Minnesota United FC’s first year in MLS means more attention for the club in a lot of ways, one being an increase in away fans in attendance. While the United States and Canada are too vast to really encourage the kind of traveling fan support seen in Europe, plenty of hardy supporters nonetheless make a tradition of following their teams on the road. From Kansas City’s Roaddron, to Vancouver’s “Caps On Tour” traveling banner, the traditions of MLS road support are only getting stronger.
In NASL, of course, Minnesota has hosted traveling support in the past, whether it be (relatively) nearby Indy supporters, or the (then) new kids down in Jacksonville. But in MLS, the number of visiting supporters will certainly increase. Best of all, visiting fans will have a much better opportunity to actually explore Minneapolis-St. Paul, thanks to the team’s long awaited return to an urban stadium. Blaine is not exactly a tourist hub.
In the interests of being good hosts, we’ve put together a guide for visitors coming to MSP to catch their team playing our Loons. If you’re local, feel free to chime in with your own advice and thoughts in the comments!
By Air: Most visiting fans will come to Minneapolis-St. Paul via MSP International Airport. MSP is located south of downtown Minneapolis and west of downtown St. Paul. It is the nation’s 16th busiest and the 12th busiest of MLS markets. It is a hub for Delta Airlines.
MSP airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) is the largest of the two and serves international flights, Delta, and other major carriers. Terminal 2 (Humphrey) is smaller and serves shorter flights and airlines such as Southwest and Spirit. Most fans will arrive and depart via Terminal 1, but logistically, there is not a significant difference. Both terminals have their own light rail stops and travel is free on the light rail between terminals.
By Car: Fans, especially those traveling from Chicago and Kansas City, might want to road trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul. From Chicago and points east, the major route to MSP is to take I-90 and then I-94. From Kansas City and points south, take I-35, which also serves Dallas. Minnesota fans are familiar with this trip, recently having made it for U.S. Open Cup and Gold Cup games. Advice: download some good podcasts for the ride.
By Rail: Fans from Chicago, or especially dedicated Seattlites or Porlanders, have the option of a one-seat ride on the Empire Builder Amtrak line. The Empire Builder arrives and departs from the Union Depot, a grand old train station in downtown St. Paul, which was recently restored. One-way tickets can be had for about $70 from Chicago (eight hours) and about $135 from the west coast (37 hours).
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Like many American cities, getting around MSP without a car or a local’s knowledge of the bus network was next to impossible just a decade-and-change ago. But thanks to significant investments in public transit in the time since, it’s now possible to get the most out of your stay in MSP when not renting a car.
Also, because mapping apps are so good and so ubiquitous these days, the sections below have directions for transit riders and bicyclists only.
Public Transit: Minneapolis-St. Paul has a budding mass transit system called Metro Transit. There are two light rail lines: the Blue Line (which runs from downtown Minneapolis to the airport and the Mall of America) and the Green Line (which runs from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul through the University of Minnesota and stopping at TCF Bank Stadium). There is also a rapid bus line that has an easy learning curve for visitors.
The cost of a fare on public transit is $2.25 and this is valid for 2.5 hours after use. Transfers within this time are free. All-day passes can be purchased for $4.50. Trains run all day and all night. That’s every 10 minutes at normal hours and every half hour in the wee hours.
Bike: Minneapolis-St. Paul (and Minneapolis in particular) have been nationally recognized as excellent cities for bicycling. Both cities have a growing network of on-street bikeways, including protected bike lanes, but where MSP really excels is in its off-street trails, which are not just for recreation, but cut through the cities and are useful for getting around.
It is easy for visitors to take advantage, thanks to the metro’s bike sharing system, Nice Ride Minnesota. Nice Ride operates from April to November. You can purchase a single ride for $4, but by far the best option for visitors is to buy a three-day pass for $10. You can do this with a credit card and subsequently, the credit card will act as your pass at stations to get an unlocking code. Rides are unlimited, but the limit of time per individual ride is 30 minutes, so make sure to return the bike and check it out again before time runs out. (This is common in U.S. bike share systems. If you’re familiar with bike share, you’ll be familiar with this one, it was among the first.)
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Minnesota United’s temporary home is TCF Bank Stadium, which is the primary stadium of the University of Minnesota and its hopelessly cursed football team. TCF Bank Stadium is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River, just east of the primary U of M campus. The Stadium Village Green Line station is directly next to the stadium’s southeastern entrances, and the Dinkytown Greenway passes directly to the north of the stadium. Last year, there were Nice Ride stations at the northwestern, northeastern, and southeastern corners of the stadium.
From Downtown Minneapolis:
By Rail — Ride the Green Line east towards downtown St. Paul and get off at “Stadium Village.” Est. 12 minutes.
By Bike — Ride southeast along Second Street until the end. Turn left at 13th Avenue and follow signs for Dinktown Greenway, just past the parking garage. Take the Dinkytown Greenway all the way to TCF Bank Stadium, you can’t miss it. Est. 20 minutes.
From Downtown St. Paul:
By Rail – Ride the Green Line west towards downtown Minneapolis and get off at “Stadium Village.” Est. 30 minutes.
By Bike – No direct route, lots of on-street lanes. If you’re determined, take Summit Avenue, it’s a beautiful ride. Est. 60 minutes.
From the Airport, Mall, and Nearby Hotels:
By Rail – Ride the Blue Line north to downtown Minneapolis and get off at U.S. Bank Stadium. Cross to the opposite platform. Ride the Green Line east towards downtown St. Paul and get off at “Stadium Village.” Est. 45 minutes.
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Downtown Minneapolis is the larger and busier of the two downtown areas. It is characterized by modern, glassy high rises, major event spaces and stadiums, an increasing number of apartments, and a thankfully decreasing number of surface parking lots. The Twins, Vikings, and Timberwolves all play there. The Guthrie Theater, First Avenue, and Mill City Museum are all located in downtown, and the Walker Arts Center (and sculpture garden) are on the fringe. The region’s largest concentration of hotels is in downtown Minneapolis and the odds are good that visiting fans will be staying here. If they’re not, they’ll probably visit.
From Downtown St. Paul:
By Rail — Ride the Green Line west towards downtown Minneapolis. Est. 45 minutes.
By Bike — Take Summit Avenue to the river. Take the East River Road up to the Franklin Avenue Bridge, cross the river, and continue up the West River Road. Est. 75 minutes.
From the Airport, Mall, and Nearby Hotels:
By Rail — Ride the Blue Line north to downtown Minneapolis.
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Downtown St. Paul gets a bad rap from myopic Minneapolitans, but in fact, the state’s capital city boasts a beautiful downtown. What it lacks in glass and steel, it makes up for in brick and stone. There’s a strong argument to be made that St. Paul is the more beautiful of the two cities, and there’s plenty to do and see there. The Minnesota Wild, Lynx, and St. Paul Saints play there. The Minnesota Science Museum and Fitzgerald Theater (where A Prairie Home Companion is recorded) are in downtown St. Paul. The state capitol building and a massive Catholic cathedral loom over the city from the surrounding hills.
From Downtown Minneapolis:
By Rail — Ride the Green Line west towards downtown St. Paul. Est. 45 minutes.
By Bike — Get to the river and ride southeast along the West River Road until the Franklin Street Bridge. Cross, and continue down the river on the East River Road until Summit Avenue. Take Summit Avenue all the way. Est. 75 minutes.
From the Airport, Mall, and Nearby Hotels:
By Bus — Take the route 54 bus, it goes straight there and is a “high-frequency” bus, meaning it runs every 15 minutes. Est. 15 minutes.
By Rail — Ride the Blue Line north to downtown Minneapolis and get off at U.S. Bank Stadium. Cross to the opposite platform. Ride the Green Line east towards downtown St. Paul. Est. 75 minutes.
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MSP is not lacking for hotel accommodations and visitors should have no trouble finding a place to stay. Given that our writing staff lives (or lived) in the cities, we’re not experts on accommodation, but several locations stand out, either for their interest, location, or price. Then again, given that everyone in the country has a family member who lives in Minnesota, you could crash on a couch instead.
Cheap: Minneapolis Hostel
It’s a hostel. Book with your fellow supporters? Rooms for as low as $40 a night. Location is neither central, nor peripheral, but is right next to the beautiful (and free) Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Close: Days Hotel University
There is a Days Inn/Hotel directly next to TCF Bank Stadium. It doesn’t get any easier than this. Starts at about $100 a night. Presumably the same Days Inn experience you know and expect.
Fancy: W Minneapolis – The Foshay
The W is a brand name hotel like any other, with the exception that this one is located in the Foshay Tower, which was, for a long time, Minneapolis’ tallest building and is a really stellar location. Rooms start at $115 a night. There’s a prohibition-themed bar at the top, don’t tell anyone.
The Northern Experience: Hewing Hotel
The Hewing Hotel is a new hotel (it opened November 2016) in a refurbished old building in downtown Minneapolis’ North Loop district. The hotel went in hard on everything Minnesotan, so if you want the experience of a cabin at the lake in a renovated warehouse in the trendiest neighborhood in Minneapolis, this is it. Rooms start at $140. There’s a localavore restaurant at the ground floor helmed by a chef the hotel poached from Austin, Texas.
For my money, the best restaurant in Minneapolis, Alma ($$$), temporarily closed last year for a renovation. When they re-opened, they still had the restaurant and had added a cafe next door and a teeny-tiny hotel upstairs. There are seven rooms. They go for $175 a night and the continental breakfast is probably amazing.
Old Fashioned: The Saint Paul Hotel
This doesn’t strike me exactly as a good cultural fit with the soccer crowd, but it’s worth mentioning. The Saint Paul Hotel is the grand dame of MSP accommodations. It’s old, it’s in a beautiful building, it’s centrally located in downtown St. Paul overlooking Rice Park and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Rooms start around $200.
Art Deco: Hyatt Place – Downtown St. Paul
Like the W over in Minneapolis, this is your typical brand name hotel, but in a spectacular building. The Custom House is a massive 17-story federal landmark post office that was recently restored with residences and this hotel (click for a rave review). It’s in downtown St. Paul right near the light rail and close to the fantastic Lowertown district. Rooms start around $170.
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Minneapolis and St. Paul are, in essence, one city with two downtowns, two governments, and two different histories.
St. Paul was founded first and came to prominence as the northern-most navigable port on the Mississippi River. It became a hub for the railroad and lumber industries, as well as the state capital. St. Paul is, as the name and the massive cathedral suggest, a historically Catholic city that has been stereotyped as a prudent and cautious place.
In contrast stands Minneapolis. Founded up the river to the west at the St. Anthony Falls, the power generated by the falling water proved ideal for milling and Minneapolis became a powerhouse in the making of flour and the processing of other agricultural goods. Considered to be a Protestant town, Minneapolis gained a reputation as an anything-goes modern city.
Of course, today, those reputations are only partially the truth. Both cities are growing in population, economically strong, and culturally liberal. There’s plenty to do, excellent food to eat, and good drinks to be had in both cities. I highly encourage visitors to make time for both cities. The Green Line light rail runs directly between both downtowns, arriving every 10 minutes and making the trip in about 45 minutes, passing the University of Minnesota, the State Capitol, TCF Bank Stadium, and the Loons’ future home at Midway as well!
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Without making any provocative claims about superiority over one city or another, let it be known that Minnesota makes some excellent beer. There are hundreds of breweries around the state and too many to list here are within the borders of MSP. In this guide, I’ll cover just a few of my personal favorites (the comments will surely light up on this issue), all of which are easily accessible by train or bike. If you enjoy a good beer, you can’t go wrong with these places. If you’re a real beer tourist, make sure to hit them all.
Flagship: Surly Brewing — 520 Malcolm Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis
If you’ve heard of a Minnesota brewery, it’s probably Surly (or Summit, which distributes more widely and is a great standard, but has less of a cult following). The best news for visiting fans is that Surly’s fantastic new brewery complex is a short 5-10 minute walk from TCF Bank Stadium or five minutes from the Prospect Park light rail station. Their brew hall is large enough to accommodate your entire traveling supporter contingent and they’ve got good food both downstairs and at the acclaimed restaurant upstairs, Brewers Table ($$$), which pairs beer with haute cuisine. During the summer, take your beers outside on the patio and drink in the shadow of the lonely old grain elevators.
Recommendations: Furious, Surly’s IPA is rightly famous. There’s also “United Crushers” which is named after a famous piece of local graffiti and inspired by Minnesota United.
Flagship Brewpub: Town Hall Brewery — 1430 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis
If you’re looking for a sit-down and chill experience with excellent beer, Town Hall Brewery is MSP’s best brewpub. It’s just steps from the West Bank station on the Green Line and the Cedar Riverside station on the Blue Line. The atmosphere is cozy, the beer is all good, and most of it is constantly changing.
Recommendations: One thing that’s sure to be on the menu is the Masala Mama IPA, and it’s always on the menu for a reason.
Kings of Nordeast: Indeed Brewing Company — 711 Northeast 15th Avenue, Minneapolis
Indeed ranks as my personal favorite brewery in MSP and it’s thanks to their brilliant and innovative seasonals (schedule). Their brewery is located around a corner in a refurbished old industrial building in the Nordeast district, near active rail tracks. You’ll have to bike there, but don’t consider it wasted time. The neighborhood hosts the greatest density of breweries in the Twin Cities. Five to ten minutes away by foot you can also find Bauhaus Brew Labs, Able Seedhouse + Brewery, 612 Brew, and Sociable Cider Werks.
Recommendations: Indeed’s LSD Summer Ale isn’t for everyone, but make sure to try it at least, it tastes like sunscreen became a beer in the best way possible. Yamma Jamma Harvest Ale is the beer I look for every year. Both are pitch perfect for the season.
Two More for Nordeast: Dangerous Man Brewing Company — 1300 Second Street Northeast, Minneapolis
Fair State Brewing Cooperative — 2506A Central Avenue Northeast, Minneapolis
Neither of these two breweries are near enough to group along with Indeed and the rest, but they’re both in other parts of Nordeast and both are essential stops for beer lovers. You can bike to both, there are nearby Nice Ride stations.
Recommendations: Dangerous Man is the undisputed MSP king of the stout. Its Chocolate Milk Stout, Peanut Butter Porter, and Coconut Milk Stout are all sensational. Fair State has found its niche with sour beers. Nobody in MSP has a string of sour hits like Fair State, and its superb offerings are constantly changing and evolving.
Pioneers: Modist Brewing — 505 North Third Street Minneapolis
Located in Minneapolis’ North Loop, Modist paired a set of ambitious brewers with a mash filter, a piece of technology that expands the realm of possibility for beers (more info). They can do crazy stuff and they’re not afraid to do crazy stuff.
Recommendations: I love First Call, their cold press coffee lager.
Dynamic Duo: Urban Growler — 2325 Endicott Street, St. Paul
Bang Brewing — 2320 Capp Road, St. Paul
These two interesting breweries are directly next to each other, deep in a nondescript industrial park 10 to 15 minutes from the Raymond Avenue light rail station. Urban Growler is the more typical of the two, with food and a nice patio. Bang is an oddball, operating out of a re-used metal grain silo. All of their beer is organic.
Recommendations: Urban Growler has a rotating tap dedicated to a “Plow to Pint” fruit beer and that’s always worth trying. Bang Brewing has an excellent coffee ale called Nice.
St. Paul Vibes: Tin Whiskers — 125 East Ninth Street, St. Paul
St. Paul hosts the state’s most widely distributed craft brewer (Summit), but has fewer smaller breweries than Minneapolis. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t great places to go. Tin Whiskers is an ideal spot to finish off a night in downtown St. Paul. Their beer is solid and it’s all got a great theme (the founders quit their jobs as electricians before starting it). They’re about equally close to the 10th Street and Central light rail stations in downtown St. Paul. Also located in St. Paul is Bad Weather Brewing, which has great beers in a great space, as well as a free TMNT arcade machine to fuel your nostalgia.
Recommendations: I’m a fan of Tin Whiskers’ Wheatstone Bridge, which is, as you might expect, a wheat beer but with a twist – chamomile.
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MSP has, like your city perhaps, also seen a number of new distilleries open up. I’m not an expert on these, but of the bunch, Tattersall Distilling, in Nordeast, routinely gets the most hype. It is steps from a number of breweries, including Indeed, which was noted above.
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It’s beyond my expertise to say where the Twin Cities rank in the foodie universe, but there’s no lack of good options and everyone is bound to have their say. In the previous sections, I mentioned two excellent restaurants, Brewers Table and Alma. Here is an all-too-brief selection of a few more options, for different price ranges.
Burgers, including Minnesota’s own Juicy Lucy: The Blue Door Pub — 1514 Como Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis – $
The food item that stands as the signature achievement of “Minnesota” cuisine is the Juicy Lucy, which is a burger with melted cheese on the inside. As far as I’m concerned, the best variants of this art form can be found at the Blue Door Pub, where they have an elaborate and creative roster of “Blucys.” There are three BDP locations, but the closest to TCF Bank Stadium is about a half hour walk away, or a less than ten minutes by bike via Nice Ride.
Recommendations: Blucy taste is highly subjective, but the Cease and Desist is my personal favorite. Keep your eyes peeled for the “Blucy of the Moment” which changes monthly and is often fantastic.
African, Mediterranean: Afro Deli — 1720 Washington Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis – $
Afro Deli recently opened a new location on the University of Minnesota campus just a couple of minutes away from TCF Bank Stadium. They’re a local, immigrant-owned business and the food is cheap and delicious. There is a second location in downtown St. Paul.
Recommendations: The Chicken Fantastic.
Punch Pizza — Many locations, including right near TCF Bank Stadium – $-$$
Pizza Lucé — Many locations, including downtown Minneapolis – $-$$
Minnesota has two homegrown local pizza chains and, happily, both are worth recommending. Punch Pizza has a thinner crust, Pizza Lucé has a doughier crust and more unusual toppings.
Recommendations: It’s pizza, you know what you want.
Ethiopian: Fasika — 510 Snelling Avenue North, St Paul – $-$$
Less than a block away from the future Minnesota United stadium location, Fasika is a hole-in-the-wall that serves the best Ethiopian food in MSP. It’s easily accessible by light rail. Don’t be dissuaded by the appearance.
Recommendations: Even non-vegetarians love the Veggie Sampler.
New Nordic: The Bachelor Farmer — 50 North Second Avenue, Minneapolis – $$-$$$
A recent James Beard Award-winning restaurant, the Bachelor Farmer has a seasonal menu and is inspired by Nordic cuisine. It’s not ridiculously expensive and easy to reach in the North Loop of downtown Minneapolis. Make a reservation.
Recommendations: Not really applicable, the menu constantly changes.
Meat and Bourbon: The Butcher and the Boar — 1121 Hennepin Avenue,
Minneapolis – $$$
If you like great meat and dark liquors, this is the place.
Recommendations: It’s all delicious.
High Acclaim: Spoon and Stable — 211 North First Street, Minneapolis – $$$
For fans with some cash to spend, Spoon and Stable is the highest profile restaurant in the Twin Cities. It’s led by Gavin Kaysen, who is a nationally known chef who grew up in MSP and returned home to build his signature restaurant.
Recommendations: I’ve never been, but I’m sure it’s hard to go wrong.
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Nobody is going to confuse MSP with New York City or Paris, but there are plenty of things to do and see in the cities. Here are some of the traditional set piece attractions.
The Walker Arts Center — 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis
Modern art, with the famous sculpture garden (you’ve seen the spoon and the cherry sculpture) outside. The museum is open, but the sculpture garden is currently closed and will reopen with new art and a new design in the summer of 2017.
Minneapolis Institute of Art — 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis
Recently the subject of unwanted national attention, thanks to a fight that erupted between fascists and anti-fascists in its galleries, the venerable Mia has free admission to its permanent collection. The main entrance is on the side, don’t be fooled by the columns and grand steps at its old, original entrance!
Mill City Museum — 704 South Second Street, Minneapolis
A neat bit of architecture, the Mill City Museum is built into the ruins of the former Washburn A Mill, which was once the largest mill in the world. The museum essentially tells the story of Minneapolis, which initially gained wealth and power through its milling industry.
Science Museum of Minnesota —120 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul
For anyone visiting with children, the Science Museum is a great place to go. It’s really a fantastic science museum, and even better — there’s an exhibit on sports science featuring Minnesota United and Gopher Soccer players, previously profiled by FiftyFive.one.
James J. Hill House — 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul
On beautiful Summit Avenue, you can tour the mansion of James J. Hill, one of the railroad barons who made St. Paul a major city. The grandeur of the site and the house are worth seeing. You need to reserve a tour.
Guthrie Theater — 818 South Second Street, Minneapolis
Recipient of a Tony Award for Regional Theater. The flagship theater in MSP. The building looks like a really ambitious Ikea and has a cantilevered “endless bridge” that has wonderful views of the Mississippi. Often does more contemporary and experimental works.
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts — 345 Washington Street, Saint Paul
St. Paul’s premier theatrical space, the Ordway’s Music Hall plays host to the Minnesota Opera as well as traveling Broadway productions. Meanwhile, its beautiful, state-of-the-art Concert Hall is an intimate, 1,100-seat space specifically designed for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
First Avenue — 701 North First Avenue, Minneapolis
The legendary launching pad of one Prince Rogers Nelson, First Ave has been kicking for nearly 50 years and hosts a wide variety of acts. Even if you don’t go to a show here, you might want to stop by and take a look at its mural with the names of all of the stars who have played there.
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It’s officially recognized that MSP has the best parks system of any city in the country. There are plenty of places to get out, walk, and bike. Here are just a few favorites:
Chain of Lakes
It only makes sense that the major cities of the Land of 10,000 Lakes should have their share of beautiful lakes. Minneapolis has more than St. Paul. Across the west and south of the city, there are a number of wonderful lakes surrounded by walking and biking trails. The most scenic is Lake of the Isles, which is surrounded by some expensive homes. The most popular and densely settled, however, is Bde Maka Ska/Lake Calhoun (many want to change the official name of the lake), which is near the trendy and bustling Uptown area.
Surrounded by old industrial milling buildings, the Mississippi winds through Minneapolis and plunges over a spillway. The Stone Arch Bridge, a former railroad route, has been remade for pedestrian and bicycle use.
The most venerable street in St. Paul, Summit has a pleasant green median and features many of the city’s oldest, largest, and most interesting homes. This is especially true the closer you get to downtown St. Paul and the city’s imposing Catholic cathedral, which is at the avenue’s eastern terminus.
The best truly urban park in MSP is in the Lowertown district of downtown St. Paul. Just the size of a block, Mears Park is surrounded by converted old warehouses and a shady place to eat a lunch or have a seat and relax.
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No city in the U.S. has the breadth of professional and collegiate sports options that MSP has. The Twin Cities support Minnesota United (MLS), the Minnesota Wild (NHL), the Minnesota Twins (MLB), the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA), the Minnesota Lynx (WNBA), the Minnesota Vikings (NFL), the Minnesota Golden Gophers — a Big Ten University with three revenue sports (Football, Basketball, and Hockey) — and the St. Paul Saints (American Association baseball).
Of the entire bunch, visiting soccer fans will have the best chance to catch both baseball teams, who are in season during the MLS season. Target Field, where the Twins play, is a gem. But arguably even nicer is CHS Field, where the Saints play in downtown St. Paul. And the Saints are a goofy team who have mastered the art of entertainment between breaks in play. Their games are cheap, fun, and highly recommended to visitors!
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That’s our Travel Guide to Minneapolis-St. Paul! If you come here on an away day, let us know! For locals, feel free to add in your own recommendations in the comments.
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