Lake, detour to see the Japanese garden, or head indoors to experience its conservatory. In warm months, Minneapolis and St. Paul host movies and music in their parks. In the wintertime, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, downhill skiing and ice skating take place at recreation areas like Hyland Hills in Bloomington and Buck Hill in Burnsville.
5) The metro is a trove of quality education, from elementary to post-secondary.
As part of the Big 10, the University of Minnesota has 23 Division I sports teams and acclaimed undergraduate programs, such as in chemical engineering (tied for fourth best in the country according to U.S. News & World Report ). It also has a partnership with the Guthrie Theater for its acting B.F.A. and a business school that Times Higher Education ranked 18th in the world in business and economics in 2018.
Less than a mile from the U of M’s West Bank campus resides the liberal arts university Augsburg. In downtown Minneapolis, the University of St. Thomas has branches, although its main campus is in St. Paul. More private post-secondary options include Macalester College; Concordia, which has the only Center for Hmong Studies in the country; Hamline, with its revered law program; the Minneapolis College for Art and Design; and the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, where the Christian radio station KTIS broadcasts from. (These are just the private colleges in the metro. Go a little less than two hours south to Northfield, and you’ll find Carleton, ranked the fifth best liberal arts college in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report.)
Besides four-year colleges, the metro has many trade schools and two-year or community colleges. Dunwoody Technical College specializes in STEM-related areas with features like its School of Engineering and Robotics & Manufacturing department, and schools like St. Paul College, Anoka-Ramsey Community College, North Hennepin Community College, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College cover a variety of specializations from the arts to medical laboratory technician certification.
Families can find school districts offering support from preschool through high school. WalletHub rated Minnesota public schools as the seventh best in the country after weighing quality, standardized testing scores, dropout rates and more. Nine out of 10 of the best high schools in the state are in the metro, in cities like St. Paul, Orono, Eden Prairie, St. Anthony (near Minneapolis) and Eagan. As your child grows up, options like open enrollment, language immersion, charter, homeschooling flexibility and more help you choose a program that best suits their learning style and desires.
6) Our workplaces are collaborative, corporate, entrepreneurial, nonprofit—everything.
Minnesota has more than 15 Fortune 500 companies, including Target, Best Buy, Land O’Lakes, 3M and General Mills, and it has the largest privately owned company in the country, Cargill. For those who lean more toward nonprofits, the state’s philanthropic spirit has spawned organizations like the food bank Secondhand Harvest, fundraising nonprofit GiveMN and the sobriety program Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge.
Whether you are working on a passion project or simply want a place to connect, Minneapolis and St. Paul have community and co-working spaces. The Coven, in Minneapolis, welcomes women and non-binary people. The group collectively funds membership scholarships for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it and, throughout the year, presents speakers, panels and pop-ups. In St. Paul’s Lowertown, Fueled Collective offers a similar shared-space concept in an 1800s warehouse building. Fueled Collective is open to everyone and runs a social club.
If you’re a social entrepreneur with a vision, consider applying for a FINNovation Lab fellowship—the name is a riff on the owner’s other business, Finnegan’s Brew Co., which is below the lab. Here, people selected for a nine-month fellowship receive help getting their idea off of the ground, with funding, a work space, mentorship, education and more.
7) Need a trip to the doctor? No problem.
With the Mayo Clinic in Rochester less than two hours away from the Twin Cities, some of the best health service in the world lies within reach. Mayo is the best hospital nationwide, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and it has been ranked No. 1 in more specialties than any other hospital in the nation. But don’t discredit the other phenomenal hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities.
Abbott Northwestern Hospital is nationally ranked in eight specialties, such as cardiology and heart surgery. Others like Regions Hospital in St. Paul and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital regularly receive national rankings as well. Clinics such as the People’s Center Clinics & Services in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis focus on accessible and culturally relevant care. Doctors here not only treat people but advance the medical field as well: At the University of Minnesota Medical Center, research continues to break ground on the nation’s newest treatments.
8) We know how to dish good food.
Minnesota has claim to fame with Andrew Zimmern, from Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” but we have so much more than that. (For a taste of Zimmern, check out his food at Target Field or his new Asian restaurant Lucky Cricket in St. Louis Park.)
We also have James Beard Award winners like Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma, Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable, and the Midwest’s 2019 Best Chef winner Ann Kim of Young Joni. But don’t discount longtime finalists like pastry chef Diane Moua, also of Spoon and Stable, or local favorites who are now getting national attention, like Best Chef: Midwest finalists Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai and Jamie Malone of Grand Cafe. “Iron Chef” competitor and “Top Chef” alum Justin Sutherland is moving his oyster and whiskey concept Pearl and the Thief from Stillwater to Minneapolis, and his original restaurant Handsome Hog is one of the best spots for smoked beef brisket.
Food innovators like Sean Sherman have also been recognized with some of the most prestigious awards, but we tend to think of them more for their cultural impacts. Sherman has been revitalizing Native American cuisine, with an acclaimed cookbook, a food truck and, soon, a restaurant. “Iron Chef” contender Sameh Wadi and his brother Saed have opened a beloved restaurant and food truck called World Street Kitchen and play with ingredients from all around the world. Yia Vang is showing the Twin Cities what Hmong cuisine is through Union Kitchen’s pop-ups. All we can say is bon appétit.
9) The arts and culture scene is bountiful.
On both sides of the Mississippi, theater abounds, with dozens of companies, not least among them two regional Tony winners: the Guthrie Theater, created by Sir Tyrone Guthrie, once hailed as Britain’s most influential British director; and the Children’s Theatre Co., which has commissioned more than 200 new works in the last 50 years. Penumbra Theatre Co. in St. Paul tells stories that share the African American experience, and Theater Mu does the same with the Asian American experience. Other theaters include Theater Latté Da, which exclusively produces musicals, and the Jungle Theater, whose fantastic productions and leadership by artistic director Sarah Rasmussen have garnered national attention.
Broadway comes here through the nonprofit Hennepin Theatre Trust (you can see hit shows at its Orpheum Theatre venue) as well as the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, which also houses the Minnesota Opera, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and other local and touring music, dance and entertainment acts.
Check out local dance at places like Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, and head over to Northrop Auditorium when the world’s best dance companies come to town. Other arts groups include the Grammy-winning Minnesota Orchestra and vocal ensemble Cantus. On any given night, you have plenty of options to choose from at places like the iconic First Avenue & 7th St Entry, the Dakota jazz club and the Palace Theatre.
The visual arts can be seen at many art museums. The biggest is the Minneapolis Institute of Art, called Mia. It has more than 89,000 permanent works in its collection and spans 20,000 years of international culture. For a focus on contemporary pieces, the Walker Art Center, also in Minneapolis, is your place to see art in new ways, across all genres such as choreography, multimedia and sculpture. Other art museums include the recently remodeled Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis and the American Swedish Institute—the museum inside the castle.
In natural and applied sciences, our museums get hands-on at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the newly located and remodeled Bell Museum and the Bakken Museum. For history lovers, take a trip to Fort Snelling to see history come alive; walk through such historic homes as the James J. Hill House; or reflect on the past, present and future at museums like the Minnesota History Center or the Somali Museum of Minnesota.
10) Our sports are about the experience, not just the win.
With six major league sports teams in the Twin Cities area—the NFL Vikings, MLB Twins, WNBA Lynx, NBA Timberwolves, NHL Wild and MLS Loons—there’s always someone to cheer on. While Minnesotans are well aware of their win-lose records, they’re some of the most loyal fans you’ll find. Why? Because we love the players and we love the experiences.
The Minnesota United, aka the Loons, are the newest team on the block, but they already have a world-class stadium with the new Allianz Field in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. The seating is arranged so that all 19,400 seats are, at most, 125 feet away from the pitch, and the Loons brought in chef Justin Sutherland to head up concessions. While fans are still settling into their new home—it only opened in spring 2019—you can expect they’ll bring all of the singing, giant flags and chants that they had before.
The country saw the Vikings’ home at U.S. Bank Stadium during Super Bowl LII, and with events like the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game and the men’s 2019 NCAA Final Four, thousands of basketball fans have experienced the Target Center’s $39 million renovation. As for our hoops players, the Timberwolves are led by Karl-Anthony Towns, who set the franchise record in 2018 with 56 points in a game. But the Lynx are our dynasty team: four championship wins in the last seven years.
The Minnesota Twins have been at Target Field for almost 10 years now, but the staff is always looking for ways to better the experience. New for the 2019 season, the Gate 34 Experience features a turf lawn for programming and a rotating marketplace for local food and retail from places like Faribault Woolen Mill and Thumbs Cookies. Each year, the stadium’s concession partners announce the new foods of the season. (Standouts of the 2019 season include a two-foot long hotdog and a customizable soul food bowl.) But fans also flock to longtime favorites, like the Kramarczuk’s brats or the Red Cow burgers. Fireworks explode above the stadium, and, even if it’s one of those tough loss days, games are worth attending for a few hours in the fresh air with family and friends.
Also catch a baseball game starring the St. Paul Saints at CHS Field in Lowertown, St. Paul. They have their own characters, like Belle of the Ballpark and the Shark. You might even see team co-owner Bill Murray at the ticketing booth.