After moving down to Houston, I have been asked frequently “Which city do you like more, Houston or Minneapolis?” I don’t think I have explored Houston enough to reach a conclusion, but I could assure you that Minneapolis is a great city to live in. It is such a hidden gem, often buried inches deep down by at least four months of snow.
Now that summer is almost over (the best season in Minneapolis and the worst in Houston), I decided on a last minute getaway to Minneapolis this weekend. The author of “My Open Love Letter to Minneapolis” has already done a great job summarizing the essence of the city, but I would like to add a more personal flavor and share some of my favorite places. Note that I am going to talk about St Paul and Minneapolis altogether. Since the two biggest cities of Minnesota are only ten miles away, people usually see two as one, hence the name “Twin Cities”.
- Parks within a Hand’s Reach
A hand’s reach is exaggerating, but based on rankings conducted by the Trust for Public Land, Minneapolis has “a park within a 10-minute walk of most homes”. Since Minneapolis is blessed with natural landscapes such as lakes and rivers, a lot of parks or trails are built around the beautiful sceneries. When I decided to run regularly in the summer of 2013, it was the trees, green grass, and flowing water along the trails that motivated me to go further for more “eye therapies”.
Chain of Lakes – home to Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, etc
Stone Arch Bridge – a pedestrian bridge that runs over the Mississippi River and a good spot to see Minneapolis downtown skyline
West/East River Parkway –the trail along the Mississippi is perfect for a long run and some hill running
Minnehaha Falls – never had the opportunity to go, but heard it’s great to see fall colors without the hassle of leaving the city
Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, biking, running, roller blading/skating, etc
*I used to buy Groupons from Wheel Fun Rentals every summer to check out their kayaks and canoes by the Chain of Lakes.
*NiceRide is a great public bike rental system that has convenient docking stations around the Cities.
- Art and Cultural Events
If you are into art, you can’t miss Minneapolis Institute of Art. It not only carries great permanent collections, but also well-known temporary exhibits, those of which I have been to include Rembrandt, Terra Cotta Warriors, and Matisse. The cherry on top is free admission! Besides the Impressionism paintings, my favorites are Chinese art, some of which donated by Ruth and Bruce Dayton. Ruth Dayton convinced her then husband (part of the Dayton family that owns Target Corporation) to acquire more than 700 objects from China. According to New York Times, “the museum’s Chinese art collection is now considered one of the finest and most comprehensive in the country”.
If you ever listen to NPR over the weekend, you might be familiar with the town where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average”. It is Lake Wobegon, from A Prairie Home Companion, a radio show originated from the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown of St Paul, Minnesota. As a friend of mine put it, “it shows the quintessential Minnesota culture”. I am a big fan of the program, partly because I could catch all the jokes on Minnesota. I regret not going to the Theater to watch Garrison Keillor live and wish I could have the opportunity before he retires in 2016.
Catch a show in any performing center – Gutherie, Orpheum, Ordway, Minnesota Orchestra, St Paul Chamber of Orchestra, etc
Watch a movie or music performance in the park during the summer time
Attend a festival – Uptown Art Fair, Grand Old Day, Minnesota State Fair, Stone Arch Bridge Festival, Northern Spark, etc
- Walkable Neighborhoods
The Twin Cities have a lot of neighborhoods that are pedestrian-friendly and filled with restaurants and shops, such as the Northeast Minneapolis, Uptown, Selby and Cathedral Hill, and Grand Avenue. You could drink, dine, and shop all on one trip, without the constant worry of finding the next parking spot. These neighborhoods abut single family homes and are usually away from the noisy traffic. I always feel a peace of mind walking in these neighborhoods.
Favorite coffee shops:
Nina’s Coffee Café
Dunn Brothers on 3rd Avenue and 1st Street, next to Stone Arch Bridge
Nature, Arts, and Culture, these are what I like the most about the Twin Cities. When you live in a place for a while, the culture and values of that city slowly rub on you. Six years of living in the Twin Cities definitely led me to become more fitness-conscious and more cultural, which will always stay as part of me. Now that I am living in Houston, I having been exploring and peeling off the concrete layers of this urban sprawl. Give me some time and I will write an article on Houston too!