What Is It Like Living in the Twin Cities? (Minneapolis and St. Paul)

This article was written by Joe Molinaro, who spent most of his life living in the Twin Cities.

Whether you’re making the move to the “Twin Cities”, or just considering it, there are things you need to know. This article will tell you the good, the bad, and interesting facts about Minneapolis, its conjoined sister city of St. Paul, and the surrounding metro area. First, I will l give you a brief overview of each city. Then like so many do, move on into their suburbs.

What is it like living in Minneapolis, Twin Cities?

The “mini-apple” as some call it in contrast to New York’s “Big Apple” nickname, has a population of just over 439,000. The largest city in Minnesota, and the 46th largest in the U.S. Minneapolis, is larger than its twin- St. Paul, by around 29%.

Having lived in other major U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, I can tell you the car traffic here is better than most for this size city. The good news is that the roads are kept in good condition and frequently expanded to meet growth. But the bad news is that the road construction begins after the snow has stopped in the Spring. Navigating your driving routes around road construction takes planning. There is also a good public transportation system, including buses and an expanding commuter rail system. 

What are the best neighborhoods in Minneapolis?

The best neighborhoods in Minneapolis for families are located in the South. Lake Nokomis neighborhood for example is safe and close to the city. The neighborhoods in the North of Minneapolis are considered the most dangerous ones, but they are also the most affordable ones.

Minneapolis divides into 11 communities or neighborhoods. In the Southwest, you will find “the lakes” area including the “Lowry Hill” neighborhood. This is a great place of interest if you enjoy the arts, chef-owned restaurants, and walking along the paved trails of beautiful lakes.

In the Northeast, you’ll find a mix of families and upcoming artists and their galleries.  Being near the University of MN, “Northeast” as it’s called, also draws in students and professors. The homes in this area or older, but well maintained. You’ll find the history of many immigrant families and cultures from the early 1900s in this area.

In the South, you’ll find more residential neighborhoods. Named after its Lake, “Lake Nokomis”, this neighborhood is a favorite for those who enjoy being close to downtown, but in a residential neighborhood. Some of this area is near the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and can have significant plane noise.

The Western suburbs such as Plymouth, Edina, Wayzata, and Minnetonka are the most affluent in the metro area. Grand homes, elite schools, great lakes, and parks are here for those who can afford them. A simple drive into the city for many top executives.

North Minneapolis or the “Northside” is located just outside the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The most culturally diverse neighborhood provides for a variety of art, music, festivals, and food.  The West Broadway farmers market every Friday night has fresh fruits and vegetables and lively music, including African drums and live DJs. The Northside is the poorest community and has the highest crime rates, in the metro area. The Midtown Phillips and Hawthorne neighborhoods amongst the most dangerous.

The beautiful city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Credits to Steijn Leijzer.

As we travel east out of Minneapolis, we suddenly find ourselves in St. Paul. Look around, you’ll notice some significant differences.

What is it like living in St. Paul, Twin Cities?

St. Paul has a population of just over 310,000 people. The second-largest city in MN, and the 63rd largest in the U.S; St. Paul is home to Minnesota’s state capital. Most of St. Paul lies east of the Mississippi River which winds from Northern MN all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, dividing the Twin Cities. Known as the “City of Neighborhoods”, St. Paul has 17, each with its own history, diversity, and flavor. When I drive through St. Paul, I seem to always use the word “charming” to best describe it.

What are the best neighborhoods in St. Paul?

The best neighborhood in St. Paul is The Como. It is located in the North of the city and there is a zoo and a park. The neighborhoods East of St. Paul are also great choices for families.

On the Westside, you have the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. A quiet residential neighborhood with many historic mansions lining tree-lined streets. Having a private college in the area brings in many younger residents and professors. The trails along the Mississippi River are a favorite for biking, walking, and jogging.

On the Southside, is the Highland Park neighborhood. Surrounded on 3 sides by the winding Mississippi River, there are many parks, walking, jogging and biking trails. This neighborhood is also a close distance to the main airport, but is not as noisy due to plane traffic patterns.

The Eastside is St. Paul’s most populous and diverse. Mainly a residential commuter neighborhood with plenty of retail. The Battle Creek neighborhood is close to downtown, but offers young families nice affordable housing.

In the North, The Como neighborhood is one of the best. It includes a Zoo, the popular state fairgrounds, and a beautiful park. A quiet neighborhood with many restaurants and activities.

The roads in St. Paul can be a bit confusing. Unlike the North-South, East-west planning in Minneapolis, St. Paul roads can curve and wind, so be sure to have your GPS up and running.

living in the twin cities of st paul
The calm city of St. Paul, Minnesota. Credits to Daniel McCullough.

Is living in the Twin Cities the best choice in the United States?

The Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs are a wonderful place to live. Despite its sometimes harsh winters, often winning “Best Places to Live” in many publications such as Forbes. If you like sports, you’ll love the Twin Cities. St. Paul is home to the MN Wild Hockey, MN Loons Soccer teams, and the St. Paul Saints Minor league baseball. Minneapolis is home to the MN Vikings football, the Timberwolves basketball, and Twins baseball.

So there you have it, The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul give you the best of both types of towns. Minneapolis is the bustling big city with all the action and excitement, while St. Paul is more laid-back and charming. With a short distance between them, you don’t need to make a choice. Living in the Twin Cities is always a good choice.

Now if you need a place to study, maybe you could consider studying in Texas. You could also choose to live in Texas for its low cost of living. Finally, you could visit Niagara Falls for a weekend if you choose to live in the Twin Cities.

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