Is St. Paul the Better of the Twin Cities?
Over the years, the Twin Cities have gained national attention for being the midwest center for arts, music, theater, culture, incredible cuisine, and nearly 20 Fortune 500 companies, making it a great place to live and work. While Minneapolis is the bigger of the two twins, I think St. Paul is underrated and a great place to live or spend a weekend.
St. Paul has some incredible biking and walking trails, colleges, sporting venues, restaurants, and breweries. St. Paul is an incredible city with so much to offer. Relatively speaking, it’s a smaller city of just 305K residents, but there is a lot of beauty, history, art, and culture packed into this city!
1. Tour the Minnesota State Capitol
Take a free guided tour of Minnesota’s Capitol building and learn about its history, art, architecture, and the state government. The Capitol building was built in 1905 and has the second-largest self-supported marble dome in the world. You’ll also see beautiful marble, murals, paintings, and golden horses on the roof.
2. Check Out a Brewery
St. Paul has a handful of great breweries, many with beautiful patios and great food! Some of our favorites are Waldmann, which has excellent Germany-inspired pretzels and sandwiches. We also love the St. Paul Brewery, which has a uniquely decorated outdoor patio that feels like you’re in an I Spy book. I recommend the pumpkin beer, it’s very subtle and refreshing. A few other great options are Bad Weather Brewing, Summit Brewery, Wabasha Brewing and Yoerg Brewing Company.
3. Visit the Science Museum
The Science Museum is an incredibly diverse museum. You’ll find dinosaur bones, sand from beaches all around the world, a section on human anatomy, exhibits on Minnesota animals and geography, and a five-story tall giant astronaut! You can easily spend 2-3 hours exploring this great museum. Purchase your tickets here.
4. Walk Around Keg and Case
Keg and Case, located inside the 1855 historic Schmidt Brewery site, is currently a marketplace filled with great food, a brewery, and unique experiences. Grab a drink on the top floor at Clutch Brewery, check out a florist and candy store, grab pickled vegetables and dried pasta, delicious wings or meatballs, and much more. It’s a great place to walk around and spend an afternoon.
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5. Tour the Alexander Ramsey House
Take a tour of the Alexander Ramey House museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ramsey was the first governor of Minnesota Territory and the second governor of the state of Minnesota. Built in 1868, the Alexander Ramsey House is a Victorian masterpiece.
6. Enjoy the Cathedral’s Gardens
The Cathedral of St. Paul is gorgeous year-round, with intricate stained glass windows and a massive dome ceiling. It’s especially stunning in the spring and summer when flowers and pink trees are bursting with vibrant colors. It’s free and all are welcome to enjoy it.
7. Visit Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
The Como Park Zoo & Conservatory are absolutely beautiful and completely free all year. Bring the kids to walk around and see the giraffes and tigers, or visit the warm and humid gardens to warm up on the coldest days of winter. Both the zoo and conservatory are free year-round, but you’ll need to reserve your time slot in advance, which you can do here.
8. Eat Italian Treats at Cossetta’s
Cossetta’s is one of my absolute favorite places in St. Paul. This Italian market and eatery have been around since 1911. You’ll find quality ingredients to make your own Italian meal, like dried pasta, meatballs, and a large assortment of cheese. Or, grab something to eat in their upstairs dining area, like pizza, soup, eggplant parmesan, or cookies and cake.
9. Chase Waterfalls
Shadow Falls and Hidden Falls, located just a few miles apart, are lesser-known St. Paul gems. Shadow Falls is tucked into Shadow Falls Park on Summit Avenue. There is a tiny parking lot, which fills up quickly in the summer. You shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding free street parking though. The path is not clearly marked and it is very steep at times. Hidden Falls is much easier to get to. The dirt path is flat and the waterfall is a short walk from the large parking lot.
10. Tour the James J. Hill House
Take a tour of the massive James J. Hill House, built by railroad tycoon James J. Hill. Learn what life was like for the Hill family, their workers, and guests. Grab your tickets in advance here.
11. Visit the Minnesota History Center
If you love history, you’ll want to visit the Minnesota History Center. This museum and library offer inspiring exhibits, programs, and live performances. Learn more about Minnesota’s history and purchase tickets here.
12. Enjoy the Excellent Food Scene
St. Paul has a great food scene with a variety of restaurants. You can find everything from Italian and Russian, to burgers and Thai. Some of our favorites include Red River Kitchen, Meritage and Moscow on the Hill.
13. Go Underground at the Wabasha Street Caves
Head underground and tour the Wabasha Street Caves, which were carved in the 1920s. Some of St. Paul’s most notorious gangers, like Babyface Nelson and John Dillinger, used these caves as a hideout in the 1920s. Over the years, these caves were used as a speakeasy, a place to grow mushrooms, store items, and even a nightclub. Today, these caves are used for private events and guided tours.
14. Take a Photo of the Landmark Center
The Landmark Center, completed in 1902, was once a courthouse and US Post Office. Today, it has a museum and gift shop and can be rented for private events and weddings.
15. Walk Bruce Vento Trail
This regional trail spans seven miles from St. Paul to White Bear Lake. It has paved trails for walking and biking and a nature sanctuary. It also has one of the best views of the St. Paul skyline in my opinion.
16. Drink Beautiful Lattes
There are many great coffee shops in St. Paul. If you’re looking for something really special, check out Cafe Astoria for rainbow lattes and edible gold. They also sell delicious crepes, salads, smoothies, oatmeal, and much more.
17. Enjoy the Sunshine from Upper Landing Park
Upper Landing Park is a paved path that runs adjacent to the Mississippi River. Here you’ll find sculptures, lots of benches, and a large grassy space to relax or have a picnic facing the river.
18. Go Shopping
There are a lot of great shops in St. Paul. One of my favorites is Scout, which offers eco-friendly brands in a queer-friendly space. They have mugs, books, t-shirts, backpacks, and fun outdoor-themed gift items.
19. Walk Past F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Home
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of the Great Gatsby, was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. His childhood home is not a museum, so you can’t go inside, but you can walk past it and imagine him as a young boy living here. He actually wrote This Side of Paradise inside this home in 1919. And if you love learning about Fitzgerald, take a walking tour to learn about the places he ate, shopped, and hung out.
20. Stay at the St. Paul Hotel
The St. Paul Hotel is a gorgeous hotel and event space. We went to the hotel for a wedding a few years back and it’s a gorgeous space. This hotel was built in 1920 and has elegant rooms and an awesome cocktail bar and restaurant.
21. Go to a Sporting Event
St. Paul is home to the Minnesota Wild (hockey), Minnesota United FC (soccer), and the St. Paul Saints (minor league baseball). I’ve been to a handful of games over the years and the energy never disappoints. It’s really more about the experience than winning anyway, right?
22. Take a Stroll at Phalen Regional Park
Phalen Regional Park is a beautiful park with a lake, golf course, beach, and the China Garden. It’s a popular place to walk, fish, kayak, and cross-country ski during the winter.
23. Visit the St. Paul Farmers’ Market
I love Farmers’ Markets and picking up fresh, locally grown fruit, tomatoes and flowers. The St. Paul Farmers’ Market has been running since 1854! It’s a great way to spend the morning while supporting local growers.
24. Visit an Event at Union Depot
Union Depot is a really unique space because it’s both a public transportation hub for the Light Rail and buses, and an event center. Check their event calendar here and learn more about holiday markets, yoga classes, kids’ events, and more.
25. Wake Up at the Davidson
The Davidson is a luxury boutique hotel located on the gorgeous and historic Summit Ave in St. Paul. This eight-room house-turned-hotel has stunning views of the sunset overlooking the bluffs. My in-laws stayed here to celebrate their wedding anniversary and invited us over for champagne. It’s a beautiful space and the rooms are huge.
26. Enjoy James J. Hill Library
The James J. Hill Library was created out of Hill’s vision to provide the public with a reference library that supported cultural and economic growth. Today it’s both a research library and an event center.
27. See a Show at Fitzgerald Theater
This theater is the oldest active theater in St. Paul. It first opened in 1910 and currently offers live performances, musicals, concerts, and more.
Plan Your Trip to St. Paul
St. Paul is an incredible place and the Twin Cities often rank as one of the top places in the country for affordability, healthy residents, and great career opportunities. It’s really a great place to live. Looking for more inspiration? Check out my blog posts on Minneapolis, Stillwater, Northfield, and Duluth!