by Amy Jurek, RE/MAX Advantage Plus
If your only experience with the Twin Cities is from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "A Prairie Home Companion" or national news stories about sub-zero temperatures, you're in for a pleasant surprise. There's a lot more to Minneapolis and Saint Paul than snow tires, mittens and frozen noses.
Time and time again, people who've relocated to the Twin Cities from all across the country tell me that they had no idea about all the phenomenal people, places and activities that these two towns - and the suburbs that surround them - have to offer. I'm not surprised. Minneapolis and Saint Paul constantly rank at or near the top of nearly every survey in the book, from most literate to one of the top places to raise a family. According to a recent Gallup poll, Minnesota ranks fifth in the country for overall health and happiness.
So what is it about the Twin Cities that makes it a great place to live? The first thing to keep in mind is that these "twin" cities aren't exactly identical. It's a sweeping generalization, but it's also fairly accurate: In a nutshell, Minneapolis is sleek and hip; St. Paul is traditional and classic. Do you prefer a trendy cocktail or would you rather settle in with a cold beer? One of the best parts of living in the Twin Cities is that you don't have to decide. You can satisfy just about any interest, mood or whim with just a few-minute drive, anchored by two distinctly different cities.
No matter where you put down roots, whether it's amid the hustle and bustle of Minneapolis's Uptown neighborhood, near the stately tree-lined beauty of Saint Paul's Summit Ave., or anywhere in between, you can rest assured that the Twin Cities offer plenty of big-city amenities -- without a lot of the big-city hassle. The Twin Cities are the 15th largest market in the United States, ranking just below Seattle and just above Miami, and that major metropolitan status is reflected in the breadth and depth of the culture, conveniences and quality of life. Here are just a few examples:
The Cities are separated by a majestic river - the Mighty Mississippi - and the landscape here is breathtaking no matter the season. They don't call Minnesota "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" for nothing. Summer in the Cities is relatively short, but spectacular. And Minnesotans take full advantage of the sunny season. The Chain of Lakes is one of Minneapolis's most-visited locations, and features several connected lakes (the largest include Lake Harriet, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun and Cedar Lake) surrounded by a 13-mile walking/biking/jogging path. The rest of the state also features oodles of parks and green space -- Minnesota boasts 66 state parks and six state recreation areas -- and miles and miles of trails. Eighteen of the state parks have trails running through them, linking urban and suburban spaces with less-traveled country places and allowing you to explore the state's beauty at your own pace.
Boating, swimming, fishing, biking, walking, camping and spending time outside are top recreational pursuits in the warm-weather months. Scores of city dwellers and suburbanites head "up north" during cabin season and when the leaves turn color to take in Northern Minnesota's scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities. In the winter, attention turns to ice fishing, snowmobiling, sledding, skiing and skating.
Minnesota has long enjoyed a reputation for quality education, from kindergarten through college. It's home to one of the most lauded public school systems in the country; our students' scores in reading and math are consistently ranked at or near the top. Our high school graduation rate is third in the nation, and the majority of students -- sixty-five percent -- go on to attend a post-secondary institution. (There are more than 50 public and private colleges and universities across the state.) In 2008, Minnesota's average composite score on the ACT college entrance exam was the highest in the nation.
The Twin Cities are home to several professional sports teams, including the Twins (MLB), Vikings (NFL), Wild (NHL), Timberwolves (NBA) and Lynx (WNBA), and an abundance of collage teams. Two new stadiums are set to add to the excitement in 2010, Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins, and TCF Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
The Twin Cities boasts the largest indoor mall in the Unites States, the world-renowned Mall of America. If the MOA's nearly-80-acre wonderland isn't enough to satisfy your shopping urges, you can visit one of the "Dales" malls (Rosedale, Ridgedale, Brookdale or Southdale), downtown stores connected by skyways for all-weather shopping, or boutique shops in great neighborhoods sprinkled throughout the Cities: 50th & France, Uptown, Grand Avenue, Wayzata, Stillwater, Northeast, and many, many more.
Once considered a lukewarm scene featuring little more than hotdish and lutefisk, Twin Cities cuisine has finally arrived. Our restaurant scene is now on par with major metropolitan cities across the country, boasting nationally renowned chef-driven gastronomy that's gaining a national reputation. Food lovers can tempt their tastebuds at thousands of restaurants, from sleepy Saturday morning brunch joints to the hippest downtown eateries.
Theater lovers appreciate the many opportunities to take in professional, touring and community theater performances. From the Ordway and Fitzgerald Theaters in St. Paul to the renowned Guthrie Theater and historic trio of Hennepin Avenue theaters (Orpheum, State and Pantages) in Minneapolis, there's something for everyone.
Music fans will delight in the Twin Cities' thriving music scene. Most major concert tours make a stop at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul or the Target Center in Minneapolis, and several of those headlining musicians got their start in some of the area's most renowned, tucked-away haunts - including First Avenue and the Turf Club.
Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport is a major Delta Airlines hub, and services hundreds of cities with non-stop flights each day. Twin Citians - yes, that's what they call us - have access to exceptional healthcare resources, including the Mayo Clinic an hour away in Rochester, the University of Minnesota, and numerous clinics and hospitals.
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul may be as different as night and day, but that's a large part of this bustling community's charm.