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Twin Cities

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Twin Cities

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The Twin Cities area of Minnesota is the political, cultural, and economic capital of the Upper Midwest and along with the Chicago and Detroit metropolitan areas forms the core of the North Coast region of the United States.

The name "Twin Cities" comes from the region's two core cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, which border each other share many of the same political, educational, and cultural institutions - and are thus considered to be "twins".

Their are multiple "tiers" or "rings" of suburbs extending out from these core cities, some reaching as far as Wisconsin.



St. Paul

  • Downtown St. Paul - contains the Minnesota state capitol, the Xcel Energy Center, Minnesota Science Museum, and more
  • St. Anthony Park
  • Merriam Park
  • Highland Park
  • The Midway
  • Como Park
  • North End
  • Frogtown (officially Thomas-Dale)
  • Summit-University
  • Crocus Hill (or Summit Hill)
  • West Seventh
  • West Side
  • Payne-Phalen
  • Dayton's Bluff
  • Greater East Side
  • Battle Creek



Located where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi, the Twin Cities grew in the 1800s from its location at the intersection of two major rivers, the Minnesota and the Mississippi, and rail lines. For a period the point furthest downstream that the Mississippi could be bridged was located in the area, if only due to the fortuitous island placement. Contributing to its growth was St. Anthony Falls, a natural waterfall which provided energy to working grain mills located on the Mississippi River. St. Anthony Falls moved upstream until it was set in concrete by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Get in

By car

Two Interstate Highways, I-94 and I-35 travel through the Twin Cities travelling east/west and north/south respectively. Several other national and state highways also travel through the area.

By plane

  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, MSP.

Most travelers will arrive in the Lindberg terminal. The Humphrey terminal was recently rebuilt and serves primarily charter carriers. The Lindberg terminal (Charles Lindberg was a Minnesotan, and one of his transatlantic planes is suspended above the ticketing area) receives the bulk of revovation fees, however, and it is an attractive, modern, convenient, and well-designed terminal. The Humphrey terminal is also quite attractive; the terminals share the same runways, have long- and short-term parking set between them, and are equally convenient for transportation. Savvy travelers might check the terminal of their arrival or departure to communicate their location to friends, relatives, or other transport.

The new light rail line serves both terminals and traverses South Minneapolis to Downtown. Fare is $1.50-2.00 depending on the time of day. The trains are fast and clean and, at times, one might imagine being in Holland or Disneyland while traveling their pristine route. They also serve the Mall of America, one stop to the West of the Humphrey Terminal. The light rail is free between the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminal stations.

Airlines serving the Lindbergh Terminal:

  • Air Canada
  • Air Tran Airways
  • American Airlines
  • Comair Airlines
  • Continental Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Icelandair (service suspended until March 13, 2006)
  • KLM
  • Mesaba Airlines
  • Northwest Airlines (major hub; Northwest is based in the Twin Cities)
  • SkyWest
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways

Airlines serving the Humphrey Terminal:

  • Casino Express
  • Champion Air
  • Miami Air International
  • Omni Air International
  • Ryan International
  • Sun Country Airlines (also based in the Twin Cities)
  • Midwest Connect(Midwest Airlines)

By train

  • Amtrak, [1]. There is a station in Saint Paul, Midway station. The 16 busline comes within a block. Daily service via the "Empire Builder", trains 8/28 and 7/27, terminating at Chicago and Seattle or Portland.

By bus

Greyhound Bus Lines, [2]. A station is located in downtown Minneapolis. It's just a few minute's taxi ride away from most of the downtown hotels. It's 4-5 blocks away from a few major bus routes and the light rail. Check the web site above for schedule details. The depot is near a homeless shelter, so it's not uncommon to see a few homeless people hanging out nearby. The area is well-patrolled and quite safe.

By boat

Mississippi River. The river runs through both downtown, but passenger boats don't serve the area. Huck Finn fantasies aside, arrival via the Mississippi is not recommended. (Besides, Huck floated down river.)

Get around

Minneapolis, St. Paul, and some of the inner suburbs are all served by public transit run by [Transit. There are also other transit authorities serving the outlying suburbs.

Light Rail

Serving Downtown Minneapolis, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the airport, the Mall of America, and all points in between. Although automobile transport is most useful for those who wish to explore more than the two downtown areas of the Twin Cities (e.g corporate visitors, or people visiting any of the suburbs), tourists may find light rail the easiest, fastest, and safest transport between the airports, the Mall of America, and downtown Minneapolis. There is currently only one line, though amenities at each stop, and within walking distance of each stop, are expanding. Eastbound and Westbound bus lines also intersect the light rail line at most points, so it is possible that visitors could use public transport exclusively to explore the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. About a mile West of the Mississippi and much of the border between Minneapolis & Saint Paul, it's possible to use east-west bus routes on the Ford Parkway, Lake Street, Franklin Avenue, or Hennepin Avenue for expedient travel within the cities and to most residential neighborhoods.


The Twin Cities have an adequate bus system, hobbled by confusing connections to suburban lines, and poor service during non-rush hours (and no service after midnight). The Metro Transit site (linked above) allows you to search for the best routes between your current location and your desired location, and is as good as most such systems in providing good routes and connections. Bus stops are located very nearly everywhere throughout the city, but some are served only very infrequently, and most are not labeled as to which routes serve them at which times, so take care, especially in sub-zero weather, as to which routes you choose. Buses on Washington Avenue, Lake Street, and University Avenue are most consistent and provide transport to the greatest numbers. Express buses operate between the two downtowns regularly during rush hours, and buses to suburbs, or connecting to light rail are limited, and best used during high traffic times.

Skyways and Tunnels

Minneapolis and Saint Paul both have extensive second floor ("Première étage") "skyways" that connect central city buildings with each other. Although Minneapolis is larger, the Saint Paul system, to this point, has more connections and is more extensive than Minneapolis' system. That said, one could walk from the Convention Center in Minneapolis to Washington Avenue (a block before the Mississippi) without going outside, and without stopping at a pedestrian traffic light. Highway 394 feeds into heated parking garages, so that a Wayzatan suburbanite could enter her Lexus, drive the length of 394 to the heated lot, go to work, shop at Target or Marshall Fields, see a movie, have dinner, and return home - all without having to wear a coat or change clothes, even in 20-below weather.

Even in good weather, mid-day romps in Minneapolis or Saint Paul at street level will miss most of the citizen activity, despite the appearance of crowds and farmers' markets, as many folks will choose to get their lattes, sandwiches, takeout, or copy keys, copy documents, or visit their banks, on the second level, a floor above the apparent activity.

As if to confuse you, there is an extensive network of tunnels connecting several buildings on the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus. Good idea, only different.


The Twin Cities, despite unfriendly weather for bikes from about November to April, provides many resources for both recreational and commuting bicyclers. Most major, and primary one-way, and two-way, streets have ample bike lanes which are marked and visible during fair weather months. In addition, all Minneapolis in-city lakes have bike paths that are separated from pedestrian traffic (and from motorized vehicles), and offer one-way transit around the entire Chain of Lakes, extending to Minnehaha Parkway and into Saint Paul. As if that were not adequate, former rail line paths sustain two-way bike lanes following east-west routes just South of Highway 394 and into downtown Minneapolis, known as the Cedar Lake trail; and just North of Lake Street, following a path known as the Midtown Greenway; and both are connected via a spur alongside an active freight railway just East of Cedar Lake and North of Lake Calhoun. It is possible to connect, via either east-west line, to bike trails that connect far into the Western suburbs and beyond, and recreational bicyclers can travel along historic rail lines for uncounted miles West.

Both buses and light-rail trains are equipped with bike racks. It is not uncommon, though still shocking, to see bicyclers in sub-zero weather, and in deep snow. Visitors may find late March to late November as the best period to travel on bicycles, if cold and snow don't arrive or persist.

Navigating Minneapolis Streets

The city streets in Minneapolis largely follow a common grid pattern. Like many US cities, the old city center retains historic street names and orientations, while the extended city streets follow a simple, mostly consistent, grid of numbered streets and named (alphabetic) avenues. The numbering, due to the relatively flat landscape interrupted by only a few rivers, lakes, or hills, often extends deep into the suburbs, so that, say, Portland Avenue in Bloomington will have addresses in the six digits, where central Minneapolis will show only three. Exceptions to the grid rule include Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues (which meet briefly, after a 90-degree turn near the Basilica and Highway 494, in front of the Walker Art Center and the former location of the Guthrie Theater) and Nicollet Avenue, and Lake Street. Downtown Minneapolis follows a grid, but at a slight angle to the rest of the city; downtown Saint Paul has numbered streets, but its avenues have historic, not alphabetically-ordered, names.

Minneapolis is divided into four quadrants: North, South, Northeast and Southeast. Hennepin Avenue forms the divider between streets labeled N and S near downtown. This division continues through the smaller portion of Minneapolis that lies east of the Mississippi River, dividing it into Northeast (NE) and Southeast (SE). Further to the west of downtown, this division lies along Linden Avenue, which is just north of the I-394 freeway. In North, Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis, all roads will carry the N, NE, or SE prefixes on street signs. In South Minneapolis, the north-south running avenues are marked with an S. The east-west running streets are marked with a W or E, depending if you are west or east of Nicollet Avenue. Even though the street signs show these directional designators before the street names, most locals will read the addresses with them at the end. Thus "York Avenue South" appears on street signs as "S York Ave" and "N 33rd Ave" is pronounced as "33rd Avenue North".

Street Signs

Minneapolis also is one of the few cities to use multi-colored street signs. These colors were originally developed to indicate the priority of plowing during winter storms. Although the plowing system has since changed, they can still be helpful to indicate what sort of street you are on. Blue signs indicate major roads which are "Snow Emergency Routes" in winter. These are still the first streets to be plowed after a storm. Rust colored signs indicate roads that run primarily east-west. Light green signs indicate roads that run primarily north-south. Dark green signs indicate scenic parkways that ring the city and the lakes.


  • Science Museum of Minnesota, 120 W. Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, 651 221-9444, [3]. Open 9:30am-5pm M-W, 9:30am-9pm Th-Sa, 10am-5pm Sun. The Science Museum overlooks the Mississippi River and has a permanent exhibit devoted to the river. The museum also has a dinosaur fossils gallery and an experiment gallery with various hands-on activities. The collections gallery includes several quack medical devices from the now-defunct Museum of Questionable Medical Devices.
  • Minnesota Children's Museum, 10 W Seventh St at Wabasha, St. Paul, [4]. T-Th, Sat-Sun 9pm - 5pm, F 9 pm - 8 pm; Mon (Memorial Day - Labor Day) 9 am - 5 pm. Consistently rated among the top ten children's museums in the US, with lots of hands-on activities.
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, [5]. Open daily, 6am-Midnight. The Sculpture garden is an outdoor exhibition of sculptures from many different different artists, including the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry.
  • Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St, Minneapolis, [6]. Open 10AM-5PM Tu-Sa, Noon-5PM Su. This interactive museum, an arm of the Minnesota Historical Society, recounts Minneapolis' history as the flour milling capital of the world. The eight-story "Flour Tower" ride describes life in the mills, and leads to an observation deck atop the Washburn A Mill, formerly the world's largest flour mill.
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave S, [7]. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-5PM. "The Minneapolis Institute of Arts houses more than 100,000 objects from diverse cultural traditions spanning 5,000 years of world history." General admission is free.
  • Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin, Minneapolis, 612 375-7600, [8]. 11AM-5PM Tu-We,Sa-Su, 11AM-9PM Sa-Su. A modern art museum. $8.


Being located in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the Twin Cities offers many aquatic activities. Many lakes offer swimming beaches with on-duty lifeguards. Fishing and ice fishing are popular activities, but be sure to purchase a fishing license first. Licenses are, unfortunately, rather expensive if you live outside the state, but can be purchased at most sporting goods stores, bait shops, and even some gas stations. Short-term licenses are also available.

  • Como Park, 1294 Lexington Parkway N, St. Paul. A 100-acre park with a huge glass-domed Conservatory built in 1913, a lake with paddle boats, small but world-class free zoo, an amusement park with rides, and the beloved Cafesjian's Carousel.
  • Minnesota Zoo, [9], in Apple Valley, MN about 10 miles south of the Mall of America, is Minnesota's large world-class zoo. Open every day but Thanksgiving and 12/25, from 9am - 4pm or 6pm seasonally, $7 - $12 admission (plus $5 for IMAX theatre); parking $5 (cars) - 15 (motorcoaches).
  • ValleyFair amusement park. Most common amusement park fare is available, including thrill rides, kiddie rides, and a waterpark. The roller coster called "Wild Thing" is the most exciting and thrilling ride in this amusument park. Also, there is a place where you can dress up in old-fasioned clothes and take neat pictures, which is very fun and not so expensive.


Mall of America

Mall of America, 60 East Broadway, Bloomington, 952 883-8800. Largest indoor shopping complex in the United States. A dizzying shopping experience. It has hundreds of stores, a LEGO play area, an indoor theme park, a large aquarium, and an IKEA. You can get there by Light Rail or bus.

Smaller Shopping Centers

The Twin Cities has many shopping centers, the list gently spoofed by radio humorist Garrison Keillor in his list of imaginary malls ending in "-dale":

  • Brookdale, Brooklyn Center.
  • Rosedale, Roseville.
  • Ridgedale, Minnetonka.
  • Southdale, Edina, [ (Considered the first modern shopping mall, is the first fully-enclosed shopping mall)

Shopping Districts

  • Nicollet Mall pedestrian street, downtown Minneapolis
  • Uptown area, centered on Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street, south of Downtown Minneapolis and extending East to the Lake/Lyndale avant-garde theatre district.
  • Grand Avenue, [10], west of downtown Saint Paul between two of the liberal arts colleges that sprinkle the region. Parking on Grand can be difficult during peak times; try Summit Avenue, one block north.
  • Midway Shopping Mall, University Avenue and Snelling, St. Paul.


The Mall of America and other malls listed above offer a wide selection of clothes. Other places to check out clothes include:

  • Lava Lounge for fashion wear, it's located by Lyn-Lake. The clothes are fitted and range from hip hop to techno-industrial wear.
  • Ragstock is a local chain of used clothing stores.


The Twin Cities is a hotbed of independent presses and bookstores.

  • Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction, 2864 Chicago Ave S, at Lake Street, 612 824-6347, fax 612 827-6394, [11]. M-F 10a-8p, Sat 10a-6p, Sun Noon-5p. Sharing the same building with Uncle Edgar's Mystery. A treasure trove of used and new Science Fiction and Fantasy books. It is the oldest SF/fantasy book store in North America, and has a well-earned national reputation for its vast selection.
  • Uncle Edgar's Mystery, 2864 Chicago Ave S, at Lake Street, 612 824-9984, fax 612 827-6394. M-F 10a-8p, Sat 10a-6p, Sun Noon-5p. Sharing the same building with Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction. Specializing in used and new mystery books.
    • The prices are reasonable and you can get an extra 10% off all purchases by buying a $4 discount card. If you're buying more than $40 worth of books, it pays for itself with the first purchase. It is located in a shady part of town, so it's best to arrive with plenty of daylight left.
  • Dreamhaven Books and Comics, 912 West Lake Street, 612 823-6161, fax 612 823-6062, [12]. M-F 11a-8p, Sat 11a-6p, Sun Noon-6p. New and used Science Fiction, Fantasy, horror, film and art books, comics, an adults-only room. Mail order and in-store readings.
  • Orr Books & Cards, 3045 Hennepin Ave at Lake, 612 823-2408. Regional and national poetry, journals, arts, cookbooks, and course reading lists for local small graduate institutes. Splendid little bookstore in Uptown.
  • College of Comic Book Knowledge, 3151 Hennepin Ave S, 612 822-2309, [13]. Shares the building with Nostalgia Zone. Great for newer and more mainstream comics.
  • Nostalgia Zone, 3151 Hennepin Ave S, 612 822-2806. Shares the building with College of Comic Book Knowledge. Best for hard to find old comics and independents.
    • You can also sell comics here, and the dealers are great. The establishment is over 30 years old.
  • Amazon Book Store, 4755 Chicago Ave, 612 821-9630, [14]. Founded in 1970, well before the online book retailer of the same name. Boasts the title of the oldest independent feminist book store in North America. The store is practically a Minneapolis institution.

Record Stores

  • Roadrunner Records, 4304 Nicollet Ave S, 612 822 0613, [15]. Has a great selection of independent LP's, CD's and DVD's. Known for their international music section. Punk and alt-country genres don't suffer. A great independent record store with lots of local and independently produced product.
  • Extreme Noise Records, 407 West Lake St, [16]. Specializes in all punk and subgenres therein. A cooperative run for over ten years by local punks. Amazing selection of punk 'zines, CD's, LP's and 7-inches. The place in town for finding hard-to-find punk records, trading punk records, finding other punks, seeking out that basement show, etc. Don't let the punk rock moniker scare the less-than punk away. If you want to see what a truly independent local scene can produce and meet some of the most earnest members of said scene, you must check out Extreme Noise.
  • Electric Fetus, 2000 4th Ave. S, (on the corner of Franklin Ave and 4th Ave, near 35W), [17]. Possibly the most complete selection of CD's in town across all genres. Hold on tight to your wallet when you walk in here. If there's an obscure CD you've been looking for, this place is likely to have it. Listening stations are posted throughout the store enticing all who enter to try out some new music. It's the place you would go if you had unlimited resources for buying new music. Be prepared to pay full price, although new releases are frequently on sale. Buy four CD's and get a discount. Tickets for local venues are on sale here too.


Also see Minneapolis and St. Paul.

  • Chez Daniel 2800 American Blvd W, Bloomington (inside the Embassy Suites), (952) 888-4447. Pricey but authentic French cuisine. Better than you'd expect from a hotel restaurant. $20-$30.
  • Joe Senser's 4217 W. 80th St., Bloomington, (also branches in Eagan and Roseville), (952) 835-1191, [18]. M-Sa 11am-1am, Su 10am-mid. A bunch of big screen TVs makes this a good place for visiting sports fans to catch their hometown team's game or "the big game". Decent "bar food," trivia and video games round out the experience. $7-$15.
  • Taste of India 5617 Wayzata Boulevard, St. Louis Park, (952) 541-4865, is unbeatable for its service and Indian dishes. $8-$20 dollars a person.
  • Famous Dave's Barbeque & Blues, 3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis, 612 822-9900, [19]. There are other locations, but this is the place to come for live music. Great BBQ and great music, every day. Noisy atmosphere, even when the bands aren't playing. Family-friendly. $5-$19.

Eating vegetarian

The Twin Cities is extremely vegetarian-friendly, with a large concentration of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. The website features reviews of the many options available. There are also a number of natural food coops. For example in Minneapolis alone, one can choose to shop at the North Country, Linden Hills, Eastside, Wedge, or Seward Coops. There are also options for raw foodies, including Ecopolitan Restaurant. Last, there are a number of worker-owned collectives, including the Hard Times Cafe, Seward Cafe, and Spokes Pizza Collective, that serve mostly organic, vegan food.


  • Great Waters Brewing, 426 Saint Peter St, downtown Saint Paul, 651 224-2739, [20]. Ten beers (some rotate) brewed on site. Good variety and overall quality.
  • Green Mill Brewery, 57 South Hamline (at Grand Avenue), Saint Paul, 651 698-0353, [21]. Fair but fresh beers.




  • Minneapolis Star Tribune. Also known as the Strib, it is Minneapolis' daily paper.
  • St. Paul Pioneer Press. Perhaps not as widely read as the Strib, but has a larger Pulitzer Prize-to-staff ratio keeping it well in place as a solid regional and world news source.
  • City Pages, [22]. The local metro weekly, with theatre and music listings, and an annual "best of" issue well worth checking out.
  • Pulse of the Twin Cities is the local alternative weekly.

Stay safe

Minneapolis' crime rate is below average for American cities, and it's a pretty safe place. Both the downtown and the "Uptown" area are busy late into the night. Minneapolis has some neighborhoods that are considered more dangerous, but compared to larger cities, there are no areas of the city that are truly decayed.

Saint Paul's crime rate is higher, and the downtown, while not necessarily at all dangerous, is relatively empty at night, except in a limited area near a few restaurants, the Xcel Energy Center (an arena), and the Ordway Center (a performance venue).

Get out

  • Afton
  • William O'Brien State Park
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