An Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities

This is a guest blog post by Hydaway ambassador Zelphia Peterson. Follow her on Instagram @z_claire29.

Those of us who live here might be a little biased, but we truly do think there is no better place to call home than the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The two largest cities in Minnesota are home to a diverse population of over 1 million people, over 10 colleges and universities, numerous sports teams, a bustling international airport, gorgeous natural resources, and a friendly atmosphere that can only come from true midwest roots. Plus, we’ve got great food.

If you want to get the insider scoop on the best ways to experience the unique culture of the Twin Cities, look no further.

Things to Do:

  • For the arts enthusiast: the Minneapolis Institute of Art (lovingly referred to as the MIA) offers a world class art appreciation experience. From ancient Greek sculptures to Chinese textiles to an extensive classical collection (including a Rembrandt!) to colonial American furniture, this museum offers something for everyone. Plus, it’s free entry! Other notable spots are the Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Museum.
  • For the shop-till-you-drop-er: the Mall of America is the clear destination. This one stop shop includes 3 levels of shopping, countless stores, an amusement park, at least three food courts, multi-level department stores, mini golf, an aquarium, a movie theater, and attached hotels. It is the largest mall on the continent of North America, and so large that it has its own zip code. This isn’t just shopping, this is an experience.

  • For the animal lover: the Twin Cities are the fortunate home of not one, but 2 excellent zoos. The Minnesota Zoo (just south of the cities) is larger and more well known, and has a staggering variety of animals, shows, and learning experiences. The Como Zoo is smaller and mostly outdoor (a bummer in the winter), but boasts a beautiful indoor conservatory and is free entry!
  • For the sports fanatic: The culture of Minnesota sports is unlike anything else you’ll encounter. We’ve got hockey, baseball, basketball, and football teams playing at some state-of the art venues like the brand new US Bank Stadium. For some great family fun, catch a Minor League Baseball Saint’s game at CHS field. For a great fan experience, join the Dark Clouds fan section in cheering on MN United Football Club’s MLS team.
  • For the outdoor adventurer: The Twin Cities are about to become your new favorite place. From classics like Minnehaha Falls to urban oasis Theodore Wirth park, there are no shortages of beautiful parks and extensive walking, hiking, and biking trails. Ft. Snelling state park is actually located within the city of St. Paul, and there are about a dozen other state parks within an hour and a half of the cities.

  • For the urban explorer: check out some of the most fun and trendy neighborhoods the city has to offer, like the North Loop or Uptown in Minneapolis or the Summit Hill neighborhood in St. Paul. Dinkytown, near the U of M campus, has some great nightlife as well!
  • For the musical connoisseur: The Twin Cities boasts a vibrant and engaging musical scene. From a black tie night out with world-class Minnesota Orchestra or Minnesota Opera to local hotspot First Ave (did you know it used to be a Greyhound Bus Depot?), there’s something for everyone’s tastes.

  • For the history buff: Historic Ft. Snelling is an obvious first stop. With a history even older than the state itself, commanding views of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, and regular reenactments and interpretive events, it’s a great way to learn a little more about the state. Also, the MN History Museum in St Paul regularly features compelling traveling exhibits in addition to their comprehensive state history collections.
  • For the unapologetic nerd: the Twin Cities should feel just like home. Take a stop downtown at the wonderful Minneapolis public library, head over to downtown St. Paul for the always-entertaining science museum, or have an electrifying experience at the Bakken Museum.

Things to Eat Mpls:

  • Hi-Lo diner – Classic diner food with a brand new twist. Try one of their Hi-top donut sandwiches, a “so crazy it shouldn’t work but holy cow this is delicious” creation. It defies explanation, you just have to try it.

  • Wise Acre Eatery – all local, all organic, all delicious, all the time. This is hipster Mpls at it’s finest and most delicious.
  • Brit’s Pub – a fun downtown Mpls stop with classic pub food, great brews, a killer rooftop venue, and a soccer game to cheer for.
  • 5-8 Club – although locked in a controversial rivalry with Matt’s Bar over who invented the Juicy Lucy (a burger stuffed with molten cheese), this place edges out with their superiorly delicious onion strings. Look, we’re not trying to start anything. Try them both and enjoy the cheesy goodness of a MN classic.

  • Fat Lorenzos – the family feel of the restaurant and the delicious gelato make this tiny little Mpls pizza joint a must.
  • Bogarts Donuts – Nutella stuffed donuts. Do you really need any other reason to make it to Mpls? Get to the bakery early, before everything sells out!
  • Black Coffee and Waffle Bar – another local favorite with both Mpls and St Paul locations, enjoy top-notch coffee with your customized waffle. Don’t forget to Instagram this one!

Things to Eat St Paul:

  • Cossetta’s Pizza – A longtime St Paul staple, this joint knows pizza like no one else in the city. Expect a crowd at any hour, and enjoy the adjacent Italian import market and pastry shop. The chocolate-dipped cannolis are a must.
  • Rusty taco – a great variety of tasty tiny tacos in both Mpls and St. Paul. The brisket tacos and nachos smothered in queso are not to be missed.

  • Mickey’s Diner – take a step back in time with this legendary St Paul location. A vintage diner car and classic comfort food make this the ultimate midnight dive.
  • J. Selby’s – an amazing St. Paul favorite that’s so good you won’t even notice that everything is vegan. Check out the cauliflower wings, the spicy Thai peanut bowl, and the vegan soft-serve soy-clones (just like a DQ blizzard).

  • Nelson’s Ice Cream – So many flavors. So. Much. Ice cream. No trip to St. Paul is complete without this delicious adventure into lactose intolerance. Even the child size is the equivalent of 3-4 scoops anywhere else.
  • Fasika – deliciously authentic Ethiopian food. Best enjoyed with a group of friends and no silverware. Beef tibs are a personal favorite.
  • Brasa – a Brazilian-inspired rotisserie paradise in St. Paul. Fried yucca, pineapple gingerale, plantains, and house-made cornbread are just some of the complements to large portions of beautifully cooked meat main dishes. Flavor everywhere. Plus, they have a separate vegetarian menu for plant-based eaters.

Things to drink:

  • Coffee: The Twin Cities have a rich and deep coffee culture. While we still have the ubiquitous Starbucks, we’re also exceptionally proud of Caribou, an exclusively midwest chain. In the cities though, small, local, high quality coffee shops are the rule, not the exception. Notables include Quixotic and Claddagh in St. Paul’s Highland neighborhood, and Mpls favorites Fairgrounds, 5 Watt, Spyhouse, Anelace, Botany, Penny’s, and a veritable host of others.

  • Tea: If you want variety, head for TeaSource in either Mpls or St. Paul. If you want trendy bubble teas, look no further than Sencha Tea bar, also in both cities. If you’re a little bit south of the cities, Indigo Tea in Burnsville offers both classic tea and bubble tea with light refreshments and Japanese-style seating.
  • Brews: Twin Cities natives are just about equally as proud of the quality of local breweries as they are of the local coffee scene. Two stalwarts include Surly Brewing Co from Mpls and Summit Brewing Co from St. Paul, but don’t stop there. Dayblock Brewing, 612Brew, Urban Growler, Flat Earth, and Tin Whiskers are great options. Local is the buzzword of the hour, and these locations deliver.
  • Other fun: The Union Rooftop in downtown Mpls has a wide and creative range of house cocktails. Put that together with their grown up lobster mac n’cheese and delicious oven flatbread for a great night out. If you’re looking for an experience, you’ll actually have to look for Al’s Place, an honest-to-goodness speakeasy. They do have a website, but you won’t find a street address there, only the enigmatic instructions to “look for the green light.” Dress to the nines for a roarin’ good time.

So hopefully by now you’re hungry, thirsty, and ready for an adventure or two in one of the greatest places to call home. Come on over and get to know Twin Cities culture like an insider. We promise you, after even a short stay it will at least feel like home!

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