- This article is about the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. For the generic term, see twin cities.
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the surrounding area is the most highly-populated area in Minnesota and the 15th-largest metropolitan area in the United States as of the 2000 census. Minneapolis is the largest city in the state, and nearby St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota. There are many other places around the world that are considered twin cities, but Minneapolis-St. Paul is the most well-known. Today, the two cities directly border each other, although this was not always true. The downtown districts are about 11 miles (18 km) apart.
The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Statistical Area as a region of thirteen counties in both Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin, an area which had a population of nearly three million people (2,968,805) in 2000. However, many people refer to an older seven-county area entirely within Minnesota when talking about the Twin Cities region. Many government actions in the 7-county region are coordinated by the Metropolitan Council. It is common for out-state Minnesotans to refer to the area as the Cities or the metro. Three out of five state residents live in the Twin Cities region, although less than one in four people in the metro live in the two core cities.
|13 counties ||7 counties |
|Minnesota ||Wisconsin |
| || |
Bloomington, Minnesota, home of the Mall of America, is the third-largest city in the metro area and is in close contention for third place in the entire state, coming in at just about the same size as Duluth and Rochester in the 2000 census.
There are multiple "rings" of suburbs extending outward from the core area, and having two central cities can make it difficult for visitors or new residents to learn the arrangement of cities and towns. There are 188 municipalities in the seven-county region alone.
Minneapolis and St. Paul have competed for attention ever since they were founded, sometimes resulting in a fair amount of duplication of effort (both have major league sports teams, and each city lays claim to part of the main campus of the University of Minnesota). The two cities have sometimes tried to outdo one another by building bigger or more extravagantly. While old rivalries have largely faded into the past, new sparring matches occasionally begin.
The Twin Cities area is considered a capital for the arts in the Upper Midwest, the lead region among others such as the Twin Ports (Duluth, Minnesota-Superior, Wisconsin), Madison, Wisconsin and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There is a very high per-capita attendance of theatrical, musical, and comedy events across the area, which some believe may be boosted by the cold winters and early darkness that accompanies the season. Musicians from all genres have gained notoriety over the years, with the singing Andrews Sisters gaining worldwide prominence during World War II, to the rise of punk rockers Hüsker Dü and the rhythm and blues stylings of Prince in the 1980s, and modern artists like the hip-hop group Atmosphere. The area has also shown an unusual affinity for certain artists. For instance, Soul Coughing was very popular in the region in the late 1990s.
Minnesota and Wisconsin have also contributed significantly to comedy in its many different forms. Ole and Lena jokes can't be fully appreciated unless delivered in the sing-songy accent of Scandinavian-Americans, and Garrison Keillor is known around the country for resurrecting the old-style radio comedy with A Prairie Home Companion. Local television had the satirical show The Bedtime Nooz in the 1960s, while area natives Lizz Winstead and Craig Kilborn helped create the increasingly influential Daily Show decades later. Joel and Ethan Coen have produced many films featuring dark comedy, and numerous others brought the offbeat cult shows Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Let's Bowl to the national cable-waves from the Twin Cities.
All of this probably helps to explain the quirky politics of Minnesota, where feather-boaed wrestlers become governors (Jesse Ventura), hyperactive professors turn into senators (Paul Wellstone), and pajama-wearing protesters ascend to become crowd-surfing mayors (R.T. Rybak).
There are a number of lakes in the region, and cities in the area have some very extensive park systems for recreation. Some studies have shown that area residents take advantage of this, and are among the most physically-fit in the country, though others have disputed that. Nonetheless, medicine is a major industry in the region and the southeasterly city of Rochester, as the University of Minnesota has joined other colleges and hospitals in doing significant research, and major medical device manufacturers started in the region (the most prominent is Medtronic). Technical innovators have brought important advances in computing, including the Cray line of supercomputers.
It is common for residents of the Twin Cities area to own or share cabins and other properties along lakes and forested areas in the central and northern regions of the state, and weekend trips "up to the lakes" or "to the cabin" happen through the warmer months. Ice fishing is also a major pastime in the winter, although each year some overambitious fishermen find themselves in dangerous situations when they venture out onto the ice too early. Hunting, snowmobiling, and numerous other outdoor activities are also popular. This connectedness with the outdoors also brings a strong sense of environmentalism to many Minnesotans.
Five major-league professional sports teams make their home in Minneapolis-St. Paul: the Minnesota Twins (1961–present, named after the Twin Cities), Minnesota Vikings (1961–present, named in honor of the Scandinavian heritage of the area), Minnesota Timberwolves (1989–present, Minnesota being the only state in the Lower 48 that never lost its native timberwolf population), Minnesota Wild (2000–present, named for Minnesota's northern wilderness, among the last truly wild places left in the world), and Minnesota Swarm (2005–present) . Some other sports teams gained their names from being in Minnesota. The Los Angeles Lakers get their name from once being based in Minneapolis, the "City of Lakes" (Minnesota is also known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes"). The Dallas Stars got their name from being a Minnesota team, the North Stars, as Minnesota is also known as "The North Star State".
The first white settlement in the region was near Stillwater, Minnesota, although it is some distance from the core of the Twin Cities. It lies on the western bank of the St. Croix River, which forms the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin at that point. White settlements in the core area can largely be traced back to Fort Snelling, which was constructed from 1820 to 1825 at the confluence of the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River.
A series of settlements that were precursors to the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis formed a few miles away from the fort along the Mississippi. The villages leading to the creation of St. Paul went by a number of different names, including Pig's Eye and Lambert's Landing.
Fort Snelling held jurisdiction over the land south of Saint Anthony Falls, so a town known as Saint Anthony sprung up just north of the river. For several years, the only resident to live on the south bank of the river at that point was Colonel John H. Stevens, who operated a ferry service across the river. As soon as the land area controlled by Fort Snelling was reduced, new settlers began flocking across to a new village of Minneapolis. The town grew quickly, and Minneapolis and Saint Anthony eventually merged.
The Grand Excursion, a trip into the Upper Midwest sponsored by the Rock Island Railroad, brought more than a thousand curious travelers into the area by rail and steamboat in 1854. The next year, in 1855, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published The Song of Hiawatha, an epic poem based on the Ojibway legends of Hiawatha. A number of natural area landmarks were included in the story, such as Lake Minnetonka and Minnehaha Falls. Tourists inspired by the coverage of the Grand Excursion in eastern newspapers and those who read Longfellow's story flocked to the area in the following decades.
The area used to have a lot of passenger rail service, both interurban streetcar systems and fairly high speed interstate rail. For a time, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area was one of the few places where the Mississippi could crossed by railroads, as the river was too wide to cross by bridge at points farther south. A great amount of rail traffic once rumbled through the area, often carrying grain to be processed at mills in Minneapolis or other goods to St. Paul to be transported along the Mississippi. St. Paul had long been at the head of navigation on the river, until new lock and dam facilities were added upriver.
Passenger travel hit an early peak—eight million people went through St. Paul Union Depot in 1888, a year when about 150 trains came and went daily. Before long, other crossings were built farther south, so travel through the region to the west declined. In an effort to combat the rise of the automobile, some of the earliest streamliners ran from Chicago, Illinois to Minneapolis and St. Paul, eventually running out to distant points in the Pacific Northwest. Today, the only vestige of this interstate service comes by Amtrak's Empire Builder service, running once daily in each direction. The line is named after James J. Hill, a railroad tycoon who settled on Summit Avenue in St. Paul at what is now known as the James J. Hill House.
Roads and highways
In the 20th century, the Twin Cities area expanded outward significantly. Automobiles made it possible for suburbs to grow greatly. The area now has a number of freeways to transport people by car. The area incorporates a large number of traffic cameras and ramp meters to monitor and manage traffic congestion. There is some use of high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes, though it is not as pervasive as in other regions. When the roads do become congested, buses are allowed to drive on road shoulders to bypass traffic jams.
Interstate 94 comes into the area from the east and heads northwest from Minneapolis. Two spur routes form the I-494/I-694 loop, and I-394 continues west when I-94 turns north. Additionally, Interstate 35 splits in the southern part of the Twin Cities region, bringing I-35E into St. Paul and I-35W into Minneapolis. They join together again to the north and continue to the highway's terminus in Duluth.
Other major highways in the area include:
The main airport in the region is Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), which is the main hub for Northwest Airlines. A number of other smaller airports are also in the area, a number of which are owned and operated by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (the same organization operates the main MSP airport). Some people even commute by air to the Twin Cities from the northern part of the state.
Metro Transit, by far the biggest bus service provider in the area, owes its existence to the old streetcar lines that ran in the area. Metro Transit provides about 95% of the public transit rides in the region, although some suburbs have other bus services. The Hiawatha Line light rail corridor began regular operations in June 2004, and is also run by Metro Transit. In many ways a return to what existed in the past, it is being used as a stepping-stone to other projects.
A variety of rail services are currently being pondered by state and local governments, including neighborhood streetcar systems, intercity light rail service, and commuter rail options out to exurban communities. In addition, Minnesota is one of several states in the Midwest examining the idea of setting up high-speed rail service using Chicago as a regional hub.
Main article: Media in the Twin Cities
The Twin Cities have two major newspapers: the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Additionally, the Minnesota Daily serves the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus and surrounding neighborhoods. A number of other weekly papers (most of which are fully supported by advertising) are also available.
The region is currently ranked as the 13th or 14th largest television market, depending on the source. Area broadcasters include:
Twin Cities Public Television operates both KTCA and KTCI. Hubbard Broadcasting Corporation owns KSTP and has a second TV station, KSTC, which is not affiliated with any network. KMSP and WFTC have now merged as well, and KARE currently has a marketing agreement with KPXM. The only station with its main studios in Minneapolis is WCCO, while St. Paul is host to KSTP/KSTC, KTCA/KTCI, and KMWB. Other stations are located in the suburbs. For much of the last two decades, KARE has had the most popular evening newscasts of the area channels. On the other end, KSTP has struggled to maintain ratings on its news programs. KMSP has had a 9 o'clock newscast since at least the early 1990s when it was an independent channel.
Communities in the region have their own public/educational/government-access cable television channels. One channel, the Metro Cable Network, is available on channel 6 on cable systems across the seven-county region.
Several television programs originating in the Twin Cities have been aired nationally on terrestrial and cable TV networks. KTCA created the science program Newton's Apple and distributes a children's program today. A few unusual comedic shows also originated in the area. In the 1980s, KTMA (predecessor to KMWB) created a number of low-budget shows, including cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. The shortlived Let's Bowl started on KARE, and PBS series Mental Engineering originated on the St. Paul cable access network.
The radio market in the Twin Cities is considered to be somewhat smaller than for TV, ranked 16th. The area lineup includes:
- KUOM 770 AM/106.5 FM ("Radio K", college rock)
- WCCO 830 AM ("The Good Neighbor", talk)
- KFAN 1130 AM (sports)
- KSTP 1500 AM (talk) and 94.5 FM ("KS95", 80s, 90s, contemporary)
- KBEM 88.5 FM ("Jazz 88", jazz)
- Minnesota Public Radio KNOW 91.1 FM (talk) and WCAL 89.3/KSJN 99.5 FM (classical)
- KQRS 92.5 FM ("KQ92", classic rock)
- KXXR 93.7 FM ("93X", rock, heavy metal)
- KTCZ 97.1 FM ("Cities 97", adult alternative)
- KJZI 100.3 FM ("Smooth Jazz 100.3", smooth jazz)
- KDWB 101.3 FM (pop & rock)
- WLTE  (http://www.wlte.com/) 102.9 FM ("102.9 Lite FM", adult contemporary)
- WGVX 105.1/WGVY 105.3/WGVZ 105.7 FM ("Drive 105", adult alternative)
- KQQL  (http://www.kool108.com/) ("Kool 108", 107.9, oldies)
For decades, WCCO radio was the most well-known and most popular broadcaster in the region, with an all-day talk format. WCCO was eventually pushed out of the top spot by KQRS, a classic rock station with a popular morning show. KSTP also has some fairly popular radio stations, with pop music format on FM and a talk format on AM.
Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is also a major force in the state and across the country, best known across the U.S. for the variety show A Prairie Home Companion. Based in St. Paul, MPR is reportedly the nation's second-most powerful public radio organization behind National Public Radio (of which MPR is an affiliate). Many area residents feel that the overall quality of radio in the region is poor, particularly considering the area's appetite for the arts.
Geography and geology
Along with much of Minnesota, the Twin Cities area was shaped by water and ice over the course of millions of years. The land of the area sits on top of thick layers of sandstone and limestone laid down as seas encroached upon and receded from the region. Erosion caused natural caves to develop, which were expanded into mines when white settlers came to the area. In the time of Prohibition, at least one speakeasy was built into these hidden spaces—eventually refurbished as the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul.
While a few of the caverns have been cleaned up and are safe places, most are not. Over the decades, many people have been injured and killed while exploring them. A number of these incidents involved asphyxiation, sometimes caused by smoldering fires which used up much of the oxygen in the caves and left deadly levels of noxious gases behind.
Because it is comparatively easy to dig through limestone and there are many natural and man-made open spaces, it has often been proposed that the area should examine the idea of building subways for public transportation. In theory, it could be less expensive in the Twin Cities than in many other places, but the cost would still be much greater than surface projects. Additionally, a number of existing utility lines would have to be moved. There are extensive networks under the cities, particularly St. Paul where at least seven distinct tunnel systems have been built since the 1840s. Most are still used today.
Lakes across the area were formed and altered by the movement of glaciers. This left many bodies of water in the region, and unusual shapes may appear. For example, Lake Minnetonka out toward the western side of the Twin Cities consists of a complex arrangement of channels and large bays.
Of the major U.S. metropolitan areas, Minneapolis-St. Paul is farther north than all but Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.
Buildings and structures
The tallest buildings in the area are located in downtown Minneapolis. The first skyscraper built west of the Mississippi in 1929 was the Foshay Tower. Today there is some contention over exactly which building is the tallest—most Minnesotans would immediately think of the IDS Center if queried on the point, although most sources seem to agree that 225 South Sixth is slightly taller. In any case the IDS, 225 South Sixth, and the Wells Fargo Center only differ in height by a foot or two—a rather negligible amount when considering all of the factors that can throw off measurement of large structures. The IDS has communications towers that definitely are the highest points in Minneapolis, though some suburban broadcast towers in the region reach a much greater height.
Buildings have gone up and been torn down rapidly across the region. Some city blocks have been demolished six or seven times since the mid-19th century, and will undoubtedly reach an eighth or ninth cycle in short order. No single architectural style dominates the region. Instead, the cities have a mish-mash of different designs, although structures from a few eras stand out. There were once a great many stone buildings constructed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style (or at least Romanesque-inspired variants). Minneapolis City Hall is one big example of this, though buildings of all types—including personal residences such as that of James J. Hill—were similarly designed. A few decades later, Art Deco brought several structures that survive today, including St. Paul City Hall, the Foshay Tower, and the Minneapolis Post Office.
St. Paul and Minneapolis in particular went through some massive urban renewal projects in the post-World War II era, so a vast number of buildings are now lost to history. Some of the larger and harder to demolish structures have survived. In fact, the area might be signified more by bridges than buildings. A series of reinforced concrete arch spans crossing the Mississippi River were built in the 1920s and 1930s. They still carry daily traffic, but remain pleasing to the eye despite their age (a number have undergone major repair work, but retain the original design). Several of the bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They include the Cedar Avenue Bridge, Ford Parkway Bridge, Robert Street Bridge, and the longest, the 4119 ft (1255 m) Mendota Bridge next to Fort Snelling. The area is also noted for having the first known permanent crossing of the Mississippi. That structure is long gone, but a series of Hennepin Avenue Bridges have been built since then at the site.
Both downtowns have extensive networks of enclosed pedestrian bridges known as skyways. Individually, the cities appear to have the largest such networks outside of Canada. However, the combination of the two cities' networks is believed to make the largest system in the world. Skyways have their drawbacks however. Most prominently, they reduce the amount of foot traffic at street level, so the cities appear to have little activity. An additional problem is that the skyways tend to be closed fairly early—especially in St. Paul—but they are hives of activity on weekdays.
The United States Navy currently has one ship named for the region, the USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul, a Los Angeles-class submarine launched in 1983. Previously, two sets of two ships each had carried the names USS Minneapolis and USS Saint Paul.
- Fact sheet about Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area Comparison (http://www.mnplan.state.mn.us/demography/FactSheets/MSACompare/)
|Regions of Minnesota || |
|Minneapolis/Saint Paul metropolitan area | Northwest Angle | Iron Range/Arrowhead | Pipestone | Central |
|Largest Cities |
|Apple Valley | Blaine | Bloomington | Brooklyn Park | Burnsville | Coon Rapids | Duluth | Eagan | Eden Prairie | Edina | Lakeville | Maple Grove | Maplewood | Minneapolis | Minnetonka | Plymouth | Richfield | Rochester | St. Cloud | St. Paul |
|Aitkin | Anoka | Becker | Beltrami | Benton | Big Stone | Blue Earth | Brown | Carlton | Carver | Cass | Chippewa | Chisago | Clay | Clearwater | Cook | Cottonwood | Crow Wing | Dakota | Dodge | Douglas | Faribault | Fillmore | Freeborn | Goodhue | Grant | Hennepin | Houston | Hubbard | Isanti | Itasca | Jackson | Kanabec | Kandiyohi | Kittson | Koochiching | Lac qui Parle | Lake | Lake of the Woods | Le Sueur | Lincoln | Lyon | McLeod | Mahnomen | Marshall | Martin | Meeker | Mille Lacs | Morrison | Mower | Murray | Nicollet | Nobles | Norman | Olmsted | Otter Tail | Pennington | Pine | Pipestone | Polk | Pope | Ramsey | Red Lake | Redwood | Renville | Rice | Rock | Roseau | St. Louis | Scott | Sherburne | Sibley | Stearns | Steele | Stevens | Swift | Todd | Traverse | Wabasha | Wadena | Waseca | Washington | Watonwan | Wilkin | Winona | Wright | Yellow Medicine |