Minnesota is home to 10,000 lakes—and two neighboring cities filled with vibrant culture, history, and art. Here are 25 facts about the Twin Cities, otherwise known as Minneapolis and St. Paul.
1. Minnesota is infamous for its cold winters. Luckily, Minneapolis residents can stay warm with the Minneapolis Skyway, an indoor pedestrian walkway system that links many downtown buildings. Spanning 69 blocks and seven miles, it's the longest continuous skyway system in the world.
2. Minnesota’s capital city isn’t Minneapolis—it’s St. Paul. Although Minneapolis is a bigger city, St. Paul is home to the state’s government.
3. Prince was born and raised in Minneapolis, and remains a proud local to this day. In the late 1970s, he pioneered what music magazines would soon dub the “Minneapolis sound”—a hybrid of R&B, funk, rock, pop, and new wave.
4. In the fall of1885, East Coast reporters visited Minnesota and called St. Paul “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.” The Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce responded by hosting a giant winter carnival replete with food, ice palaces, and winter sports. The event was held on and off over the years until the St. Paul Winter Carnival finally became an official seasonal tradition in 1946.
5. In 2012, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis hosted the world’s first Internet Cat Video Festival, which was, well, a celebration of cat videos on the Internet. An estimated 10,000 people showed up for the event.
6. Although it’s known as a friendly Midwestern city, St. Paul was once a hub of nefarious criminal activity during the Prohibition era. Thanks to the city’s police chief, John O’Connor, gangsters could “freely roam St. Paul as long as they stayed out of trouble and paid a percentage of their earnings to the department,” writes Chad Lewis in The Minnesota Road Guide to Gangster Hotspots.
8. Bob Dylan attended the University of Minnesota from 1959 to 1960, and became involved in the local Minneapolis folk music scene. He dropped out after his freshman year to move to New York City.
9. Minneapolis recently surpassed Washington, D.C. to become America’s “Most Literate City.” Conducted by Central Connecticut State University president Dr. Jack Miller, the study evaluates and compares urban areas’ local bookstores, library resources, newspaper circulation and education levels.
10. It's also one of the most giving. As of 2011, nearly 40% of adults in Minneapolis and St. Paul devoted some of their free time to volunteer work.
11. Located right outside the Twin Cities in Bloomington, Minnesota, the Mall of America is a great place to go clothes shopping—especially because Minnesota has no sales tax on apparel and accessories. But while it’s the biggest mall in America, it’s not the largest in North America. That honor belongs to West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada.
12. Despite its cold climate, Minneapolis is a mecca for outdoors cyclers. In 2014, the city was named the nation’s third most cycling-friendly urban area, ranking just below Chicago and New York.
13. The original single girl in the big city wasn’t Carrie Bradshaw—it was Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The 1970s sitcom followed the triumphs and tribulations of a 30-year-old woman as she adjusted to life on her own in Minneapolis after a bad break-up.
14. Before F. Scott Fitzgerald hobnobbed around Paris with Hemingway or became an East Coast city slicker, he spent his adolescent years in St. Paul. When Fitzgerald was a young man, his future wife, Zelda Sayre, broke off their engagement. To win her back, Fitzgerald moved back into his parents’ house in St. Paul, where he worked on the manuscript that would someday be known as This Side of Paradise. The novel was a bestseller, Fitzgerald became famous, and Zelda returned to his side.
15. Cool public art installations aren’t limited to trendy coastal cities. With 11 acres of more than 40 permanent art installations, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.
16. The Honeycrisp Apple was named the Minnesota State Fruit in 2006, and for good reason—it was invented by the University of Minnesota as part of an apple breeding program.
17. Historic Rice Park in downtown St. Paul is older than Central Park in New York City.
18. Garrison Keillor lives in St. Paul, where he broadcasts A Prairie Home Companion from an old converted movie palace called The Fitzgerald Theatre. (Keillor is currently transitioning out of his role as host; he recently announced he'll hand over the reins to musician and singer Chris Thile.)
19. Surprisingly, Chicago isn’t home to the nation’s oldest sketch comedy theater. That honor belongs to Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis, where Al Franken performed before working on Saturday Night Live.
20. Bill Murray is part-owner of the St. Paul Saints, and can often be seen at games. The Saints' website calls him the "Team Psychologist," and describe his primary duties as consisting of "morale boosting and train spotting."
21. The greater Twin Cities area has one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 Companies in the country. 17 corporate behemoths—including Target, Best Buy, General Mills, and Land O’Lakes—currently call the region home.
22. The Mississippi River stretches from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. While many urban areas lie along the river's expanse, St. Paul boasts more city shoreline along the Mississippi than any other city.
23. St. Paul is home to Summit Avenue, the country's longest preserved avenue of Victorian houses and buildings. The street is lined with giant, Gilded Age homes, including 36,000-square-foot mansion of James J. Hill, who was once the richest man in Minnesota.
24. Minnesota is the state of 10,000 lakes—and the greater Minneapolis area is home to more than 22 of them.
25. Peanuts creator Charles Shulz was born in Minneapolis and grew up in St. Paul. As a teenager in Minnesota, Schulz drew his very first published illustration—a picture of his dog, Spike, which he submitted to Ripley's Believe It or Not!