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Minneapolis and St. Paul might be called "the Twin Cities" but they are not identical. Minneapolis is often considered the more cosmopolitan and shiny city; St. Paul (10 mi/16 km away) is the state capital that offers a more historical, traditional atmosphere. The Minneapolis metro area, flanking both banks of the Mississippi River, teems with Fortune 500 companies; a thriving music, art and theater scene; and professional sports teams.Free Minneapolis Vacation Package Quote


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The surrounding area offers lakeside resorts, farm communities and river towns, as well as the gigantic Mall of America in nearby Bloomington. Even bitter winter weather doesn't deter residents—they bundle up well and navigate Minneapolis via the Skyways—all-weather connectors among downtown buildings.


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11-night America's Heartland Cruise/Land Package

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11-night America's Heartland River Cruise/Land Package

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Overview

Introduction

Minneapolis and St. Paul might be called "the Twin Cities" but they are not identical. Minneapolis is often considered the more cosmopolitan and shiny city; St. Paul (10 mi/16 km away) is the state capital that offers a more historical, traditional atmosphere. The Minneapolis metro area, flanking both banks of the Mississippi River, teems with Fortune 500 companies; a thriving music, art and theater scene; and professional sports teams.

The surrounding area offers lakeside resorts, farm communities and river towns, as well as the gigantic Mall of America in nearby Bloomington. Even bitter winter weather doesn't deter residents—they bundle up well and navigate Minneapolis via the Skyways—all-weather connectors among downtown buildings.

Must See or Do

Sights—The Mall of America; St. Anthony Falls and the view of the Mississippi River from the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail; the Victorian mansions on St. Paul's Summit Avenue; the Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain and other works in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; the Minnesota Zoo.

Museums—The ancient art collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the modern sculpture collection at the Walker Art Center; early-20th-century art at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum.

Memorable Meals—The contemporary Italian pasta bar at Bar la Grassa in the Warehouse District; diverse ethnic offerings along "Eat Street" (Nicollet Avenue); legendary pub fare at Anchor Fish and Chips.

Late Night—Dancing at First Avenue and Seventh Street Entry; jazz at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant.

Walks/Sports/Recreation—Walking the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail; taking in a game at Target Field; biking, skating or strolling around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes—or kayaking across them.

Especially for Kids—The rides at Nickelodeon Universe, one of the country's largest indoor amusement parks; hands-on exhibits at the Science Museum of Minnesota; interactive and educational exhibits at the Minnesota Children's Museum.

Geography

Situated in the southeastern half of Minnesota, Minneapolis and St. Paul sit atop the bluffs of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Minneapolis extends to the west and St. Paul to the east. Interstate 94 is the main east-west artery connecting the two cities. Hennepin Avenue is a major Minneapolis thoroughfare, with dozens of restaurants, theaters and clubs on both sides. University Avenue and Wabasha Street divide St. Paul into four main quadrants.

Be aware that in Minneapolis, a street's directional designation generally appears after the street name, as in Seventh Street South. But in St. Paul, most directional designations are listed before the name of the street.

Bloomington, a suburb 15 minutes south of downtown Minneapolis and 20 minutes from downtown St. Paul, is the site of the hugely popular Mall of America. Two other Minneapolis suburbs that draw visitors are Edina, for its upmarket boutiques and Southdale and Galleria shopping centers (about 15 minutes from downtown), and Shakopee, with its sprawling Valleyfair Amusement Park and Renaissance Festival, about 30 minutes from downtown Minneapolis.

History

Native American tribes (Sioux, Ojibway and Dakotah) were the primary inhabitants of Minnesota until the late 1600s. In 1680, Louis Hennepin, a Belgian-born Catholic priest, visited the territory and began trading fur with the Native Americans. This marked the beginning of one of the area's biggest industries.

In 1803, the region was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase, and in 1820, the government established Fort Snelling at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The land to the east of the Mississippi River, which had been set aside as a government reservation, eventually became St. Paul, the capital. A village named after nearby St. Anthony Falls sprang up on the west bank of the Mississippi. Soldiers from Fort Snelling had constructed a sawmill and flour mill near the village, which became known as Minneapolis by the mid-1800s. Companies such as Cargill, Pillsbury and the forerunner of General Mills started milling grains in the city and delivered their products via the Mississippi River.

A mass immigration in the 1880s brought many of the current citizens' Scandinavian relatives, who—cheered by the pine-hemmed lakes that looked like home—came to the region to take advantage of its iron-mining industry and the westward expansion of the railroad. In the 1920s and 1930s, St. Paul became a way station of sorts for gangsters throughout the Midwest. Local authorities welcomed John Dillinger, Al Capone, Kate "Ma" Barker and other notorious criminals as long as they agreed not to cause problems in town. This arrangement didn't last long, however, and a series of shoot-outs between the FBI, Dillinger and members of Barker's gang disrupted the relative peace of St. Paul in 1934.


After World War II, manufacturing increased, and the Twin Cities prospered. Minneapolis, which is the slightly larger city, is more industrial, but St. Paul maintains its share of manufacturing and technology companies. Together, the cities are considered the cultural and business hub of the upper Midwest.

Potpourri

The Twin Cities metropolis perennially leads the ranks of "most literate cities," fueled by the writing talents of Judith Guest, Pulitzer-Prize-winner August Wilson and Garrison Keillor, among other local literary talents.

In addition to Swedes and Norwegians, the Twin Cities also boast burgeoning Hispanic and Somali communities, as well as the largest concentration of Hmong immigrants in the U.S.

Minneapolis' Mill City Museum is built from the ruins of the Washburn A Mill, once the world's largest and most modern flour mill.

The first permanent crossing of the Mississippi River—completed in 1855—combined a bridge from what is now downtown Minneapolis to Nicollet Island with another from Nicollet Island to the river's opposite bank.


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