The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are below-the-radar sorts of towns, rarely the center of attention but endlessly intriguing once you get to know them. They’re places filled with cozy neighborhoods and natural splendor to spare, plus more than a dozen of Minnesota’s famous lakes scattered around — but even in the most pastoral spots, you’re never far from urban bustle. Here are some highlights.
As always, check for travel restrictions or closures before planning your trip.
Mill Ruins Park
The Mississippi River is the centerpiece of both cities, both as a landscape feature and a site of historic and cultural importance.
Head to Mill Ruins Park on the downtown Minneapolis riverfront to capture those layers of stories in the form of the stabilized stone ruins of the mills that once drove the city’s economy.
Be sure to turn around and capture some snaps of the Stone Arch Bridge as it crosses the river.
Instagram tip: Enhance the moody, history-rich atmosphere with a sepia-tinted filter like Crema and include just a sliver of the modern city in the background to give context for those who are paying attention.
Nicollet Island is just across the river from downtown Minneapolis, but it’s an entirely different world — a quaint, quiet village with brick streets and historic houses and paths meandering through the woods. You can walk around the entire residential area in about 15 minutes. (Just stay out of yards and use basic common sense and courtesy!)
The view from Nicollet Avenue looking southeast is especially good. Also, at the corner of West Island Avenue and Grove Street, there’s a staircase that leads down to the river where a spectacular view of the skyline awaits.
Instagram tip: If it’s a sunny day, think about skipping the filter. The setting here is streetscape and park, all in one, and it can be tricky to make adjustments that let each component shine. Bump up the contrast, tweak the saturation a tiny bit if necessary, but then just leave it.
Lyndale Park Gardens
Mere steps from the packed paths at Lake Harriet, the Lyndale Park Gardens are places for contemplation — a leisurely walk, a close examination of every detail.
When the Rose Garden is in bloom, it’s a riot of colors, while the two historic fountains offer old-world charm. Across the street is the Peace Garden, with its Japanese design, which looks best in the glow of late afternoon.
Instagram tip: It’s the small things that shine here — a particular flower, the footbridge at the Japanese garden. Focus on individual elements and let the rest blur away with a nice bokeh effect.
Midtown Global Market
It’s not all parks and rec here. The Twin Cities have plenty of energy along the main drags like Lake Street, where the Midtown Global Market offers a chance to taste some of the flavors that represent the area’s many immigrant groups, from Somalia, Vietnam, Mexico and many other countries.
The market is busiest around lunchtime, especially on the weekends, so plan accordingly. This is the perfect place for multiple photos, either in a collage or a story. Showcase your journey through the market: the signs, the menus, the packed aisles, the band playing in the commons, the food (OMG, THE FOOD).
Instagram tip: Juno is a good filter to up the saturation and make the colors pop. Take photos of signs from different angles to add energy and interest.
Ax-Man Surplus (University Avenue)
Just in case there was any question: Minnesotans like odd, goofy stuff just as much as anyone else.
For proof, check out this St. Paul institution, where you’ll find everything from mannequin heads to pens emblazoned with the names of long-defunct businesses and puffy fabric balls perfect for crafting. Everything comes with a droll sign, so be sure to take some pics of those, too.
Instagram tip: X-Pro II is the filter you want here, the better to highlight the strange/retro/cool vibe.