My wife and I moved from Atlanta to Saint Paul in 2008 and then bought a house in nearby Eagan in 2011. She is a veterinary epidemiologist and I am a software product manager, which gives you some idea of the range of career opportunities in the Twin Cities.
After harboring some of the obvious reservations about moving to Minnesota, I have been pleasantly surprised. I often describe the Twin Cities as having big city amenities without the big city headaches. Once in the same weekend we saw a Twins-Yankees game at Target Field and then a shockingly phallic post-WWII sculpture exhibit at the Walker Art Center. With excellent restaurants, top-rated theaters and museums, a fantastic local music scene, pro and college sports, and one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, we have plenty of options for things to do. What we don’t have is the cost of living of D.C. or the traffic of Atlanta (or D.C.).
Where to Live
Minnesota offers a variety of options depending on your stage in life. Minneapolis has the night life along with many of the top restaurants and theaters in the area, whereas Saint Paul offers several unique neighborhoods to find a good craft beer in a quieter setting. Think of Minneapolis as the “club city” and Saint Paul as the “pub city”. As you might expect, there is a regional rivalry here. Minneapolis people rarely go out in Saint Paul and vice versa.
When our twin girls were on the way, we made the inevitable move from Saint Paul to the suburbs. Southern suburbs like Eagan, Burnsville, and Apple Valley have affordable housing and excellent public schools, making them an obvious draw for young families. The down side is that they could be “suburban anywhere”. These are newer developments that are still trying to build local character. Western suburbs like Edina, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka attract a more affluent crowd. All still have reasonable commutes into downtown Minneapolis.
If you prefer small town America and proximity to the Cities isn’t as important, there are several nice river towns in southeastern Minnesota with unique local histories – Red Wing, Cannon Falls, and Northfield are a few examples. Of course, with small town living comes a more insular community. Minnesotans aren’t as transient as what you find on the East Coast. Many locals live in the same community where they were born and still socialize with their high school friends. This makes the social circle harder to crack. The joke among Minnesota transplants is that you’re officially accepted into the community when someone invites you up north to their cabin for a weekend.
Minneapolis is a hub airport for Delta so you can get direct flights to almost anywhere (except Charlottesville). Being in the middle of the country, you won’t find a domestic flight longer than 3.5 hours. Chicago is six hours away by car or 45 minutes via a cheap flight, and makes for a great weekend getaway. Other regional options include the Boundary Waters or Voyageurs National Park near the Canadian border or a winery and fall foliage expedition in nearby Wisconsin. The Black Hills and Badlands are on the western side of South Dakota so that’s more like 10 hours away. However, road trips are much easier here than what you’re probably used to. Wide open roads and 70 MPH speed limits are the norm; this isn’t I-95 on a holiday weekend.
Amtrak’s Empire Builder train starts in Chicago and stops in Saint Paul on its way through Glacier National Park and out to Seattle. We booked this a few years ago but the trip was canceled when flooding in North Dakota closed the route.
I might as well address the elephant in the room. When most people think of Minnesota, they picture it in dark blue or purple on a weather map. To anyone below the Mason-Dixon Line, the idea of moving to an American city whose latitude is north of Toronto seems a little daunting. People here will tell you that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. That winter coat you wore walking around Grounds back in the day? It might get you through Thanksgiving. After that it’s time to shop at places like North Face and REI. Investing in the right clothing makes winter much more bearable.
The good news is that Minnesota winters aren’t the gray, damp, and dreary weather that you get in the Great Lakes region or parts of the Northeast. Our January days are crystal clear and very cold. It is highly recommended that you find a winter sports activity – cross country skiing, skating, hockey (of course), and even curling and winter biking are all popular here. You can’t just hide indoors for six months.
It’s worth noting that Minnesota summers are the great trade-off for enduring the winter. Temperatures in the mid 80s with lower humidity than down south and much cooler nights are the norm. Don’t be surprised if you get an 85 degree day in July but can still open your windows at night.
Who to Contact
Feel free to contact me for more information. You can also look for the UVa Club of the Twin Cities’ Facebook page. We had 30 people at our game watching party for the UVa-Syracuse basketball game, and a Class of 1959 alum joined us for the Michigan State game. Wahoo ties run strong no matter where you go.