PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Minneapolis & St. Paul

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  • Collectively known as the Twin Cities
  • Huge amount of lakes and parkland within city limits
  • The coldest climate of any major U.S. city

Metro Population: 3.5 million (#16 in the U.S.)

When To Visit: April-October

Climate: Very seasonal – with a hot summer, cold snowy winter, and cool spring and fall

Minnesota is called “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” and the Twin Cities live up to that nickname, with dozens of lakes within city limits available for residents for boating, walking, and relaxing. From a unique outdoor sculpture garden centered around a spoon to one of the most beautiful churches in the country, Minneapolis and St. Paul are full of delightful adventures to experience.

Photo: Lake Harriet

Where To Go in the Twin Cities

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Downtown Minneapolis

Minneapolis

  • Minnehaha Falls: A beautiful 53 foot waterfall within city limits! The surrounding Minnehaha Park has beautiful gardens and trails. Free. 4801 South Minnehaha Drive. (612) 230-6400
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Minnehaha Falls
  • Sculpture Garden: This free outdoor garden has great views of the downtown skyline and perhaps the city’s most famous landmark: a cherry sitting atop a giant spoon. Free. 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis. (612) 375-7600
  • Stone Arch Bridge: This historic and aesthetically pleasing bridge has great views of St. Anthony Falls and the Downtown skyline. Free.

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Stone Arch Bridge
  • Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, and Lake of the Isles: These three neighboring lakes are popular spots for walks, runs, and even beach activities when weather permits. Free.
  • University of Minnesota: This gorgeous college campus has huge grassy lawns and a grand mix of historic and contemporary architecture. Free. 100 Church Street SE, Minneapolis. (612) 625-5000
  • Wild Rumpus: A cute local bookstore with several resident cats who range from friendly to “leave me alone” ๐Ÿ˜‰ Free. 2720 W 43rd Street, Minneapolis. (612) 920-5005
  • Mall of America: This shopping area holds the distinction of being the largest mall in America. It has 400+ stores and even its own theme park with a roller coaster. Other than that, it’s just a regular mall. Free. 60 East Broadway, Bloomington. (952) 883-8800
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Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

St. Paul

  • St. Paul Cathedral: This stunning Catholic cathedral with a huge copper dome is one of the largest in the country and has beautiful art, stained glass windows, and architecture. Open to the public at most times. Free. 239 Selby Avenue. (651) 228-1766
  • Minnesota State Capitol: Besides being second fiddle to larger Minneapolis, St. Paul also serves as the state’s capital. Its stunning capitol building has the second-largest marble dome in the world. Free guided tours are available daily. Free. 75 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (651) 296-2881
  • Grand Avenue: Probably St. Paul’s hippest neighborhood, this block of shops and eateries is cute and fun to explore. Free. 857 Grand Avenue.
  • Crosby Farm Park: This pleasant park gives you the chance to walk along a quiet portion of the famous Mississippi River. Free. 2595 Crosby Farm Road. (651) 632-5111

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Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis

Twin Cities Cheap Eats

Twin Cities restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15. I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.

Quang: The Twin Cities have a huge Southeast Asian American population, so unsurprisingly there’s plenty of great options for Vietnamese food. This eatery is one of the best and is conveniently located on the city’s “Eat Street,” a huge row of restaurants south of Downtown. 2719 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis. (612) 870-4739ย 

Mickey’s Diner: You can’t miss this historic, super old-fashioned 24-hour dining car in the heart of St. Paul’s Downtown. The tiny diner consists simply of one long lunch counter. There’s nothing unique on the menu, but prices are low. 36 7th Street West,ย  St. Paul. (651) 222-5633

Maya Cuisine: One of the best Mexican restaurants in Minneapolis, this bright and colorful eatery in the city’s hip Northeast neighborhood has shockingly low prices. 1840 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis. (612) 504-3974

Trieste Cafe: A fast casual Greek spot in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis with a mean Greek salad and homemade hummus. You can get a large meal for under $10! 10 South 5th Street, Minneapolis. (612) 333-4658

Sebastian Joe’s: The best ice cream I’ve ever had! Decadent, creamy, and perfect – words can’t even describe this homemade ice cream spot’s splendor with rotating creative flavors. 1007 West Franklin Avenue South, Minneapolis. (612) 870-0065.

Twin Cities Nightlife

Minneapolis bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another cityย  B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good timeย  C) Beautiful decor or view

Prohibition: This swanky rooftop bar on top of The W Hotel has great views of the city and some very comfortable and sexy couches. 821 South Marquette Avenue, Downtown Minneapolis. (612) 215-3700

The Saloon: One of the city’s largest gay bars with multiple rooms, bars, and dancefloors, this is a great spot to dance. 830 Hennepin Avenue, Downtown Minneapolis. (612) 332-0835

Brit’s Pub: A British pub with a huge lawn bowling area and a rooftop deck on the edge of Downtown. 1100 Nicollet Mall, Downtown Minneapolis. (612) 332-3908

Nearby Side Trips from the Twin Cities

Lake Minnetonka: This huge lake a half-hour west of the city has a swimming pond, several hiking trails, and the opportunity to experience quintessential Minnesota lake life.

Afton State Park: This peaceful prairie park overlooking the scenic St. Croix River is 30 minutes east of the city.

Taylors Falls: This adorable village an hour to the north on the St. Croix River has covered bridges and a lovely small-town downtown. There’s great hiking and camping nearby.

Quarry Park: This large park area an hour west of Minneapolis has two serene swimming holes formed from quarries and hundreds of acres of woodland to explore.

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