A Green City Guide to Minneapolis and Saint Paul

A Green City Guide to Minneapolis and Saint Paul

Allison Verdoorn
Dec 27, 2010

Population: 3.2 million in the metro area
Green Cred: Consistently named some of the best cities to bike and be outdoors in, the Twin Cities have over 16 lakes,180 parks and 200 miles of recreational paths.

With a new LEED certified ballpark, a lightrail transit system, and over 16% of the cities' area being parks, the Twin Cities are bursting with sustainable features. Even with the cold temperatures in the winter, this is an area where people love to be outdoors and embrace the eco-lifestyle whole heartedly.

Minneapolis and Saint Paul are situated on the Mississippi River providing a perfect place for parks and recreation trails that crisscross the metro area. The cities are teeming with green space and parks leaving no excuse for a nice day spent inside. Farmers market and co-ops are dotted throughout the area with great food selections. A new (and expanding) lightrail transit system, paired with green buses, is great ways to get around and reach the edges of the city. The metro is made up of smaller, distinct neighborhoods that will keep the visitor excited and surprised at every turn. With multiple LEED certified buildings and green initiatives, Minnesota is a forerunner in the green building movement. The new Twins Target Field is the greenest ballpark in America and it serves as the cities' rallying cry for the sustainable movement. The city of Saint Paul uses an efficient district energy system that serves as a model for the surrounding cities. The Twin Cities is a vibrant area that has woven eco-living into the way life works.

Places You Must Go

Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway
A 50 mile long system of linked parks, the Grand Rounds makes a loop around Minneapolis. Connecting beautiful areas like Lake Calhoun with Minnehaha Park and the Mississippi River, the Grand Rounds can be used by both pedestrians and bikes. Do all of it in a marathon day or take parts of it on multiple days, this is a fantastic way to see the city.

Target Field
Check out a game of outdoor baseball on one of Minnesota's famous beautiful summer evenings. With LEED status, this park boasts some of the greenest features of any ballpark in the country. Sit outside and watch the Minnesota Twins take the field with a view of the Minneapolis skyline in the background. Not to be missed, this is a great place to find out what "Minnesota Nice" is all about.

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Even the cold temperatures cannot keep Minnesotans inside. Embracing the beauty of winter, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival is an outdoor event that celebrates everything winter. Called the Coolest Celebration on Earth, this festival will get to into the winter spirit with its ice palace and show you how to have fun in the cold and snow.

Things You Must Do

Go for a bike ride
With hundreds of miles of bike trails within the metro area this is a can't miss activity. Recently a new program called Nice Ride MN facilitates easy bike rental all over the area. Why use a car when you can see the entire Twin Cities on your bike?

Take a walk through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Featuring the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, the garden is a free museum in a park. Spend a beautiful day strolling through the art taking in not only the sculpture but the views of the Minneapolis skyline as well. While you're there you can always stop into the Walker Art Center too!

Stroll down Grand Avenue
A walkable shopping area nestled in the heart of St. Paul's historic neighborhoods, Grand Avenue offers restaurants and shops for everyone. When you're finished with the shopping district take a walk through the old neighborhoods looking at the beautiful homes.

Check out our great neighborhoods
Much of the charm of the Twin Cities has to do with the unique neighborhoods that dot the area. Neighborhoods like Seward and Uptown are working hard to create a more sustainable lifestyle for the residents and visitors.

Go crosscountry skiing or snow shoeing
Get into the Minnesota spirit with outdoor winter activites. Just make sure you dress warmly and bring a camera for the beautiful snow scenes.

Check out the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
With their free admission, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a fantastic way to spend a rainy day inside.

Where To Sleep

Minnesota is full of great places to sleep outdoors. Campgrounds like the Baker Park Reserve, Carver Park, and Lebanon Hills offer camp sites right outside of the metro area. Want to get a little further away? The famous Boundary Waters Canoe Area is not far!

Minneapolis International Hostel
Housed in a 1900's Victorian mansion, this hostel is conveniently located in the Uptown area of St. Paul.

Aloft hotel in Minneapolis
Located in downtown Minneapolis near the new Guthrie Theater, Aloft features sustainable material choices, reusable containers and water and energy saving programs.

Where To Eat

Featuring indeginous and local ingredients, Heartland specializes in local Midwestern cuisine.

Birchwood Cafe
With their motto: Good Real Food, Birchwood uses organic and free range ingredients to create delicious dishes.

French Meadow Bakery
A perfect place for brunch, French Meadow in Uptown uses organic ingredients to make delightful baked goods along with sandwiches and other selections.

100% Organic vegan raw, this restaurant not only features great food but also has an eco-shop in house.

Common Roots
Great food with character, the restaurant uses local and organic ingredients to create a monthly-changing menu of innovative food made from scratch every day.

Flat Earth Beer
Yes, I know this is not a restaurant, but what good meal is complete without a good beer? Try out this local brew if you get a chance.

Peace Coffee
If you need a pick me up while in town make sure to check out Peace Coffee with their traveling barista bar.

Shops To Visit If You're There For A Day

I Like You

Featuring local artisans from around the metro, this shop is great for finding "small things for a prettier life."

Moss Envy
A specialty retail store located in Minneapolis that sells eco products for your home and life. With product lines that cover a wide range of categories including furniture, home decor, gifts, jewelry, bath and body, stationery, clothing, mattresses, baby gear, building materials, and more they have pretty much anything you might need.

Two 12 Pottery
Specializing in custom stoneware pottery, art and other home accessories, this store has items you won't find anywhere else. A hidden gem.

Shops To Frequent If You're There For a Year

Natural Built Home

With everything from cleaning supplies to flooring this great home store has the stuff you need for that home project.

The ReUse Center
Dedicated to keeping usable building materials out of landfills, the ReUse Center is a must stop for anyone about to start a project.

Fast Eddie's Shoe Repair
Recommended to me by a friend, this shop will make your shoes (that you use to walk and bike all over town) last that much longer.

Colonial Cleaners
Using silica instead of traditional solvents, this cleaner can help you keep fresh while you're in town when those dry clean only sweaters really need a cleaning.

Our fantastic food co-ops
Easy to find anywhere in the cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul food co-ops have been providing residents with high quality food for years.

Green Spaces

Minneapolis Farmers Market
The Central Minnesota Vegetable Growers Association is a member-based, nonprofit association with over 200 members. Their members directly market their fruits, vegetables and farmstead products at the Minneapolis Farmers Market to consumers.

St. Paul Farmers Market
Open year round, the market is operated by the St. Paul Growers' Association, Inc. The association allows only fresh, locally grown produce to be sold directly from the grower to the consumer. Also available are bakery goods, cheese, poultry, buffalo, venison, beef, pork, lamb, maple syrup, eggs, bagel sandwiches, honey, organic plants and produce, flowers, plants, shrubs and many other items.

Great Independent Artisans

Northeast Minneapolis Art District The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District includes a vast number of artist studios, art galleries and performance spaces embedded in a unique neighborhood distinguished by quaint homes and family-run businesses, rail yards and industry, kitchy watering holes and diverse restaurants.

Northrup King Building
The Northrup King Building is home to over 200 tenants including a creative center to over 190 artists as well as various small business and nonprofit organizations

The Best Flea Markets, Antique Fairs, and Thrift Stores

Danish Teak Classics
Founded in the late 1980s, Danish Teak Classics specializes in finding, restoring and selling Danish modern furniture ā€” that is, furniture and accessories mainly designed and produced during the mid-20th century in Denmark. They offer high-quality vintage furniture, lighting, ceramics, glass and more, as well as a collection of fine art and new, custom products.

Swank Retro
They have everything at Swank Retro: stylish & eclectic furniture, art, lamps, textiles, electronics, decor & household wares from the 50s70s plus clothing, music, products & ephemera to complete your mod lifestyle.

St. Paul Retro Loop
The Saint Paul retro loop is a consortium of 5 of the best mid-century shops in Minnesota specializing in the coolest 50sā€“80s housewares, accessories, fashion & design for all facets of the mod lifestyle. Find furniture, lamps, art, glass & pottery, as well as clothing, purses & jewelry, Danish modern, Eames era, atomic and more.

City Salvage
Specializing in American antqiues, City Salvage has anything from lighting to millwork.

Day Trips

Take a day trip up north to Duluth to visit Lake Superior. You'll find a landmark lift bridge, beautiful light houses, incredible forests up in Duluth.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Established in 1909, the Superior Forest is known for its boreal forest ecosystem, numerous clean lakes, and a colorful cultural history. The one million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness lies within the boundaries of the Forest. Popular recreational activities include fishing, hunting, camping, canoeing, swimming, hiking, snowmobiling, and skiing.

A charming small Minnesota town, Stillwater is located only 20 miles from St. Paul. Views from the surrounding bluffs showcase the St. Croix River and shops line the small town streets.

(Images: Feng Jing, Flickr Member Ryan Desiderio licensed for use under Creative Commons MPR,MPR, Flickr Member FaceMe PLS licensed for use under Creative Commons Flickr Member Erin.kkr licensed for use under Creative Commons, Flickr Member Erin.kkr licensed for use under Creative Commons, BWCA.com)

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