U.S. News and World Report just named the Twin Cities #6 on their list of The 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019. And that spot? It’s up from #9 in 2018 and #17 in 2017 … obviously something good is afoot in the Land of 10,000 Lakes!
People aren’t just being “Minnesota nice” when we dote on our state, either. U.S. News took factors like the low cost of living, quality of life, and job availability into account when creating their rankings—but those of us who call Minnesota home know there’s more to love than stats and numbers. We compiled a list of must-see destinations that Royals have loved for years. Count up how many you’ve experienced, and plan to tick off a new one next time you’re nearby!
- Como Park Zoo and Conservatory has a zoo, sprawling outdoor gardens and lawns, and a variety of indoor plant and animal ecosystems that’ll easily double as a tropical getaway in the dead of a Minnesota winter. And get this … it’s all free! The park operates on funding from local donors and optional suggested donations from visitors.
- Stone Arch Bridge – Walk, bike, or run your way through one of Minneapolis’ most Instagrammed spots. It’s a retired railway bridge through the historic mill district and also a civil engineering marvel, so historical and educational placards abounding. Learn something and take a great selfie, too.
- Keg and Case Market – Foodies, rejoice! The old Schmidt Brewing building on St. Paul’s West 7th has been remodeled into a popular food hall. Sample interesting, locally-made foods, grab a coffee, and take part in some high-quality people-watching.
- Fort Snelling – History buff? This historic fort on the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers is a must-see for local military and cultural history. The Dakota people call the site “Ha-Ha Mdo-Te” because it’s where two rivers converge; the town of Mendota owes its name to that. Bring good shoes and walk the nearby Fort Park, which has tons of dog-friendly hiking trails.
- Minnehaha Park – there’s more than just the iconic waterfall, which is known for how its cascading ice glistens when it freezes over in winter. The park is also home to walking trails, Sea Salt Eatery, picnic areas, a dog park, and more.
- Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – walk the grounds next to the Walker Art Center to take in the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry by famed artist Claes Oldenburg, a huge blue rooster sculpture, and more. It’s free, other than onsite parking for a nominal fee. In the mood for more? Head inside the Walker; tickets are just $10 for students.
- The Chain of Lakes – Minnesota isn’t called the Land of 10,000 Lakes for nothing! Those bodies of fresh water can even be found downtown. Walk or paddle Minneapolis’ five downtown lakes to get a dose of fresh air and sunshine, right in the heart of the city.
- Nelson’s Ice Cream – Stillwater is a historic riverside town that’s just a short drive from the Cities. When you’re done walking the river and perusing the shops downtown, head up the hill a bit to Nelson’s for hand-dipped ice cream. Warning: the flavors are creative and the portions are generous!
- Disc Golf – the Twin Cities are known for their active disc golfing community, with the most courses per capita in the country. Of course, you could always stay at Bethel and take advantage of the free PDGA-certified, 18-hole course through campus!
- Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is a top American art museum, and it’s free! Check out onsite classes, visiting exhibitions (which sometimes require tickets), and more.
- Mall of America – Yes, there’s a ton of shopping at MOA. But a climate-controlled mall with rollercoasters, an aquarium, and huge Lego creations is sure to charm on a -10° or 100° Minnesota day—even if you’re not into retail therapy!
- Guthrie Theatre – Take in a show at this iconic, award-winning riverside theatre. But while you’re there, stop by the Skydeck for yellow-tinged photos of the Mississippi. The observation area is open to the public all day, every day.
- Silverwood Park – This free park on Silver Lake in St. Anthony has walkable gardens, a gift shop, café, canoe and kayak rentals, and performance spaces. But the free outdoor sculpture garden is a must-see, and even includes The Archenteron, which was created by Bethel art students in 2018.
- The free Weisman Art Museum was designed by Frank Gehry in the early 1990s and has become a gimmering landmark along the river on the University of Minnesota campus. Check out rentals of ready-to-hang art from its collection, or free yoga every second Saturday.
- Midtown Global Market features 45 business representing 22 cultures, so it’s a bustling microcosm of the multicultural Twin Cities metro area. Sample delicious global cuisine, pick up a unique gift or two, and hear every language under the sun. It’s fully indoors, so it’s a great winter option!
- Riverview Theater tickets cost just $2-3, depending on the time of day. Check out a documentary, indie film, or first-run national blockbuster—all within 1950s-era (read: retro-looking, but clean and new) digs.
- Target Field – The Minnesota Twins are pretty hot right now! Enjoy the local MLB franchise’s field, which was completed in 2010 in the heart of Minneapolis, and be sure to take advantage of $5 student tickets on Wednesdays. While you’re there, try a Soul Bowl, Grown-up Grilled Cheese, Boom Stick, or one of the other outlandish foods that were added to the concessions line-up this year.
- Want to experience the other local baseball team, whose home field is on the other side of the river in St. Paul? Head over to CHS Field for a St. Paul Saints game. Heads up: the entertainment is a little quirkier. Watch out for “ushertainer” Gert the Flirt! Friday games include fireworks.
- Orchestra Hall is home to the Minnesota Orchestra, one of the top ensembles in the country. From movie-themed nights—where the orchestra performs Indiana Jones or Harry Potter soundtracks live to the movie playing behind them—or collaborations with local pop artists and restaurants, there’s something for everyone. Check out the $12 student rush tickets.
- St. Paul Union Depot is a historic rail station that’s still in use today—as a transit hub, event and performance venue, art exhibit hall, and home to five rooftop beehives. Check out the free yoga and tours—and then use it as base camp for a trip to Duluth, Chicago, Red Wing, or just about anywhere in the metro.
- Allianz Field – It’s new. It’s big. It’s home to the Minnesota United FC. And you might even catch Tyler Sarff BUILD’19 playing on the unified team there!
- Minnesota Science Museum – Dustin from Stranger Things proudly repped the Minnesota Science Museum on his throwback 1980s purple hoodie, sending sales skyrocketing. But did you know the local hot spot has $8 student tickets after 5 on Fridays?
- Ride the Light Rail – Starting at just 50 cents for downtown tickets, METRO Transit is a sustainable and ultra-convenient way to get around the Cities. Jump on the network of trains and buses, and you’re within minutes of the Mall of America, sporting events, shopping, and more.
- Mississippi River Paddleshare – The first of its kind, this boat rental system along the Mississippi gives residents a different view of the Cities … from the water! Just choose one of six urban routes, reserve a boat, pop in a credit card ($20 or so for a trip), and return your boat at a different automated station when you’re done with it.
- Paddleshare locations line up with Nice Ride bike share stations, so paddle one way and then bike back to your starting point. Make it “leg day” and “arm day”—and a staycation—all in one shot! (Or use your rented bike to get just about anywhere; the Cities were recently named the only global, bike-friendly area in the United States!)
- The Minnesota State Fair – You really shouldn’t miss this one. The “Great Minnesota Get-Together” runs for 12 days, ending on Labor Day, and it’s just minutes from Bethel’s campus. Grab a Pronto Pup, jump on the Sky-Ride, and take in the views—along with a couple million other Minnesotans.
Ready to make the move? Bethel is located just 20 minutes from both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul—meaning students have access to top internships, tons of arts and entertainment options, and beautiful skylines, all while living in a safe and secluded campus setting. Free shuttles even connect with local public transit routes, so students can take advantage of the Twin Cities without a car! Visit campus to see what we mean.
Photos by AJ Barrett ’21