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Your 2019 Twin Cities Away Days Guide

by on 12 April 2019

So you’ve decided to come to Minnesota to watch some soccer. Smart move. There’s a brand new stadium that might just be the best in the country, a home team with an I-can’t-believe-it’s-still-so-shaky defense, and raccoons that climb high rises. What more could you ask for in a soccer away day destination?

Over on this site, we believe that fans from around the country should feel welcome to spend lots of their money in the Minnesota economy. Thus, I’ve put together an extensive guide on how to get around, where to eat and drink, and what to do in your spare time. Now, I know what some readers are thinking. “Hey, wait a minute, you don’t even live here.” Friends, that’s what makes me the perfect writer for this guide. Who knows the experience of visiting better than a visitor? Checkmate.

Anyway, here is FiftyFive.One’s Official Guide to Away Days in the Twin Cities:

 

Getting There

By Air: Despite being far away from other major cities, the Twin Cities are easy to reach from just about anywhere in the United States and Canada thanks to the miracle of modern air travel. If you are a fan living in all but two MLS cities, you’ll probably be arriving by plane.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is a major Delta hub, and partly as a consequence, the airport has non-stop service to every single MLS market. The airport is also clean (Gayle King loves the bathrooms), efficient, and has good retail options. For the past three years, it has been rated the best in the country for its size. Leave a nice review!

By Train: MLS fans in Chicago are best positioned to take advantage of Amtrak’s Empire Builder service. The train takes just under eight hours from Chicago Union Station to St. Paul’s Union Depot. That’s slightly longer than driving, but it can be less costly (the breakeven point for the cheapest Amtrak ticket is between four and five people per car), and you can stretch your legs and watch cat videos the whole time.

Amtrak drops passengers off at St. Paul’s Union Depot, which is in the interesting Lowertown neighborhood of downtown. There are a number of bars and restaurants within a couple blocks. The Union Depot itself is quite a nice place, having been completely and lovingly restored with a lot of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (more commonly known as “the stimulus”).

By Car: Residents of Kansas City, Chicago, and maybe even further afield, might opt to make a road trip out of it.

You don’t need an online guide of written directions to tell you how to navigate by car to the Twin Cities, do you?

 

Getting Around

Unless you drove to the Twin Cities, or are staying longer than a weekend and want to explore the state, I do not recommend renting or using a car for your trip. It costs a lot of money, isn’t necessary for a long weekend, and the glaciers are melting.

A Simple Map Of The Twin Cities: Imagine an equilateral triangle, with the point facing down. Consider the bottom point to be the airport and the Mall of America. The top left point represents downtown Minneapolis. The top right point represents downtown St. Paul. The midpoint in the straight line in between the two top points (both downtowns) is Allianz Field.

Congratulations, you now have a basic conception of Twin Cities geography. I made you a simple map to remember it by:

Public Transit: The Twin Cities have a light rail system of two lines, the Blue and the Green. While small, the system is fortunately quite useful, especially for weekenders.

The Blue Line connects downtown Minneapolis to the Airport and (beyond that) the Mall of America. It happens to be one of the best airport-to-city travel options in the entire country, and it’s highly recommended that visitors make use of it.

The Green Line connects downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul. Allianz Field lies just steps away from the Snelling Ave station. It is not alone in this proximity, in fact, every major sporting venue in the metro area lies along this line, which essentially begins at a professional baseball stadium and ends at a minor league one. This line also passes directly through the University of Minnesota.

Fans who are staying near Allianz Field, or planning on traveling straight from the airport to the stadium (or visa versa) can take advantage of a nifty transit shortcut (which I’ve marked with the thin black line in the map). The A Line is the first of hopefully many rapid bus routes in the Twin Cities. It runs every ten minutes, has limited stops, and you pay before you board. It’s a fast and frequent bus. Conveniently for soccer fans, it rolls directly past Allianz Field. To make the connection from the airport to the stadium, take the Blue Line light rail, and get off at 46th Street Station. Directly adjacent to the station is a bus turnaround, where one of the stops will have a fancy pylon, a nicer looking shelter, and a dark blue bus idling (the driver will probably be taking a short break until the scheduled departure time and may have temporarily locked the bus, don’t panic, just wait at the shelter, the bus will leave within ten minutes). That’s your ride. You can’t really miss the stadium, but just to be clear, get off at the Snelling and University stop.

Wait around for a decade and there will likely be a rail route between the airport and downtown St. Paul. Until then, there’s the #54 local bus service. The good news is that it’s frequent (every fifteen minutes) and fast. The bad news is that you have to pay onboard.

Transit fares are $2.00 off peak, and $2.50 on peak hours. You can make free transfers for two and a half hours after paying a fare. Metro Transit offers 24 hour passes and prorated “All-Day” passes. These passes generally make sense if you plan on paying three or more fares in a day. Within the central areas of the cities, buses are relatively frequent, and have good on-time performance in normal weather.

Bikes and Scooters: The Twin Cities have a bike share system called NiceRide Minnesota. This year, thanks to some pretty dumb reasons, they are not operating in St. Paul. However, that just means their coverage in Minneapolis is even better. Their fleet is mostly dockless, and they are rolling out electric pedal assist bikes, which are awesome. If you are touring around Minneapolis, there won’t be a better way to get around.

Also an option are the electric scooters that many visiting fans may already know from their own cities. Lime and Bird are the two most prolific options.

You may already know that the Twin Cities, and especially Minneapolis, are considered among the most bicycle friendly places in the country. Both cities, but again especially Minneapolis, are building out a network of protected bike (and scooter) lanes. But the real secret of the area’s friendliness to two-wheeled transportation is the incredible network of urban trails that are not just nice for recreation, but are also extremely useful for getting around. Visitors who want to spend an afternoon exploring Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes can get there directly from downtown with almost no encounters with cars by taking the Cedar Lake and Kenilworth Trails. Visitors looking to explore South Minneapolis, Midtown, and Uptown, will want to take the Hiawatha Light Rail trail to the famous Midtown Greenway, a true bicycle highway in the heart of the city.

Your Feet or Wheels: When the snow is gone, Minneapolis and St. Paul can be good cities for walking or rolling. The classic place to walk around is the downtown Minneapolis riverfront, with its historic mill buildings, the Stone Arch Bridge, and the mighty Mississippi roaring below.

St. Paul has some fantastic strolling options as well. Fans staying in the vicinity of Allianz Field should head south to Summit Avenue. Fans staying downtown should head east and climb the hill. This road runs from the city’s western Mississippi border to the imposing cathedral that overlooks downtown, and is lined by beautiful trees and mansions built by some of the state’s most famous figures. The official Governor’s residence is on Summit Avenue, as is the massive home of the railroad baron James J. Hill, which is open for tours.

 

Eating

Everyone needs to eat! Fortunately the geniuses at Minnesota United have not lost sight of this fact, and Allianz Field is outfitted with an impressive array of food options. Visiting fans certainly could do worse than stadium food.

But visitors could probably do better too! At the very least, anyone staying in town for more than the game will definitely need to find some other places. Yes, there is a Capital Grille. Yes, there is a Fogo de Chão. Below is a selection of some better options:

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you want to do a deeper dive, I recommend starting with Eater’s local guide, or browsing the Eat and Drink archive of the Star Tribune.

Around Allianz Field:

Around Downtown Minneapolis:

Around Downtown St. Paul:

Elsewhere:

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