Give Me The Mike received promotional consideration from Visit Saint Paul
Saint Paul, Minnesota may be the smaller twin of the Twin Cities, but it has a whole lot of charm and plenty to do. Here’s some advice for planning a trip to Minnesota’s Capitol city.
Getting there and getting around.
From Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport, downtown Saint Paul is about a 10 minute Lyft or Uber ride away. You can take Metro Transit’s light rail (blue line to green line), but it would take you a really long time — like over an hour. It’s not worth it.
Once you’re in Saint Paul, Metro Transit’s green line can be really helpful. It runs from Union Depot in Lowertown all the way through Saint Paul into Minneapolis (it ends at Target Field on the west side of downtown Minneapolis). A non rush hour ride is only $2.
Metro Transit does operate a bus system, but you’re probably better off renting a car, especially if you want to explore the rest of the Twin Cities.
When to go.
Minnesota is cold about 9 months of the year.
So Saint Paul embraces it.
At the end of January, Saint Paul hosts a Winter Carnival. Every year, you can count on a big parade, ice sculptures and a snow park. The Winter Carnival has royalty and during some years, has built larger-than-life ice castles.
For multiple years, Saint Paul has also hosted Red Bull’s Crashed Ice, an extravagant course where professional dare devils go downhill skiing but on ice skates. It’s a spectacle.
I’m not a big fan of the cold and snow, but don’t automatically rule out a winter trip to Minnesota.
Now, there aren’t many places better than Minnesota in the summer. The sun stays up late and people know they need to embrace these summer nights. Downtown Saint Paul, in particular the area around Mears Park, has some great patios for dinner or a nightcap. Check out an evening baseball game at CHS Field since you’re in the neighborhood.
Where to stay.
Across from Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul is where you will find The Saint Paul Hotel. The luxurious hotel first opened in 1910 and offers top-notch amenities. Their restaurant, The St. Paul Grill, is great for brunch and is a popular spot before shows at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts or the Xcel Energy Center.
I recently stayed at the Covington Inn, a floating bed and breakfast on the Mississippi River. The tug boat was converted into four rooms and is a perfect spot for a romantic getaway. It’s docked on Harriet Island, which is across the river from downtown Saint Paul. If you stay at the Covington in the winter, you definitely will want a car as it’s a considerable walk from downtown. The Covington Inn is for sale, but it’s still open. Learn more.
If you’re looking for something more conventional, hotels around Kellogg and West 7th Street will get you close to many bars and restaurants.
What to do.
Outside of downtown, here are some neighborhoods worth checking out:
- Grand Avenue is full of restaurants and shops. On the first Sunday of June, they host Grand Old Day, a one-day street festival that draws upwards of 250,000 people. When you’re on Grand Avenue, check out accessory company J.W. Hulme.
- Cathedral Hill is the area behind the Cathedral of Saint Paul, just west of downtown. It’s home to Moscow on the Hill, a spot voted as having one of the best patios in Minnesota.
- Some may consider it downtown, but the West 7th neighborhood is definitely worth visiting. Starting at the edge of downtown Saint Paul, West 7th is full of bars, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s also home to Keg and Case West 7th Market, a collaboration of over two dozen Minnesota-based companies in an indoor market. It’s also home to In Bloom, an upscale restaurant without a conventional oven. Instead, they use wood fire to cook everything on their menu.
Here are other Saint Paul highlights:
- Minnesota History Center — named one of the 5 best museums in Minnesota
- Allianz Field, home to MLS team Minnesota United
- Xcel Energy Center, home to NHL team Minnesota Wild
- Saint Paul RiverCentre
- Visit this Saint Paul butcher shop only promoted by word of mouth
- Saint Paul Farmers Market in Lowertown
- Date night deals in Saint Paul
- Science Museum of Minnesota — named one of the 5 best museums in Minnesota
- Minnesota State Fair (in nearby Falcon Heights, 12 days ending Labor Day) — get my full State Fair guide here
- Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
- Landmark Center
Top Saint Paul restaurants:
- Boca Chica Restaurante — named one of the 5 best Mexican restaurants in Minnesota
- El Burrito Mercado — named one of the 5 best Mexican restaurants in Minnesota
- The Happy Gnome — great for private dining; check out this guide
- Holman’s Table — great for private dining; check out this guide
- Keys Cafe — named one of the 5 best spots for breakfast in Minnesota
- Nelson’s Ice Cream — named one of 5 best ice cream shops in Minnesota
- Ngon Vietnamese Bistro — check out their incredible Wednesday night date deal
- Obb’s Sports Bar & Grill — named one of the 5 best places for fried fish in Minnesota
- Pajarito — named one of the 5 best Mexican restaurants in Minnesota
- Tavern on Grand — named one of the 5 best places for fried fish in Minnesota
- Mama’s Pizza — named one of the 5 best pizzerias in Minnesota
- Hosting a group? Check out my Twin Cities Restaurant Room Rental Guide
Before you head to Minnesota, make sure you know how to talk like a Minnesotan. Brush up on your Minnesota slang with this guide.
It doesn’t sound super fun, but there’s a lot happening inside the Agriculture Horticulture Building at the Minnesota State Fair.
I appeared on KSTP’s Twin Cities Live to share some of my highlights.
If you miss out on the First Kiss Apple, it’s still worth a visit to the Minnesota Apples booth for a Cider Pop! They are popsicles made with juice from Minnesota grown apples.
I mean, take at look at these pieces of art made of seed.
The “Ag Hort” building is also home to the Minnesota Bonsai Society State Fair Bonsai Show, which is incredibly cool!