Saint Paul (pop. 288,000) is the state capital and
Minnesota’s second largest city. Downtown Saint Paul is
about ten miles east of downtown Minneapolis, and a
quick drive from the airport. Distinctive historic
buildings stand easily alongside contemporary office
buildings downtown. For instance, Rice Park is bordered
by the handsome 1916 library, a historic inn, the castlelike circa 1900 Landmark Center and the much newer
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. This theater is
home for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and is the
stage for touring Broadway musicals and multi-cultural
performing arts programs. The city’s oldest theater, the
Fitzgerald, is the home stage for Garrison Keillor’s radio
show “A Prairie Home Companion.” Downtown Saint
Paul is also home to the Park Square Theatre Company
and the History Theatre, and a community center west of
downtown is the stage for the Penumbra Theatre, one of
the country’s leading African-American companies.
The Children’s Museum of Minnesota downtown
has fun, creative displays and activities, including special
touring exhibits. Kids also enjoy the nearby Science
Museum of Minnesota, with lots of hands-on exhibits
and a domed Omnitheater. Perched on a bluff top with
great views of the Mississippi River, the museum also
houses the Mississippi River Visitor Center, which has
information about Twin Cities parks and trails along the
river. The Padelford Packet Boat Company’s riverboat
cruises depart just across the river from Harriet Island.
Secured at the same dock is the Centennial Showboat,
with productions of musicals and comedies.
The Minnesota Wild plays hockey at the nearby Xcel
Energy Center, adjacent to the River Centre convention
complex. At the edge of downtown is the Minnesota
History Museum, within sight of two other landmarks,
the State Capitol and the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Heading
west from the Cathedral is Summit Avenue, lined with
distinctive Victorian mansions. One of them, the James J.
Hill House, is open for tours. Running parallel to Summit
is Grand Avenue, with a mix of interesting shops and
On the north side of Saint Paul is Como Park, with a
zoo, a beautiful glass conservatory, a tropical rainforest
exhibit, a Japanese garden, a vintage carousel, and a kids’
amusement park. Just north of Saint Paul, the city of
Roseville has several hotels and offers easy access to the
Twin Cities area. Roseville is home to many shopping
areas, including Rosedale and HarMar Mall. The Guidant
John Rose Oval here is the largest outdoor refrigerated
ice skating rink in the world (skate rentals available).
Also north of St. Paul, White Bear Lake has a
charming downtown with numerous specialty shops,
and there’s an apple orchard at the edge of town.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Bloomington is the largest city in the suburban
metro area surrounding Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The
highway I-494 corridor along the northern border of
Bloomington is lined with hotels, restaurants and shops.
Mall of America is here as well, just across the highway
from the airport, making Bloomington an international
shopping destination. Adjacent to the Mall is the large,
indoor Water Park of America and a popular IKEA store.
Light rail transit links the Mall and the airport to
downtown Minneapolis. The Bloomington Civic Theatre
produces popular musicals, performed at the city’s Center
for the Arts. And in spite of Bloomington’s big city feel,
it’s also home to the visitor center for the Minnesota
Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge stretches for
34 miles along the Minnesota River, with hiking and
biking trails and excellent opportunities for birding.
South of the Minnesota River are several communities
that offer accommodations on the perimeter of the metro
area, and several attractions of their own. In Apple Valley,
the Minnesota Zoo features more than 400 animal
species, with an adjacent IMAX theater. Kids enjoy the