Maybe we are stuck-up jerks.
June 29, 2014 3:44 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are considering moving to the Twin Cities.

We both currently live in Chicago. I am a MN native (northern MN), while he is from the Chicago suburbs. We have both been to the Twin Cities for several times but don't have much of a feel for what it would be like in the day-to-day. We are considering moving to be closer to my family (I have a large-ish family and a lot of babies are being born and such, plus we would like to have our own babies in the next 3-5 years, and I would prefer to be closer to my family then). We are also interested in the Twin Cities because unemployment seems low, it is affordable, it seems like a clean and vibrant area, and we have never really felt perfectly at home in Chicago.

However, we have our hesitations, mostly because we are big snobs. We just discussed this option and these are our interests/concerns:

Food. We are pretty obsessed with food. Is there a good variety of food in the Twin Cities? Is it high quality? Is there a good mix of tasty neighborhood places and high-end restaurants worth the buck? We recently went on a trip to NYC which frankly blew Chicago out of the water in terms of food and excitement, but there's still a lot of good food in Chicago. Are we going to get to the Twin Cities and find that everything tastes strangely bland and gluey? (We are not bad cooks and can make a lot of our favorites at home, so not a total dealbreaker.) One thing we are sick of in Chicago is 4.5-5 star restaurants that cost too much and don't deliver, so I'll be just fine with a lack of pretentious restaurants with "swank" decor and overpriced menus. Good food and good cafes are my main concern. Good variety. Good donuts. (I will miss a good espresso as well.)

Speaking of, things like good bookstores, cute public places to work outside of the home or read and sip/nosh... also things I love and value.

Culture. I enjoy the multitude of museums and concerts in Chicago, but truth be told, we are not going out to the museum once a month, or even once a year. I am fine with doing these kinds of activities "on vacation" and spending most of my time at home curled up with a good book. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is a bit of a cultural adventurer, and I think he will miss being near great art and architecture. We are not sure though where we fall on this.

Also, I know the Twin Cities have a ton of theater, but I am super picky and bored with bad and "vampy" theater that ignores the source material in favor of staging and props, &c. I realize you can't escape this kind of thing anywhere, but will there be good theater companies in the Twin Cities to balance it out?

Sports and outdoors. I know the Twin Cities are beloved for this, and it's not something we're super into, but we would like to be. I am currently a runner and my boyfriend is into sports, and we are both interested in doing more outdoor sports-- hiking, camping, boating-- so we think this is pretty much a given (especially compared to Chicago which is a little sad this way).

Higher education and jobs. Right now, there's a lot on the table for us. We are both figuring out our careers and life paths. Boyfriend is considering law school or getting a PhD in a humanities/social sciences field. I am considering going back to school for computer science. I have really no feel for how challenging the University of Minnesota is, and if we will feel at home academically there (I fear not-- it is much bigger than the private schools we have both liked and also the programs feel much more mediocre). On the other hand, we have been little fish in the big pond for so long, maybe it will be a relief to be big fish again. I don't think we'll have trouble finding careers in law or technology (?), but I am currently an editor-- how hard will it be to find editing jobs there? Jobs with nonprofits? Typical humanities-grad jobs?

Schools / kiddie stuff. Is it a good place to have kids? Good schools? A lot of activities for children? My boyfriend's dream is to have kids in NYC (which is not going to happen), but we would love to take our children out a lot and have them experience a city and all of that good stuff.

To summarize: I like living "small," spending a lot of time with myself, exploring used bookstores and antique shops and tending my garden (metaphorically). I like unique peculiar things (like thrift shops in small towns), I like feeling close to my "roots" (working class, Midwestern). My boyfriend likes living "big": big cities, excitement, doing things and being places that other people will have heard of, and being on the cutting edge. We both like quality, we both like the idea of being able to afford a car and eventually a house. Would the Twin Cities be a good compromise, or are we tending too small?

OKAY, now that we sound thoroughly hateable, I'd love to hear from people who have lived in the Twin Cities recently, especially if you have moved there from a bigger city or consider yourself a bit of a snob. (If it helps not to judge, I was born in a town of <1000 people, and have a lot of "issues" when it comes to deciding where I belong.)
posted by stoneandstar to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your question is very broad, so I'll leave it to others to answer specific things. However, you may want to just search through past askmes on the Twin Cities. We've had tons on restaurants, neighborhoods, museums, etc. etc.

I don't mean this in a mean way at all, I promise, but you guys don't sound particularly unique. And what I mean by that is how you've described yourselves is pretty much how I would describe my partner and myself, my sisters, my parents, my friends, my colleagues - basically a lot of my network of educated, middle-class Twin Cities folks. This is good news for you! There are tons of restaurants here, tons of parks, yes to schools (they vary, of course), tons of different ethnic communities. Improving public transit. Lots of non-profits. A strong arts/cultural community.

We are smaller than Chicago, but I think we're pretty much comparable in all of the areas that you are concerned about. I think our craft beer scene is better than Chicago, but maybe I didn't give you guys enough of a chance.

Really, you should do some research through past threads, plan a few trips up here and hang out. Oh, hey, we're having some meetups next month.

Don't worry - I'm a snob too* and I quite like my home.

*but I live in Saint Paul, so I get to pretend that I'm more down-to-earth than those Minneapolis hipsters
posted by Think_Long at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

As for Minneapolis, I think Indianapolis is a more valid comparison than Chicago.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:13 PM on June 29, 2014

Response by poster: I won't threadsit, but Think_Long, that is great-- we are not looking to be unique, just hoping our crabby butts won't be disappointed. We've never really known anyone who lived the Twin Cities and we really just want to know what it's like for norms on the day-to-day side of things. Our living experiences have been either "big city" or "tiny hamlet." Thanks!
posted by stoneandstar at 4:16 PM on June 29, 2014

If you like contemporary art, The Walker compares favorably with the MCA. Minneapolis is also home to the Center for Book Arts, which is awesome. And the University has a surprisingly good museum.

However, and apologies for the fact that this isn't what you asked-- you may want to figure out if either of you is actually going back to school before you move. Because of the way graduate admissions work, it's relatively rare to do a PhD in the town where you live; if you or your boyfriend do choose that route, you're likely to end up moving again relatively soon.
posted by dizziest at 4:16 PM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Twin Cities has an incredible dance scene, with awesome local companies at The Cowles Center, and a great program of national and international acts at The Northrop and The Walker. Really fun and interesting stuff for a cultural adventurer.
posted by Malla at 4:32 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Computer science professor here - Minnesota has an excellent computer science department - I think top 30 or so.
posted by procrastination at 4:59 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lived in the Twin Cities for 12 years (have been in Maine for nearly 3 now)

There's a wide range of food, arts, community orgs doing interesting things, and all sorts of other goodness. However, how much of that is immediately handy to you depends a lot on where you live.

One of the weirdnesses of the Twin Cities is that a lot of people balk at crossing the river (either direction) to go do things - and yet, if you're me, and you grew up in Boston, a 15 minute drive to X interesting restaurant or Y museum or Z concert is really not a big deal. If you're willing to do that, there's a lot more options than if you stick very close to where you live.

Things I particularly liked:

- Outside of rush hour (and road construction), it's 20-30 minutes from nearly any point in the metro to any other point, barring a few. (I lived on the very east edge of St. Paul, by 3M, in two of the northern suburbs, and in the Longfellow area of Minneapolis during my time there.)

- Some neighborhoods are a lot better for things like excellent local cafes, walkable districts, etc. (And some of where this is easy has changed since I lived there due to new transit stuff so look for how recent comments are.)

- There are some great food coops, farmer's markets, and local food resources.

- If you want a strong neighborhood feel, there are parts of the metro where that's very prominent.

- I'm also very picky about my theatre (my father was a theatre professor, so I can't escape it, really) and I found plenty of stuff to keep me occupied and happy as often as I was likely to go out.

- I am a librarian (and went to library school in Minnesota) and while I have many (many!) opinions about the metro area libraries, on the whole they do really well at serving their respective communities. The cool thing is that your library card works at all the metro area systems, so if you find that one county/city library system is much more to your taste than others, you can still get things quite easily.

(Same deal with things like library and other community programming: you might want to browse library websites to get a feel of the kinds of things happening in different neighborhoods, actually.)
posted by modernhypatia at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2014

Best answer: I read this on my phone and sped up the trip home just to be able to blurt out that for a young couple obsessed with food, the Twin Cities is fantastic. I miss the Twin Cities restaurant and cooperative grocery scene so much (so, so much), and I live in Los Angeles.

What you won't find are high-end, envelope-pushing places like Alinea or wd~50. (I can't tell if this is what you have in mind when you describe the places that you've found aren't delivering in Chicago.) If you like to have the kinds of event dining experiences you'd get at places like that on a regular basis, you'd have to confine them to vacations if you moved to the Twin Cities.

What you will find is... virtually everything else. I'm hard pressed to come up with a cuisine or restaurant type that isn't represented in Minneapolis or St. Paul across a range of price points. If you are interested in the kinds of quirky, chef-driven, farm-to-table places that are a rung or so below the kinds of restaurants described above (in terms of concept and price), there are tons of those, and more opening constantly. (These are the places I'm wistful for, as an LA resident - the kind of meal that I could have at a midrange place like Saffron or Corner Table would cost 1.5 - 2 times as much out here, and I'd need a reservation to stand a chance of getting in on a weekend.)

If your food obsession extends to preparing food at home, you're also in for a treat in the Twin Cities - the web of farmers' markets, CSAs, and cooperative grocery stores is hard to beat (most co-ops of any metro area in the nation!), and there's a strong emphasis on eating locally sourced food and supporting locally owned and managed outlets. (Donuts are totally becoming a big thing there, too.)

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is one of the most prolific food critics in the Twin Cities metro area. Her blog (affiliated with one of the regional interest magazines) will give you a better sense of the kinds of things that are happening in the area. (Feel free to message me if you're wondering about a specific kind of food, or restaurant, as well!)

tl;dr: Food of all kinds, with the exception of restaurants with three Michelin stars, is a reason to move to the Twin Cities, IMO - definitely not something to worry about missing if you do.
posted by Austenite at 5:26 PM on June 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

I can only assume that the above donut article was written prior to the opening of Bogart's. (Very important information, I have some on my kitchen counter right now, they're very good.)

The Heavy Table is an excellent thing to read for information about the food scene around here.

The MN Fringe starts in a month, so you might take a look at the website for a snapshot of the theatre/performance scene. They do a lottery, it's not juried (I'm told it's the biggest nonjuried Fringe), so it's more ALL the things than best-of-the-best.
posted by clavicle at 5:45 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Computer science at the University of Minnesota, like basically any engineering program at any large research university, is extremely competitive. Worry about how you're going to do 60 hours of homework a week, not whether the program is good enough.
posted by miyabo at 5:55 PM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hey. I'm from Chicago originally, but from the far south side, so it's not exactly something I remember as an awesome cultural experience. Have lived in Minneapolis for nearly seven years at this point.

Food: The thing that strikes me when I go back to Chicago is the number of chain restaurants, even in what I think of as hip neighborhoods. The twin cities have a lot more variety per storefront, though it is a smaller city. There are even places that will serve you legitimately spicy dishes if you ask.

There are, sadly, few donuts in this city. The ones we do have are high quality, but you have to seek them out - you can't just be like 'I want a donut' and expect a dunkin donuts to appear in five minutes the way you can in Chicago. Bogarts are indeed delicious.

On the other hand, there seems to be a one coffee shop per block requirement in parts of south Minneapolis, and they all have excellent coffee, except for the one which gets by on really delicious tarts. Select coffee shops will also serve beer, because that's now this state rolls.

If you like beer, there's good beer.

Culture is seasonal. During the summer, it seems like there's five art shows or live music opportunities per weekend and sometimes you sometimes want them to stop for a week and take a breather. During the winter, it's pretty dead. There are art/cultural things to do (the art shanty projects come to mind), and there are plenty of year-round museums, but the pace slows down a lot. On the other hand, you don't really want to go outside during the winter.

I don't end up doing a lot of theater outside of fringe season, so I can't comment on that specifically - other than the fringe fest is a pretty big deal here.

The local music scene is pretty awesome year round and is well supported.

There are plenty of places to run and people don't think you're crazy if you run here, unless it's January. The thing about the twin cities is that it's so cold so much of the year that once spring hits and it's not terrifying to be outside, everyone will be out doing as many outdoor things as possible.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:02 PM on June 29, 2014

Minneapolis has some of the best "ethnic" food I've ever had. Without a doubt, the best Vietnamese. And also some of the very best Thai and Ethiopian. To start, check out Eat Street.
posted by girl flaneur at 6:10 PM on June 29, 2014

Best answer: I have lived in Chicago and Minneapolis.

Things I miss about Chicago: good Italian, good Greek, good French, good Polish; broad choice of independent bookstores; multiple neighborhoods that basically do the same thing but different (ie, there are multiple neighborhoods that are sorta artsy; multiple areas with good bookstores; multiple left-wing spaces, and they're all slightly different. Here I feel like it's pretty much the hippie boite, the really good used bookstore, etc.)

There's been rapid and unpleasant gentrification in Uptown and parts of St. Paul to the point where it's very expensive yet fratty/tech-bro and generic, and yet you still occasionally have to go there to go to, say, the good cookware store or whatever - in a larger city, this type of thing would be cordoned off from the interesting areas and you could avoid it.

I miss the sheer bigness of Chicago - it really takes work to see and know most of the city, there's a lot of really interesting architecture, it's just a more interesting place as a place. I miss the el. I miss really, really long walks. I miss the kind of big, unpleasant, challenging, pullulating arts scene you can only have in a bigger city where there's just lots and lots and lots of people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Things I really like about Minneapolis: that it's small enough that you really can run into people you know at the coffee shop or the bookstore; it's small enough to know the whole thing. Surprise museums, like the Russian one over Northeast. Native cultural institutions like the Pow Wow Grounds coffeehouse and art gallery. A scattering of really interesting bookstores, like Big Brain comics and Uncle Hugo's SF, which are as good as anything anywhere. Boneshaker Books, which is tiny but very well-curated and charming. Good food - three really good Szechuan places that I can think of, a great Malaysian place, lots of regional Mexican food, lots of good Ethiopian food, several tasty Tibetan spots; good farmers' markets. Great bicycling. Good public transit - there's a new light rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul that is absolutely set to change things up in terms of crossing the river.

The University of Minnesota is much better than you think. I went to a fancy private school and I wish I'd just gone to the U (I did about 1.5 years there later) - I'd have saved a ton of money and gotten a better education. The thing about the U - you have to seek stuff out. You can get a shitty degree - graduate or under- - here if you don't really want to work. But if you're at least reasonably self-starting, it's an excellent school. Think of it as a small high-quality core with an exterior of marshmallow.

I like it here. I think, on balance, that it is a bit provincial...but then I think about the life I've lived elsewhere, where I never (for example) encountered Native activist projects or saw any Hmong theater, or where it was much, much easier to live in a tiny bubble of like-minded folks instead of mingling with my Muslim neighbors or my Equadoran neighbors or the folks from New Orleans. It's a funny blend of provincial and really cosmopolitan here.

On balance, I think that if you come in with the attitude that our culture here is one of mediocrity and tell yourself that you're going to need to travel to get your needs met, you'll be really unhappy. (I know a couple of people like that - they have tenure, so they can't really leave.) We're not just a failed version of Chicago or a New York manquee, we're our own thing.
posted by Frowner at 6:55 PM on June 29, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I moved to the Twin Cities from NYC, and I am not sorry one bit. There is almost everything I love about New York with a reasonable cost of living ( I have a HOUSE. And a YARD. and a GARAGE. for less than I paid for a 1 bedroom in Queens!) and the ability to do all the things I want to do in a big city - so much more time now that we are not running the NYC rat race.

Food: I have found great variety and quality for everything but Indian food (but even that is okay) and the prices/pretentiousness are way better here.

Lots of bookstores and public places to hang. Parks like every six blocks.

Culture: I have been impressed with the local theater, dance, and music options. Lots of great official museum art as well as Northeast Minneapolis' local art scene.

We found the economy to be strong here; we both found jobs easily in our fields. It is a smaller pond so there are fewer choices for growth but more reasonable hours and expectations.

I can't speak to sports or the U, but I am thrilled with the public school system so far. THRILLED. I think this is a fantastic place to raise kids and am so glad to be doing it here rather than NYC.

Bonus: there are a lot of options for great medical care here. Not something I thought to care about, but I do now, and it's kind of astounding how many great doctors there are here.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:41 PM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you would like it in the Twin Cities. I am happy to provide more specific details via email or pm if you're interested.

There are a lot of nonprofits and a strong civic community.
posted by ramenopres at 8:21 PM on June 29, 2014

The TC is a great metro for the money. I moved here (kinda accidentally) almost a decade ago, and absolutely love it. I've never felt so inclined to "boost" as I do about these cities, and I've lived in some unique places (although, admittedly, have only visited NYC/Chicago a handful of times apiece.)

Basically, the best way to approach this if you're worried about being disappointed/feeling lame, is to think in terms of culture-per-capita.

Pretty much anything you could want -- from fine dining to funky neighborhoods -- is available. But, due to the difference in scale, anything you could want is also accessible; accessible in terms of hassle, accessible in terms of price, and accessible in terms of barriers to entry. For example, the New American/Farm-to-Table restaurants here could stand proudly in NYC or any other mecca (molecular/foamy hasn't ever really caught on, though). Except, you can actually get a table when you want one and get the prix fixe for ~ $60/each. Not only is there that one arts festival in that one neighborhood, but you could actually sign up to participate. Not only is there a beautifully restored apartment in that historic building, but it only costs $2k/month. Etc.

There are some ways in which the TC doesn't just compare favorably to, but actually outshines, some Big Deal cities. One example would be the natural/local foods infrastructure: Counting the numerous thriving co-ops, markets, and CSA programs, residents of the TC have more options for local food access than NYC and SF combined. We also have WF/TJ's, for some reason, if you must. Greenspace, bike and walking access, and general health/fitness are other areas in which the TC regularly outrank most other cities.

But yes, MPLS and STP lack that buzzy, almost dangerous, non-stop energy that so many lovers of NYC, Chicago, etc. seem to vibe off of. I can handle that sort of constant thrum, in small doses, but find that the mellower pace of the TC just suits me better. Basically, all of the culture, none of the crazy. 89% of the hip, with only 11% of the bullshit attitude.

The only serious downside that I normally warn people about is the severity/length of the winters. But, coming from Chicago, that should only present a minor challenge for you.
posted by credible hulk at 9:42 PM on June 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you should visit a few times. I considered moving from NYC and was incredibly disappointed. This was after being shown around multiple times by long-term residents.

It's a great area but if the dream is NYC I doubt it would work for your boyfriend. Even, say, Denver would be a much better fit.

Also I agree about grad school. U of M has a great psychology PhD program/s but your boyfriend likely won't get in. If he's serious about academia at all you'll need to move where the opportunity is.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:36 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

But yes, MPLS and STP lack that buzzy, almost dangerous, non-stop energy that so many lovers of NYC, Chicago, etc. seem to vibe off of.

I think how you feel about the energy of cities is the key thing. If it's something you need to be happy then I don't know that Minneapolis is a great fit. I know some people who loved NYC and are really happy here, so it's not as if you can't like both places, but I feel energised in Chicago in a way I don't here.

I think Frowner's point about how pretty much everything exists here, but there's possibly only one. (Except donuts. I don't even like donuts much and their absence is noticeable.)

Moving here on the assumption of getting into a PhD program is not a good plan because putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to PhD applications is not a good plan. Law school is a more reasonable plan because there's more than one school.
posted by hoyland at 6:07 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

We love it here in the Twin Cities. We live in south Minneapolis and are often found crossing the river, so I guess in some way, we are odd ducks.

For every minus I read above, I protested a little, but what about Gandhi Mahal! What? Al Vento and Broder's! Mel-O Glaze and Baker's Wife! RAWWWRRR!!!!

We know people in all kinds of circles in the Twin Cities and just hearing about how much they have going on is exhausting to me. Like credible hulk said, it's all here and all accessible.
posted by advicepig at 6:30 AM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

It is true - there aren't donuts. I mean, I have had some very fine donuts from various non-donut-centric pastry shops, and I've had some very disappointing overpriced hipster donuts but I never in all my life thought I would miss Dunkin' Donuts. I thought donuts were a great cultural universal, and you'd think that - due to our collective fondness for fried things, starches and sweets - donuts would be a natural food here. But no!

Also, if you have a Chicago-area accent at all, you will be surprised by the number of people who will ask you if you're from New York.
posted by Frowner at 6:44 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

The other thing you should know about law school is that U of Minnesota is not a top law school that has national reach so you'll be pretty committed to that specific law market if he goes to school there. Unless you go to a very top school (think Harvard, Yale, U Chicago, Columbia, Stanford, places like that) the legal career market is EXTREMELY local and it's really not a portable degree.

You very well may have some difficult decisions to make about prioritizing grad school/law school and career location vs being physically located near relatives.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:05 AM on June 30, 2014

We are both figuring out our careers and life paths...On the other hand, we have been little fish in the big pond for so long, maybe it will be a relief to be big fish again.

From your prior questions I'm going to guess that you're both in your early to mid-20s and a long time for you is two to four years. If I'm wrong on this and you're mid-career feel free to disregard, but from rereading your question I think you need to get a better grasp on where you're really at in life and career. Needless to say unless you and your boyfriend are former bond traders or Sillycon Valley escapies (think FB, GOOG, Twitter) you're going to have just as much job competition here as you do in Chicago, perhaps even more.

That said, I have lived in NYC, LA, Chicago, and just moved to Minneapolis after living in DC for seven years. It could just be because I've gotten old, but every day I'm here I kick myself for not moving here years ago. While it is in no way, shape, or form on the same level as Chicago, LA, or NYC in terms of opportunity or size it blows them all out of the water in terms of accessibility and ease of enjoyment. The things I want to do I can do without any of the headaches associated with much larger cities.

You know how the North Avenue beach off Lake Shore Drive has great views of downtown, a great beach, and should be a fun place to spend a summer afternoon but is overrun by Chads and Trixies and Cubs fans? Yeah, none of that here. You know how you'd love to live in Bucktown or Wicker Park but just can't figure out how you're going to qualify for a $500K mortgage for a condo? Yeah, none of that here. You know how those poor suckers out in Lincolnshire or Aurora would love to take their kids to a Cubs game on a random Tuesday night but can't because of the soul crushing traffic? Yeah, none of that here.

If you're willing to look for it you can find it here in the Twin Cities and, more importantly, once you find it you can afford to do it every month or week if you want. Again, it could be because I'm old but everything that I would ever want to do I can do here in the Twin Cities and I don't have to put up with traffic, bland soulless suburbanites, tourists (try living in DC or NYC and you'll understand why they're called "terrorists" by locals), or any of the headaches and costs that NYC, LA, or DC have to offer.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:09 AM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

We moved here from San Francisco in 2010, in large part because I hated the constant level of tension that SF seemed to run on, but we didn't want to lose out on the food and cultural opportunities, which as noted are rich and varied and with the exception of decent burritos, totally competitive with any other major city as far as we're concerned.

I'll mainly speak to having kids in the Twin Cities: I highly recommend it. It's the best of several different worlds. Our neighborhood functions like a small town within the greater city: we know all our neighbors, we know many of the people who work in the neighborhood on sight, and our kids (now 10 and almost 12) can safely and confidently go places independently.

Property taxes are high here compared to many places but it definitely shows in the services provided, and the schools are excellent (more or less excellent depending on the neighborhood; we searched out the cheapest dump in the nicest neighborhood we could afford on our budget, and our kids go to incredibly good schools). There are also excellent private schools of pretty much every sort.

There are very few places in the cities that aren't within a few blocks of a public park. The park board recreation centers are located throughout the cities and offer a great, and well-priced, slate of activities and sports. In Minneapolis at least they offer a highly regarded after school program as well. In winter, several rec centers set up outdoor ice rinks with warming huts. All those outdoor activities so prized by Minnesotans also have widely available and often very affordably priced lessons and camps for kids, and there are tons of programs available as well for the fine arts that are a huge point of pride for the cities. Right now, my kids are attending a tennis camp that runs for six weeks, an hour a day five days a week, that costs us a whopping $75 for the entire session.

Kids don't seem to be subject to the Minnesota Nice/Minnesota Freeze phenomenon that you may hear about. Mine integrated almost immediately and made a ton of great friends. As adults we had to hustle a little harder to make friends, to be honest, but we've managed pretty well and in fact, just celebrated a major milestone: Getting invited to spend the weekend at someone's cabin!
posted by padraigin at 9:50 AM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and my ten year old celebrated her birthday at Glam Doll Donuts in lieu of cake. The donuts were great but the real gift was the way the tattooed hipster staff treated a noisy gaggle of tweens with charm and good humor. Not saying it wouldn't happen in any other city, but it's par for the course in Minneapolis.
posted by padraigin at 9:54 AM on June 30, 2014

In some ways the Twin Cities metro area is like a 1/3-size version of Chicagoland. They are both provincial cities (not necessarily a bad thing!) in the Midwest. But the Chicago area certainly has a thicker and broader layer of cosmopolitanism and sophistication. The differences will be seen most obviously in the variety and quality of restaurants and in the shopping. Minneapolis/St. Paul doesn't really do much high-end anything. Good dining and interesting shops are less concentrated and more scattered across the city, so you'll have to do a bit more work to seek these things out. A lot of ethnic groups are not as well-represented. The commercial heart of Chicago and the dense urban areas around it are much larger than in the Twin Cites. Chicago has stronger and more extensive ties to the rest of the world.

That said, the restaurant scene has improved dramatically in recent years and compares very favorably to most cities. And culturally the Twin Cities really punches above weight in many, many ways. You seem to already be aware of the great theater, music, dance and visual arts. If, as you say, your boyfriend's ideal is New York, he'd probably get a bit bored with the Twin Cities after a while. But I would imagine he'd be a bit bored by Chicago as well if that were the case. In terms of cultural offerings, the gap between New York and Chicago is greater than the gap between Chicago and the Twin Cities, IMHO.

As mentioned by others, the food co-ops and farmers markets in MPLS/STP are fantastic.

Pay no mind to anyone who says you'll be "frozen out" of social circles. I really don't think there are major differences between any US cities when it comes to fitting in and making friends. It's much more a function of your age, stage of life, and the kinds of activities you participate in.

The climate... expect winters to average about 10-15 degrees colder than in Chicago and for winter weather to last a few weeks longer. Summers won't be very different between the two cities.

Since you declared an interest in camping and hiking, the Twin Cities beats Chicago hands down for being closer to wilderness areas and for having nearby opportunities in less-wild areas as well.

Most of all, I have to agree with others in saying that both of you should really think about your educational and career aspirations before contemplating a move. It sounds like you both are on the cusp of making some big decisions in that regard and I'd try to get that sorted first.
posted by theory at 10:25 AM on June 30, 2014

I can't speak to your other criteria, but I live in Madison now and have lived in St. Paul and I found Minnesota vastly preferable from an outdoor activities standpoint. The North Shore is approximately ten million times nicer than, say, Door County, and much closer. And the Cities themselves have nice networks of bike trails and ski trails, lots of lakes, etc.
posted by gerstle at 11:03 AM on June 30, 2014

Best answer: I moved to Washington, DC, from the Twin Cities (Uptown Minneapolis), and I will probably always love MSP a bit more. I visit at least once a year, and am always taken aback by how amazingly pleasant it is. And yes, I'm including winter, which once embraced becomes a thing to love.

To me, the city is perfectly sized. Enough culture that there's always a choice of what to do, not so much that you miss way more than you see. (And the Walker is a miracle. Spend lots of time there.) Great restaurants, accessibly priced, no reservations needed. (I'm still astonished at the low caliber of restaurants in DC that require reservations to be seated in a reasonable time frame.) A lot of establishments made by people who take pride in their work, have made the city their home, and want to show you a good time.

I'm a runner, and to me, Minneapolis' natural amenities will always be among its strongest credentials. (Yes, again, all year long.) It's the type of place where life is paced such that you can *actually* take a canoe around a few lakes on a Saturday afternoon and have hours left to grab dinner at Lucia's and a movie at the Landmark. The city's park board controls its own sizeable budget and owns all the land abutting the many gorgeous and varied lakes, so when it snows in winter, the trails around the lakes are the first paths cleared, well before dawn. There are few things as serene as running around a frozen lake at dawn, the whitened ground more luminous than the sky, sound absorbed by snow, your footfalls all there is to break the luscious silence.

I miss it. I hope you take the chance to go.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 7:40 PM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

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