May 5, 2024 - Newcomers Guide

A newcomers' guide to the Twin Cities and Minnesota

People packed in at the state fair

The Minnesota State Fair is the melting pot of the state. Photo: Judy Griesedieck/Star Tribune via Getty Images

If you're new to Minnesota, here are a few good ways to get to know the people, spirit and landscape of the state:

Getting to know us

🎑 Minnesota State Fair: It's the melting pot of the state. Deep-fried foods make all the headlines, but there's no better place to quickly get a taste of Minnesota's people, music, history and culture. Aug. 22-Sept. 2

🚲 See the cities by bike: Consistently rated a top U.S. city for biking, Minneapolis is easy to take in on two wheels. The Grand Rounds system includes trails that hug the Chain of Lakes, Minnehaha Creek, Mississippi River and Theodore Wirth Park.

  • Also, consider some great rides elsewhere in the metro, including a trip from St. Paul to Stillwater on the Gateway Trail.

🚀 A weekend at a lakeside cabin: Unlike many parts of the country, you don't need rich friends to score a weekend at a lake home β€” you just need friends.

  • Plenty of middle-class people have modest lake cabins that have been passed down through generations. In just a couple hours' drive, you can be sitting on a pontoon, fishing, swimming or tipping them back around a bonfire.

πŸ› Food markets: Get a slice of our immigrant communities' food and culture at Hmongtown Marketplace, Midtown Global Market, Karmel Mall or Asia Mall.

πŸ€ St. Patrick's Day in St. Paul: The parade is just a bunch of Irish people walking down the street, but the bar hopping along West Seventh Street is legendary. Be sure to make it far enough south to hit the real dives.

πŸ’ State hockey tournament: The high school championships at Xcel Energy Center is the hockey equivalent to Texas football and a time when the whole state joins forces to cheer against Edina. Mid-March.

πŸ›³ Ride a riverboat: The Padelford Riverboats run daily sightseeing trips out of St. Paul's Harriet Island all summer. It's a relaxing way to take in the natural beauty of the metro and learn about the history of the Mississippi River.

A Minnesota bucket list

There are a million things to go in the state, but here's a good starting checklist.

🎸 First Avenue: The city's most iconic music venue, thanks in part to Prince. But it's not just a landmark; it's also a great place to see a show.

  • Also consider The Armory, Palace Theatre and more.

🎨 Walker Art Center is home to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It features rotating exhibits by acclaimed artists from around the nation and world, a permanent collection, art-house film screenings and more.

  • Other options: Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Science Museum and several others.

πŸ› Mall of America: Love it or hate it, it's the state's biggest tourist draw. The largest indoor mall in the U.S. already has a theme park and soon will have a massive water park, pending financing.

πŸŽ™Paisley Park: Prince's home and studio in Chanhassen is open for tours.

🏞 Minnehaha Falls: The center point of an expansive Minneapolis park. Consider hiking from the falls to the Mississippi River and back, and then grabbing some fish at Sea Salt: A Seafood Eatery β€” a local favorite.

🚡 Mountain biking: The state's best trails are at the site of an abandoned mine in Cuyuna, 2.5 hours north of the Twin Cities.

  • In the metro, there are 10+ miles of trails at parks including Theodore Wirth in Minneapolis, Lebanon Hills in Eagan and Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove.

⚾️ Take in a game: Minnesota is home to every major sports league, as well as college, amateur and minor league teams.

🎭 Check out a show: The Twin Cities has a good theater scene, including the Guthrie, Orpheum, Ordway, Penumbra and others.

β›Έ Ice skate on a frozen lake or pond. Lake of the Isles has great views of the Minneapolis skyline.

🎨 Art-A-Whirl: Billed as the largest open-studio tour in the country, the three-day northeast Minneapolis event also has plenty of music, food and beer.

πŸ› Minnesota Capitol tour: See the second-largest, self-supported marble dome in the world and learn about Minnesota history. Grab Thai or Vietnamese food on University Avenue afterward.

πŸ’ Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: A 1,200-acre public garden in Chaska.

πŸ… The Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley has a new treetop trail with birds-eye views of animals.

  • The Como Zoo (free with a suggested donation) also features a conservatory that warms your soul in the depths of winter.

πŸŒ‰ Stone Arch Bridge: You can't cross it right now, but you can get out to the middle to see St. Anthony Falls, which powered the flour mills that made the city boom in the 1800s.

🌊 Take a weekend trip to Duluth. It's great in the summer and during the holidays.

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