If you find yourself in St. Paul, MN, on vacation in the Twin Cities, or for the long-haul, you’re in for some bitter winters and some of the warmest neighbors you’ll meet anywhere in the country.
The Upper Midwest may not boast America’s flashiest cities, but make no mistake—Minnesota’s capital is buzzing with activity in all corners, especially if you know where to look.
Wondering what to do in St. Paul MN? This guide will point you in the right direction so that you can explore Minnesota’s capital in every season, 7 evergreen ways.
#1 Follow The Mississippi
As the second-longest river in North America, the Mississippi River is a treasured geographic feature of St. Paul and a major part of recreational life in the city.
The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is a 72-mile preserve that maintains the area’s natural heritage and makes it available for public enjoyment.1 Some popular ways to pass time along the Mississippi are:
- Taking your dog out High Bridge Dog Park
You can start your riverside sojourn at several hiking trails along the park, but our ultra-Minnesotan recommendation is to start at Hidden Falls Regional Park, then aim to land at Summit Brewing Company (3 miles away) by happy hour.
#2 Go Underground
You wouldn’t know it from street level, but beneath your feet and across the river from Downtown St. Paul, is a complex network of natural underground caves.
These grottos were used by the Sioux residing in the area long before Minnesota was colonized by Europeans, but over the years their uses have been manifold:2
- One mycologically-inclined French family used the caves as an underground mushroom farm.
- Some industrious Minnesotans used the site for silica extraction for glassmakers.
- In the 20th century, the caves were transformed into a speakeasy for (literally) underground ribaldry during Prohibition.
- During the disco fever of the 1970s, the caves were used as a discotheque.
Today, a hodgepodge of activities is offered in the Caves, from swing dancing to masterminded murder mystery nights. For a speedier survey of the caverns, book a 40-minute guided tour (the standard, or gangster-themed!) for an affordable $10.
#3 Embark On A Brewery Crawl
You won’t only discover some of the best restaurants in St. Paul MN. This city also has one of the most effervescent brewery cultures in the country, so if you’ve got a taste for hops, you’ll be happy you moved here.
There are so many breweries in St. Paul, MN where you can spend an evening or afternoon lounging, meeting fellow craft beer lovers, and making your way through a crowler of singular brews.
From St. Paul’s oldest commercial enterprise, Waldmann Brewery, to a collective that only traffics in superior gluten-free brews, Burning Brothers Brewing, you’ll always have somewhere to warm your bones (or, come summertime, crack a cold one) in St. Paul.
#4 Meditate In Friendship Garden
One of the most serene spots in all of St. Paul is the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden in Phalen Regional Park. The garden is built in classical Chinese style, landscaped with some traditional symbolic botanicals like:3
- Willow trees to represent the virtue of cultivating a flexible mind
- Peony to symbolize beauty and gentility
- Lotus flower to epitomize the value of purity amid chaos
- Plum trees to represent courage
The centerpiece of the garden is its traditional Chinese Pavilion, flanked by poetry to calm the mind, foster a contemplative atmosphere, and offer a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of St. Paul.
#5 Visit The Science Museum
Looking for some fun activity to do? Then try visiting the Science Museum.
St. Paul’s Science Museum of Minnesota is an interactive science museum with over 100 years under its belt. It features a broad range of permanent and rotating exhibits that encourage interactive learning. Some of the mainstays include:
- Dinosaurs & Fossils
- Experiment Gallery
- Human Body Gallery
- Mississippi River Gallery
- Sportsology Exhibit
- Native American Exhibit
A perennial crowd favorite is the Museum’s “Weighing the Evidence” show, a myth-busting experience that spotlights the role of quackery and pseudoscience in scientific and medical history.
Other museums you can also visit while museum hopping are the Bell Museum, Alexander Ramsay House, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and the Historic Fort Snelling.
#6 Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
Como Zoo and Conservatory is a sprawling complex showcasing wild flora and fauna—well worth a day or two’s visit. Neighboring the Zoo is Como Town, an amusement park that specializes in family fun with a carousel, rides, and many other activities for kids.
The best part of Como Zoo and Conservatory? It’s free!
- National Park Service. Learn About The Park. https://www.nps.gov/miss/learn/index.htm
- Atlas Obscura. Wabasha Street Caves. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/wabasha-street-caves
- The Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society. China Garden Philosophy & Elements. https://mnchinagarden.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Final-Draft-Educational-Materials-1-Elements-and-Philosophy.2018.10.15.pdf