Saint Paul, Minnesota
Saint Paul has long been overshadowed by its slicker, richer twin. And, frankly, the people who live there wouldn’t have it any other way. While Minneapolis has more of the pro sports franchises and corporate HQs, this once–working class city is rapidly consolidating all the cool, and quietly emerging as a laid-back, homespun alternative to Minneapolis — a small town set in the middle of a bustling metro area of more than 2 million people.
“There’s a real sense of community — 50 people will show up at the drop of a hat to discuss a regulation change at a dog park,” says Lenny Russo, the James Beard Award–nominated chef of Heartland. “Saint Paul reminds me of Charleston or Savannah in that it’s preserved its original housing stock,” he says. “There are these wonderful old neighborhoods within walking distance of downtown.”
In neighborhoods like Cathedral Hill, a young family can find a four-bedroom Victorian in good condition for about $450,000 — two-thirds the cost in Minneapolis. In Lowertown, the once-industrial zone perched on the bank of the Mississippi, old factories and warehouses have been converted into lofts for young creative-class types. The streets are packed with galleries showing local artists, unpretentious bars and restaurants, and a farmers market brimming with Midwestern-made or grown goods that’s rated one of the best in the country.
Sure, plenty of people commute to jobs in Minneapolis or the surrounding suburbs, where many of the area’s big companies are based. But the commutes are generally easy — and there’s no need to leave Saint Paul once the nine-to-five is over. And since it’s still Minnesota, escaping to the country is a breeze. “In addition to all the perks of a big city, it’s so easy to get out on a bike,” says Dan Casebeer, a longtime Saint Pauler who runs Grand Performance bike shop. “After work we bike from downtown, cross the river, and a couple of miles later we’re in the middle of this lush, rolling farmland.”
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