Sure, Minneapolis has more lakes (about 930 in the metro area), the major sports teams, and more spotlight, but Saint Paul, across the Mississippi River to the east, is the more grounded twin. With loads of roads and trails for biking, spots for canoeing and kayaking, and enough excellent restaurants and bars to keep you here a week, put Saint Paul on your radar.
It would be easy to down 10,000 calories a day in this food-focused city. Don't expect a diet. Start your day with a twist at Cook St. Paul, where you can get a short stack or eggs and hash browns, but also Korean pancakes comprising ground yellow beans with spicy sausage and cabbage. Go for the more traditional at Colossal Café, where all-day breakfast includes various breakfast sandwiches; biscuits and gravy; or their Flappers, yeast-based pancakes that can be had traditionally with Three Rivers Farm syrup or topped with apples, walnuts, brie, and honey-brown sugar syrup. The Twin Cities are home to the Juicy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger, and you won't go wrong diving into a "blucy" at the Blue Door Pub. Taste Hmong influence at the French Vietnamese spot Ngon Bistro for a Saigon Dip (their take on a French dip with brisket and pork belly au jus) or crispy rabbit dumplings. Amsterdam Bar & Hall features Dutch fare like mussels and frites, broodies (Dutch sandwiches), and a slew of gins while you watch a live show. If you're in the mood to explore an extensive whiskey list or taste through one of 89 craft beer taps while eating a bison, elk, and bacon burger and poutine, head to the Happy Gnome for lunch or dinner. Two don't-miss spots for dinner include farm-to-table Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar, where James Beard–nominated chef and owner Lenny Russo sources all his ingredients from small family farms to craft two nightly changing prix-fixe menus, or Strip Club Meat & Fish, where "vegetarians [are] regarded with benevolent amusement." Go for the grass-fed, hormone-free beef and stay for the haus kielbasa with daikon slaw, pork and foie gras steam buns, or the duck confit benedict with green tomato salsa at brunch.
It's easy to earn those endless meals here. With 26 miles of Mississippi River shoreline (more than any other city along the mighty waterway), St. Paul has a lot of scenic places to bike and run. Case in point: Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, a 29-acre urban park on the north shore of the Mississippi, where you'll often see bald eagles and red tail hawks. Or pop on your running shoes and log some miles around Lake Como and Lake Phalen, where you can also drop a kayak or canoe into the water and work your upper body while enjoying surrounding nature. Check out the 18-mile Gateway State Trail that starts in St. Paul and runs along the former SOO Line railway, around lakes, through wooded areas, and a giant snowman. A popular connected offshoot is the six-mile Brown's Creek Trail, which follows a trout stream to the St. Croix River. The area also boasts more than 170 golf courses, and the Highland National Golf Course, an 18-hole, 72-par city course that features a Snoopy-shaped bunker at the 15th hole in honor of Charles Schulz, the Peanuts creator who caddied there when he was younger.
The classic hotel in town is the simply named Saint Paul Hotel. This AAA four-diamond hotel, which has hosted guests since 1910, exudes old-school charm with a prime location downtown near the Mississippi River. Each of the 254 rooms offer Aveda products, plush robes, and free Wi-Fi. Hit the white-tableclothed, steak-and-seafood focused St. Paul Grill next door to enjoy its renowned whiskey selection, including a $750 one-ounce pour of Macallan 55. For something more modern, the 56-room boutique Hotel 340 beckons. Set inside a renovated 100-year-old downtown building, the hotel offers both free continental breakfast and use of the adjacent 68,000-square-foot Saint Paul Athletic Club.
Since 1921, Heimie's Haberdashery has outfitted men with well-tailored suits, wing tips, fine cigars, or even gorgeous leather cases for hunting guns. Get a hot shave while you're there.