From 854 to 10 and then to five. All across the state, cities and towns submitted why they believe they are the best representation of what our great state has to offer. The Minnesota Monthly editorial team narrowed the field down to 10 cities, and from there a group of expert panelists made up of Doug Loon (Minnesota Chamber of Commerce), Kate Roberts (Minnesota Historical Society), and Rick Kupchella (local media personality) combined with online public voting further trimmed the list. For more on how each town was selected, be sure to check out the FAQ page on bestmntown.com. But now it’s time to meet the five finalists.
With nearly 10,000 acres of protected land for parks and open spaces, award-winning restaurants, top-ranked schools, and 95 percent of residents rating the quality of life in the city above average, how could Eden Prairie not make the top five? On top of all that, the city boasts a close proximity to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Flying Cloud Airport, a super-regional shopping center, and affordable housing in some of the most beautiful residential neighborhoods in the state. Oh, there’s also Lion’s Tap nearby in case you want the best cheeseburgers on Earth (totally not subjective, I promise).
Champion of central Minnesota in this year’s contest, Fergus Falls has enough small-town charm to last a lifetime just two and a half hours northwest of the Twin Cities. For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail, which stretches for more than 200 miles; the nearby state parks of Maplewood State Park and Glenalough State Park; and the Otter Tail Scenic Byway, a 150-mile loop that takes you through 1,000 lakes and wetlands all brimming with local wildlife. But the appeal doesn’t stop there. And once you’re done with all that outdoor exploration, be sure to make a pit stop at one of the local dining establishments that serve up all flavors, including Hunan Spring Restaurant, Mabel Murphy’s, and Fiesta Brava. Take in a show at the Center for the Arts, or visit the historic Phelps Mill for a can’t miss photo op—the mill played an integral role in developing the agricultural history of the area.
Known for its natural beauty, Northfield sits nestled along the banks of the Cannon River. One of the city’s major attractions is Carelton College’s Cowling Arboretum, where visitors can hike, run, ski, fish, and more year round. And if you’re a runner, you’re in luck, as Runner’s Magazine not only ranked the arboretum as the top place to run in Minnesota but a top 10 spot in the country. Another draw is Cannon River Winery. Sitting on 40 acres and sprouting more than 9,000 vines, Cannon River Winery squeezes out award-winning wine for all you grape aficionados out there. The city is also brimming with history. The Northfield Historical Society and Museum gives visitors a unique look at the city’s past, and the Norwegian-American Historical Association is THE spot for buffs of Norwegian History.
Perfectly situated between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Roseville is the only community to border both Minneapolis and St. Paul on the two city’s northern boundaries. This ideal setting ensures residents have easy access to the best of both cities. And here’s a fun fact: The first McDonald’s in the state opened in Roseville in 1957, so the city was pretty much a gateway to those salted, golden pieces of magic they call fries. That alone should make you a fan of the city. Roseville is also home to the Rosedale Center, which is one of the largest super-regional shopping centers in the area, as well as outdoor recreation options including the Guidant John Rose MN Oval—the largest outdoor refrigerated skating facility in North America—and the Harriet Alexander Nature Center. And foodies can rejoice, as there are nearly 100 different dining options to choose from, including Aurelio’s Pizza, Maya Cuisine, and the nearly extinct Bakers Square.
White Bear Lake
Sharing the same name as the large body of water it surrounds, White Bear Lake rests on the northern side of St. Paul. Filled with entertainment options year round, residents come together for Manitou Days and Marketfest in the summer, Pine Tree Apple Orchard in the fall, and, if you’re brave and warm-blooded enough, the Polar Plunge in the winter. And year-round entertainment can be found at the 320-acre preserve that is Tamarack Nature Center. And downtown, residents delight in the number of specialty shops, flavorful restaurants, and art galleries.