Category Archives: Best of the Twin Cities

Downtown St. Paul: Revisited

Every January, talk of “New Year, New Me” abounds, so we figured now would be a great time to revisit one of our very first featured neighborhoods, Downtown St. Paul, to see what has changed since we last visited in February 2014. As it turns out, a lot has changed in three years – the Metro Transit Green Line opened in June 2014 and has since served millions of passengers; the State Capitol building has undergone a massive $310 million restoration (due to be completed by August 2017); and dozens of other development projects, both large and small, have popped up in the capital city. As its twin city, Minneapolis, gears up to host Super Bowl LII a year from now with its own bevy of renovation projects, St. Paul is also tidying up and polishing the fine china to welcome the big crowds that are expected.

With a “crumbling exterior” and “antiquated infrastructure,” the Capitol building was long overdue for some major reconstruction. After 100 years of use, what else would you expect? So in the past three years, the building has experienced a comprehensive renovation – updates include everything from exterior modifications to safety enhancements and increased energy efficiency. Behind-the-scenes photos of the process can be seen here. The project is expected to reach completion in August of this year, which will be celebrated with a free multi-day event for the public to kick off the site’s next 100 years of service.

  

As is typical in most major metropolitan areas, condos, lofts, and apartments are the downtown’s prevalent housing styles. Conversion and restoration projects throughout the neighborhood over the past year or so, have resulted in hundreds of additional units coming on to the market (with more on the way). In December 2016 alone, there were forty condo units listed for sale (compared to 25 in Downtown Minneapolis). With a relatively low median sales price ($169,900 compared to $261,950 in Downtown West and $514,000 for Downtown East, see chart below), buying a condo in Downtown St. Paul is a smart investment, especially because of the access to a strong job market, burgeoning recreational opportunities, and convenient public transportation.  

A great transit system factors into the decision for many to choose Downtown St. Paul as their home. Fortunately, Metro Transit fits the bill, having received the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) last year. With at least 20 bus routes traveling through the Downtown on a daily basis, it is well connected to the rest of the Twin Cities, including suburbs such as Maplewood, Lino Lakes, and Stillwater. The successful addition of the Green Line in 2014 has made it even easier for residents and visitors from anywhere in the metro to check out all of Downtown’s new offerings.

  

The Lowertown area has experienced some of the most growth as of late, especially when it comes to the foodie scene. Favorite newcomers include Public Kitchen and Bar and Dark Horse Bar and Eatery. Also relatively new to the area is The Buttered Tin, a café and bakery which is part of the Wacouta Commons Park district.

Another recent Lowertown addition is CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team. Opened in 2015, the stadium has hosted much more than ball games, including corporate events, concerts, even weddings! And of course you can’t forget one of Twin Cities most popular events, the Cat Video Festival, which relocated last year from the Walker Art Center.  

St. Paul is a haven for the culturally-inclined, brimming with art galleries, music and dance venues, museums, and, of course, some of the most historic theaters in the state. Until just last year, the Palace Theatre – which first opened in 1916 – had not been in regular use for nearly 40 years. Just before being condemned, the building was purchased by the City of St. Paul and refreshed (to the tune of $15.6 million over two years) to become one of the Twin Cities’ premier destinations for contemporary music and entertainment. Built in 1910, the Fitzgerald Theater (originally the Shubert Theater, then later renamed after the literary great, and St. Paul native, F. Scott) is the oldest active theater in the city. The venue is known for hosting Minnesota Public Radio, along with concerts and “Films at the Fitz.” While not quite as old as the Palace or the Fitzgerald, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is just as culturally significant to the fabric of St. Paul, being recognized as one of the U.S.’s leading not-for-profit performing arts centers. The Ordway went through its own two-year update, completed in 2015. One of the biggest annual attractions is the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival, which takes place in June. Lastly, if you haven’t seen or been inside the Landmark Center (built in 1902 and located just across the street from Rice Park), then you are missing out. From its instantly recognizable pink granite exterior, to the green turrets and red tiled roof, to the marble and mahogany interior, the architecture represents the best of the city. Definitely come for a tour of the building, and stay for the impressive performances and exhibits.

Theaters are not the only way to take in St. Paul’s culture – there are many museums, as well, and they are experiencing their own rejuvenations. As part of the Pioneer Endicott/Empire Building’s larger renovation plans, the Minnesota Museum of American Art is set for a major expansion in the months to come. Meanwhile, work on the Children’s Museum, is nearing completion (it’s expected to be wrapped up by April 2017). The $30 million update includes a four-story climbing structure and an expanded gallery for air and water play.

  

Until then (and beyond), the Science Museum is another great option for those who like their museums to be interactive, educational, and fun. As the most popular museum in the Upper Midwest, it takes this distinction seriously, offering a myriad of diverting shows, exhibits (dinosaurs!), and artifacts – the Omnitheater is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser! History buffs will particularly enjoy the exhibit and views of the Mississippi River. Speaking of history lovers, just head north on Kellogg Blvd. to the Minnesota History Center for a walk through our state’s past. Home to the Minnesota Historical Society, the center has permanent and changing exhibits and hosts concerts, lectures, family days and other special events throughout the year.

Through all the changes the city has seen recently, though, there are iconic unchanging landmarks and events that will forever define St. Paul. For example, the Winter Carnival (being held Jan. 26th-Feb. 5th), is now over 130 years old, and can call itself the country’s oldest winter festival (predating the Tournament of Roses Festival by two years). Each year, the festivities attract more than 250,000 visitors from near and far, which helps boost the local economy. From the ice castle and snow sculptures to the Grand Day parade and Winter Jazz Festival to the Beer Dabbler and Vulcan Torchlight parade, there’s nothing you won’t enjoy about this St. Paul tradition. If we have to brave the Minnesota winters each year, we might as well make the most of them, right?  

Union Depot is one of the many venues for Winter Carnival events, playing host to the “paw-some” Doggie Depot day. There are many events held at the depot throughout the rest of the year as well, including weddings, cultural festivals, and holiday celebrations. With the full calendar, it’s easy to forget that on a day-to-day basis (since 1913), the depot actually functions as a working transit station, with connections to local and regional buses, light rail, and Amtrak trains. Like many other St. Paul buildings from last century, the depot underwent a two-year transformation in 2010-2012, making it the architectural wonder we know and love today.

From the depot, we recommend taking some time to navigate through the labyrinth of Skyways – you never know what you might find along the way. During our trip, we came across the TPT studios and the adorably cozy café Per.ke.lat. However, if you’ve ever ended up in the so-called “Skyway to Nowhere,” we feel your pain and are sure you’re happy to know that the divisive landmark will soon be demolished.

Mickey’s Diner is another St. Paul institution. Featured in numerous movies and TV shows, the art-deco dining car is recognized and beloved far beyond the city’s borders. The 50-foot-long diner sits on the unassuming corner of West 7th and St. Peter Street, and while the city has built up around it, the legendary eatery has been preserved for almost 70 years, and has remained family-owned and operated for three generations.  

In recent years, the landscape of St. Paul has certainly experienced a lot of change. But through it all, the heart and soul of the city remain, and it will be “Forever Saint Paul.”

 

Loring Park, Minneapolis

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to visit Loring Park. The park has served as home to one of the Twin Cities’ most beloved holiday traditions, Holidazzle, since the event relocated from Nicollet Mall in 2015. A celebration of all things holiday and all things Minneapolis, Holidazzle brings together local vendors, ice skating, music, and movies to equal winter fun for all ages.

Another cold weather favorite is Winterfest, held annually in February: a night of caroling, carriage rides, crafting, and ice skating. Even though the holidays will be over by then, there’s no reason you can’t keep the festive spirit alive all winter long!

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If venturing out in the -20 degree weather isn’t exactly your cup of tea, Loring Park is luckily beautiful to visit no matter the time of year. In the spring and summer, the Garden of the Seasons is in full bloom and features colorful florals and perennials, as well as wildlife (including the adorable resident albino squirrel!). A part of the #1 park system in America, Loring Park also boasts a nice-sized dog park and the Loring Community Arts Center, offering recreational programs (from cooking to yoga) and playing host to private events and receptions. Moreover, each summer, the park attracts large crowds for the Twin Cities Pride Festival and the Loring Park Arts Festival.

Originally called Central Park (yes, like that park in New York City), the park was renamed in 1890 to honor Charles Morgridge Loring, who was the first president of the park board in Minneapolis and is nicknamed the “Father of Minneapolis Parks.” Loring is largely responsible for negotiating the acquisition of large plots of private land throughout the city, especially along lake shorelines, and converting it to public parks in the 1880s.

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Beyond the edges of the park itself is the rest of the neighborhood, which extends north to 394, west and south to I-94, and east to Highway 65 and 12th St. One of the neighborhood’s most photogenic sites is, of course, the Basilica of St. Mary. Known as “America’s first basilica,” St. Mary’s has hosted the Basilica Block Party each year since 1995, to raise funds to restore and preserve the historic landmark. With big name acts such as The Fray, Death Cab for Cutie, and Weezer taking the stage in the past, the Block Party is always one of the city’s biggest events of the summer.

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Another recognizable neighborhood landmark is the Minneapolis Community & Technical College, colloquially known as MCTC. In 2014, the school celebrated 100 years of educational service to the diverse downtown community. Now covering more than 21 acres of land, MCTC enrolls nearly 13,000 students each year, which is about 5,000 more people than the entire neighborhood’s population!

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Speaking of the local populace, many Loring Park residents are below age 34, married with no children, and are employed in health care or professional fields. These people in particular seem to be attracted to the neighborhood because of its proximity to downtown amenities and available housing styles, consisting mostly of condos, lofts, townhouses, and apartments – suitable to their childless and busy lifestyles (multi-family homes often require less maintenance than single family homes).

As you can see in the chart above, inventory is at its lowest point since June 2013, with just about 20 townhouse or condo units currently for sale. While the neighborhood is known for its characteristic brownstones, in recent years, there has also been an uptick in development of modern lofts and condos to keep up with demand (there’s always more room to build upward rather than outward). With a median sales price of $230,000, the neighborhood is relatively well-priced compared to the city as a whole, making it a popular place to settle for young professionals.

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Along with new development, hip eateries and breweries such as Lakes and Legends, are bringing new energy to the neighborhood. Lakes and Legends Brewing Company, which just celebrated its first anniversary last week, often hosts community-centric events and markets that promote local artisans. Likewise, 4 Bells and The Third Bird draw a sophisticated yet relaxed clientele, with inviting venues and innovative yet accessible menus.

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Even with all the popular newcomers, though, longtime staples such as The Nicollet Diner and Salsa a la Salsa still attract a loyal fanbase by offering delicious food at reasonable prices. Additionally, Cafe and Bar Lurcat is as much a favorite of critics as it is of swanky foodies, having won numerous awards over the 15 years it’s been open. It is admittedly pricier than other restaurants nearby, but the ambiance and cuisine surely justify the higher price point.

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Brides-to-be have plenty of reason to visit Loring Park, with several bridal boutiques located in the neighborhood, such as a and bé and Che Bella (both pictured above) and annual bridal shows held at the Convention Center. There are also many churches, venues, and restaurants that are perfect for ceremonies and receptions in a nice central location. The nearby hotels, such as the Hyatt Regency and Millennium Hotel, are ideal for weddings – from hosting bridal parties to receptions to rooms for out-of-town guests and bride and groom suites.

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Speaking of the Minneapolis Convention Center, it is certainly one of the most well-known features of the Loring Park neighborhood. Each year, the venue (with 475,000 square feet of exhibit space and 87 meeting rooms) holds hundreds of events, ranging from business meetings to private parties, the aforementioned bridal shows to home expos, ComicCon and beyond. If you’ve never been to the center in person, it’s definitely worth a visit, as the size, service, and happenings are all quite impressive.

Are you a resident of Loring Park, or thinking about moving to the area? Let us know in the comment section below!

Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Public Parks & Attractions

Child Garden Montessori School Loring Greenway
 Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center Loring Park
Rayito de Sol  Minneapolis Convention Center

Faith Communities

Local Restaurants

Basilica of St. Mary  4 Bells
 Central Lutheran Church  19 Bar
Episcopal Church in Minnesota  Asian Taste
 Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church Cafe & Bar Lurcat
Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral Eli’s Food & Cocktails
Westminster Presbyterian Church Espresso Royale Cafe
Wooddale Church Jerusalem’s Restaurant
Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant
Market Bar-B-Que
 Muffin Top Café
North 45 Restaurant and Bar
Ping’s Szechuan Bar & Grill
Ryan’s Pub
Salsa a La Salsa
The Nicollet Diner
The Third Bird

Chaska, MN

If you were in the vicinity of the southwest metro area this past September, there’s a high likelihood that you were impacted by some little event called the Ryder Cup. An estimated 250,000 fans (more than ten times the city’s year-round population) flocked to Chaska’s Hazeltine National Golf Club and the surrounding area to take part in the historic tournament with big name golfers including Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and Sergio Garcia. With a long-awaited U.S. victory on a course specifically designed to play to the American team’s strengths, Hazeltine (and subsequently Chaska) are officially on the map!

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But even after all the crowds and camera crews departed (and, indeed, long before they arrived), Hazeltine is and has been the midwest’s premier destination for major championship golf. Lush grounds and beautiful landscaping make it an ideal choice for a picturesque day at the links along with exclusive private events such as weddings and corporate parties.

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Speaking of scenic venues, the Oak Ridge Hotel and Conference Center attracts many to its lakeside facilities each year. (Undoubtedly, many of those Ryder Cup visitors had their reservations there.) Situated on 130 scenic acres on Lake McKnight, it’s easy to see why many choose Oak Ridge for their wedding locale or company retreat. But even if you’re just looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities, the center acts as an idyllic, serene getaway.

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If you’re looking to get away without ever leaving Chaska, though, a visit to the Chaska History Center will serve as a journey through time. Step inside the signature brick building and you’ll find everything from Native American artifacts to newspaper copies dating back to 1862 (10 years after the city’s founding). See the genealogical history of a dozen of Chaska’s oldest families, or take a look through photos depicting what life was like long before the advent of computers and cellphones (and remind your kids that, yes, there was a time before computers and cellphones).

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Because of its small town feeling, it’s easy to forget that Chaska is a good-sized suburb with a lot of variety to offer, especially when it comes to entertainment and dining.

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For starters, there’s the Chaska Curling Center. Opened in December of 2015, the center is currently home to the nation’s largest curling membership. What can we say? We Minnesotans definitely love our sports on ice! Spectators who prefer frosty mugs to frosty shoes can watch all the action from the toasty comfort of the attached Crooked Pint Ale House. Also adjacent to the Curling Center is the Chaska Event Center, another popular venue for wedding receptions.  

One of the city’s favorite destinations for families is the Chaska Valley Family Theater. Since its first production in 1996, the theater has been delighting audiences of all ages with traditional musicals featuring members of the local community. But over the years, a handful of plucky playwrights from the area have been given the opportunity to present their original works on the CVFT stage, much to the enjoyment of their local adoring fans.

Foodies can also rejoice, because there is no shortage of options when it’s time to chow down. From old-fashioned diners and malt shops, to Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican cuisine, there’s something to please everyone in the family.

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The diversity in eateries reflects the city’s growing – and changing – populace. Like its northeastern neighbor Chanhassen, Chaska has really seen a population boom over the last few decades. In the last sixteen years alone, the population has grown by nearly 40%. To keep up with demand, as the population increases at a rate of about 500 households per year (with an expected peak in 2025), new development is on the rise. New build neighborhoods such as Chevalle, The Harvest, and Symphony Hills have sprung up all over town, resulting in a median home age of just 28 years. Tellingly, in the past six months, a majority of sold homes were under 20 years old. 

Over the last two years, Chaska’s median estimated home value has grown from $235,000 to $275,000. Compared to the entirety of Carver County, the rate of increase is about twice as fast.

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No doubt, contributing to that impressive increase is the sale of many new construction homes within the past 12 months alone, most with 3-4+ bedrooms and 2000-2500 sq. ft. This typical home size is understandable as a majority of Chaska households are made up of married couples with adolescent and teenage children.

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In spite of the city’s increasing population, though, Chaska has been able to successfully maintain its small town feel through the concentrated efforts of the City Council. After all, the city’s mission is to be the “best small town in Minnesota.” Indeed, in 2007, Money Magazine even ranked Chaska as the #8 best small town in the entire country. This accomplishment was achieved, in part, through seasonal community events such as River City Days and the Turkey Trot (coming up this weekend!). Organized efforts like Christmas in May also add to the feelings of closeness and camaraderie within the community.

As you can see, Chaska has a vibe all its own. Many may be tempted to write it off as just another stuffy suburb, but they’d be mistaken. Chaska has the warm inviting feel of a small town – compounded by its charming downtown area (complete with gazebo and historic mill) – while enjoying big city amenities in neighboring towns. Also home to the world’s largest mustache, Chaska brings a funky freshness to the ‘burban world!

Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Public Parks & Attractions

District 112: Eastern Carver County Schools See a full list of city parks here
Guardian Angels Catholic School Chaska Curling Center
Southwest Christian High School  Chaska Town Course
St. John’s Lutheran School Chaska Valley Family Theater
The World Learner School Dahlgreen Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club
Minnesota Lanscape Arboretum
World’s Largest Mustache

Faith Communities

Local Restaurants

Chaska Moravian Church Chaska City Diner
Christ Victorious Lutheran Church  Chaska My Love
Church on the Hill China Pagoda Restaurant
Crown of Glory Lutheran Church Crooked Pint Ale House
Cross of Grace Church Cuzzy’s Brick House
Guardian Angels Catholic Church Cy’s Bar and Grill
Meadow Spring Church  Detello’s Pizza
River Alliance Church Johnny’s
Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church Pasta Zola
St. John’s Lutheran Patron Mexican Bar & Grill
Valley Evangelical Free Church Rising Dragon
Westbrook Community Church  Sake Sushi
Tommy’s Malt Shop

Chanhassen, MN

With all of the recent news surrounding Prince’s death and the subsequent conversion of Paisley Park from the late artist’s home into a public museum, Chanhassen has been in the national spotlight quite a bit lately. But by no means is the museum the only attraction the city has to offer.

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The western neighbor of Eden Prairie, Chanhassen is a charming suburb fit for a postcard. A quaint downtown, tree-lined streets, and plenty of park acreage make it a beautiful place to visit year-round, but especially in autumn, when the fall foliage is at its peak.

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If a drive or stroll through town isn’t enough to satisfy your autumnal leaf cravings, then you’ll definitely want to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to see nature at its most colorful. Ranging from red maples to maroon and purple oaks, the trees here are the state’s most diverse collection. While at the arboretum, be sure to check out Pumpkin Palooza and the AppleHouse, which has an offering of more than 50 varieties of apples. We’ll bet there’s nary a doctor in sight!

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Before Paisley Park opened to the public, the most well-known destination for visitors was probably the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. The theater is the nation’s largest of its kind, and more than 10 million people have enjoyed its 220+ productions over the years. It’s earned more than 1.6k 5-star reviews on Facebook alone, and fans rave about the Broadway-caliber performances, live music, amazing food, and exceptional customer service. The theater can take you from first date all the way to “I do,” as it’s a popular choice for both nights out and wedding receptions. Looking for something more low-key? Then check out the attached Brindisi’s Pub, which claims to have the best happy hour in town.  

With a median sales price of $347,500 (most homes sold for $350k+ in the last six months), the city is way ahead of the rest of Carver County and the Twin Cities region as a whole.

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Chanhassen’s population is growing at a rate about twice that of Minnesota; this is the main impetus for a bevy of new development throughout the city. All the new construction is reflected in the city’s median home age of just 23 years (half of the state’s average age).

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The city is overwhelmingly popular among mid-career level professionals and their families, which fuels the demand for homes with 3+ bedrooms. Luxurious neighborhoods like Longacres and Stone Creek are recognized for their beautiful spacious homes, many boasting more than 2500 square feet.

Most residents spend an average of 23 minutes traveling to work each day. For those who rely on public transportation for their commute to downtown Minneapolis and the U of M, there are two transit stations conveniently located on opposite ends of town, with eight routes making frequent roundtrips.

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In 2009, Chanhassen was named the #2 best place to live in America by Money Magazine (most recently, it ranked #7 in 2015). With a high quality of life, low unemployment, unparalleled amenities, fantastic schools, well-educated residents (97% of adults have a high school diploma or higher) and homes as cute as the one seen above, these accolades come as no surprise!

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Outdoor recreation and leisure activities are highly prioritized among Chanhassen residents. There are two golf courses within the city limits (Bluff Creek and Halla Greens), and Hazeltine National Golf Club (of recent Ryder Cup fame) is just a chip shot away in neighboring Chaska. When it gets too chilly to hit the links as it inevitably does every year, you can take your golf game indoors at Golf Zone, which features 40 heated driving range stalls and an 18-hole putting green.

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Fitness is also important to Chanhassians. More than 90 miles of trails, 20+ parks, and five public beaches help residents stay on the move. Undoubtedly, this collective passion for a healthy lifestyle influenced the choice of Lifetime Fitness to establish headquarters in the city. More than 1,000 of the national brand’s employees are based in Chanhassen, and we’re betting those lucky people have access to the high end amenities offered by the impressive health club onsite.

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The importance of physical well-being is imparted on residents from their early years, with a pay-as-you-go recreation center (attached to Bluff Creek Elementary School) that has served the community for over 20 years. According to the city website, the rec center “takes pride in creating a fun and friendly atmosphere for people of all ages at an affordable price. [It] is a focal point for many of the city’s recreation activities. The facilities include a gym, fitness room, aerobics/dance room, and meeting rooms.” Outside, there are tennis courts and plenty of green space. About three miles east in downtown Chanhassen is the skate park, another favorite pastime for the city’s youth.

Speaking of the youngins, there are plenty of seasonal activities that will delight both children and children-at-heart. From the annual Halloween party to February Festival to the state-renowned Fourth of July celebration, the family-friendly events are great ways for Chanhassians to connect with their community.

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Of course, we can’t end this blog without mentioning Prince one more time. While the longtime community member and landowner is no doubt the most famous former resident of Chanhassen, he certainly is not the only star who’s called the city home. Minnesota congressman Erik Paulsen grew up in Chanhassen, as did NFL player Tim Mattran. Kris Humphries (yes, Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband) has a home here, and James Denton (who had his own famous Housewife) is rumored to live in the area as well.

Do you live in Chanhassen? Did you ever get a chance to meet Prince? Have you been one of the lucky few so far to tour Paisley Park? We’d love for you to share your stories in the comments!

Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Public Parks & Attractions

District 112 See the full list of community and regional parks here
District 276 Chanhassen Dinner Theater
Chapel Hill Academy Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
St. Hubert Catholic School Paisley Park

Faith Communities

Local Restaurants

Bethel Fellowship Church Brindisi’s Pub
Chanhassen Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses Chuckwagon Charlie’s Smokehouse & Saloon
Discovery United Methodist Church Gina Maria’s Pizza
Family of Christ Lutheran Church Happy Garden II
Living Christ Lutheran Church Houlihan’s
St. Hubert Catholic Community Kai’s Sushi & Grill
Temple of Eck, Eckankar Na’s Thai Cafe
Westwood Community Church Paragon Bakery
For more info on life in Chanhassen, check out this year’s Residents Guide! Piada Italian Street Food
Pizzaioli
Rey Azteca

Top Corn Mazes in the Country, From Family Friendly to Super Scary

Fall is upon us, which means pumpkin spice and flannel is bound to be everywhere soon. But while those two trends may not be for everyone, there is an autumnal activity that all can enjoy: corn mazes! With hundreds of mazes available across the country, there’s something to please families, brainiacs, and thrill-seekers alike. Read on for our list of America’s most a-maize-ing corn mazes!

Family Fun

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1. Sever’s Corn Maze (Shakopee, MN; Sept. 9th-Oct. 30th)

Part of Sever’s beloved Fall Festival – now in its 20th year – the corn maze is fun for all ages. Navigate through the winding stalks as a family, and read fun facts about the 19 previous mazes along the way. Those who participate in this year’s Maze Challenge will be entered into a grand prize drawing, and the winner will be chosen at the end of the season. Past maze designs include the state of Minnesota, the Vikings logo, and a world map.

2. Twin Cities Harvest Festival & Corn Maze (Brooklyn Park, MN; Sept. 24th-Oct. 30th)

Of course we couldn’t forget to mention Minnesota’s largest corn maze. This year, locals will love tackling the Vikings-themed maze, which celebrates the team’s inaugural season at U.S. Bank Stadium. The maze has a sporty history, having previously been designed to honor the Wild and the Twins. Other activities at the festival include a straw bale maze (perfect for kids!), petting zoo, and hayride (of the non-haunted variety).

3. Cherry Crest Adventure Farm (Ronks, PA; July 2nd-Oct. 30th)

You can tell by the farm’s website alone that this corn maze will be an adventure the whole family can enjoy (just check out that smiling corn cob!). You never have to worry about getting lost in this five-acre field, as there are friendly “Maze Masters” positioned throughout to help you on your way. The color-coordinated challenges along the way help encourage teamwork, making this a perfect activity for families and school field trips alike.

Challenging, Not Creepy

1. Great Vermont Corn Maze (Danville, VT; Aug. 1st-mid Oct.)

The largest maze in New England, the Great Vermont Corn Maze has been called one of the top 10 of its kind in America (and you can vote now to make sure it keeps that title). In fact, it’s so challenging, that organizers encourage participants to arrive as early as possible and bring lunch since most maze-goers spend between two to five hours in the maze and checking out the adjoining attractions. They even discourage most teenagers from entering the maze without adult supervision, since they feel they won’t be able to complete it on their own without giving up!

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Photo Credit: “Corn Mazin” by Mark Smithivas © 2008 (CC BY-SA 2.0; Edited)

2. Richardson Farm (Spring Grove, IL; Sept. 3rd-Oct. 30th)

Calling all maze (and maize) aficionados – here’s one you don’t want to miss since it happens to be the self-proclaimed largest and most intricate corn maze in the world. This year, the 33-acre maze pays tribute to Star Trek for its 50th anniversary. If you think you can “live long and prosper” in this tough but fun course, then make the trek (see what we did there?) to Illinois and beam on over to Richardson Farm asap!

3. Cool Patch Pumpkins (Dixon, CA; Sept. 17th-Oct. 31st)

Founded in 2001, this maze has been officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest (at 40 acres in 2007 and, again, at 60 acres in 2014). Bigger isn’t always better, though, as many challengers have discovered by getting lost among the tall stalks…and then proceeding to call 911 for help (a practice local sheriffs discourage, by the way). To avoid the commotion and potential panic, heed the map given to you at the maze’s entrance and plan to be in there for at least a couple hours.

This year’s design was inspired by the farm’s logo, and last year’s pattern was the emblem of nearby Sacramento Kings. The grounds also feature a world-renowned pumpkin patch (of course!), where the youngsters can partake in picking their own pumpkin from a field of thousands. More fun activities include the pumpkin cannon, a corn bath, and hay rides.

Terrifically Terrifying

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We wonder what’s lurking around those corners in the darkness… Photo Credit: “so scary” by Lindsey Turner © 2007 (CC BY 2.0)

1. Ludicrous Labyrinth at Scream Town (Chaska, MN; Sept. 30th-Oct. 30th)

Ready for some crazy thrills around every corner? Then enter the Twin Cities’ scariest labyrinth, and get ready to run for your life. Not only will you have to navigate the twists and turns of a typical corn maze, but you’ll also be combating fog, flashing lights, and creepy characters chasing you through the corn. Enter only if you’ve got nerves of steel (and a good pair of running shoes).

2. Haunted Carter Farms (Princeton, IA; Sept. 30th-Oct. 31st)

Touted as America’s original haunted corn maze, the only clue given by the creators here is where to begin – getting out of “the place where corn and nightmares grow” is entirely up to you. While they are all about unabashedly scaring the bejeezus out of you, there is a bit of good in their wicked hearts – if you bring two non-perishable food items, you’ll get $2 off admission and the items will be donated to The Hunger Drive. That, however, is where the kindness ends. Also, be sure to arrive on time – as they say, the last “victims” enter the gates at 10:30pm.

3. Dark Harvest Corn Maze (Ulster Park, NY; Sept. 17th-Nov. 5th)

Just one of many terror-inducing attractions at the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, New York, the corn maze will surely fulfill your need to scream this Halloween season. Based on a chilling story, the maze is a dark, daunting labyrinth…with no emergency exits. This is definitely an enter-at-your-own-risk situation. Each attraction (including a hayride, several haunted houses, and the corn maze) leads to the next, so be prepared to be scared straight silly for at least three hours. If you can’t handle chainsaws, crazy clowns, or crowds, then we’d advise skipping this one altogether. May we suggest a visit to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm instead?

Have you ever ventured into a corn maze? Where? Do you prefer family friendly or freakishly frightening? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Photo Credit: “UFV corn maze media day 01” by University of the Fraser Valley © 2014 (CC BY 2.0)

Minnesota Universities Rank Highly on U.S. News Best Colleges List

It’s back to school for most of us, and that means one thing: school ratings are here. U.S. News just released its annual rankings of the best national colleges, and two Minnesota universities have scored coveted spots on the highly regarded list.

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Photo Credit: “Pillsbury Hall” by Mulad (Public Domain)

The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities made the top 100 at #71 overall and #26 among public schools. With campuses in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, students are just minutes away from either downtown and the urban amenities that entails. Likewise, students who make the short trek to Stadium Village get to watch the NCAA Div. I Gophers play at TCF Bank Stadium. Location and camaraderie are just two factors that contribute to the school’s 92% freshman retention rate. Another noteworthy accomplishment? The U has the nation’s #4 best undergraduate chemical engineering program among schools whose highest degree is a doctorate. Also impressive are the school’s top-ranking graduate programs: #9 for best medical school (primary care) and #27 for best business school (the Carlson School of Management).

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Photo Credit: “St. Thomas Campus” by Mulad (Public Domain)

Coming in at a respectable #118 is the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. An 84% acceptance rate and low student to instructor ratio help make all Tommies feel welcome, aiding the high retention rate (currently at 88%). St. Thomas also notably tied as the 78th best college for veterans in the country.

Schools on U.S. News’ list are ranked on various indicators, including graduation and retention rates, academic reputation, and financial resources (see complete methodology here). Other Midwest universities on the list include University of Chicago (#3), Northwestern University (#11), and University of Notre Dame (#15). The full rankings can be found here.

New Hope, MN

Located about 10 miles Northwest of Downtown Minneapolis, New Hope is a first-ring suburb that’s a great choice for those seeking large city convenience with small town comforts. Currently home to more than 20,000 people, the city’s population is expected to grow to 22,500 by 2030.

Back in 1936 when Crystal first became a city, not all residents supported the idea. So the rural residents in the western half of the original township broke away from the city of Crystal and formed their own township, which was named New Hope as a reflection of their ambitious endeavor.

Although New Hope eventually incorporated and became a city itself in 1953, it didn’t lose its roots of being a farming-rich community. Its agricultural history can still be seen today through the city’s community gardens and farmer’s market, the only Saturday market in the northwest suburbs, open June through October. The new Hy-Vee store also recently dedicated its own community garden in honor of the daughter of the brand’s co-founder. Sustainability is undoubtedly important to New Hope, and it definitely shows – the city was recently recognized as a “Step 3” Minnesota GreenStep award-winner, one of only 23 cities to receive this honor.

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New Hope is a distinctly picturesque city that encourages residents to capture its unique beauty through the annual New Hope In Focus photo contest, which began in 2010. The competition is meant to inspire civic pride, motivate amateur and professional shutterbugs, and encourage those who live and work in New Hope to explore their city. Residents can submit pictures in four categories: people, places, nature, and youth. This year’s nominees can be seen here; voting for the People’s Choice award ends September 15th.

One of the most photogenic aspects of the city is the green space – there’s more than 200 acres of it throughout the city’s 20 parks. Impressively, nearly every New Hope home is within a quarter-mile of a city park. The crown jewel of the city’s park system is Northwood Park, which even inspired a resident to dedicate an entire blog to her beauteous observations. Check out some of the stunning sights here. For more inspiring views of nature undisturbed by human development, head on over to Dorothy Mary Park – six acres of untouched land called home by critters such as grey squirrels, red-tailed hawks, and many others.

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Other recreational opportunities for residents and guests include the New Hope Village Golf Course, the New Hope Ice Arena, the soon-to-be Bassett Creek Regional Trail (connecting the city to Plymouth and Golden Valley), and the Milton C. Honsey Outdoor Pool. Open June through August, the facility features a concessions area, an Olympic‐sized pool with a drop slide and diving boards, and a separate shallow water pool with play features for young children. Just a couple blocks away is the New Hope YMCA, featuring an outdoor waterpark, perfect for hot summer (or Indian Summer) days. For those who prefer to fly high and stay dry, there’s a tier-one skate park called the “Sk8 Pad,” which opened in Civic Center Park in 2008. Human New Hopers aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the outdoors, though; there are also several off-leash dog parks throughout the city (see the 2016 resident’s guide for a full list).

New Hope is currently undergoing a period of reinvigoration. Since 2000, almost 800 new housing units have been constructed, with more big development projects in the works. Indeed, one of the city’s primary goals is to focus on the redevelopment of existing land for creative housing and commercial endeavors.

In addition, many New Hope homeowners are also updating their existing homes by expanding or making improvements that better suit their lifestyle. 2006 was the inaugural year of the Residential Property Recognition Program, which spotlights homeowners who have done a particularly outstanding job with property maintenance or improvements; remodeling, renovation or home addition; landscaping or gardens; or environmentally sensitive improvements. Highlighting these exemplary properties helps to encourage residents to display their community pride and to inspire every New Hope homeowner to make their property something special.

Linden Park Condominiums 3    New Hope Place Apartments 2

There are plenty of housing choices for those who want to share in the New Hope pride of homeownership, ranging from single family homes (previously owned or new construction) to condos, townhouses, and more. Whether you’re part of a growing family or young professionals seeking your first home (check out the MCPP [see page 21 for more info]), you will be able to find a nice, affordable option in New Hope. Since bottoming out in 2012, the city’s median sales price for single-family homes has been steadily increasing to its current level of $227,000 (see chart below).

The city of New Hope is well positioning itself for the future by continuing to provide a healthy economic base, a well‐maintained infrastructure, and public facilities to enhance the quality of life for residents. In 2001, the city established a cost efficient approach to maintaining vital infrastructure. According to the city’s website:

“The New Hope City Council made a commitment to preserve the city’s streets and parks in very good condition. A street infrastructure plan was developed based upon a detailed analysis of pavement condition throughout the city to ensure that street improvements would be made when they were most cost effective. The Council also established street and park infrastructure funds, financed through city property taxes, to pay for these ongoing improvement programs. So, while the city of New Hope’s share of property taxes may seem slightly higher than some neighboring communities, owners of taxable properties in New Hope pay no special assessments for street improvements (which often total $4,000 to $8,000 in other communities).”

Cost savings are not the only reason residents love living in New Hope. In fact, 89% of those interviewed in a recent city survey rated quality of life in the suburb as either good or excellent. One of the main factors contributing to their happiness is its location and accessibility. With the major arterials of Highway 169, Highway 100, I-694, and I-394 all nearby, New Hope has easy access to Minneapolis’ western suburbs and the entire Twin Cities area. The city is also well served by several Metro Transit bus lines and a Park and Ride facility is conveniently located for residents at 63rd Avenue and Bottineau Boulevard. 

IMG_2911Furthermore, New Hopers’ high quality of life is, in part, due to the dedication of the public servants. Residents have a chance to thank their local firefighters in person each October, when the West Metro Fire-Rescue District hosts an open house at the city’s three stations (including the centrally-located headquarters, seen above).

New Hope’s nearly 500 businesses also make it easy for residents to live and work all within the city’s borders. One of the largest companies headquartered here is Liberty Diversified International (LDI), which began as a small family-owned business in 1918 and has since grown to a worldwide enterprise with more than 1,500 employees. In fact, in 2006 LDI was presented with the city’s inaugural Outstanding Business Award. In the 10 years since, 26 other New Hope companies (both large and small) have been given the award, which recognizes businesses for noteworthy accomplishments such as expanding or improving a building or property, creating new jobs for residents, reaching a milestone year in business, or providing outstanding community service.

Speaking of longstanding businesses, New Hope Bowl has been a local-loved favorite for over 50 years. Recognized by its bold sign and sand volleyball courts in the parking lot, the bowling alley is so much more than lanes and pins. A popular venue for birthday parties, company gatherings, and wedding receptions alike, the lounge also serves food from the Italian Pie Shoppe. Moonlight bowling will also be starting back up for the year in October, for those who prefer knocking strikes in the dark.

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The New Hope Cinema Grill and Outtakes Bar is a perfect option for so many different events: date night (dinner and a movie in one place), watching the big game (they’ve got huge screens), and birthday parties (party packages are available). There’s also stand-up comedy, live music, and an arcade. Check out showtimes here!

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For a mid-size suburb, there is a surprisingly wide variety of dining and entertainment options in New Hope. One new hotspot is Pub 42, which took the place of The Sunshine Factory (which relocated to Plymouth after 37 years in New Hope) on the corner of Quebec and 42nd. A great happy hour, diverse menu, and options for private dining all make it a welcome addition to the neighborhood! Another enjoyable eatery is Mountain Mudd & Niko’s Bar (recently rebranded), a chill place to enjoy a cuppa joe and listen to live tunes. Don’t forget to take a look around at the eclectic interior decorations. Another local joint known for its live entertainment is Frankie’s Pizza, which also hosts trivia games every Wednesday night.

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Throughout the year, New Hope also holds several seasonal celebrations that are beloved by locals and visitors alike. The annual summer festival, quirkily called Duk Duk Daze, is held the third weekend of July, and features activities such as a fire hose demo, bean bag tournament, and Frankie’s Pizza eating contest. Also at the end of July, the Off Broadway Musical Theatre presents a musical at the outdoor playhouse. Past productions include “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Sound of Music,” “Cinderella” and “Annie.” Lastly, the holidays are a big deal to New Hope residents, who get a chance to put their Christmas spirit on display through the New Hope Sparkles lighting contest. Greg and Jennifer Larson have taken their love for lighting to the next level, making Larson’s Lights a local phenomenon. The display, featuring over 100,000 lights, must be seen to be believed! Luckily, you don’t have to wait long, as this year’s opening night is just over 2.5 months away (check out the website’s countdown!).

If the city’s many amenities, growth opportunities, and entertainment options sound like a great fit for you, then consider calling New Hope home! Contact us today to find out more about moving to New Hope!

Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Public Parks & Attractions

District 281 See the full list of city parks here
District 287 New Hope Bowl 

Faith Communities

Local Restaurants

Calvary Solid Rock Cake Box
Evergreen Community Church Cinema Grill & Outtakes Bar
 Holy Nativity Lutheran Church Country Kitchen
 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church DW’s Diner
House of Hope Lutheran Church Fat Nat’s Eggs
 New Hope Church Frankie’s Pizza
Northwest Church of Christ  Gion Restaurant
 St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Hy-Vee Market Grille
 

For more info on life in New Hope, check out this year’s Residents Guide!

 

Italian Pie Shoppe
Jet’s Pizza
Mountain Mudd Espresso
New Panda House
New Wok Express
Papa’s Cafe
Pub 42

Fun Facts about the Minnesota State Fair

As soon as August arrives, all Minnesotans have just one thing on their mind: the Minnesota State Fair. It’s a time for folks statewide (and even from across the nation) to flock to the Twin Cities and enjoy the best days of summer. What began as an event in the early 1850’s to showcase crops, livestock, produce, and handiwork of Minnesota residents, has since become a cultural phenomenon beloved by all Minnesotans, regardless of their involvement with agriculture or farming.

In anticipation of August 25th (the event’s first of 12 days), we put together a list of some of the most interesting facts about “The Great Minnesota Get-Together.” Take a look:

1.It is the largest state fair in the U.S. by average daily attendance.

2. It is the 2nd largest state fair in the U.S. by total annual attendance (the largest is Texas, which runs about twice as long).

3. The highest annual attendance occurred in 2014, with 1,824,830 fairgoers.

4. The single day record was set on August 30, 2014, with 252,092 attendants.

5. It was named the best state fair in the nation by USA Today readers.

6. Theodore Roosevelt first uttered his famous line “Speak softly and carry a big stick” at the state fair in 1901.

7. Since it began more than 150 years ago, the state fair has only not been held five times (see the reasons why here).

8. The current site is not the fair’s original home. Before 1885 when it settled permanently in Falcon Heights (adjacent to St. Paul neighborhoods Como & St. Anthony Park), the fair jumped from city to city, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Red Wing, Owatonna, and Winona.

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Photo Credit: “PrincessKay” by Jonathunder © 2010 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

9. Each year, the newly crowned Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her royal court have their likenesses carved out of a 90 lb. block of butter. Each sculpture takes about 6-8 hours to complete.

10. For several decades, the soon-to-be-renovated Machinery Hill housed the largest annual display of farm equipment in the world.

11. Before moving to the Walker Art Center and eventually to CHS Field (its current venue), the Cat Video Festival was held at the State Fair Grandstand.

12. Owatonna native Lillian Colton created Crop Art for the fair for over 40 years, winning nine purple ribbons in all. Her work included portraits of celebrities ranging from Prince to Princess Diana.

13. The oldest amusement ride at the fair is Ye Old Mill, which just celebrated its 100th birthday last year. 

14. Meanwhile, the Hamline Church Dining Hall is the longest running concession stand, having been open since 1897.

15. Pronto Pups, a highlight of the fair for many, were first introduced to fairgoers in 1947.

16. New food offerings this year include spam sushi and macaroni & cheese curds. Talk about decadent!

17. Perennial favorite Sweet Martha’s Cookies (soon to have a third location in the north end), serves over 1 million warm chocolate chip cookies per day.

18. What goes better with cookies than milk? Nothing! To satisfy your dairy craving, head on over to the All-You-Can Drink milk booth, where approximately 26,000 gallons of the creamy stuff is served per year (in both white and chocolate varieties). If that sounds like a bit too much lactose for you, consider participating in the Milk Run instead – all participants receive a Milk Run T-shirt, fair admission, and a malt coupon.

19. If walking is more your speed, there is a year-round Fair Walking & Cell Phone Tour, which was created in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society to provide a more detailed guide of the fairgrounds.

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Photo Credit: “Fairchild” by Jonathunder © 2009 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

20. You know those gopher mascots you immediately identify with the fair? Believe it or not, they actually have names (Fairchild and his nephew Fairborne) and backstories.

Were you surprised by any of these facts? What are your favorite State Fair traditions? What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Get Together? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Photo Credit: “2010 MN State Fair crowd” by Anndelion © 2010 (CC BY 3.0)

St. Anthony Village

Known simply as “The Village” by locals, St. Anthony Village is a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis. St. Anthony, a former-township-turned-city with about 8,500 residents, should not be confused with St. Anthony Park, a neighborhood in St. Paul, nor with St. Anthony East or St. Anthony West (both are neighborhoods in Minneapolis). Despite its seemingly common name, St. Anthony is truly a one-of-a-kind city, from its geography to its beloved annual events to its emphasis on promoting small business.

City Hall and Community Center 6

The city’s geography is unique in that two-thirds of the city are located in Hennepin County, while one-third is located in Ramsey County (the dividing line is 37th Avenue). St. Anthony is also conveniently located just about five miles northeast of downtown Minneapolis and eight miles northwest of downtown St. Paul. Additionally, both the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses of the University of Minnesota are only a 10 to 15 minute drive from St. Anthony. Despite its proximity to the big cities with their metropolitan amenities, St. Anthony has been able to maintain the advantages of small town living, which locals love. Village residents pretty much have the best of both worlds!

For covering less than 2.5 square miles, St. Anthony manages to pack in a whole lot of must-dos and must-sees. Each year, over the first weekend of August, the city hosts its summer celebration, Villagefest. Even though it’s downsizing a bit this year, attendees can still expect a lot of fun events, including a car show, street dancing, musical entertainment, a kickball tournament, a pancake breakfast, and a fireworks extravaganza. Enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, the festival has an ingenious method to draw in extra attendees this year:

Water Tower Playground and Tennis Courts 4  Water Tower Playground and Tennis Courts 3

But whether or not you’re a Pokemon Go master, you will definitely enjoy spending some time walking around St. Anthony, which features the beautiful Silver Lake and several parks, including Salo Park. Named after St. Anthony’s sister city of Salo, Finland, Salo Park is located adjacent to the highly walkable Silver Lake Village shopping center on the city’s north end. The park hosts an annual summer concert series at its amphitheater, and musical acts range from the St. Anthony Civic Orchestra to jazz bands and swing ensembles. It’s a perfect way to spend a warm summer evening, and residents appreciate the fun, free, & local entertainment!

It’s really no wonder Villagers enjoys listening to music in the park, given that the city puts such a strong emphasis on arts and culture. The St. Anthony Community Theater, for instance, has grown from putting on a 12-person production in 2001 to being today’s theatrical destination in the area. Since it was established 15 years ago, the theater has put its own spin on popular plays such as Mary Poppins, Seussical the Musical, A Christmas Carol, and The Wizard of Oz. There are plenty of opportunities for performers and stagehands alike, and it’s a great way for creators of all ages to get involved with their community.  For artists who prefer slinging paint to singing show tunes, there’s Created to Growan arts center that provides creative education in the form of instructor lead art classes and guided open studio creativity. If that sounds a bit too tame for you, then try out Wine and Canvas, where you can combine your love of design with a drink of fine wine. And who knows? Perhaps one day you’ll see your creation on display at Corner Books, a bookshop that showcases the work of local artists. 

The median sales price for homes in St. Anthony as of July 2016 is just over $240,000 while the number for the metro area as a whole is hovering around $227,000.

Neighborhood 3  Neighborhood 2

Most houses in the Village were built in the 1940s & ’50s, during the post-war housing boom, thus the abundance of suburban ramblers and bungalows that were favored at the time. However, more recently, the city has seen its share of development, which would explain the newer construction condos, townhouses, and apartments, especially around the Silver Lake area. Considering the housing stock, it comes as no surprise then that a large portion of the St. Anthony population are married couples without children, who like the area for its amenities, walkability, and proximity to both Twin Cities.

Luxury Home 1

If you’re a family looking to move to the area, though, don’t fret – there are plenty of housing options for you too. Over the last six months, single-family homes with 3+ bedrooms in the city have been going for around $250,000 and up. And if you’re searching for an exceptional school district for your children, then St. Anthony might definitely be your best bet. Last year, St. Anthony Village Senior High School was one of ten Minnesota high schools to rank on Newsweek’s Top 500, and in 2014 the school was given a gold medal by the US News and World Report.  

High schoolers aren’t the only ones who thrive in St. Anthony; small businesses also experience the perks of being part of a tight-knit community. The St. Anthony Chamber of Commerce, for one, works hard to make sure all business owners who come to the city feel welcome and appreciated, by holding a ribbon cutting for all new businesses. The chamber also hosts a myriad of events to encourage entrepreneurship, including happy hours and workshops that teach local proprietors how to better their businesses. The chamber doesn’t stop there, though. Each year, they name an Outstanding Business of the Year, an award established in 1993 to recognize an outstanding business located in or serving the community of St. Anthony Village. For individuals, there’s the Villager of the Year Award, which honors and recognizes a resident of St. Anthony who has made outstanding contributions to improve the quality of life in the community. Both award winners are honored with a celebratory dinner in April. 

Speaking of dinner…the Village has a sizable selection of dining options, ranging from some of the best Mexican cuisine in the Twin Cities at Catrina’s to all-you-can-eat Chinese food at Great Dragon. Maybe you’re in the mood for some basic-but-tasty bar food. To satisfy that craving, you’ll want to head to The Unofficial Dive Bar & Grill, which just celebrated its grand re-opening over the weekend. It’s officially the best place in town to grab a burger or beer or to play some Bingo. 

City Hall and Community Center 3

If you’re looking for a city that feels like a Village, or a small town that has access to all the amenities of a big city, then St. Anthony is probably for you! Check it out today!

 

Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Faith Communities

St. Anthony Middle School Abu-Huraira Islamic Center
St. Anthony Village Alternative School Church of St. Charles Borromeo
St. Anthony Village Senior High School Elmwood Evangelical Free Church
St. Charles Catholic School Faith United Methodist Church
Wilshire Park Elementary School Nativity Lutheran Church

Public Parks & Attractions

Local Restaurants

Central Park Annona Gourmet
Emerald Park Broadway Pizza
Gross National Golf Club Catrina’s Mexican Restaurant
Salo Park & Amphitheater Great Dragon
Silver Lake Village TeaSource
Silver Point Park The Unofficial Dive Bar & Grill
Silverwood Park Village Pub 
Trillium Park

Como, St. Paul

St. Paul’s Como Park (more commonly known as Como) is one of the Twin Cities’ most vibrant neighborhoods, both figuratively and literally. Known for its lush multicolored gardens, Como finds new ways to showcase its floral beauties throughout the year. Each year, the neighborhood hosts the Como Park Garden Tour, which features a dozen local gardens that are too pretty to be missed. And of course, there is the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, a floral paradise perennially in bloom that just celebrated its 100th birthday in 2015. This year, its annual Summer Flower Show (open now through the beginning of October) will feature a lily named “Purple Prince” in honor of Minnesota’s beloved late musician.

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In conjunction with the conservatory, the neighborhood’s biggest attraction is, without a doubt, the Como Park Zoo. The zoo and conservatory grounds feature a wide variety of family-friendly activities, including everything from animal exhibits to a historic carousel to an amusement park. You’ll find that the zoo is a favorite destination for school field trips because admission for all is FREE 365 days per year (with a request for donations when possible). Throughout the year, there are many special events held at the zoo and conservatory, including Groovin’ in the Garden (a summer concert series – see 2016’s schedule here), the Travelers Sunset Affair in July, the Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival in August, and ZooBoo for Halloween. The month of July is particularly special, thanks to Como Fest, a neighborhood-wide celebration that promises fun events every weekend of the month.

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Though they have a lot to offer on their own, the zoo and conservatory are just part of the larger Como Regional Park area. In less than a square mile space, the neighborhood manages to squeeze in a ski center, golf course, community pool/waterpark, plenty of green space, and oh yeah, a lake! Como Lake is especially popular during the summer, when it’s riddled with paddle boats and fishing poles.

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While Como is most well-known for its attractions, which draw visitors from near and far, it is also called home on a daily basis by nearly 12,000 people. Buyers, on average, pay around $224,500 to purchase a home here, while the median home estimated value is at $220,380 (as of May 2016), higher than the median for both Ramsey County and Minnesota as a whole. Como’s median home age is 75 years, and the neighborhood features a variety of housing styles. Driving around, you’ll see everything from large Victorian-era homes by the lake, to 1920’s one-and-a-half stories and 1950’s ranches elsewhere.

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Como is a perfect choice for young professionals and mid-career businesspeople, as most residents are between ages 24 to 54. With a 15-minute drive to downtown St. Paul and only a few minutes longer ride to downtown Minneapolis, it’s easy to see why they would choose this neighborhood. In fact, since Como is so centrally located between the two downtowns, 50% of residents have only a 15-30 minute commute to work. Easy access to I-94, 35E and 35W – the gateways to essentially anywhere you need to go throughout the metro area – means convenience couldn’t be better. Como is even served by several bus routes: lines 3, 61, 65, and 83 (a couple of which directly serve the Como Regional Park area). Once you know that 81% of Como’s St. Paulites have a 2-year college degree or more, it’s easy to see why they’ve made the smart decision to live here. Moreover, 10% of the residents are employed in education (more than any other single sector in the neighborhood).

For having a relatively small geographic footprint, the Como neighborhood sure does have a generous selection of dining options per capita, ranging from Asian cuisine to pub eats to seaside delicacies. Nelson Cheese & Deli (pictured below) is a local eatery with cheese offerings from around the state. Meanwhile, Half Time Rec has been called the “Best Restaurant to Take Out-of-Towners” by City Pages and was even featured in the 1990s comedy film Grumpy Old Men. But if you feel like eating outside and having a great view of the lake,  then Como Dockside will surely satisfy your tastebuds.

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Of course, come August and September, the Minnesota State Fair is in full swing, and it’s located right across Snelling Avenue. Living in Como, you could walk, bike, or bus to the fairgrounds and avoid the hassle of traffic and parking. Or if you prefer to head out of town when the fair comes to town, just think of the Airbnb potential (there’s nothing wrong with earning some extra income to help with your mortgage). Como is also just a short drive through Falcon Heights to Roseville and all of its shopping amenities. 

So if you’re looking for a centrally located neighborhood with plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities, search no further than Como!

Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Faith Communities

Como Park Elementary Bethel Lutheran Church
Como Park Senior High Celestial Church of Christ
Great River School Emmaus Lutheran Church
Hmong College Prep Academy Holy Childhood Church
Metro Deaf School Mission Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Twin Cities German Immersion School Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
St. Timothy Lutheran Church

Public Parks & Attractions

Local Restaurants

Cafesjian’s Carousel Café 99
Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden Como Dockside
Como Golf Course Cozy’s Pub
Como Park Ski Center Half Time Rec
Como Park Zoo Mac’s Fish & Chips
Como Regional Park Nelson Cheese & Deli
Como Town The Original Gabe’s by the Park
Marjorie McNeely Conservatory Shanghai Market
McMurray Fields Underground Music Café
North Dale Recreation Center Zobota Café
Northwest Como Recreation Center
Orchard Park & Recreation Center
Tilden Park