Drawn to the small-town feel in a big-city environment, I’ve lived on Grand Avenue for three years. The abundance of brick, trees and lamp posts made me feel right at home when I first moved to St. Paul from rural Minnesota. It must run in the family: My grandma lived in the area when she was my age, and my great grandma cleaned homes in the area. Walking down Grand Avenue is not only enjoyable with all of the good food and adorable shops, but it also connects me to my family history.
The parallel street of Summit Avenue is just as idyllic, and makes me feel like I’m back in the 1920s. Whether I’m out for a long walk or a short bike ride, I always enjoy gawking at the Summit Avenue mansions I could never afford and fancy gardens manicured with more attention than I give my cats. Then when I’m hankering a coffee, pastry, sandwich, or air conditioning, I hop over to Grand Avenue.
Whether you’re starting your stroll at the top of the hill at Dale or by the Mississippi River, there are a few stops you can’t miss.
I’m not much of an artist, but my friends are, and this is a great place to find gifts for the aspiring Picasso in your life. As a writer, I’m also obsessed with notebooks, so looking at their selection makes me giddy.
If you’re a bit hungry, Shish serves smooth hummus that makes for a tasty snack. Their Turkish coffee gives a great caffeine kick and is infused with aromatic spices. It’s also close to Sencha, if you’d prefer an iced tea.
Next Chapter Booksellers
My favorite secondhand bookstore on Grand Avenue, Sixth Chamber Used Books, recently closed, but this one with brand new books is still fun to peruse. It’s technically on Snelling Avenue, but it’s nestled right between Summit and Grand Avenues and isn’t far out of the way.
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The Saint Paul Cheese Shop
My husband and I had quite a few dates at the Saint Paul Cheese Shop when we first started going out, so this one holds a special place in my heart. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable about everything cheese-related, the samples are tasty, and the sandwiches are scrumptious, so be sure to save some room to try one.
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As with many of the businesses on Grand, Just Truffles is an old house converted into a business of the most noble variety: chocolate. The truffles are hand rolled and just the thing to make anyone feel special. The only hard part is choosing which flavor to get.
Cooks of Crocus Hill
As someone with a culinary background, this place is simply fun. You get to look at all the fancy kitchen appliances, knives and cocktail gizmos I wouldn’t even know how to start using. Beyond all the kitchen gear, Cooks also offers an array of cooking and baking classes. At the St. Paul location this month, there’s a Jamaican BBQ class on June 21, a kids baking camp on June 24, and a gluten-free pasta-making class on June 25.
Mischief Toy Store
With shelves stocked with games, books, funky socks and graphic novels, this is the perfect place to feel like a kid again or pick out a fun gift. There are countless widgets and whatnots that will spark your curiosity and playfulness.
Golden Fig Fine Foods
As long as I’ve lived in St. Paul, Golden Fig Fine Foods has been my go-to place for gifts. It has gluten free snacks for my mom, gourmet butter for my dad, cocktail bitters for my husband, and indulgent chocolate for anyone.
Depending on when you started your walk, it may be time to sit down for a drink. Hyacinth— right next door to the Golden Fig — is a relatively new restaurant on the block with seasonal cocktails crafted from fresh local ingredients. If you’re looking for something refreshing, try the Arenella made with vodka, hibiscus, and citrus. Or, if you’re in the mood for a strong drink with whiskey, I’d give the Alla Pesco a shot.
Grand Ole Creamery
Before you turn around, you can’t miss Grand Ole Creamery. With an array flavors and freshly made waffle cones, it’s the perfect fuel for your journey back. If you’re sugared out at this point, there’s also pizza next door.
As for Summit? I’d recommend devoting one way of your walk to looking at the homes and gardens, because you won’t want to miss any of Summit in its full glory. It’s the longest stretch of preserved Victorian-era homes in the United States, according to Visit Saint Paul’s website. Don’t forget to go past 599 Summit Avenue, where author F. Scott Fitzgerald used to live.
If you’re hoping to immerse yourself in nature, starting at Lexington Parkway and going down to the river, there’s a strip of grass, trees and aromatic lilac bushes in the middle of Summit you can walk through. Just be careful of runners on their daily route.