Robin's Website

Minneapolis – Saint Paul

Minneapolis – Saint Paul is a large metropolitan area built around the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers in east-central Minnesota, USA. The area is commonly referred to as the Twin Cities after its two largest cities, Minneapolis, the most populous city in the state and Saint Paul, the state capital. The twin cities are separated by the Mississippi and are quite different from each other; Minneapolis is marked by gleaming skyscrapers towering over the Mississippi, an urbane commercial centre with most of the state’s corporate headquarters, museums and high-end retail stores, whist Saint Paul on the other hand is more sedate in feel and has a colourful history, a well-preserved downtown area and architectural and cultural attractions, as well as being the state’s capital.

Above: Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center

With a population of approximately 422,000, Minneapolis is a port of entry on the Mississippi River. It was settled around 1839 and was originally developed as a timber centre. When the plains were planted with wheat and the railways were constructed, it became and remains a leading milling centre. Minneapolis is the seat of the University of Minnesota (1851). Industries include farm machinery, food processing, electronic equipment, printing and publishing, fabricated metals and textiles.

With a population of approximately 307,000, St. Paul is not only the state capital but also a port of Entry for eastern Minnesota on the Mississippi River. Just East of Minneapolis, the city was originally founded as Fort Snelling in 1823, and became a notorious French-Canadian fur-trading post known as Pig’s Eye. It was made territorial capital in 1849 and state capital in 1858. Industries in the city have included iron and steel, machinery, chemicals, paper, computers and food processing; St. Paul was home to a Ford Motor Company assembly plant from 1925, until is closure in 2011.


Above: Contrasting Downtown Areas – Minneapolis (Left) and  Saint Paul (Right)

In total, the Minneapolis – Saint Paul metropolitan area has an urban population of approximately 3.11 million, with 3.60 million in the Metropolitan Statistical Area and 3.95 million people living in the Combined Statistical Area. The downtown areas of Minneapolis and of St. Paul are some twelve miles from each other.


The downtown area of Minneapolis is characterised by the Minneapolis Skyway System - an interlinked collection of enclosed pedestrian footbridges that connect various buildings, making it possible to walk in climate-controlled comfort year-round. It is the longest contiguous system of second level bridges in the world, comprising 9½ miles of pathways. The centre of Minneapolis revolves around the pedestrian Nicollet Mall, which hosts a number of cultural events, and the Mississippi riverfront which is home to the highly acclaimed Guthrie Theater, the Mill City Museum and historic Stone Arch Bridge in Mill Ruins Park just north of Downtown. The Stone Arch Bridge makes for an ideal spot from which to view what remains of St Anthony Falls, which was transformed into a concrete spillway in the 1870’s.

Above: The Mill City Museum is built into the remains of the Washburn A Mill (which was originally completed in 1880 on the riverfront). From around 1860 to 1930, Minneapolis was the flour-milling capital of the world. This is commemorated here where a series of interesting hands-on exhibits are complemented by the Flour Tower multimedia show, which includes an eight-storey elevator ride though the mill’s history and the “Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat” movie.

The 447-foot tall Art Deco Foshay Tower (1929) has an observation deck which provides an excellent panoramic view of the city’s downtown skyscrapers. As well as the area anchored by Nicollet Mall (most lively between 10th Street S and 5th Street S), Hennepin Avenue is the other main drag and lies just one block to the west. Minneapolis is noted for having some of America’s best restaurants. The city’s Uptown neighbourhood, to the southwest, centres around the “Chain of Lakes”, with its lakeside jogging and biking trails. The Mall of America is in the southern suburb of Bloomington and the nation’s largest enclosed shopping mall in terms of total floor area. A light rail system links Mall of America, the international airport and downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Although boasting an impressive array of art museums, Minneapolis is often viewed as a better place to live than to visit.

The visit to Downtown Minneapolis began with parking near the Guthrie Theater (above) and taking a look inside to view the riverfront area from the building’s terrace. The Guthrie Theater is a centre for theatre performance, production, education, and professional training. Originally founded in 1963, in 2006, the Guthrie finished construction of a new $125 million theatre building along the Mississippi River in the downtown area. The building was designed by Jean Nouvel, along with the Minneapolis architectural firm Architectural Alliance and is a 285,000 square foot (26,500m²) facility that houses three theatres. It also has a 178-foot cantilevered bridge, the "Endless Bridge", to the Mississippi which is open to visitors during normal building hours. Inside the Guthrie Theater, some of the windows had yellow filters on. It is uncertain if this was the intended effect, but as a result of the filters, taking photographs through the window made them appear like vintage photos. A walk was then taken through the downtown area initially via the Skyway System (partly due to the fact it was raining) and then on the streets to view some of the city’s modern skyscrapers. Some photographs from the downtown area are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

A walk was then taken to the city’s Loring Park, just west of downtown. From here, the pedestrian Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge was crossed over to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The bridge honours Irene Hixon Whitney (1926-1986) who was a prominent Minnesotan and symbolises her lifelong commitment to bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and interests. The bridge spans some 375 feet over 16 lanes of traffic to enable pedestrians to cross safely and consists of a pair of overlapping arches, which represent a metaphoric handshake uniting two areas of the city. Along the bridge’s upper beams is a poem by John Ashbery that “transforms the experience of crossing into a brief escape from place and time”. In the Loring Park district is the Walker Art Center. The performing, visual, and media arts are the focus of the exhibits here, at the most complete contemporary art resource in the city. Highlights include the minimalist work of sculptor Donald Judd, including the restored 1971 Untitled, Edward Hopper’s Office at Night, Franz Marc’s Large Blue Horses, and Chuck Close’s Big Self-Portrait. Opened in 1971, the Walker Art Center’s most striking feature is an aluminium mesh and glass expansion by Swiss architects Herzog  de Meuron in 2005. The art Centre’s attached 11-acre outdoor Minneapolis Sculpture Garden  features a number of interesting works, probably the most famous being Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Other works include pieces by Calder, Louise Bourgeois and Frank Gehry. Photographs taken from the Loring Park area and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

Other highlights in Minneapolis include the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Weisman Art Museum and the American Swedish Institute. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is one mile south of downtown and was established in 1915. It is one of the largest and most highly regarded museums in the region, covering cultural artefacts from 2000BC to the present. The collection on display here includes a wide range of statues from the ancient world (Greek and Roman). Paintings on display here include works by European masters El Greco, Goya, Rembrandt, Puissin, Matisse, Max Beckmann, Picasso, Miró and Manet, whilst the American artists John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keefe and regionalist Grant Wood also have works on display here. The Weisman Art Museum is two miles east of downtown and sited in a building designed by Frank Gehry for the University of Minnesota. It is a showcase for modern and contemporary art. Exhibitions revolve, although the permanent displays include many examples of American Modernism, with Chuck Close, Alfred Maurer and Georgia O’Keefe well represented. The American Swedish Institute is housed in a 1907 Romanesque mansion and chronicles the contributions of Swedish-Americans to the state’s history and culture. Six miles south of downtown is Minnehaha Park, containing the 55-foot Minnehaha Falls, which were made famous by Longfellow’s 1855 poem Song of Hiawatha. The park also has a number of statues and historic houses, including a replica of Longfellow’s home.

St. Paul

As mentioned earlier on this webpage, the site of which St. Paul was founded was Fort Snelling (from 1823) and subsequently became a notorious French-Canadian fur-trading post known as Pig’s Eye. St. Paul itself was founded in 1841 on the site of Pig’s Eye and it flourished as the busiest river port on the Upper Mississippi. By the late 1800’s, the new state capital emerged as an important railroad hub, with the completion of the railroad between here and Seattle in 1893. Along the city’s Summit Avenue (a five-mile Victorian boulevard) can be seen stately Romanesque, Queen Anne and Jacobean mansions dating from those times of prosperity. The downtown area centres on the Art Deco City Hall and Courthouse on Kellogg Boulevard and St. Peter Street. Other sites in the city include the Fitzgerald Theater (a beautifully restored 1910 vaudeville and movie palace at Exchange and Wabasha Streets), the Minnesota State Capitol (a monumental domed Beaux Arts structure designed by Cass Gilbert, architect of the US Supreme Court), the City Hall and Courthouse (an Art Deco building restored from 1990 to 1993), the Cathedral of St. Peter, the Landmark Center (contains five art galleries and the visitor’s centre), Rice Park (a small square), Landmark Plaza (which contains a sculpture garden with characters from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip, the artist himself being a St. Paul native), the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota History Center, and finally, the Union Depot (Built in 1881, renovated/re-opened in 2014, and the Twin Cities’ hub for public transit). The city also hosts the annual Minnesota State Fair. Due to limited time, St. Paul was only visited by way of driving around and some photographs of the city are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):


One of the most famous people from Minneapolis was the singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and filmmaker Prince. Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016) was born here and adored the city; he remained close to it during his whole life. Southwest of Minneapolis is the city of Chanhassen and here is located Paisley Park Studios. The studio was designed by architecture firm BOTO Design Inc, of Santa Monica, California, and officially opened on September 11, 1987. It was built ostensibly as a base for Prince’s label, Paisley Park Records, but it became the singer’s permanent home, a luxuriously furnished retreat where he continued to make music and where he often held parties for his neighbours. It is here that Prince died suddenly in 2016 of an accidental drug overdose, sending much of Minneapolis into mourning. Tours are available with an advanced ticket which can be purchased online. A couple of photographs from outside Paisley Park Studios are shown below.



A drive was also taken around Minnetonka in Hennepin County, eight miles (13 km) west of Minneapolis. This suburban city has a population of around 50,000. Part of the reason to look around was to simply take a look at an example of an affluent area and take a look at some of the houses (as opposed to typical tourist sightseeing). The name has always been known to the author of the webpage from Tonka, the American producer of toy trucks – although hailing from nearby Mound, Minnesota, the logo for Tonka Toys Incorporated once had an oval, showing the Tonka Toys name in red above waves, thought to be honouring Lake Minnetonka, one of the largest lakes in Minnesota. The city of Minnetonka has a total area of 28.22 square miles (73.09km²), of which 26.93 square miles (69.75km²) is land and 1.29 square miles (3.34km²) is water. Part of the city includes the eastern tip of Lake Minnetonka. The city is the home of Cargill, the country's largest privately owned company, and UnitedHealth Group, the state's largest publicly owned company. The name “Minnetonka” comes from the Dakota Sioux mni tanka, meaning "great water". Some photos taken from the drive through here are shown below.


Mall of America

As mentioned earlier on this webpage, the Mall of America is in the southern suburb of Bloomington and the nation’s largest enclosed shopping mall. This is in terms of total floor area, including Nickelodeon Universe, (5,400,000 square feet / 500,000m²). It is the fifth largest mall in North America in terms of leasable space (2,500,000 square feet / 230,000m²), and the twelfth largest in the world. People come here to shop not only from all over the Midwest, but farther afield. It opened in 1992 and is laid out over four storeys. There are over 500 stores here (including large department stores), 50 restaurants, an aquarium and in the middle of the Mall, a large open space gives way to the seven-acre Nickelodeon Universe theme park. Some photographs taken from the Mall of America are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

Back to Top