The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is an underrated gem of the Midwest. Chicago gets more attention, sure, but the Twin Cities have a comparable amount of things to entertain you, all with less traffic and no lake-effect snow (though it definitely still gets cold). Summer and early autumn are the best times to visit the Twin Cities, but it is cheaper and less crowded in winter and parts of spring, assuming you do not mind bringing a coat and gloves.
Twin Cities History and Culture
Minneapolis-St. Paul was built around the mighty Mississippi River, so it makes sense that the Twin Cities are located on either side of the river. Minneapolis is on the west side, while St. Paul sits east of the river. Minneapolis has more people, but St. Paul is home to the state capital. They are linked together as “twin cities,” but the two cities have distinctly different vibes that make them fraternal rather than identical.
Minneapolis is seen as a hipper, trendier place. It is a good place for young people to live and work, and it also has one of the largest LGBTQ populations in the United States. Minneapolis’ population makes it the 45th-biggest city in the country, but it often acts like a bigger city. The music, theatre, and literature scenes are second to none. Check out the legendary Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis. It is a diverse venue where you can see everything from Shakespeare to a thing called “Hot Funky Butt Jazz.” Minneapolis is considered one of the most literate cities in America, so it is a great place for writers to live and visit. The Loft Literary Center is one of the most well-known literary nonprofits in the country, providing support for writers and readers all over the metro area. Numerous small presses also make their home in the Twin Cities.
To oversimplify things a bit, if Minneapolis is where people go when they are single, St. Paul is where they go when they want to settle down and start a family. St. Paul is the quieter, more responsible twin that houses the government and makes all the laws. There is still plenty for visitors to see, though. If you are into politics, the State Capitol offers free guided tours of the building. The architecture is a sight to behold as the capitol building was designed to resemble the Vatican’s Basilica of St. Peter. If you are in St. Paul in late August or early September, check out the Minnesota State Fair, which sports music, rides, animals, and delicious Midwestern foods with names like Irish Tater Kegs and Nordic Waffles.
You cannot visit the Twin Cities without at least taking a look at the Mall of America in Bloomington. It requires driving about 10 miles south of Minnesota, but it is well worth it to see one of the largest malls in the country. If you are flying into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, you should know that the Mall of America is just a five-minute drive away. The mall has more than 400 stores and approximately 11,000 year-round employees. You can basically live in the Mall of America, although we do not recommend attempting that.
The Mall of America is so massive that you may need your phone’s GPS just to figure out where you are. You can even talk to the people at any of the AT&T stores in Minnesota who recommend downloading the MOA app to your cell phone to get the most out of your visit. Their expertise in both the mall, and smartphones, can help you navigate your way around. And while the mall is a big part of the local and state economy, there are several major companies headquartered in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Target tops the list, and you can’t travel more than a few blocks in the Twin Cities without seeing that familiar red and white logo.
So, whether you are looking for a little history, a trendy part of town, the largest mall in the US, or just a glance at some of the big companies that have landed in MN, you can be sure to get more than you expect from the Twin Cities.