Some thoughts on things to see in the Twin Cities:
Minneapolis and St Paul are sister cities, but they have very different ‘feels’. Minneapolis is more cosmopolitan in character and it’s geography is flat. St Paul is more historic in character and has a distinct “river bluff” geography. If you have the time, a little walk around both downtown areas is worth it.
The Mississippi is the defining feature of the metro area and both cities grew up because of it. Seeing the river front at both downtown areas is interesting.
Lowertown area and Mears park: This area is on the National Register of Historic places and is located on the East half of downtown (Sibley streeet is its west border, highway 52 the east border). Mears park is a lovely urban space. Both the new St Paul Saints baseball stadium as well as the St Paul Farmers market are located in this area at Broadway and 5th street.
St Paul River experience:
You can walk part way across the Wabasha street bridge and drop down the stairs to the Raspberry Island which offers a good view of downtown st paul, a pleasant outdoor walk, and if there is much bardge traffic when you are there, a sense of the Mississippi as a working river.
Wabasha Street Caves
If you continue across Wabasha street to the south (in a car!) you can visit the Wabasha Street Caves which are cool! http://www.wabashastreetcaves.com/
St Paul Paddle Boats
If you have the time, taking a paddle boat trip up the Mississippi is a great way to get a sense of the metro area as well:
If you are up for a historic site visit, Fort Snelling is the original fort for the area dating back to the early 1800’s. It is located at the juncture of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers between the two cities: http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/
For a downtown walk, the best place to go is the Nicollet Avenue Mall. For those who enjoy 1970 TV shows, it is perhaps most famous as the spot that Mary Tylor Moore threw her hat in the air. It is the backbone of downtown Minneapolis.
Minneapolis River Front:
The cities treat the river a bit differently, Minneapolis has begun to turn back towards ther river. A great place to see that is at the Mill Ruins park located at Portland Avenue and West River Parkway. It is the site of a former grain mill and is a very cool urban park experience. https://plus.google.com/107171554209267688089/about?gl=us&hl=en
Stone Arch Bridge
From Mill Ruins, you can walk across the Mississippi on the Stone Arch bridge, a former rail bridge dating to the 1800’s
If you spend time around Mill Ruins, a walk to Izzy’s ice cream is worth it – they make excellent ice cream! http://izzysicecream.com/locations/minneapolis/
Mississippi Lock and Dam
The mississippi falls over 75 vertical feet within Minneapolis, the most the river drops in its 1800 miles. Two lock and dam structures were built, one can be seen from the Mill Ruins/Stone Arch area
There is a beautiful park space on the south side of Minneapolis where the Minnehaha creek falls over a 50 foot fall before meandering into the Mississippi. There is a nice walking trail through the woods back to the river which may be the nicest place in the downtown areas to be at river level
In St Paul, Grand Avenue which is just West of downtown St Paul and south of I-94 has a number of local restuarants – few of which are poor choices! Most are located between Fairview on the West and Dale street on the East.
In Minneapolis, one option is Nicollet Avenue. This street is known as “Eat Street”. Restaurants are plentiful from downtown (Nicollet Mall) south through 27th street. There is a dead spot from 15th street to Franklin (what would be 20th) but they pick up again.