Accessibility: People from California always comment on how they can go to the beach during the day and the mountains that same night. People from New York can go to the shore during the day, a Broadway show at night and then dance until dawn. What no one ever says is just how infrequently anyone ever does those things because they are traffic, time or cost prohibitive. The Twins Cities have so much going for it; major sports teams, music venues, more theatre seats per capita then any other city then New York, world-renown museums, highly rated restaurants, lakes, creeks, rivers and parks. What sets the cities apart from other places is not just how much there is to do, but how accessible it is. We have season tickets to the Vikings and the theatre. We see at least 5 Twins games a year and have been to a Twins post-season game with each playoff year. We get our vegetables, plants and flowers from a farmer’s market. I can take a bike path to work and go inline skating or walk the dogs around a lake a few times a week. Not only can all this fun happen it does happen. Ask a New Yorker when the last time they could get tickets to a playoff game or where they are on the list for season tickets.
The other side of Europe: Growing up in a section of Long Island dominated by Southern Europeans, the restaurants and culture were heavily Italian and Portuguese influenced. Moving to Minnesota exposed me to food, events and celebrations inspire by Northern and Eastern Europe. I feel like I’m now discovering the other side of my genealogy, visiting Gastov’s for German music and dancing, the Black Forest Inn for the best German food I have ever tasted and Kramarczuk’s Eastern European deli for pirogues and kolachi. We light Swedish Christmas trees and celebrate Oktoberfest. Prosit!
This is where all the size 12’s are: We have all heard that the average size for a woman in the United States is a size 12, which means that there are women bigger then that as well. One other side product in growing up amongst Southern Europeans is their propensity to be small and petite, especially in their youth. After spending most of my life ashamed of my curves, surrounded by a sea of size 0’s and 2’s who barely broke 5 feet tall, I am now encircled with a society of taller, curvier women. There are more clothes in longs. There are more size 10 shoes on the shelves. There are fewer people giving you evil stares when consuming a hamburger. Finally, I can fully embrace my connection to Mae West and her following quote; “cultivate your curves - they may be dangerous but they won't be avoided.”
Fall: Minnesota’s fall foliage rivals any in New England and the season seems to last forever. The colors are vibrant, the smells intoxicating and the air invigorating. There is nothing I like to do more in the fall then take a drive down to the Fireside Orchard, aka Apples Cider Cheese Fudge, for a walk through the orchard, hot apple cider and the best caramel covered apples made anywhere. A walk or drive anywhere will reveal trees colorfully reflecting their leaves in any one of the 10,000 (or so) lakes. It is just too bad this beautiful season is ruined by the next one.
Lakes: Although I still miss the pounding sounds of the ocean growing up close to Long Island’s Jones Beach, the sheer number of lakes gives locals an unlimited number of options for how to enjoy them. Our dogs Luna and Solei routinely visit Lake Calhoun and Shady Oak Lake for refreshing dips in the water. We enjoy relaxing at a bar or boating with friends on Lake Minnetonka. And once a year, I enjoy roughly 2 hours of time on the mother of all lakes, Lake Superior, as I participate in the Northshore Inline Marathon.
The Job Market: 18 companies on the Fortune 500 list call the Twin Cities their home; Target, UnitedHealth Group, Best Buy, St. Paul Travelers, 3M, SuperValu, US BanCorp, Northwest Airlines, CHS, General Mills, Medtronic, Xcel Energy, Land O’Lakes, Thrivent Financial, CH Robinson Worldwide, Nash Finch, Ecolab and Mosaic. This puts the area fourth in the list of Fortune 500 cities behind New York, Chicago and Houston. Minnesota also has the lowest rate of unemployment among major metropolitan areas in the United States. Not bad for those of us who have to work for a living.
My home is my castle: 3200 square feet on .4 acres adjacent to protected land, 5.1 miles from my office and 12 minutes from downtown. Although housing is much more expensive then those outside the area would think, I would need to win the lottery to get anywhere near a house like this in my hometown of Carle Place, NY. Even with all the money in the world I couldn’t find a beautiful house in a quaint, wooded neighborhood minutes from downtown anywhere else; it just does not exist.
“Life in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul offers an exceptional balance of educational and cultural advantages coupled with easy access to rural and natural areas. The Twin Cities has consistently ranked among the top five Best Places to Live by Money Magazine among 300 American cities. The Twin Cities consistently receive high marks for the local economy, public education, health care, the arts, and progressive government. It also has been ranked as having the sixth highest standard of living and sixth lowest cost of living among major U.S. metropolitan areas. A 2004 University of Wisconsin survey ranked Minneapolis as America's most literate city; in 2003, Cranium ranked Minneapolis as America's most fun city…”
– From the University of Minnesota “Life in the Twin Cities”
The Minnesota State Fair: Also known as “The Great Minnesota Get-together,” this fair is recognized as the largest and most well attended state fair. Those from outside Minnesota probably question whether their state actually holds a fair, displaying how most fairs are ramping or shutting down to do poor attendance. The state fair is engrained in the culture and a real testament to the pride residents have for their home state. For many, this is a family tradition, and every generation passes down the fun of eating fried meats on a stick, attending concerts of aging has-beens, riding on questionably safe amusement rides, visiting a 4-H barn and running into half the people you went to grammar school with. This might sound miserable to those who have never attended, but take it from this city girl, it is a whole lot of fun to witness this much Americana.
Dog Friendly: While I hear Colorado is the most Dog Friendly state in the union, I cannot complain too much about the level of recreation locations and amenities available for my pooches. Our dogs have acres and acres of fenced play area available to them in the number of dog parks we have around us. Bodies of water for them to splash and swim are numerous, although I do await a ticket for letting my vicious schnoodles offleash in some human lakes. We also have their favorite store, Lulu and Luigi’s, catering to their fine palates with special treats. We have yet to attend, but look forward to spoiling our dogs and ourselves with swanky beverages at the Millennium Hotel’s “Yappy Hour.” All the stores, services and amenities available to our puppies could be found in their favorite magazine, TC Dogs, a free monthly publication dedicated to their needs.
Hotties: If you have a thing for the All-American look; tall, blonde, wholesome “boy/girl next door,” then this is your place. My mother told me from the time I was young that “If you want to find a tall, blonde hair, blue eyed Lutheran boy, you have to go to Minnesota.” What she did not know is not only were they good looking and Lutheran, they were also pretty smart, highly educated and well read; a huge plus in my book! She misses me a lot, but I did exactly what she told me to do; I found the tall, blonde, blue eyed boy from Minnesota and I married him.