Tell us why you love the Twin Cities
April 22, 2013 9:47 AM   Subscribe

You live in (or have lived) in the Twin Cities. We (two childless 30-somethings currently living in Washington, DC) are considering relocating there. Tell us what your experience with the Twin Cities has been like and what someone considering relocating there from the Washington, DC area should expect by relocating there.

As a follow-up to this question, my wife and I are going to be scouting out the Twin Cities this weekend. From our research, we're both heavily leaning towards the Twin Cities being our next home, but we're going to wait until our scouting trip is complete and we've weighed out the pros and cons of the Twin Cities against the other city we're considering (Pittsburgh).

What we would like to know from you, current and former residents of the Twin Cities, is - what do you love the Twin Cities and, if you are a transplant, what made you choose it over another mid-sized city? What neighborhoods should two people that want a yard, green space (think parks and lakes), with easy access to the bike trails, that's quiet (i.e. not near fire stations/major highways) and within biking distance of restaurants and shops check out? What are some characteristics about the Twin Cities that an outsider might not notice until they've lived there a while (i.e. hotdish, sweaters at fine restaurants)? What are issues that a non-resident would need to be aware of before moving there (think snow emergencies)? How difficult is "Minnesota Nice" to deal with for someone that's lived on the East Coast the majority of their lives?

Neither of us have experienced the extreme cold of a Twin Cities winter recently (I lived in Chicago a decade ago and spent a January in Minneapolis, my wife has lived in DC for the past 12 years), so any information you can shed on what to expect during a first Twin Cities winter would be great. One of the main reasons we're considering the Twin Cities is the expansive cycling infrastructure (I ride year round in DC and am trying to ride 3,000 miles this year) so if you're a cyclist and can provide information on winter riding (or cycling in the Twin Cities in general) that would be great as well. Currently we rent a two bedroom in a high rise in south Arlington be we would prefer to rent a house (or duplex) if possible. Any rental agencies we should check out (or stay away from) would be appreciated as well.

Right now we have the following on tap for our scouting trip, but please let us know if there are things that we must add to get the full Twin Cities experience:
Friday, April 26th
  • Land at 11am
  • Downtown St. Paul
  • Lunch - The Nook
  • Highland, Macalester-Groveland, Merriam Park, Midway, Como
  • Downtown Minneapolis
  • Twins-Rangers Game/Dinner
  • Warehouse District
Saturday, April 27th
  • Al's Breakfast
  • Dinkytown and the Nordeast
  • Midtown Greenway [Bike Ride]
  • Lunch - Midtown Global Market
  • Downtown Bridges [Bike Ride]
  • Dinner - Nye's Polonaise
  • Sebastian Joe's
Sunday, April 28th
  • Powderhorn, Longfellow, and Southwest
  • Seward Co-op, The Hub
  • Pizza Luce (Hopkins) - Lunch
  • St. Louis Park
  • Flight at 7pm
posted by playertobenamedlater to Human Relations (44 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Many responses:

What neighborhoods should two people that want a yard, green space (think parks and lakes), with easy access to the bike trails, that's quiet (i.e. not near fire stations/major highways) and within biking distance of restaurants and shops check out?

I live in Kingfield in south Minneapolis (around 44th st. and Nicollet Ave, if you're looking at a map), and it ticks almost all of your boxes- it's technically pretty close to I-35W, but I never notice that unless I consciously listen for it- and then it's just a vague, distant white noise. But Kingfield is quiet, safe and pleasant, with easy access to several bike paths and to lakes Harriet, Calhoun, and Nokomis; there are nearby clusters of restaurants in Uptown and on Nicollet, and the corner of 46th and Grand seems to be the epicenter of a burst of awesome new eating-and-drink places within Kingfield itself.

what do you love the Twin Cities and, if you are a transplant, what made you choose it over another mid-sized city?

I moved here from rural Nebraska. At the time, I came for the music, which is indeed pretty righteous. But I've grown to love the totality of the art museum. Between the MIA, the Walker, and the Weisman, we have two great museums and the Weisman's not so shabby, either. Nordeast in particular is full of artists and artist spaces, with frequent festivals where people walk around and check out the art and put on little shows and just generally bohemain up the place. For the past several years, there's also been a festival in June called Northern Spark where arty shit is going on literally from sunset to sunrise- after having lived in a city where I can ride my bike from weird happening to weird happening all night and then finish by watching the sun come up as I bike around a lake, I can't imagine living anywhere else.

We have a lot of book shops. We have a lot of great restaurants. We have an absurd range of theater companies putting on plays. We have more little breweries than you can shake a stick at.

Neither of us have experienced the extreme cold of a Twin Cities winter recently (I lived in Chicago a decade ago and spent a January in Minneapolis, my wife has lived in DC for the past 12 years), so any information you can shed on what to expect during a first Twin Cities winter would be great.

It's bad, especially in January and February, but probably not really that much worse than you experienced in Chicago. This winter is particularly bad, though- as I type this, they're talking about a freak storm coming in and dumping 6-8 inches of snow on us on April fucking 22nd. That's unusual (it's usually pretty nice by this time of year), but it does happen.

if you're a cyclist and can provide information on winter riding (or cycling in the Twin Cities in general) that would be great as well

I don't ride when there's ice on the road, so I can't speak to the winter riding except to say that I know people do it all year; people often go with studded tires or snow bikes with crazy fat tires. Overall, the cycling culture's great, and every year the number of people bike commuting seems to go up exponentially.
posted by COBRA! at 10:22 AM on April 22, 2013

If you don't have plans for breakfast on the Sunday, of feel like a coffee/pastry, the Birchwood Cafe in Seward is pretty great.
posted by caek at 10:48 AM on April 22, 2013

I'm from here, so I'm not going to give advice on what it is like to move here or what issues you might not expect. However, I can provide some answers to specific questions:

What neighborhoods should two people that want a yard, green space (think parks and lakes), with easy access to the bike trails, that's quiet (i.e. not near fire stations/major highways) and within biking distance of restaurants and shops check out?

The Northrup and Hale neighborhoods are a good fit. They are close to the Minnehaha Creek bike trails (which connect to the whole chain of lakes), Lake Nokomis, and Lake Hiawatha. The business district at 48th and Chicago is nice, and there's a grocery store down at 54th and Chicago. Over on the west side, Linden Hills would also be a good fit. Many people in your demographic only look at Linden Hills and other areas west of 35W; however, prices can sometimes be lower over to the east and we've got some nice neighborhoods.

[A]ny information you can shed on what to expect during a first Twin Cities winter would be great

My advice is to buy good gear (long-winter underwear, good hats and mittens, and good coats) and have a plan for Winter. How are you going to make sure you get outside, get enough sun light, and don't feel trapped by the weather? I cross-country ski and it keeps me sane and happy (many cyclists here are also skiers and there's a ride and glide club in the east metro), but that may not be for you. Maybe you make a point of seeing more theatre that time of year and ice-skating or hiking on the weekends. Or maybe you go to the Loppet, Hollidazzle, the St. Paul Winter Carnival, and other outdoor festivals and events (pond hockey championships?) There are lots of ways to handle it, but the key is not to feel trapped in your house for months on end. If you go that way, you'll be crazy come March.

I can't tell you much about commuting by bike in the Winter other than I know people who do it, and one of them told me that the bike paths get plowed pretty early in the plowing process.
posted by Area Man at 10:50 AM on April 22, 2013

I have heard that Pittsburg and the Twin Cities are pretty similar. The Twin Cities does, I believe, have an edge when it comes to culture. The theater scene here is very strong, as is local dance (the Cowles Center has been a great addition to Minneapolis). The Walker is superb.

Winter is very bad. It goes on and on forever, and is so gray and bleak. It is very bad. I say this as someone who has happily lived here for 23 years. I grew up in Iowa, and thought it wouldn't be that much worse. But it is.
posted by Malla at 11:02 AM on April 22, 2013

Best answer: This is random and sporadic as I love talking about the Cities and can't usually stop myself and act like an excited teenager when people ask, but hopefully helpful. I love the Twin Cities. I am so proud to be from here, you have no idea. I have briefly lived in other areas of the United States and have always come back here. I have lived in Minneapolis and/or its suburbs for nearly 40 years. Not much of a St. Paul person, though. Avid cyclist, as well. Not a hipster by any means. Two tiny kids, though.

Having lived in both suburbs and Minneapolis itself, I prefer the SW neighborhoods of Minneapolis or the first-ring suburbs, close to its border: [southeastern-most] St. Louis Park, Edina, Richfield...those areas are very quaint, don't feel like suburbs at all (for the most part--Edina has mansions, cute duplexs, old houses with radiators and alleys, and high-rise condos at the same time).

Anyway, I love the Twin Cities because we have at least TEN real lakes plus forests right in the urban areas of the cities! Plus 100s of miles of bike trails that go out to the farthest edges of the suburbs, bike lanes galore, and drivers who get bikes and won't honk at you.

There are "rough" areas, but crime isn't that bad. Our worst areas are still better than Chicago's "ok" areas, at least according to some perspectives.

We are a fairly progressive state. You can be openly gay here without any issues, for example. We are taxed pretty highly, though.

I see St. Louis Park is on your list. Take your time there, especially the Excelsior and Grand areas. The West End complex on I-394 and Park Place is failing. Also, go to the Edina/St. Louis Park/Minneapolis area around 44th and France--Linden-Hills co-op is there now. Spend some time there. Spend some time at 50th and France, also.

Walk around Lake Harriet or Calhoun this weekend!! It's going to be a zoo, though.

Minneapolis is known for its music and theatre. I just read somewhere that only Broadway has more theaters than Minneapolis, and all the theaters here are great. Music is even better. Our only rival is Austin, I believe.

MN is also known for its State Fair. I can't stand it, but I am in the tiny minority with that opinion...people talk about it year' round. You can drive through the Fairgrounds this weekend if you'd like...the suburb is Falcon Heights.

Heads-up on the Midtown Greenway, though. With nice weather this weekend, only ride when the trail is packed with trail users. Despite the revitalization there, punk middle school aged kids throw crap from the bridges regularly...the entire 7 miles of trail is below-grade with very few ways out once you leave Uptown. I actually don't ride there anymore, regardless what time of day it is.

Biking in the winter is like biking in the summer. The trails are plowed as "snow emergency routes", so they are clear of snow while the streets haven't been plowed yet. We don't get crippling snow in general here...sometimes you will wake up to plowed roads before you even had a chance to see how bad it was overnight. There are rare exceptions, of course.

There are so many transplants here (most people who move to Minnesota, in general, never leave) that the "Minnesota Nice" thing is kinda outdated...sure, there are still the lot of us passive-aggressive Scandinavians around, but not everyone is like this.

Snow Emergencies only affect the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul proper in the way that people hear about. The suburbs are typically (with some exception) "Get car off street when it snows 3" or more. Then move car back when plowed"--simple to understand and quick. This is easy to do since 99.9% of suburban houses have garages here. The city proper can be tricky, though, with St. Paul's snow emergencies much more difficult to navigate than Mpls, but both need careful attention.

Weather here is actually GREAT. It's nice to have seasons, even if they are -12 degree winters and 99 degree summers. We don't have Spring here, though. It goes from 50s to 80s+ within a week or so, once the change happens. When you are here this weekend...that is going to be Spring...a few days in the 60s/70s, then maybe a dip to 40, then jump to 80+. It's funny to see a woman in a bikini at Lake Harriet while there is snow still piled up from the winter in a parking lot a few blocks away, but I digress...actually, wait, this in MN, so bikinis are a rare site around here in the first place. :) Progressive but conservative.

And even though I have always lived here, I don't find a need to bundle up too much or get extravagant winter stuff--and I do spend time outside. I never complain about the cold, and I dress the same here as I did when I lived in southern Ohio for a winter, too.

People who have always lived here think that traffic is bad...but if you have perspective from outside this area, then traffic isn't bad at all. In fact, traffic will seem like a piece of cake coming from Chicago and D.C. We have some passive-aggressive drivers, but generally speaking, our drivers are some of the "best" when you are used to other drivers from around the country.

If you do ever have kids, public schools here are amazing, when given the perspective of the entire country. I have heard from transplants that even our worst public schools are better than most of other regions' better schools throughout the country. We have private schools here, but only the most-rich use them, and even the most wealthy Minnesotans use public schools for their kids themselves!

You will find that most stereotypes are not actually true. Sure, you might notice a "northern accent" from time to time, and maybe a sweater at a fancy restaurant, but most stereotypes are really for the far, far north, like, 4-5 hours' drive from Minneapolis.

And best of are only a two-hour drive from Duluth, which deserves a whole 'nother AskMe in itself.......
posted by TinWhistle at 11:05 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I winter bike! I am a transplant! I love Minneapolis! (I mean, St. Paul is okay too, if you're into that sort of thing.)

I have lived in Chicago.

Minneapolis is not an east coast style city. It's not big and stony with lots of public spaces and imposing architecture (consider the bike path along Lake Michigan and the park and how everyone uses that in the summer - nothing that big here.) There isn't the sense of...I don't know....majestic cityness that you might get in Chicago when looking at the DuSable Museum or the nearby park with the Fountain of Time. Even at its busiest, downtown is not like Chicago's, or even Seattle's. There just isn't as much urban density, whether it's density of history, culture or economics. It's not a particularly sophisticated city, and it's not that big - if you decided to bike from downtown MPLS to downtown St Paul, that would be a much easier undertaking than biking from, say, Evanston down to the edge of the south side along the lake.

What do I like about Minneapolis? The sense of localness, the way that there is just one of everything - I mean, there's not actually just one of everything, but you can easily become a regular at a place, you can easily become familiar with lots of neighborhoods, you can get a sense of the whole city that just isn't as possible in a bigger place. Like, you really can visit virtually all the bookstores (over time, not on one day or anything) - it's an undertaking, but I'm not even sure I could find a comprehensive list of all the bookstores in Chicago. You can develop an in-depth knowledge of the city that is really hard in bigger places.

But at the same time, because we have the University of Minnesota, we have access to a lot of world-culture-level stuff - there are good movies here, the used bookstores get a lot of university overflow, we get a reasonable number of significant speakers and book events. (We are in the middle of the country, so we do miss out on international writers for the most part.)

Biking is a lot safer than in bigger cities, especially Chicago. We've got a very good bike path/greenway system, for one thing, and traffic just isn't as insane. We've got a really good, growing, successful bike share program and lots of good bike shops. (The various Hub locations are quite reliable, although the friendliest is the West Bank one.)

Light rail is getting built here, and it's really nice, new, well-designed, pleasant.

We're a Delta hub, so flying in and out is pretty good.

Food is good - again, we're not a sophisticated city and if you're looking for a lot of very fancy, molecular gastronomy-style stuff, you're going to be disappointed. But lower-priced local Midwestern food and regional-immigrant-community food is where we really shine, whether it's Victor's 1959 Cafe or Little Szechuan or Common Roots or the Blue Nile or, or, or...

I don't know - it's just a cool city. For people who are not racist pinheads, it's amazing to live in a place where there are lots of businesses, restaurants, cultural stuff, schools, etc geared toward Lakota people, Somali people, Hmong people, people from Mexico and Equador, etc. Like, there's a great coffee shop near where I live that is geared to and run by Lakota people - it's a nice coffee shop with great cake, but it's also an art gallery and just sort of welcoming to Lakota people. So while as a white person I don't want to, like, march on in and overwhelm the space, I like that it is there, I have been to art events there and I sometimes schedule meetings there.

I'm a fan of south Minneapolis. It sounds like you'd be looking at things south of Lake Street, between maybe 35W and the river.

And I do winter bike. In fact, I bike to work year round. They're good about plowing the bike paths. I just ride a perfectly standard Jamis Coda, but a lot of folks with more money like a Surly or something else with big tires for winter. I ride in standard coat, scarf and hat; the only thing I really wish I had was good special winter bike gloves. You might also want bike goggles if you don't wear glasses. You need to lube your chain and be a bit proactive about bike care, but you quickly learn to ride over the snow where necessary - you go a bit slower and it's more "whole body" riding since you balance in a different way. I also have an alternate plan for getting to work on days with lots of fresh snow that fell in the night - if it's just an inch or so, I ride through it. My ride to work can be as short as 2.5 miles each way if I take one route or 5 miles each way if I go and ride down by the river. I would not want to commit to more than ten or eleven miles round trip of daily winter bike commute, certainly not anything like fifteen or twenty - although I knew a guy who did twenty every day, no short cuts. He had more serious gear.

If you're just talking about riding regularly for fun in the winter, that's a piece of cake.
posted by Frowner at 11:06 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

the entire 7 miles of trail is below-grade with very few ways out once you leave Uptown. I actually don't ride there anymore, regardless what time of day it is.

Sorry, this isn't correct. "A large portion" of the 7 miles... it what I should have typed.
posted by TinWhistle at 11:08 AM on April 22, 2013

I lived in Minneapolis for one summer but have visited friends there and in St. Paul regularly for over a decade.

Although the Cities were ultimately too big for me (something that I would guess will not be a problem for you), l love, love, love their parks board and their commitment to providing green space in all neighborhoods. The parks, art museums, and breakfast places are the things that stand out the most to me when I think of the Cities.

Oh yeah. Breakfast/brunch is a really big deal. I would second the recommendation for the Birchwood Cafe, but really, there are so many wonderful breakfast places.
posted by newrambler at 11:08 AM on April 22, 2013

Having lived in Chicago and moved to the Twin Cities about 10 years ago, the difference in winter weather is that the Twin Cities usually gets whatever Chicago gets about a day earlier, with more snow more often.

I currently live near the Como area, and it's reasonably nice. The west edge of the park is a block or two from the State Fairgrounds, which is adjacent to the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus. The Minneapolis campus is a a mile or two away, and I'm not sure, but I think there's a dedicated bike path.

Also, there are patches of Minneapolis that have fiber optic broadband, if that's important.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:08 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

In your list of neighborhoods, I would include Prospect Park which is near the river trail, light rail, between both downtowns and is also near the University of MN. It is over the bridge from Seward Co-Op.

The things I really enjoyed upon moving here from northern California:
* the tree canopy is out standing. People love trees and they are loved right back
* that you can get acreage 30 minutes commuting from downtown
* the general tidiness of the Metropolitan area and suburbs. Seriously, I was in slight shock over how much more child friendly and clean it was in comparison to LA or SF
* the park system in the cities is VERY nice and the general state park systems are excellent as well
*arts scene is good with outstanding museums
* no pretensions. I like that.

MN nice is something to get used to but you know, people are helpful and polite. It only gets complicated when you want more detailed interaction.

There is plenty of culture and things to do, just seek it. Also, if you move here a meet-up can happen for you.
posted by jadepearl at 11:08 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh hey! I started and never finished a follow-up email to you after your last post. I'll paste some of it into this comment. I'm out of town this weekend or I'd propose an ad hoc mefi meetup; we had a pretty good turnout at the last one. Your agenda looks good. A few recommendations for the Seward/Longfellow/Powderhorn area: Peace Coffee, Harriet Brewing, Northbound Smokehouse, the Blue Door Pub.

What are issues that a non-resident would need to be aware of before moving there (think snow emergencies)?

You'll want to keep an eye out for the yearly flyer explaining snow emergencies and/or follow the snow emergency Twitter or Facebook feed. No big, just pay attention. If you own a house, you will need a good heavy-duty snow shovel and an ice chipper. If you have a car, you'll need a big snow brush.

How difficult is "Minnesota Nice" to deal with for someone that's lived on the East Coast the majority of their lives?

Heh, I won't lie, it's a thing, but I've got more experience with its cousin the Minnesota Freeze, in which social groups are hard to penetrate because some of the people in them are related or have grown up together. I just had to give it a while (like, years) and lots of meetups to make friends, and most of mine are transplants, or natives whose partners are transplants.

For winter (and just general) biking info, you should check out the forums at Mpls Bike Love.
posted by clavicle at 11:09 AM on April 22, 2013 has good data dumps on Mpls and StP.

St. Paul

In addition, they have forums where you can research specific neighborhoods. I find some of the advise spot-on, other remarkably blind to reality.

Let me speak to SMpls. I am not that far from COBRA, but closer east towards the airport. There is a fair debate about airplane noise that you should be aware of because it impacts almost all of SMpls in some way, both for take-off and for landing. Make sure you do your research on noise levels and take off / landing patterns at the Metropolitan Airports Commission Noise website.

There are some great, and I mean top of the line as defined by the whole city, places to hang and shop in SMpls. Strangely enough in my opinion, it's either completely awesome
Baker's Wife
Everetts Meat
Busters on 28th
or there isn't a lot otherwise. SMpls is more about housing and raising family than it is chillin' and partyin'. I find myself going to the same places a bit, but I will tell you that this is changing and there are more, and more varied, choices in SMpls than there were just a few years before.

Here is a piece of advice that certainly someone else will probably want to refute because they live there, but I would tell you that in SMpls, in the Powderhorn neighborhood, 38th Street is a dividing line. Stay south of 38th Street, and if possible south of 42nd Street. The closer you are to Minnehaha Parkway the safer and more prestigious the address.
posted by lstanley at 11:09 AM on April 22, 2013

Heads-up on the Midtown Greenway, though. With nice weather this weekend, only ride when the trail is packed with trail users. Despite the revitalization there, punk middle school aged kids throw crap from the bridges regularly...the entire 7 miles of trail is below-grade with very few ways out once you leave Uptown. I actually don't ride there anymore, regardless what time of day it is.

This has not been my experience. (Also, the entire seven miles isn't below grade - the below grade parts are just between Hennepin and Hiawatha, which is maybe three miles. I know this stretch very well.)

I ride the Midtown greenway virtually every day and have never had any trouble (now watch, trouble will happen tonight!). I have never seen anyone throw anything. I did see a fight once. But again, I ride daily. I'm not saying that nothing ever happens or that everyone should blythely bike there alone at night - I'm just saying that in my experience being a little bit cautious is plenty.

The dodgy part of the midtown greenway is only between maybe Chicago and Hiawatha - a mile and a half or so. The rest of it is perfectly fine. What you really have to watch out for is ice - the water runs down there and it can stay frozen and very, very slick when the road is perfectly rideable.
posted by Frowner at 11:11 AM on April 22, 2013

Here we go: Star Tribune article on US Internet's fiber project in South Minneapolis. Bear in mind that everyplace else in the Twin Cities, the big options are Comcast/XFinity and Qwest/Century Link (DSL).
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:15 AM on April 22, 2013

What are issues that a non-resident would need to be aware of before moving there (think snow emergencies)?

You'll want to keep an eye out for the yearly flyer explaining snow emergencies and/or follow the snow emergency Twitter or Facebook feed. No big, just pay attention. If you own a house, you will need a good heavy-duty snow shovel and an ice chipper. If you have a car, you'll need a big snow brush.

City of Minneapolis has a pretty good website for this, and there are tweets, FB updates, and text message options. Also, instead of a snow brush I use a snow broom. It's similar, but the handle extends, and if you can reach the car roof, or if you cant, it can be used to reach awkward spots and push snow off.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:17 AM on April 22, 2013

Best answer: I am also a childless 30-something. I've lived in Minneapolis since I was 18, and I love this city. The arts, the cycling, the beer, the coffee shops, and the lakes are all fantastic. I even love the winter.

Neighborhoods: in addition to the great suggestions in this thread already, you might check out Audubon Park in Nordeast. It's not near a lake, but it's affordable and near some good, inexpensive restaurants. My favorite part of the city these days is the area around Sebastian Joe's (Lowry Hill), because you can walk in any direction and find something delightful. You may not find an apartment with a yard around there, so you might try the are around Lake Harriet. When you're in St. Louis Park, grab a pastry at Rustica.

Winter cycling: you must plan for the ice and the cold. The good news is that the plows clear the streets and bike paths quickly, and you'll rarely have to ride on ice. Studs or fat tires can help if you like, but plenty of people ride through the winter on the same slicks they use year-round.

The cold is not difficult down to the single digits. You'll want a windbreaker, a skull-cap, a thrift-shop wool sweater, and some synthetic long underwear. Below, say, 7 degrees, it gets a little trickier, but the key is to ride every day and adjust to the incremental differences in temperature. (And disposable hand and foot warmers for assistance.) As noted above, the staff at the various bike shops can advise you.

It can be difficult to break into social groups here, as many people still socialize with people they've known since grade school. But there are also a lot of people here who come from elsewhere. And Minnesotans love to give advice on how to get through the winter (obvs).
posted by Handstand Devil at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2013

I wasn't going to answer this because you've already got some great advice, but most of the answers here are pretty skewed to the Minneapolis side of things.

I'm twin cities born and raised and I actually prefer St. Paul. Both cities have tons of great stuff going on, but I prefer St Paul's more down-to-earth quietness to Minneapolis's flash. I see you're going to the Nook, which is about as typical a St Paul bar as you can get. If you like the feeling of that bar and that neighborhood, then you may be a St Pauli.
posted by Think_Long at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Re: Minneapolis vs St. Paul

My realtor once described the differences between Minneapolis and St. Paul as such: St. Paul is the last of the great Eastern cities: quite, demure, old money, grand architecture and prestigious families. Minneapolis was the first of the great Western cities: loud, brash, new money, and anyone can make it big.....
posted by lstanley at 11:48 AM on April 22, 2013

Response by poster: Wow, we can't thank you all enough for the great responses! One thing I should have mentioned is that neither of us are serious drinkers (I'm a teetotaler, my wife rarely drinks). We're definitely interested in St. Paul as well so any points of interest or neighborhoods we should check out there would be appreciated as well.

One question I forgot to ask - do people in the Twin Cities make it a point during introductions to ask what you do for a living or about commutes? That may seem like a strange question, but it happens pretty frequently is DC and is a serious turnoff.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2013

Since you're going to be at the Midtown Market, you could stop at Freewheel and talk to them about winter cycling.
posted by cnelson at 12:05 PM on April 22, 2013

If you're going to be a year round commuter then yes, you will get lots of questions about your commute. We have a very active biking community, so you will get questions from us other bike commuters about your routes, your gear, etc. because we are genuinely interested. Everyone else will notice you in your gear and talk to you/express general disbelief in your ability to bike in the rain/snow/heat/cool/wind.

Also, if you're not one for talking about the weather, you may have some problems here. Our meteorologists are local celebrities. Complaining about the weather is our version of communion, it's how we affirm our shared Minnesotan-ness.
posted by Think_Long at 12:08 PM on April 22, 2013

Response by poster: If you're going to be a year round commuter then yes, you will get lots of questions about your commute.

Sorry, let me clarify this and then I'll log out for a while. I'm not sure if this happens anywhere else in the US (it certainly doesn't happen in Chicago, that I remember), but in DC the two questions people ask you when you meet them are, almost always, "where do you work/what do you do?" (i.e. I need to size you up to see if I can network with you) and "how long of a commute do you have?" (so we can commiserate on the congestion and traffic here).
posted by playertobenamedlater at 12:15 PM on April 22, 2013

"How long of a commute do you have" is not an icebreaker question here, at least not in my circles. Maybe its different in the outer suburbs where commute time becomes a factor. People do often ask about one's work during an initial meeting.

The meteorologist and obsession with weather thing is real and could be weird. I still miss local weather celebrity Paul Douglas, and my sister gets positively giddy when talking about Sven Sundgaard. I've started reading a weather blog and can now be found boring people with a discussion of the differences between the European and U.S. models.
posted by Area Man at 12:44 PM on April 22, 2013

Well, I lived in Mpls for a year teaching. AND I have lived in DC for many years. And I'm from Los Angeles. So much for my locales.

The Twin Cities are beautiful. But it's damn cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. One winter day the windchill was -90F! I had to walk one block to school from my apartment and that's about all I could or should take. If you like winter, then it's time to move forward.

The lakes are wonderful and riding/walking/skating around them is fun.

Oh, here's something I don't think has been covered: the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is NOT the Washington Post. There aren't too many good newspapers around and the Post is one of them.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 12:47 PM on April 22, 2013

Best answer: I live in Linden Hills, and as Area Man says correctly it is a good fit but also will be a bit more expensive than Northrup/Hale areas. I enjoy Linden Hills for the proximity to the lakes (I live 2 blocks from Lake Calhoun and about 3 blocks from Lake Harriet, which are both great urban lakes). Linden Hills and Fulton neighborhoods are both worth checking out during your visit.

Property tax in Minneapolis is somewhat out of control and if that kind of thing gets you down (esp. when it's oddly not paired with better services) you should also consider first ring suburbs. St. Louis Park and Golden Valley on the west side are worth checking out.

The weather sucks donkey balls. There is no kind way of discussing the winter. You will meet people who say they JUST LOVE the winter. Well, good for them I suppose. It sucks donkey balls.

I am a fair weather bike commuter from Linden Hills to Downtown daily. It's really fantastic, almost the entire 8 mile one way trip is on dedicated bike path away from cars completely. I ride through the woods on this awesome paved path (plowed in the winter, if that's your cup of tea) and then come out right by Target Field. Amazing. The cycling support is craaaazy good in Minneapolis, and it's even gotten better in the last few years. Portland and Minneapolis are regularly cited as the two most bike friendly cities in the country.

Other high points:

Theater. there are more theaters per capita in the Twin Cities than NYC. There are a ton of options. The Guthrie is the flagship of the theater scene. It's great, and I would actually strongly recommend trying to go to a play during next weekend there, as it is a signature part of the Cities IMO. Nice Fish is running now and is written/directed/starred by a Tony winning actor Mark Rylance. The play is a highly Minnesotan experience, surreal and funny, with a little bit of ice fishing thrown in.

The Summer. For everything horrible about the Minnesota winter, the summer in Minnesota is the most glorious season I know, anywhere. It's just so green.

Food is on the serious upswing of late. When I moved here 12 years ago I would have rated the Twin Cities a C+ restaurant scene. Now I'd probably put it at least B+, maybe an A-. I see up the thread you and your significant don't drink/hardly drink, so I won't bring up the explosion of local breweries, but it's a major development here and somewhat goes hand in hand with the improved restaurant scene.

On "Minnesota nice"...I think compared to the East Coast, you will find people to be much more outwardly nice, but Minnesota nice is kind of an odd animal. I don't how to put it, other than I don't think it really qualifies as nice, but rather an expectation that people expect interactions to be superficially good-natured at a minimum. Like anywhere, there are shitty people and great people and everywhere in between. Do no expect Minnesota Nice to mean people will always be going out of their way to help you.

Commuting times don't have radical differences here, so in my opinion it's almost never discussed in the manner you describe. If you live somewhat centrally most things are within 20-30 minutes. If you live more than 30 minutes away from your workplace you've probably made a tactical error in either where you live or where you work.

Your itinerary is really spectacularly planned out. Someone clearly gave you good advice. The one change I'd make, in addition to trying to squeeze in a Guthrie play, is to skip dinner at Nye's Polonaise. While a Minneapolis landmark, it's big drawing point is the piano bar not the food. Here are three superb places I'd recommend for dinner that are all pretty close to Nye's as an alternative: Brasa, 112 Eatery, or Bar La Grassa.

If you want more Twin Cities chatting, I'd be willing to meet you for lunch Sunday @ Pizza Luce in Hopkins. I'll send you my contact details via MeFi mail.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:58 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

My wife and I live in South Mpls, about a half mile east of Lake Nokomis. We love the cities. We moved here from Michigan in 2007, when we were childless and in our early 30s. (Full disclosure: Since moving to the cities we have both gotten older and gotten a child. Correlation is not causation, but be forewarned. :) )

Our house is half a mile from one of the bigger lakes; we have two parks with public pools within a two block radius of us; we have coffee shops, a neighborhood hardware store, a grocery and some nice restaurants, all within a 5-10 min walk. A newly renovated library branch, too. We are really, really happy living here. Our daily commute is pretty short (I drop the kid off at day care and work 1 mile from home, my wife uses bus and light rail to get back and forth from the U). We can be on the highway out of town in seconds. We are close to many biking and running trails; there are ALWAYS people out running, even at night in a January snowstorm, so you have ample opportunities to feel guilty you aren't out there too. And with this many runners and bikers, there are of course a great number of events - if you live right on one of the lakes expect your street to be closed for 5ks (or longer!) on almost any given weekend! (It's not THAT bad but I've been caught behind triathlon/half marathon road closures more than once!)

We have multiple ski areas within a short distance of the cities. We have farmer's markets all over the place in season; we have mountain biking trails and cross country ski trails in the nearby parks (if you're into it, check out Lebanon Hills!). We have made great friends. We have found a multitude of cool unique restaurants and places we'd deeply miss if we moved away, like Birchwood (mentioned above - do check it out!) and Hell's Kitchen.

We have good food! And good beer. Minnesota has a rich history of brewing, and there are a large number of really good breweries here and nearby. (If that isn't enough for you, we're close enough to Wisconsin to hop over the border and pick up some of the stuff they don't sell out of state, too.) We have an AWESOME local public radio station (tune in to The Current while you are here, and be amazed!) and a really strong local music scene. There are ample opportunities for entertainment, the arts, for science, for education, and for fun. We're very happy transplants to the Twin Cities and hope you love it here too! I mean, I have nothing against Pittsburgh, but really, this is where it's at. Just look at the Mefites within shouting distance of any one of the Mpls profiles. More than Pittsburgh, I tell you. Heck, Minneapolis has literally 300% more Astro Zombies than Pittsburgh does.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:26 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I apologize in advance, and did not see anyone post this, but City Pages just came out with their Best of Twin Cities last week. Check it out!

For brunch, I think you are missing out by not going to The Bachelor Farmer. While The Birchwood is indeed tasty (savory waffle), it is a complete zoo and I have sworn off going there in recent years.

I also agree with not going t Nye's for dinner, but rather just the entertainment. To stay in the general vicinity though perhaps splurge and go to Alma, Kafe 421 (on the UofM campus near Al's Breakfast) or Masu.

For St. Paul, Cathedral Hill is a hip spot now. Downtown leaves something to be desired, particularly if you do not partake in libations. However St. Paul does have a great homestyle Japanese place called Tanpopo in the artists' lofts building and a fantastic French restaurant called Meritage and many theaters. I have gone on the Summit Ave walking tour which was actually fun (on a nice day).

Winter sucks, summer is glorious, native Minnesotans keep to themselves and like others have said, can take years to warm up to a new friend. Biking is phenominal, the food is greater than some people have said, walking is great, parks are fantastic. Weather still sucks.

Please enjoy and feel free to memail me with anything!
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 2:37 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lived in St. Paul and Minneapolis (and would still but I can't take the cold too well. I really wish I could because I LOVE Minneapolis) for the following reasons:

-- You know how people ask you how you're doing because it's the polite thing to do? In the Twin Cities, they ask because they really want to know. Minnesota Nice is NOT a myth.

-- An incredibly progressive and well-supported school system.

-- Arts galore! Jazz, blues, folks, indie bands, national acts. The Twin Cities has it all.

-- Responsive local government.

-- Incredibly reasonable cost of living compared to the rest of the country.

-- Lots of ethnic neighborhoods with corresponding ethnic eateries.

-- A health respect for the city's history.

Enjoy! It's a great place.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2013

Best answer: Hello! A few small things:

When you're in the Mac-Groveland/Highland neighborhoods in St. Paul, check out the Chatterbox Pub on Cleveland and Ford Parkway. It calls itself a pub, but I think it's a great hangout spot for non-drinkers. There are board games you can order for your table and couches with old-school video games aplenty. They make their own ginger ale and the food is fantastic.

For your dinner downtown on Friday, I'd recommmend Hell's Kitchen. So delicous and unique.

Enjoy the Midtown Global Market! I have a special place in my love handles for Manny's Tortas, Salty Tart cupcakes, and the mango smoothies at Safari.

I have lived in South Minneapolis for the last 4 years and I love it (38th & Pillsbury, 32nd & Portland, currently 35th & Nicollet). I am a fair-weather bike commuter with more serious biking friends. The bike culture here is alive and kicking, with frequent organized group rides where you can meet new people, make friends, and see the city. My favorite is the Freedom from Pants ride on July 4th. From what I hear about the Midtown Greenway, most problems occur when biking alone at night.

Agree with those above who have recommended springing for good winter gear. It makes a big difference.

In my experience, Minnesota Nice means that people may seem polite and distant at first, but once you've earned thier friendship they are loyal and genuine. Having lived in northwestern Louisiana for 4 years, it's something I really appreciate (didn't experience much "Southern hospitality" myself). If you've got some of that East-coast brusqueness/abruptness, it may come across as rude to locals.

Hope you enjoy your visit!
posted by stompadour at 2:56 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ditto what a lot of others have said. Skip dinner at Nyes, it's a great place be for the piano bar and polka band, not the food (which is ok but nothing special). Southwest Minneapolis is great, Kingfield, Fulton, Linden Hills, and other neighborhoods I can't remember are all good neighborhoods. I live in Tangletown, just south of Kingfield which is also nice but has airplane noise issues. I lived in Northeast for a few years as well, and it was ok but I prefer the proximity to the lakes and minnehaha creek that come with living in southwest minneapolis. Think seriously about whether you want to be a Minneapolitan or St. Paulite, it has been my experience that there is surprisingly little crossover between the two (I have hear people joke that they are bilingual, they speak both Minneapolis and St. Paul)

I like to hibernate during winter, so I can't comment on winter gear. Snow emergencies are not that big of a deal in Minneapolis once you've been through a few. We generally get 3 or 4 per year. You can be notified by text now which makes it much easier. More annoying are the one-side parking restrictions that can last for months when the snow piles up. And when the plow goes around you when you're parked on the street and you have to spend 30 minutes shoveling to get your vw golf out of its parking spot (happened to me Monday).

The best thing about winter is that it ends. I think you will be here for one of the most glorious of Minnesota experiences, the First Nice Weekend of the Year. It's happening a little late this year, but I think that will just make it better. When spring finally arrives, hard to explain, but it is magical. Spring in minneapolis is awesome. Summer is pretty great too, but there can be a few weeks of oppressive heat and humidity. When that happens, take a trip up to Duluth (a beautiful city that almost never gets hot) or the north shore of Lake Superior.

Definitely check out the twin cities parks system and the state parks.

I think your itinerary looks awesome.
posted by Teeth of the Hydra at 5:22 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Arizona and then spent ten years in the Bay Area. I vastly prefer Minneapolis for the weather and the general sense of happiness, not to mention the lower cost of living and the higher quality of life for the buck.

We live in the Uptown area, which has a few neighborhoods that are pretty open and green--lots of duplexes in the area, lakes so close we portage our canoe down the street and head out for evening paddles or walk down to skate, and everything that isn't walkable is bikeable, plus proximate to public transit.

It's stylish but not pretentious--but it's still the Midwest, so you can get away with a suit and tie or a pair of jeans and nobody bats an eyelash. The food here is wonderful especially if you prize quality over all other foodie trends, and the Twin Cities prides itself on its arts culture (visual, theater, and music). It's also a really smart city that attracts smart people, particularly since the major industries are creative and medical.

Yes, there's Minnesota Nice and the social freeze can be a real thing, but the cities are also full of transplants who are eager to expand their friendbase.

I moved here during a blizzard in 2010 and learned to drive in snow while I tooled around looking for a place to rent. The weather hasn't slowed me down at all (although I confess that this year it's kind of kicking my emotional ass).
posted by padraigin at 5:42 PM on April 22, 2013

It's probably worth noting that a few recent snowstorms have even my winter loving friends a little grumpy this week, so I'd take the winter grousing with a grain of salt.

We live in south Minneapolis, near Lake Hiawatha. I'd consider any neighborhood near Minnehaha Creek. It puts you so close to the incredible Grand Rounds, a set of parks, trails, and lakes that make Minneapolis one of the most vibrant outdoor cities.

I also spend quality time in St. Paul, including part timing at a bike shop over there. I think the park system is nicer in Minneapolis. I also think Minneapolis does a better job dealing with snow plowing. St. Paul has some of my favorite cheap eats, like On's Thai and Little Szechuan. I'm also a big fan of a bike shop over there ;)

All in all, I think both sides of the river have one stereotypes of the other side. Minneapolis isn't all like Uptown and Nordeast, and St. Paul isn't just Grand Ave. the best thing about them is they are really Twin Cities. We're so close you have to consider them together.

We should go a meetup ride some day.
posted by advicepig at 6:19 PM on April 22, 2013

So much good advice above. In St. Paul (maybe Mpls too, idk) you can get email alerts of snow emergencies. If you're traveling out of town in winter & you have sidewalk, arrange for someone to shovel/snowblow if it snows while you're gone, or it may become impossible to remove later. I think it is cleaner here than most other cities. People aren't cold so much as shy - they don't want to wrongly presume that you want to be friends with them. Find a nice place in Mac-Groveland or Highland with good access to the river path and not too close to Cretin (road noise) and I think you'll be happy.
posted by lakeroon at 7:12 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I moved to the Twin Cities after college 6 years ago. I like: the low cost of living (was able to buy a house in a sweet neighborhood at age 25!), the incredible parks, the summers, the art scene (which normal people can actually afford to participate in), the bike trails, the huge number of college students from all over the country, amazing and cheap local restaurants, tiny local breweries, the farmers markets. I don't like: the poor transit system, the fact that my friends and colleagues all seem to live 45 minutes away in outer ring suburbs, the lack of a substantial tech sector, the lack of a vibrant downtown-type area, ugly car-focused architecture, the fact that we seem to get food and fashion trends approximately 3 years after they are already passé on the coasts, the lack of gay marriage. Maybe most importantly we're a loooong driving distance from any other major city (Milwaukee is 5 hours) so if you can't find something here, you can't just do a quick trip to get it. Overall the positives outweigh the negatives though.
posted by miyabo at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2013

Winter biking: I tried it one year and hated it. The problem was not the cold itself, but the logistical problems: it took me half an hour to get all my gear on, had to keep a super bright headlight charged, minor bike parts kept breaking (water bottle holder snapped clean in two), and of course I occasionally got stranded in blizzards and had to call someone to pick me up. People do it but they are more hardcore than I am.
posted by miyabo at 8:29 PM on April 22, 2013

Chiming in late, but there's lots of good suggestions in here.

I live very close to Audubon Park in Northeast currently and it's a great little area with nice little restaurants and virtually no crime, but I want to live in South Minneapolis. The neighborhoods I like over there have been mentioned a few times - Kingfield, Linden Hills and the Lake Nokomis areas are all great areas. There are a ton of other great neighborhoods in South Minneapolis, those are just off the top of my head.

I don't know St. Paul as well but every time I've been over there, Highland Park looks like a great neighborhood and it's just over the bridge from S. Mpls., so, bonus! When you go to The Nook, make sure you check out Lynden's right next door, which is an honest to god little old fashioned soda fountain place. You will probably have to wait at both places. I was just there three weeks ago on a Friday night and they were absolutely packed.

A lovely little area in St. Paul if you have time is Grand Ave., which is a little shopping/restaurant area. I *think* the houses around there are pretty nice as well. At Grand & Victoria is the legendary Cafe Latte, which is a great restaurant with amazing and beautiful cakes. That general area is really nice and totally worth a visit if you have time.

If you go to Nye's on Saturday, you will probably have to wait, so be prepared. If you decide to go elsewhere, a couple of other restaurants in the area are Psycho Suzi's (a tiki bar - kind of a hipster spot, or at least it used to be) and The Anchor Fish & Chips (Irish pub).

I never have people asking me about my commute. We might discuss it as small talk but it's not really a thing afaik. People sometimes might ask what you do for a living but my sense is it's more to make polite conversation rather than any sort of judgey thing.

Re: winter. I am not a winter activities person and I sometimes think the bad winters are a little overstated. I mean, yes, it can get cold. And sometimes (LIKE! THIS! YEAR!) they run a little long, BUT you don't ever really have to spend any time outside in it if you don't want to. I grew up here, lived abroad for 7 years and moved back and though I own a heavy down coat, I never wear it. I mostly wear a springlike trench coat. Because the only time I'm ever outside is when I'm running from my car into the store or mall or whatever. I work downtown, where I can travel around up to 69 city blocks through the climate controlled skyway system. Lots of places have indoor or underground parking, which never gets super cold and on really cold days I start my car 10 minutes early so it warms up before I go. So it doesn't have to be that bad. And the good thing about winter is that we take our nice weather living to the extreme. All summer long there are festivals and fairs and all sorts of other things every single weekend. When spring is here everyone is so completely happy and ecstatic. It is the best feeling in the world and almost makes wintertime worth it.

And I should say that just because we take advantage of the nice weather, that doesn't mean that we stay holed up all winter. There are a shitload of winter activities that are super fun if you feel like bundling up and going out. Like I said, I'm not huge into winter activities, but I had a lot of fun a few months ago at Crashed Ice which was like a huge winter outdoor concert. So much good energy and so much fun.

Anyway, good luck! I hope you like it here! I love it so much, I came back here. I could have lived and worked anywhere in Europe or the US and this is where I wanted to be.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:47 PM on April 22, 2013

Best answer: Glad you'll be coming to town! I have an assortment of things to consider:

- Just so you know, your timing couldn't be more perfect. We've had one of the snowiest April in recent memory, and it will all be over just as you arrive. Well done!

- You might have to stand in line for a whiiile to get one of the dozen bar stools at Al's on a Saturday morning. Think about a backup plan, such as Common Roots Cafe in uptown/whittier and a Greenway bike ride to midtown for lunch.

- If you're still in the mood for jucy lucy's on Sunday, check out the new Blue Door Cafe that opened in Longfellow (sister cafe to the Saint Paul one). It would be a good way to get a vibe check for Longfellow, which I could see you guys really loving.

- In terms of what to see in Saint Paul: I love the food along University Avenue. Can't go wrong with Little Szechuan. If you want a break with a bookstore, check out Micawber's Books in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood. There's a good community vibe over there. Downtown is beautiful but sparse -- I'd check it out (and maybe eat at Tampopo!) but no need to linger.

- Minnehaha Falls. Go see it!

- On the cold in Minnesota: It's a challenge, it's hellish, it's an adventure, it's endless fodder for conversation. If you approach it with an open mind you will encounter many rewards: that bike ride you just baaarely survived, soft snow falling in the evening, sharing a nice meal with the huddled but happy masses of the Twin Cities. I lived in the Chicago and Boston areas before MPLS and while there is definitely more of an extremism to these kinds of colds, I think it only makes things more fun. Then again, I tell people winter is my favorite season and they throw books at me.

- As for winter biking, you can absolutely do it. More power to ya!

- Cedar Riverside is a really special place if you are interested in live music, punk diners (the Hard Times, oh the Hard Times) and just a fascinating mix of frizzy-haired intellectuals and Somali elders. Maybe on the day that you go to the Seward Co-op, consider driving up Riverside to check things out.

- The Twin Cities are culturally quite interesting. You have Midwestern lifers who have moved in to the Big City from humbler origins, thriving Hmong, Somali, Ethiopian, and Mexican communities (to name a few), black folks living in the historic bRondo neighborhood of Saint Paul (which was bisected by a major highway in the 60s, like so many african-american urban communities), and young transplants aplenty. In some ways, there are better opportunities for reaching across cultural and social boundaries than a more entrenched segregated place like Chicago. Still, we struggle with a huge achievement gap in our schools and a sometimes oppressive white hipster pride thing. Just be conscious of both the richness and the issues inherent in this kind of dynamic.

- On the afternoon that you bike the bridges, make sure to bike across the Stone Arch Bridge. Consider stopping in to the Aster Cafe for a leisurely afternoon coffee on their patio.

I hope you have an absurdly good time! Again, couldn't be more impressed with your timing.
posted by elephantsvanish at 8:50 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Move there! I grew up there, lived there until my mid 20s and would never by choice live anywhere else in the States again. I now live between Finland and Denmark and I prefer that arrangement infinitely to being in the States, but if I had to go home I would be very unhappy unless I was able to go HOME home to the Twin Cities. For what it's worth, I also lived in NYC for three years so I am familiar with the east coast mentality. I should also tell you up front that I really disliked so many things about it that I can't even begin to list them all. Well, I suppose I can state the most important one: I hated how casually cruel, competitive and blatantly materialistic people often are there. It offended me to my core as that is just not how I was raised. MSP features kindness, cooperation and a pointed lack of interest in how big your paycheck is.

This probably stems from the fact that the culture in MN is heavily influenced by remnants of Nordic culture that prompted us to name out football team the Vikings. A Prairie Home Companion exists for a reason, ha. The whole lack of concern about status probably stems from the idea of lagom: and the good parts of Janteloven (a satirical take on the Nordic mentality of equality gone too far ). It is considered offensive to flaunt wealth or generally to self aggrandize too much. Being awesome at x, y and z is encouraged and accepted but modesty is appreciated while doing so. Nordic ideals are also pretty much what "Minnesota Nice" is built out of. People are genuinely, deeply kind. There is a strong sense of community. You can always expect someone to help you in a pinch. I can't even count the number of times I have been at the receiving end of such gestures at home or how many times I myself have offered help to others in need. The most prevalent form of one-upsmanship is often this soft fight of "I-can-out-generous-you", ha. What sompadour says is fairly spot on-- it can take a while to break into a social group but if you are patient and pursue them a bit you are in you have true friends for life. This is very, very, very Nordic. Just be persistent and don't hesitate to reach out repeatedly. Rudeness and brusqueness are not at all appreciated and can earn you the friendly cold shoulder. There are ways to be honest and direct without being a jerk and if you don't know them you will have a hard time making friends. I have indeed seen east coasters have problems adapting to this, so it is worth bearing in mind that we consider many behaviors that pass as normal in NYC to be offensive. It is true that people often do want to avoid confrontation if at all possible and thus passive aggressiveness can indeed be a feature of the culture. Which may not be ideal but after three years in NYC I have to say I MUCH prefer that than to having racial slurs hurled at me when I accidentally bump into someone on the subway.

Which brings me to another point, even though I am not white in appearance I never felt any racism in MSP. ...Well, no, wait that's not true at all; when I was a kid in elementary school MN was still very homogeneously white and that was a bit hard as kids are just vicious generally to any perceived difference. But all of that dissipated once I became an adult and the city concomitantly diversified at a dramatic clip. It is a very progressive place and, again, there is something about the Nordic way of embracing a person for who they are and how they treat others rather than what they do for a living/look like/other shallow features that is just, well, how it should be. So, that actually answers your question when you asked "Do people in the Twin Cities make it a point during introductions to ask what you do for a living or about commutes? That may seem like a strange question, but it happens pretty frequently is DC and is a serious turnoff." I was SHOCKED by this when I moved to NYC and just hated it. I feel like people rarely do that in MSP.

So, right, many other posters have pointed out how progressive the city is (hey, MN even has THIRD parties that get elected sometimes-- imagine that), how great the art scene is (there are tons of galleries as well as many great museums), how amazing the music scene is, etc. is so no need for me to wax poetic about that. Well, no one specifically mentioned how great both the symphony and the opera are. The symphony is world class (albeit on strike right now if what I hear is correct). The Opera is still one of my favorites in the world and I've been to many of the major houses in Europe. Just to jab a bit more at NYC, I was honestly shocked by how horrendous the Met was in comparison to, well, everywhere else. Obviously the scale is smaller at the MN Opera and the performers are often not the tippiest of the top tier the set design is generally quite good. Whereas the Met is just a national travesty.

I actually much prefer the dining culture in MSP to, er, pretty much anywhere? Ha. Sure, there are MORE options in NYC but I found that they tended to fall into two camps: stupid expensive and dirt cheap with precious little in between. I did have the good fortune to plumb both depths while living there, but my sense of fairness was offended ha. In MSP you can find many, many, many truly good and creative options at reasonable prices. Locally sourced restaurants have become quite common. I find that when I go home a whole new crop of restaurants has opened and they always blow me away.

MSP is also well known for its vibrant coffee shop culture. There are many very good gastro pubs as well. Microbreweries are a huge thing, too.

Oh! And MSP's coop grocery stores are the best damn thing ever. Unlike NYC which had exactly ONE brick and mortar of any reasonable size that you needed to both be a member of and WORK at in order to shop there (so ridiculous), you can waltz into any of the great many in MSP as a non-member and enjoy the bounty on offer. The Wedge and the Seward are two of my favorites but there are more.

Add in the farmer's markets in both MPLS and STP, the myriad of ethnic groceries, the indoor Midtown Global, the many CSA options and the abundance of community gardens and it really is a food paradise.

Not sure if it's either of your thing, but MSP has an amazing thrift and vintage store culture. Oh! And there are also a handful of amazing boutiques that promote local designers and stock very creative, interesting and relatively low cost work. There are also tons of good record shops-- waaaaaaaaaay better than anything I ever saw in NYC or anywhere else for that matter. Cheapo is huge and comprehensive, the Electric Fetus is great and so is Treehouse.

Whittier is my favorite neighborhood and seems to suit what you are looking for. It is possible to find homes with yards there, but maybe not very easy these days as it is fairly desireable. It's close to the lakes and to the bike trails but you can get far enough into it to be away from the bustle of Lyndale's many restaurants and shops. That's where I lived six years ago and I loved every second of it. Lowry Hill East and Lyndale are pretty much the same concept but Whittier is nicer. Many locals, including myself, somewhat mistakenly refer to these neighborhoods as Uptown. I just googled it and apparently that's somewhat its own thing, but that's the common parlance I remember.

Oh, and for agents you should go with Cotty Lowry . Haha, kidding. I have no idea if he's good or not and I think he only works selling in any case, but I thought I would take the opportunity to point out an MSP institution. Look for his billboard across from the Sebastian Joe's in Uptown. It's been there being defaced weekly-ish for fourteen years now.

I bike year round and biking in MSP as a main mode of transport is second only to biking in Sweden/Denmark/The Netherlands in my experience (even Norway and Finland lag, frankly). Portland is supposed to be as good or better but I've never been there long enough to know. I rode slicks because I liked the challenge but more prudent people get winter tires of some kind. I didn't wear any special gear but you might find it helpful. Since I grew up there, the cold does not phase me too much but of course everyone is different and there is no denying that it can be extreme. If it gets too ridiculously cold or you need to haul something somewhere, there are rental car services similar to zip car that are making inroads. This is a new development from when I left six years ago but many of my friends use and love them. I just can't recall names. Oh and speaking of car rental services there is also now a service where if you go out using your own car (it sounds like you won't have one and you don't need one at all, but this is just a fun fact) and get trashed, you can call them and they will send out two drivers-- one who will drive your car safely home with you in it. Genius! Not sure of the name on that either.

It's truly magical to have so many great parks right in the city center and the chain of lakes in town are wonderful as well. It is also very easy to get out of town into real nature if you should feel the yen.

Yep. You betcha. I could go on and on and on. I get very excited when this subject gets broached. All around, there is nowhere else in the States I would rather live. Having typed all of this, I just wish that Canada would just freaking come down and invade already so I could go home with a clear conscience.
posted by telomere at 9:23 AM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am a Minnesotan who's lived in New England fort 20 years -- but I wish I lived in the Cities again!

One neighborhood that may meet your needs is litle St. Anthony Park in St. Paul. No lake access, exactly, but it's near the U of Mn "Ag Campus" (with all the farming & animal stuff, including the experimental farm plots, and the Meat Store & Dairy Store!), and the awesome Raptor Center. Also close is Keys Diner, the minor league St. Paul Saints at Midway Stadium, and a nice shopping strip with Muffuletta Cafe and Finnish Bistro for eating.

I am a Mac/Groveland kid, but I still love St. Paul even after so long living in Boston, its suburbs, and Rhode Island.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:51 AM on April 23, 2013

Also, I don't think you itinerary shows you drinking enough local beer while you are there.

Try a Surly beer from the Blue Door Pub, and have some deep-fried tater tots and/or a Juicy Blucy. The Blue Door -- in St. Paul, natch -- is the one spot I make sure to visit every time I get back to Minnesota.

All hail Blue Door!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:56 AM on April 23, 2013

Response by poster: I really don't know where to start but we can't thank you all enough. We were excited before to be visiting when we *thought* we knew what the Twin Cities had to offer but now, thanks to all of your insanely valuable feedback and suggestions, we're bouncing off the walls with anticipation for this weekend.

@telomere - we'll definitely check out Whittier and look for the Cotty Lowry sign. Major props for the background info!

@wenestvedt - neither of us drink (I'm a teetotaller, my wife might have an occasional cocktail) but we're definitely planning on checking out the Blue Door Pub, though it may have to be on a second trip or once we relocate to the Twin Cities.

@elephantsvanish - we were originally going to go earlier in April (my wife wants to make a decision ASAP so we can start planning the next chapter), but I told her "let's wait until the last weekend in April, better chance of the ice being melted and the snow gone". We're really excited about checking out everything the Twin Cities have to offer and will try to check out Minnehaha Falls if we get the chance this trip!

@newrambler/@caek/@newrambler - we'll check out the Birchwood Cafe when we're in Seward!

@TinWhistle - if the MN State Fair is anything like the Wisconsin State Fair I know what you mean. If we do decide to move to the Twin Cities expect a MeMail about where to go in Duluth!

@Handstand Devil - we'll put Rustica on our list for SLP!

@mcstayinskool - we'll see you on Sunday!

Thanks again for all of the great feedback and suggestions!
posted by playertobenamedlater at 11:24 AM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: After taking a few days to really take in everything we saw/ate/experienced during our weekend in the Twin Cities we can now give a proper review of reconnaissance trip. Before I get into the details of our trip we'd like to thank you all again for your suggestions and comments and let you all know that we're going to move to the Twin Cities this fall. We were both leaning towards the Twin Cities over Pittsburgh before we visited, but after our trip we both felt like the Twin Cities were a better fit for us.

First, everyone we ran into, from the lady at the Hertz counter at the airport to our usher at Target Field to random folks we ran into in the skyway after the game and at Minnehaha Falls, was super friendly and eager to talk to us. The second we mentioned that we were considering moving to the Twin Cities people immediately started telling us how much we would love it there and what we needed to check out while we were in town. Needless to say, this left a very favorable impression on us.

We were able to stick to our itinerary and see almost all of the neighborhoods you all suggested and even managed to see sneak in Minnehaha Falls on Saturday, which was really nice. The weather being so nice was a real plus - we were able to really check out neighborhoods and the lakes/parks (the Twin Cities parks are amazing) and get a feel for how alive the Twin Cities get once winter has left for good. The weather being so nice also gave us an idea of how crowded things get during the warmer months and how that compares to what we're used to in DC. Needless to say, we found the traffic and congestion in the Twin Cities to be a breath of fresh air after years of gridlock, clueless tourists, and tour buses.

mcstayinskool and his lovely family met up with us on Sunday at Pizza Luce (thanks again for lunch!) and graciously answered our many, many questions about living in the Twin Cities. We saved exploring St. Louis Park and southwest Minneapolis until Sunday so that those neighborhoods would be freshest in our minds once we got back and started compiling our research on future neighborhoods. Below are some quick notes we took during our trip:

- The Nook in St. Paul is awesome, check it out if you have the chance. This was our first food stop in the Twin Cities and it really knocked it out of the park for us. I highly recommend the Paul Molitor and definitely check out the soda shop next door if you have room left in your tummy!

- No one honks their horn and people get startled if you honk yours. This will take some getting used to.

- The Nordeast is a really cool, if you're visiting the Twin Cities be sure to check it out.

- Target Field is really great. One of the best fan experiences we've had an MLB park and has some really great views of the MPLS skyline.

- There are multiple White Castles and Jimmy Johns in the Twin Cities. I don't think I have to say anything else. I was disappointed that there weren't any Dunkin' Donuts or Tim Horton's around though.

- Unfortunately we were not that impressed with Longfellow (just not for us), but we did check out the Midtown Global Market while we were there. We now know where to go for spices!

- We skipped Nye's and went to Khyber Pass in Mac-Groveland in St. Paul on Saturday night instead, which was really good. Definitely check it out if you're looking for good Afghani food, I highly recommend the Aloo Korma.

- We didn't get a chance to do any cycling (I hurt my hip before we left), but we did check out the Greenway and it was much wider than I imagined and much more developed than I could have imagined.

- The 5-8 Club was a little disappointing. The deep fried cheese curds were really good but my burger was underwhelming. Great place though, the staff there is really awesome.

- Sebastian Joe's is awesome. Everyone told us to be sure to check it out and boy are we glad we were able to get to the one in Uptown. In addition to having some great ice cream, I managed to snap a shot of the Cotty Lowry sign telomere mentioned. Here's a shot of it we took on Sunday before we hit the airport: Cotty in Uptown.

- Of all of the neighborhoods we explored we both really liked St. Louis Park, Whittier, Linden Hills, Fulton, Lynnhurst, St. Anthony Park, and Mac-Groveland. Since we're planning to rent for a year to make sure the Twin Cities are for us so we've got time to decide on which one is the right fit for us, but we were really impressed that we were able to find so many potential neighborhoods. We both agreed that, as Think_Long suggested, we definitely need to figure out if we're St. Paul or Minneapolis people before we start our home search next year.

Thank you all again - we really appreciate all of your feedback, suggestions, emails, and offers.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 2:50 PM on May 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

FYI check out Matt's Bar instead of the 5-8 for the burgers. 5-8 makes a good Jucy Lucy, but the best one in the area is Matt's. They don't try to fancy it up, and it works.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:40 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Damn, late to the party. I bike year round most days and I love it. I'd be happy to answer specific questions if you still have any.
posted by look busy at 7:50 PM on May 19, 2013

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