Category Archives: Best of the Twin Cities

Brooklyn Center

Brooklyn Center, a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis and a southern neighbor of Brooklyn Park, is a city with a diverse array of employment opportunities, recreational activities, ethnic eateries, and worship centers. As one of the largest and most diverse cities in Hennepin County, the city is now home to more than 30,000 people.

A small farming community until the 1950s, Brooklyn Center experienced much of its growth during the post-war housing boom, evident in the abundance of well-priced ranches and ramblers. However, that attractiveness has led to a tight market – at the moment, the city has only 1.6 months real estate supply, almost a month less than the metro area as a whole (Fig. 1, above). This is consistent with the Twin Cities trend of low inventory, resulting in increasing sales prices (Fig. 2, below).

Still, though Brooklyn Center has seen nearly a 40% increase in sales prices over the last three years, the city continues to have some of the lowest monthly payments in the metro. There are also multiple home purchase and rehab programs in place that can aid potential homebuyers and current homeowners. Whether you’re looking for a quaint starter home or a uniquely gorgeous waterfront property, you can find it in Brooklyn Center.

A perhaps surprising factor that has contributed to the limited housing inventory? Residents’ pride in and satisfaction with the city has increased by 38% since 2009, due to improved civic and social services. When residents are happy, they tend to stay put in their homes longer and encourage friends and family to move there as well, thus creating more competition for fewer available houses. Watch the video below for more info on the results of the recent resident’s survey.

Several prominent companies are located in Brooklyn Center, providing convenience for those who live in the area and prefer a short commute. Caribou Coffee established their headquarters at 3900 Lake Breeze Avenue in 2004 and currently has about 200 employees at that address. The 125,000 sq.ft. facilities house the company’s roasting operations, administrative offices, and a large warehouse.

Another beverage company that has a presence in Brooklyn Center is Surly Brewing. Long before Prospect Park’s Brewery and Beer Hall was even a twinkle in founder Omar Ansari’s eyes, he opened the original brewery on Dusharme Drive. After the so-called “Surly Bill” was passed in 2013, allowing breweries to sell their product on site, a taproom was added to the venue and it became a local destination for craft beer enthusiasts.  Although this location is no longer open to the public for tours or purchases, it still operates as a brewery.  

If you’d prefer an old-fashioned malt over a latte or a cold pint, then you have to try The 50’s Grill. With 28 tantalizing offerings, it’s easy to see how this small throwback diner could have served more than two million shakes since opening over 25 years ago. Other nostalgic nosh that’ll get you right in the ‘50s feels include just-like-Grandma’s meatloaf, patty melts, and handmade pies.

Obviously Brooklyn Center has Americana down pat. But what about ethnic eateries? Well, BC has got you covered on that front as well. From authentic Kenyan and Liberian cuisine to Jamaican and Caribbean, from Indian to Vietnamese and Thai, even Greek-American fusion, there truly is an option to whet your whistle, no matter what you are craving. We’d expect nothing less from one of Minnesota’s most diverse cities!

Speaking of having a lot of choices, let’s turn to education – did you know there are FOUR school districts serving Brooklyn Center? This phenomenon is a result of decisions made during the area’s rural past in the 1800s, long before Brooklyn Center became a village or the city it is today. Currently, the only district entirely encompassed within the city is ISD 286, which is one of the area’s biggest employers. One school in the district, Brooklyn Center High, is seen as a model full-service community school, offering services such as a food shelf, legal counsel, and more. These services benefit not only students but their families as well, and have led to increased attendance and graduation rates. Watch this video to learn more about all of the services provided by this school and others like it in the community.

Beyond the school walls, there are many other opportunities for family fun and recreation. For example, Brookdale Library – which originally opened in 1981, underwent renovation in 2002-03, and re-opened in 2004 – is a favorite gathering space for families and community happenings. Likewise, the community center is a popular recreational destination, especially because of its Olympic-sized pool. There are also community parks, regional parks, and even an Arboretum for all the outdoor enthusiasts out there!

Brooklyn Center residents love their community activities, and the most beloved of them all is the annual Earle Brown Days Festival. Held the last weekend of June, this event is now in its 35th year! It was named after Earle Brown, the founder of the Minnesota State Patrol and first Sheriff of Hennepin County. Festivities include a parade up Dupont Avenue, a community market, music, and a fireworks display.

Another landmark named after the Brooklyn Center celebrity is the Earle Brown Heritage Center, which plays host to hundreds of events throughout the year, including weddings, business meetings, and something called The Chef Experience.  With several nearby hotels, this is a very convenient location for large conferences and celebrations.

Just a quick drive down Shingle Creek Parkway will take you to the aptly named Shingle Creek Crossing, the shopping area that replaced Brookdale Center. Taking over the site of the Twin Cities’ third mall – which proudly served Brooklyn Center for nearly 50 years before its demise in 2010 – is no easy feat, but Shingle Creek is doing its best to satisfy the needs of BC residents. As the retail hub of the city, it features national retailers and just about every fast food spot you can think of. It certainly looks a lot different than it did when the area was first developed in the 1960s! While Dayton’s had been the anchor store for many years, subsequent retailers have each done their part to attract shoppers. The next store looking to be a key presence at Shingle Creek Crossing: Hom Furniture, slated to take over the old Kohl’s building at the corner of Bass Lake Road and Highway 100.

Other areas are ripe for revitalization as well. Former NBA star and hometown hero Devean George is aiming to bring a mixed-use development (mostly market-rate apartments) to the site previously occupied by Brookdale Ford. Meanwhile, new Senior Housing will be opening later this summer along 69th Avenue.

The Regal Cinema (seen above) is surely a familiar sight for all who pass the intersection of I-694 and Hwy. 252. Well, take one last good look at it, because by summer it will be gone, to be replaced with the Twin Cities’ new premier Topgolf destination. City officials and developers hope that the “high-tech all-season golf center” will attract thousands of visitors and new residents, especially millennials, to the first-tier suburb.

All these changes mean more people will be spending time in Brooklyn Center, which calls for better transit options. While the suburb is already relatively well connected to Downtown Minneapolis via public transportation, it will soon be even more accessible with the Blue Line light rail extension, which will have several stops along the western border. Until that project is finished in 2021, commuters can look forward to the C-Line, expected to start running in 2019. Portions of I-94 are also currently undergoing roadwork, so if you live in Brooklyn Center and work in the city (or vice versa) and want to avoid the headache of construction season, public transit may be a viable alternative for you.

Lastly, if you have ever driven on Freeway Blvd., we’re sure you have seen a large, imposing black and gray building. Did you know that it is home to the Minneapolis Division of the FBI? This “fortress-like” building has been here for about five years. There are even internships available!

Do you live in Brooklyn Center? Tell us what you love most about the city in the comments section!

Neighborhood Resources


Faith Communities

 Anoka-Hennepin District No. 11 All Nations Christian Fellowship
Brooklyn Center District No. 286  BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Northwest Suburban Integration District No. 6078 Brookdale Covenant Church
Odyssey Academy  Brooklyn United Methodist Church
 Osseo District No. 279  Christ Covenant Chapel
 Robbinsdale District No. 281 Church of the Nazarene
Cross of Glory Lutheran Church
 Dunamis Praise Chapel International
 Imam Husain Islamic Center
Jehovah Jireh Church of God in Christ
 Kenyan Community Seventh-day Adventist Church
Korean Presbyterian Church
 Lutheran Church of The Master
Lutheran Church -The Triune God
Northbrook Alliance Church
St. Alphonsus Catholic Church

Public Parks & Attractions

Local Restaurants

Full List of City Parks 50’s Grill
Brookdale Library Great India
Centerbrook Golf Course  Hiep Thanh BBQ & Deli
 Earle Brown Heritage Center House of Hui’s
Eugene H. Hagel Arboretum Jambo Africa Restaurant
 North Mississippi Regional Park  Jammin’ Wings
Shingle Creek Crossing Shops Que Viet Village House
Scoreboard Pizza
Xin Xin

Southwest Minneapolis

Southwest Minneapolis is made up of nine distinct, yet cohesive, neighborhoods: East Harriet, Kingfield, Tangletown, Windom, Kenny, Lynnhurst, Armatage, Fulton, and Linden Hills. The community covers a lot of ground, stretching eastward from France Avenue to Nicollet Avenue, and southward from W. 36th Street to the Crosstown Highway. Within these 7 square miles, you will find a wide variety of housing styles, recreational activities, dining options, and shopping opportunities. From casual eateries and hipster hangouts in Kingfield to upscale cuisine and boutiques in Fulton (and everything in between), Southwest Minneapolis is a diverse community with an array of amenities and offerings that will suit your family’s needs.

Whenever you’re ready to start exploring the community, we suggest to first download the XSW app, which allows you to lookup all the local happenings and nearby businesses (and score some pretty good deals!). The Experience Southwest website also shows which businesses are hiring, as well as any commercial sites that are available, in case you are looking to open your own storefront in the area. The app and website are just a couple of the ways Southwest Minneapolis supports its small business owners. Proprietors who join the Southwest Business Association have access to member benefits such as shared marketing efforts and a strong support network.

You can tell that there is a deliberate promotion and encouragement of small businesses, which lends to the one-of-a-kind vibe you experience when venturing from neighborhood to neighborhood. Rather than a community inundated with fast food chains and big box stores, many businesses are family affairs, where the owners know their customers by name and you can guarantee that you’ll be treated like part of the family.

An exemplary case of mom-and-pop success is Curran’s Family Restaurant, which has thrived on the corner of 42nd and Nicollet since 1948. What began as a carhop drive-in (with the Twin Cities’ first car-to-kitchen ordering system), has evolved into a beloved family-run eatery with an Early Riser special that can’t be beat. 

But just because you see nary a bullseye or golden arch within the community, don’t think that means Southwest Minneapolis lacks convenience. Located just fifteen minutes from Downtown Minneapolis at its furthest corner, residents have easy access to the city center via major roadways, I-35W, and multiple high frequency bus routes. In fact, most residents spend only 15-30 minutes commuting to and from work per day.

Also, don’t worry that the lack of franchises somehow means that Southwest Minneapolis is stuck in the past. Quite the contrary is true – there is a freshness to the neighborhoods here, as seen by the recent arrival of new, unique businesses and the increased development of modern housing options over the last decade or so. This anti-staleness is also echoed in the presence of Neighborhood Roots, an organization that runs both the Kingfield and Fulton Farmers Markets, a further nod to the community’s efforts to shop and support local businesses while keeping things fresh.


As you might imagine, because of the neighborhoods’ varying personalities, there are many different housing options as well (see individual neighborhood profiles below for more info). This also means that although the median sales price (MSP) for Southwest Minneapolis as a whole is a healthy $350,000 (compared to greater Minneapolis at $232,000), values vary greatly between neighborhoods. For example, the MSP in Kingfield – where many homes tend to be smaller and sit near I-35W – is only around $260,000. Meanwhile, in Lynnhurst, where a number of homes are sizeable properties along Lake Harriet’s southern edge, the MSP skews higher to about $481,000. And while some neighborhoods have seen sales prices trending upward recently, a few are actually on the decline, so that is another factor to consider when thinking about where to purchase in Southwest Minneapolis. These numbers and trends are reflected in the two figures below:

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Although home prices differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, one characteristic they share is that each of them boasts an active neighborhood association that encourages community involvement and camaraderie. With that said, let’s take a quick dive into each of the neighborhoods that make up Southwest Minneapolis.

East Harriet

As you might discern from the name, one of the main features of this neighborhood is Lake Harriet, which forms part of the western border. Every January, the sky turns into a kaleidoscope of colors thanks to the Lake Harriet Kite Festival, the perfect remedy for those winter doldrums. When spring rolls around, it’s time for another feast for the eyes: the Lyndale Park Rose Garden begins to bloom and blossom. Your eyes can be pleased year round by taking a look at the impressive homes along Lake Harriet Parkway – we’re talking massive luxury homes that sell for upwards of $1 million. Venture a few blocks eastward, though, and you’ll discover the comparably modest childhood home of actors James Arness and Peter Graves, tucked among similar two-story homes and duplexes.

Before crossing Lyndale to the Kingfield neighborhood, don’t forget to sample the belly-satisfying pub grub at Harriet’s Inn, a relative newcomer, but already a favorite amongst locals.



Speaking of yummy food, whether you are in the mood for Cuban, French, Japanese, or Spanish cuisine, you can find it in Kingfield. From lauded joints like Victor’s 1959 Cafe to the quaint boulangerie Patisserie 46 to all the exceptional restaurants on Nicollet Avenue, there’s something to please every palate.

The neighborhood is not only diverse in ethnic eateries, but also in its residents. Like the neighborhood’s namesake, this community puts an emphasis on empowering its residents and aiding those who are less fortunate. Kingfield also has an active arts community, with projects such as the Mural Map, the Empty Bowls event, art installations at MLK, Jr. Park, and the Center for Performing Arts. Neighbors are able to further connect by participating in gatherings such as the annual Garden Tour, PorchFest, and Nicollet Open Streets. Follow Kingfield on Instagram for even more inside scoop on what it’s like to live in this corner of Southwest Minneapolis. And keep in mind that, in this neighborhood, most homes were built before 1920, and include bungalows, prairie-style, arts & crafts, and other period-revival styles.


The neighborhood (originally called “Fuller”) was aptly renamed in 1996 for its curving streets, which mimic the free-flowing Minnehaha Creek that runs through the southern end of town. But don’t worry, original namesake Margaret Fuller is still honored through Fuller Park & Rec Center, the hub of community life. In fact, it is at the center of the neighborhood’s biggest day each year – the annual 4th of July Parade and Celebration. The festivities harken back to simpler times of yesteryear, which is exactly the vintage, small town vibe T-town residents enjoy. This sentiment is reflected in the housing as well; most houses are Period Revivals from the 1910s-20s, but there is also a fair number of Victorians, Lustron metal houses, and modernist styles. Most businesses are concentrated along Grand Avenue, Lyndale Avenue, Nicollet Avenue, and W. Diamond Lake Road.

But if you’re willing to take a trip off the beaten path through the neighborhood’s winding streets, a visit to the Washburn Park Water Tower is definitely worth it. Although it might not be the most obvious travel destination – a water tower, really? – once you see it in person, you’ll understand the decades of people who have been fascinated by its architecture, including the stoic knight and vigilant eagle sculptures (it’s even on the National Register of Historic Places).


Not to be confused with Windom Park in Northeast Minneapolis, this neighborhood occupies the southeast corner of the SW Minneapolis community. It’s well connected to the surrounding suburbs of Richfield and Edina by I-35W and Highway 62. There’s a full range of housing choices, with a majority designed as single-family homes and duplexes – about 40% of dwellings are multi-family units, which are built closer to major transportation corridors and are primarily from the 1970s. Though mostly residential, there are several pockets of commercial activity scattered throughout Windom, and there is also a large industrial area near the southern border. Meanwhile, art enthusiasts can enjoy visiting The Museum of Russian Art, which houses a collection of pieces from the 20th century, and is the only of its kind in the U.S.


Kenny, like its eastern neighbor Windom, is a mostly residential area. According to the city website, “houses in the neighborhood tend to have been built in the 1940s or later and are generally larger than the houses in adjacent neighborhoods such as Armatage and Windom. The neighborhood has a balanced mix of longtime and new residents.” These residents appreciate the good access to schools, public services, recreational activities, shopping, and restaurants. Its hidden gem is Grass Lake, but other standouts include Kenny Park and Peter’s Billiards, which you have probably spotted if you have ever traveled on I-35W. Located on the southern edge of the Kenny neighborhood, this 37,000 square foot game room and furniture store (the largest of its kind in the Midwest), has been family-owned and operated since 1957. It’s expanded past just selling pool tables and pinball machines, and is now a “complete lifestyle store.” Speaking of lifestyles, experience a year in the life of a Kenny resident by checking out the community’s photo project, Kenny365, which featured a different snapshot of the neighborhood each day from 2013 to 2014.


Bisected by Minnehaha Creek, Lynnhurst occupies just under 1 square mile in the center of Southwest Minneapolis. It also borders the southern edge of Lake Harriet, meaning there are some stunning and expansive lakefront properties – homes with 5+ bedrooms are common along the parkway – that can be yours for a cool $1-5 million. Beyond that, the neighborhood is a treasure trove of unique architecture, featuring multiple designs by famed architects, Purcell and Elmslie. These houses are characterized by their Prairie Style, non- “cookie cutter” curb appeal, and abstract landscaping. Community involvement is encouraged (residents can connect through Next Door and Facebook), and one annual event that always brings residents together is Summer Festival held at Lynnhurst Park. Also, if something called Middlemoon Creekwalk doesn’t peak your interest, we don’t know what will.


Well, we have an idea of what might get your attention. How about 37 varieties of malts and shakes at The Malt Shop Restaurant, a Bryant Avenue staple since 1973. Did we mention they offer their full menu for Bite Squad delivery? Score! If you’re in the mood for something a little less traditional, then head next door to George and the Dragon. Though it may seem like just your average British pub, it’s actually got a unique Asian flair that’s earned rave reviews from foodies across the nation.


Annexed from Richfield in the 1920s, Armatage experienced most development from the ‘40s through the ‘60s, which resulted in most homes being built as ramblers or 1.5-story abodes. It was named after Maude Armatage, the first woman elected to the city’s park board. Fittingly enough, there is now a lively bistro called Cafe Maude located on the main commercial thoroughfare, Penn Avenue. Another local favorite, Pizzeria Lola, was visited by Mr. Triple D himself (Guy Fieri, of course) in 2012. Like other eateries that have been featured on the show, Pizzeria Lola has since experienced an overwhelming increase in sales. That same year, Armatage was named the best neighborhood by City Pages (coincidence? We think not). It’s also known for its annual summer festival, a celebration that brings the community together in the beautiful neighborhood park.


Last but certainly not least, we’ve got Fulton. Like East Harriet and Lynnhurst, Fulton sits on the edge of Lake Harriet, which helps boost home values. Many homes in the area are Craftsman style, similar to neighboring Linden Hills. Speaking of neighbors, Fulton also shares a boundary with Edina, which definitely has its perks, as residents and visitors have easy access to the amenities of 50th & France. There are two other commercial nodes along W. 50th Street, at Xerxes and Penn Avenues. Another reason it’s categorized as one of the most popular neighborhoods in Minneapolis is because it is home to some of the best public schools in the state, including Southwest High School (just outside the northern border), which previously ranked as Minnesota’s top high school. If you’re a current resident hoping to get more involved within the community, there are multiple ways, including joining the Arts Committee or the Block Club.

To read about the final Southwest Minneapolis neighborhood, Linden Hills, click here.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this tour of Southwest Minneapolis! As you can see, this community has so much variety and something to offer everyone. The neighborhoods, although different and special in their own ways, embody a philosophy that we could all stand to follow these days: “be unique yet united.”


Neighborhood Resources


Faith Communities

Anthony Middle School Annunciation Church
Armatage Montessori Bethlehem Lutheran Church
Burroughs Elementary School Bryant Avenue Baptist Church
Carondelet Catholic School Faith Free Lutheran Church
Clara Barton Open School Incarnation Catholic Church
Kenny Elementary School Judson Memorial Baptist Church
Lake Harriet Upper Elementary Knox Presbyterian Church
Ramsey Middle School Lake Harriet United Methodist Church
Southwest High School Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd
Stonebridge World School Lynnhurst Congregational UCC
Washburn High School Macedonia Baptist Church
Windom School Mayflower Church
Mt. Olivet Church
Pilgrim Lutheran Church
Richfield United Methodist Church
Shir Tikvah Synagogue
Southview Seventh-day Adventist Church
St. John’s Lutheran Church
The Church of Christ the King
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Public Parks & Attractions

Local Restaurants

See the full list of local and regional parks here. Blackbird Cafe
Heffelfinger Fountain Broders’ Cucina Italiana and Pasta Bar
Lyndale Park Rose Garden Butter Bakery Cafe
Roberts Bird Sanctuary Cafe Ena




Cafe Maude
Cocina Latina
Curran’s Restaurant
Five Watt Coffee
George & the Dragon
Harriet’s Inn
Kings Wine Bar
La Fresca
Lake Harriet Pizza
Michelangelo’s Master Pizzas
Patisserie 46
Pizzeria Lola
Red Wagon Pizza
Rincón 38
Saguaro Restaurant
Sparrow Cafe
Sun Street Breads
Terzo Vino Bar
The Lowbrow
The Malt Shop Restaurant
The Roastery
Victor’s 1959
Whole Sum Kitchen
Wise Acre Eatery

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 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!

loring-park_006 loring-park_030

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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).


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.


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!


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.


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.


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
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


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!


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


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.


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).


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.


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.

Outtakes Bar & Grill 2

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!

Pub 42 3    Mountain Mudd 3

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.

Outdoor Theatre 3

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.


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.


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)