Saint Paul and Minneapolis are often seen interchangeably, being lumped together as the Twin Cities, but each city has a charm that’s uniquely its own.
Minneapolis boasts that it’s the city by nature – and you’ll soon see this seamless integration through extensive green space and walking trails. Meanwhile, Saint Paul offers the learning opportunities that are characteristic of state capitals and provides lots of activities for families of all ages.  Here are a few of our top picks to experience the Twin Cities.

Top 5 Things to Do

Shop ‘til You Drop With zero sales tax on clothes and shoes, it’s no wonder that Saint Paul is home to the country’s largest mall. If the 520-store Mall of America is a bit overwhelming for you, then you can take a more leisurely stroll down Grand Avenue. Comprised of converted Victorian homes, Grand Ave. is home to both national stores and local boutiques.

All Aboard The Jackson Street Roundhouse in Saint Paul is the headquarters of the Minnesota Transportation Museum. As a roundhouse still in operation, the tours of the facilities allow guests to see the workings of the shop firsthand. In addition to the train rides and hands-on exhibits, you will learn about locomotive history and see one of the last operating roundhouse turntables in the country.

Take a Walk in the Park Minneapolis has so much green space, you might forget you’re in the 15th-largest metropolitan area in the country. Minniehaha Park (pictured) is one of the most popular, featuring a 53-foot waterfall that is especially majestic after a heavy rain. The Chain of Lakes, featuring three lakes separated by pedestrian paths, is a favorite among bikers, skateboarders, and joggers.

Biggest Bang for your Buck The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory has been serving Saint Paul since 1873, and today covers over 700 acres with art, animals, and gardens. While there is a suggested donation, the park is free 365 days a year. Don’t forget to take a ride on Cafesjian’s Carousel, carved by hand in 1914 and restored to its original glory.

View from the Top Foshay Tower was once the tallest building west of Chicago, and today it still provides one of the best views of Minneapolis. At the observation deck on the 30th floor you’ll experience views for 30 miles and find a museum with videos and memorabilia showing what the city was like back when it was first built.

Top 5 Eats

Glam Doll Donuts If you’ve been following the foodie trend of out-of-this-world doughnuts, then you’ve got to try Glam Doll. There’s a wide range of classics (think jelly-filled and glazed) to eclectic (peanut butter and sriracha?!) and everything in between. You can even get a range of vegan donuts that are so good you won’t even notice they’re dairy-free. Be sure to grab a latte made with homemade syrup to enjoy with your goodies.
2605 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55408

Pizza Luce Arguably the best pizza in Minnesota, Pizza Luce (pictured) also offers a wide variety of salads, sandwiches, appetizers, and pastas making ordering one of the toughest decisions you’ll make. Their unique specialty pizzas include the Baked Potato, Shrimp al Pesto, and the meat-loaded Bear. Almost all menu items can be made gluten-free or vegan upon request.
119 N Fourth St, Minneapolis, MN 55401
1183 Selby Avenue St. Paul, MN 55104

Casper & Runyon’s Nook This Irish burger joint has a dive feel, and it’s a favorite among the locals and you’ll soon realize why they come back again and again, despite an occasionally long wait. C&R’s offers great weekday drink specials and almost 3 dozen burgers on the menu, including a rotating Burger of the Month and five different delicious stuffed burgers.
492 Hamline Ave S, Saint Paul, MN 55116

Izzy’s Ice Cream Café Don’t be discouraged during the summer when you see the line stretching around the block – it moves quickly and the wait is well worth it. You’ll find that the funky flavors aren’t just a gimmick, but homemade with the highest quality ingredients resulting in one of the best cones you’ll have. While you can play it safe with any of the traditional flavors, locals love the signature scoops such as the Summit Oatmeal Stout, Norweigan Chai, or Mexican Chocolate Fiesta.
2034 Marshall Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104

Loring Pasta Bar If you love live music while you dine, Loring offers that dinner-date atmosphere many seek. The menu has many choices aside from just pasta, including steak and seafood, offering something for everyone. The multi-storied venue is often home to dance lessons and parties, such as salsa dancing every Friday and Saturday night. The exposed brick and steel beams, open multi-level floor plan, and bohemian decor provide an atmosphere that is both fun and cozy, friendly and romantic.
327 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

Where to Stay in the Twin Cities

In order to spend as much of your time as possible exploring the cities, it is best to find a downtown hotel that surprisingly won’t cost much more than hotels in the outskirts of the cities. In Saint Paul, try to find something on the Riverfront, which will be close to great restaurants and provides a perfect setting for evening walks. If you prefer to stay outside the city, Minnesota’s highway system makes the commute simple. Try to find something with easy access to the I-94 to travel between the two cities with ease. Check out this map with hotel deals in the area to begin planning your trip to the Twin Cities!

Images courtesy Visit Saint Paul, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, and Pizza Luce  

Quick Guide to Twin Cities