Photo by Erica Loeks
As I write this, Minneapolis and St. Paul top the list of “America’s Most Underrated Cities,” as decided by the voting public who read Ranker, a pop culture news site. Minneapolis, at No. 1, sits just above St. Paul. (At No. 3, beating out Kansas City, Missouri, the Twin Cities’ lumbersexual northern cousin Duluth claims more than half of the top five for Minnesota—but that’s a whole ’nother story.)
Why “underrated”? Why not “deservedly beloved”? Well, the U.S. is still taking stock of its urban landscape. Residents of bigger metros are calling it quits as costs of living fatten. Young professionals are starting their careers in mid-size cities. In 2018, Minneapolis placed fourth on a list of millennial-gobbling metro areas, assembled by SmartAsset. The Twin Cities’ population overall has grown at its fastest rate in recent history, adding a quarter million residents since 2010.
In short, we’re rejecting the notion that urban living means you go Big Apple or go home.
And yet, the Twin Cities’ appeal extends beyond typical city staples—including our nationally renowned theater scene, innovative restaurants and active nightlife.
To say nothing of the state’s hallmark 10,000-plus lakes, St. Paul has the nation’s second-highest-ranked urban park system, with 98 percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park. (Minneapolis came in third, after three years at No. 1.)
For quality of life, the accolades go on: Minnesota placed third on a 2019 list of the best states by U.S. News & World Report, based on everything from education to health care, from infrastructure to public safety. Also in 2019, WalletHub named us the safest state to live in. Elsewhere, Minnesota has placed fourth best for doctors, seventh healthiest, eighth most energy-efficient and eighth most educated.
Among U.S. cities, Minneapolis fares impressively, too: No. 1 cleanest, seventh best for beer, 12th healthiest, 12th greenest, ninth best for STEM professionals, third best for singles and—yes—most underrated for food and drink. About 90 minutes south of the Twin Cities, Rochester takes the lead in health care, thanks to the internationally acclaimed Mayo Clinic. And for fitness, Minneapolis has taken second—to no surprise, given our vigorous, something-for-every-season outdoor adventures.
Ironically, then, we’re both highly rated and “underrated.” You’ll find even more rankings on the following pages. What they can’t show are the cultural, entrepreneurial and educational developments unfolding here all the time. That’s why, in this book, we’re looking at some of the most exciting—so you can appraise the Twin Cities for yourself.