Downtown Saint Paul is the heart of the capital city of Minnesota, and even if it's not as well-known as its sister city (Downtown Minneapolis), but it has just as much character. It has a thriving economic market, and the Minnesota State Capitol is located in the northernmost part of Downtown Saint Paul. There are plenty of cultural things to do as well, including theater (the Ordway is renowned for its excellence), orchestra (the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is magnificent), and museums (the Minnesota Children's Museum is a must-visit, even for non-children).
There are also plenty of sports to be watched in Downtown Saint Paul. The Xcel Energy Center opened in 2000 and is now the home of the professional hockey team, the Minnesota Wild. CHS Field, located in Lowertown, opened in 2015 and houses the Saint Paul Saints, who are a member of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
Downtown Saint Paul is a comfortably middle-class city with a fair amount of diversity, and there are many people who work as well as live in the downtown area. There are more renters than owners, and there is a nice mix of ages in the neighborhood. Downtown Saint Paul hosts the Saint Paul Winter Carnival every year, which is the oldest winter carnival in the country; the first one occurred in 1886. Downtown Saint Paul is underrated, but the residents don't mind it that way.
Downtown Saint Paul is the home of the Minnesota State Capitol, and construction on it started in 1896. It was finished in 1905 and stood proudly above the city for several decades. It started to experience some wear and tear in the 1990s, but actual renovation didn't happen for another twenty years. It started in 2013 and was finally finished in 2017.
Downtown Saint Paul has been a magnet for corporations since early in the thirties. It has also had a strong arts presence in the neighborhood of Lowertown, which is on the east-side of Downtown. Lowertown was a vital part of the Downtown rail and river identity, urban planning, and other architecture. In 1983, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for these contributions.
Today, Downtown is booming. The population is predicted jump 80% from 2014 (7,911) to over 14,000 in 2020. It follows the national trend of more people moving to downtown, especially in Midwest states, and it's easy to see why people would want to make Downtown Saint Paul their home. It has parks, theaters, museums, and sports, so there's something for everyone.
University Avenue to the north, US 52 to the east, the Mississippi River to the south, and Kellogg Avenue to the west.
Dayton's Bluff, Summit-University, West Seventh, Thomas-Dale (Frogtown), West Side, Payne-Phalen.
Here are some crime statistics for Downtown Saint Paul.
Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (265 Commercial St., 651-266-6400) is a small haven in the middle of a busy area. It has limestone and sandstone bluffs that are 450 million years old, a robust Native American history, spring-fed wetlands, and is just a perfect place to have a moment of respite from your busy life.
Cathedral Hill Park (215 Summit Ave., 651-632-5111) is an open space leading to the well-known Cathedral of Saint Paul. It was acquired by the city in 1979, and it's been welcoming visitors to the Cathedral ever since.
Culture Park (122 Kellogg Blvd. E, 651-266-6400) is a small breath of fresh air, and it hosts Fitness in the Parks, which is a free outdoor exercise program that is scheduled in parks throughout Saint Paul all summer.
Kellogg Mall Park (62 Kellogg Blvd. E, 651-266-6400) affords you a beautiful view of Harriet Island, Raspberry Island, and the Mississippi River. There are plenty of benches and fountains placed throughout, making it picturesque in its own right. It hosts Fitness in the Parks, which is a free outdoor exercise program that is scheduled in parks throughout Saint Paul all summer.
Mears Park (221 E 5th St., 651-632-5111) started out as Baptist Hill in 1851. It was donated to the public and the hill was razed, and it became Mears Park. It's easily accessible by the St. Paul Skyway system, and it's a haven in the middle of Downtown. It's also home to several local music festivals including the Music in Mears Series.
Pedro Park (114 10th St. E, 651-632-5111) was a plot of land donated by the Pedro family and is now in the middle of exciting developments. One such development is the Urban Flower Field, which is a combination of science, community, and art. The other development is converting the land into a proper public park.
Rice Park (109 W 4th St., 651-632-5111) is a breath of fresh air in Downtown Saint Paul. It has a fountain in the center of it, and it's the host of events throughout the year, including the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. It participates in Fitness in the Parks, which is a free outdoor exercise program for people of all ages. Wells Fargo WinterSkate is an outdoor rink, free, in Landmark Plaza, which is kitty-corner to Rice Park.
Summit Park (185 Summit Ave., 651-632-5111) is located near the Cathedral of St. Paul. Its pride an joy is the Soldiers and Sailors monument, a bronze tribute created in 1903 to the soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It was made to honor Josias R. King, the first Minnesotan to volunteer to fight for the Union during the Civil War.
Afro Deli & Grill (5 W 7th Pl., 651-888-2168) is a fusion African restaurant that brings the taste of Africa to Minnesota. They are a fast, friendly, and fun restaurant with a casual and lively atmosphere. They have been showered with praise and awards for their delicious dishes, and they focus on using local products in them. They give a portion of their earnings to local charitable organizations, and they firmly believe in community. All their dishes are made fresh and are prepared Halal. Try the Somali steak sandwich or the KEKE beef or chicken with the sambusa as a side as you tap your toe to the beat of the music playing in the background.
Big River Pizza (280 5th St. E, 651-683-2186) is known for their made-by-hand wood-fired pizzas that they take on the road (catering) when the customers can't come to them. They pride themselves on serving a 'Minne-politan'-style pizza, which is similar to a Neapolitan (thin, soft crust and minimal but high-quality and potent toppings), using local, non-processed ingredients in place of traditional ones. They believe in service with a smile, and they are a St. Paul favorite. Try the 10,000 leeks or the St. Paulie Girl, and they'll substitute a gluten-free crust for a small fee.
DeGidio's Restaurant and Bar (425 7th St. W, 651-291-7105) is a classic Italian restaurant that has been family owned and operated since 1933. There are rumors that it was a favorite haunt of the mobsters back then, but of course, that was many decades ago. They serve traditional Italian fare such as a Heirloom Caprese, Chicken Parmesan, and a Spicy Penne Arrabiata. They have Spumoni and Tiramisu for dessert as well. They also have a gluten-free menu. You can order online, have an event catered, or partake of their banquets, too.
Handsome Hog (203 6th St. E, 651-340-7710) is all about the pig, bourbon, and Southern hospitality. They have over a hundred bottles of bourbon, and several ways to do up pork. Grilled pork porterhouse, bourbon-braised pork osso bucco, pig of the day, and more. They also have non-pork dishes such as chicken n' waffles and succotash panzanella salad, All of this is served up with the traditional sides of buttermilk biscuits, mac n cheese, and hushpuppies. They have more unusual ones such as sausage gravy poutine or bacon fat poutine. There is something for everyone.
HYGGA Lowertown (213 4th St. E, Suite 100, 651-353-3751) is a colorful and open restaurant/roastery/bakery/bar that wears many hats, obviously. They are proud of their cold-brew coffee while simultaneously serving top-notch food and drinks. They have novel choices such as Surly beer cheese potatoes, kolaches, and Scandi egg poutine, and they have a plethora of coffees, beers, and other libations. Hygga means friendship and family in Danish (very simplified), and that's their motto for the way they operate.
Meritage (410 St. Peter St., 651-222-5670) is an elegant French brasserie that has garnered accolades and awards for their timeless and classic food. It was established in 2007 and strives to produce delicious French fare for the community. They have an oyster bar as well as a terrace for summer dining. Their offerings range from the Oyster Bloody Mary Shooter to the Escargot Bourguignon, the Braised Pork Cheeks Chasseur, and the Espresso Pot de Creme for dessert. It's a feeling of luxury right in the heart of Downtown.
Mickey's Diner (36 7th St. W, 651-698-0259) is a historic landmark in St. Paul and has been opened 24/7 since 1939. It's eye-catching having been modeled on a vintage train car, and the food There is an old-timey feel the minute you step inside, and they serve nothing but timeless classics. They use local products and make as much by hand as possible, including their malts and shakes. Farm-fresh eggs, hash browns that are grated by hand from raw potatoes, fluffy buttermilk pancakes that melt in your mouth, it's hard to know where to start.
Ruam Mit Thai (475 St. Peter St., 651-222-7871) serves traditional Thai food that is simple and tasty. The restaurant is unassuming, but the food is bursting with flavor. Thai is known for being spicy, but they are willing to tailor the dishes to your taste. Try the stuffed chicken wings, the goong hom pha, or the Thai shrimp tempura, and you will not be disappointed. They have vegetarian options as well.
Sakura Restaurant & Bar (350 St. Peter St., 651-224-0815) is a newly remodeled Japanese restaurant that serves sushi, bento boxes, tempura, teriyaki, and more. It has a spacious and contemporary atmosphere, and there's a sushi bar where you can watch your sushi being made. Satisfy all your sushi needs here, whether it's spicy tuna, clams, octopus, scallops, or any other tasty seafood and rice combination. Don't forget to try the wasabi shumai while you're there--it'll definitely set the right tone for the night.
The Buttered Tin (237 7th St. E, 651-224-2300) has been offering what they call comfort farm food (and more) since 2013. It's made by hand with care on a daily basis, and it starts with a hearty breakfast including a soft scramble and loaded hash browns. They also make biscuits, cupcakes, Lowertown TwinKeys, and that's not even the tip of the iceberg. They also have layer cakes, cookies, bars, and let's not forget the pie. Who doesn't like pie? Try the pumpkin chiffon while you're there.
Candyland (435 N Wabasha St., 651-292-1191) has been dishing out delicious confections and popcorn to the Twin Cities since 1932. With the Lucy statue outside and the racks of sweets inside, there is an old-timey shoppe feel to the store that will tickle your fancy. Popcorn, fancy chocolates, Swedish fish, and so much more. There is something for everyone.
Eclipse Records (419 Wabasha St. N, 651-224-2500) is a quirky indie record store where you can get your vintage vinyls that you probably can't find elsewhere. If there's a rare record you simply cannot find elsewhere, drop by and have a chat with the owner; he might be able to help you out.
Heimie's Haberdashery (400 St. Peter St., 651-224-2354) is a modern men's shop with a old-timey feel to it. They believe that clothes do, indeed, make the man, but they have to be clothing the man wants to wear and feels good in. They have an in-house tailor shop so alternations are a snap, and they offer made-to-order suits as well. In addition, they have a barber shop so their clients can look good from head to toe.
Legacy Chocolates (141 4th St. E, #223, 651-340-5252) is a chocolate shop that features handcrafted chocolates made on a daily basis. They have truffles made with no preservatives, bark that can be chock-full of nuts, fruit, or coffee beans. They have several other chocolate products, coffee, baked goods, and other tasty bites/drinks as well. If you love chocolate, they'll have something to satisfy your cravings.
Lowertown Bike Shop (Union Depot, 214 E 4th St., Suite 160, 651-222-0775) is dedicated to biking and to giving every customer the bike of their dreams, no matter the price or riding ability. The staff are dedicated bikers themselves, and they want to share that passion with their customers. They are enthusiastic, cheerful, friendly, and knowledgeable; this is the place to get the bike of your dreams.
Mademoiselle Miel (342 Kellogg Blvd. W, 651-226-4703) creates honey-infused creamy rich chocolate bon bons that are brushed with edible gold leaf. They also have maple-sweetened, single-origin chocolates, and they have won awards for their chocolates. They have other products as well, and it'll be a joy to try every single one.
Saint Paul Farmers' Market (290 5th St. E, 651-227-8101) offers several local products, ranging from free-range meats to pickles and jams to flowers, and so much more. It's a true mark of spring when you can visit your local farmers' market once again, and the one in Downtown Saint Paul is one of the best.
Sophist-A-Gifts (406 St. Peter St., 651-291-7948) is a fun little gift shop with plenty of bright and colorful items, including jewelry, bags, and clothing. They also have dolls, stuffed animals, and onesies for the special children in your lives.
Subtext Books (6 W 5th St., 651-493-2791) is an independent bookstore that is passionate about books, and the staff is eager to share that love with their clients. They will happily talk about their favorites (and yours), and they will take special orders if they don't have what you want. They also have book clubs and other events, and if you love books, you'll feel right at home here.
Ten Thousand Villages (520 Selby Ave., 651-225-1043) is a local nonprofit that sells fair trade products from developing countries around the world. Their philosophy is to support artisans who ethically produce their wares, some who actively work to combat the social injustices in their own communities. They sell jewelry, textiles, accessories, books, coffees and teas, home decor, and more.
Amsterdam Bar & Hall (6 W 6th St., 612-285-3112) is a great place to go if you want to grab a broodje (Dutch sandwich) and listen to your favorite band. Their broodjes include coconut curry beef and marinated octopus, and they have appetizers (voorgerechten) and desserts (nagerechten) as well. As befitting their name, they have pot brownies with nuts as one of their desserts. If you're looking for fun and food, this is the place for you.
Camp Bar Twin Cities (490 N Robert St., 651-292-1844) is a nightspot hot spot with a piano bar and a full slate of cabaret. They have different events on different nights, so be sure to contact them for their daily schedule. Foodwise, they have handmade pizzas, omelets, burgers, and more. It's a perfect place for a fun night out.
Dark Horse Bar & Eatery (250 E 7th St., 651-313-7960) is a modern American restaurant/bar that has a laid-back atmosphere and a friendly staff. The restaurant/bar is warm and airy, and it's a great place to relax with your friends and a craft beer in hand. Start with the elote fondue, then make your way to the bahn-mi hot dog. They have dishes they can prepare as vegan or gluten-free, and they have a to-go menu as well.
Hat Trick Lounge (134 E 5th St., 651-228-1347) is a great place to chill with your friends as you listen to music ranging from rock to jazz to funk and everything in between. Monday is open-stage night, and they have a darts league, too. They have been serving up drinks and featuring local music to the Lowertown neighborhood for over 30 years, and they are still going strong.
Kelly's Depot Bar & Grill (241 E Kellogg Blvd., 651-298-0099) is a casual neighborhood hangout that has been called one of best burger joints in the Twin Cities. The staff is great, and they have seasonal patio seating so you can enjoy sipping a Bloody Mary while feeling the warmth of the sun in the summer. If you don't want to try their famed burgers, they have other options such as a deep-fried pork sandwich and a shrimp dinner.
Ox Cart Ale House & Rooftop (255 6th St. E, 651-528-6171) is a casual hang-out place where you go with your friends to chat and grab a beer and a bite. It's in Lowertown, and the Rooftop closes in the winter. In the summer, however, it's a great place to sit and survey St. Paul from your lofty heights. Try the apple-braised pork belly and the chicken liver mousse for starters, then dig into a jerk chicken sandwich or a jalapeno cheddar brat. Pair it with one of their 20 craft beers for an enjoyable time.
The Bulldog Lowertown (237 6th St. E, 651-221-0750) is a neighborhood hangout with a wide-open feel to it and a friendly staff. They have dart boards and TVs, so you can have fun while you drink your beer and eat your pot roast poutine. Or maybe you're more in the mood for a hot dog--they have many different hot dogs as well, including the mac n' cheese dog and the oinker dog. They also have sandwiches and burgers and other entrees as well.
The Lobby Bar (St. Paul Hotel, 350 Market St., 651-292-9292) is an upscale lounge with elegant bar snacks, cocktails, and, occasionally, jazz. It's a place you'll feel comfortable swirling your cognac before sipping daintily at it, and you'll enjoy tasting the charcuterie board and/or the artisan cheese board.
Vieux Carré (408 St. Peter St., 651-291-2715) hearkens back to the days of the Prohibition and speakeasies. They feature live jazz music, staying true to their New Orleans-inspired roots. They continue the theme by offering creole plates that contain the freshest local products, and they believe in food that pleases the palate as much as it pleases the eye. Their offerings are seasonal, so you can try something different every time you visit. Or, you can go with the classic beignets and espresso. Dress up to the nines and paint the town red while tapping your toe to the beat.
World of Beer (356 N Sibley St., 651-493-3558) is passionate about beer, of course. They have over 500 beers from around the world, and they are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their craft (beers). They have other tipples and well, along with pub grub that can be shared with the whole table as well as burgers and other fare. If you love beer, you'll feel right at home here.
History Theatre (30 E 10th St., 651-292-4323) was founded in 1978 and is committed to exploring Minnesota's past through theater. It is a nationally-recognized theater for its historic plays, and it is held in high regard. They have toured around Minnesota, sharing selected productions with students all around the state with the help of a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Landmark Center (75 5th St. W, 651-292-4375) opened in 1902 and was originally a Federal Court House and Post Office for the Upper Midwest. It slowly crumbled over the years, and in 1972, it was saved by a group of dedicated citizens. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places, then reopened to the public as the Landmark Center in 1978. It is now owned by Ramsey County, and it's a cultural center featuring a diversity of arts, including (but not limited to) music, dance, and theater. It is managed by Minnesota Landmarks, a not-for-profit organization.
Lowertown Underground Artists (308 Prince St., B100, 612-203-6188) is a vibrant community gathering of all different kinds of creative types including visual, dance, ad music. Many of the recently-displaced JAX artists have found a new home here, adding a lot to the community. Their outside wall is decorated with a variety of art installations, and they host all kinds of classes.
Minnesota Children's Museum (10 W 7th St., 651-225-6000) is a great place to take your little ones to play and learn (or someone else's. Or just go yourself!). They have countless events that will engage your children's minds, bodies, and spirits. Become a member and have special sneak peeks at upcoming events. They have exhibits that change on a regular basis, so there are plenty of reasons to keep going back.
Minnesota History Center (345 W Kellogg Blvd., 651-259-3000) is a dynamic museum with both permanent and changing exhibitions. It's meant to be a hands-on experience, and they really love to help children (and adults!) explore Minnesota's history. They are tasked with preserving and archiving what makes Minnesota unique, and they are eager to share all this information with every Minnesotan. They have plenty of educational experiences for children as well.
Minnesota Museum of American Art (141 E 4th St., Suite 101, 651-797-2571) highlights contemporary (19th century and beyond) in a sleek and modern environment that really allows the focus to be on the art. It's currently 'touring' around the Twin Cities because the gallery is closed while they are working on revamping the museum in the historic Pioneer Endicott, and they will reopen at the end of 2018. Check their website for their current exhibitions and events.
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (345 Washington St., 651-224-4222) is a premier venue for theater, music performances, and dance. It is well known and well respected, and it's a unique experience every time. They also have special programs for students (and teachers) because they are passionate about art. In addition, they offer the Knight Foundation Cultural Opportunity Fund which is a substantial subsidy to an artist who has a visionary piece they wish to share with the world.
Palace Theatre (17 W 7th Pl., 612-338-8388) originally opened in 1916 as a vaudeville theater. It has hosted many luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, George Burn, and the Marx Brothers. It was transformed in the 1940s into a movie theater called the RKO Orpheum, which closed in 1977. It was recently renovated and reopened in 2016, roughly a hundred years after its original open. It is now a luxurious, two-tiered, 2,500-seat theatre that features music, comedy acts, and other entertainment.
Roy Wilkins Auditorium (175 W Kellogg Blvd., 651-265-4800) is named for a civil rights activist and is a great place to go to hear a concert. It's a premier venue for musical acts, big and small. It also hosts other events such as graduation, and it's been the home of the Minnesota RollerGirls roller derby league since 2005.
Xcel Energy Center (199 W Kellogg Blvd., 651-265-4800) is the home of the Minnesota Wild, the NHL hockey team. Minnesota isn't Minnesota without hockey, and the Xcel Center is a great place to watch a game. It also hosts other events such as concerts, high school sports events (wrestling and hockey), and college hockey tournaments as well.
Festival of Nations (Saint Paul RiverCentre, 175 W Kellogg Blvd., 651-647-0191) is an annual celebration of the diversity we have in Minnesota. It's been going strong for 86 years, and it's a weekend of food, performances, cultural exhibitions, and a bazaar. You can be drinking a mango lassi from the Indian food booth one minute, then watching a Dutch clog dance the next. It's a whirlwind of activity with there always being something to see, taste, and hear. It's a good time for the whole family.
Flint Hills Family Festival (Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., 651-224-4222) is sponsored by the Ordway Center, and it's cram-packed with exciting performances from artists from all over the world. It also has interactive activities that will be fun for everyone, including music and dance with the audience joining in. There will be an outdoor art installation of really big white bunnies, and the festival will close with an outdoor dance party.
Grand Old Day (Grand Avenue, 763-232-7355 (operations tent)) is the unofficial kick-off to summer for St. Paulites. 30 blocks of Grant Avenue are closed for a energetic, fun-filled day of activities, food, and a big ol' parade. Some of the different areas include the Family Fun District, the Grand Market with works by several artists, the Sports and Wellness District, and the Entertainment District.
India Fest (State Capitol, 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., 651-321-3421) celebrates the vibrant traditions, foods, and other cultural aspects of India with a full day festival that is free to the public. There will be dance performances by nationally-renowned MN Indian dance groups, joyful Bollywood music, delicious food provided by local Indian restaurants, and so much more.
Lowertown Blues & Funk Festival (Mears Park, 221 5th St. E, 651-247-7234) started in 2003 as the Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues Festival because who doesn't like BBQ and blues? It's gone through many changes and ended up at Mears Park in 2013 where it's been ever since. Bring your cooler and lawn chair, and enjoy listening to the blues.
Music in Mears (Mears Park, 221 5th St. E, 651-248-0857) is celebrating its 15th anniversary and is proud to offer live music in the summer for Downtown St. Paulites (in Mears Park, naturally). What could be better than soaking up a live performance while sitting in nature? The performances are free to the public.
Saint Paul Winter Carnival (429 Landmark Center, 75 W 5th St., 651-223-7400) has been delighting Minnesotans since 1886. Most of the events are at the Landmark Center and in nearby Rice Park. There are dozens of family-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy, and it's a celebration of winter in a very Minnesotan way. It features parades, a winter run, a treasure hunt, and the iconic ice palace that is the talk of the town. When the weather gets cold, you can warm up with fun activities and a hot beverage here.
Summer Beer Dabbler (CHS Field, 360 N Broadway St., 651-528-8752) is all about the craft beer, of course. This will be the 10th annual Dabbler with over 120 breweries giving out over 350 kinds of beers, and there will be ballpark food to pair with your beer (it's being held at the home of the Saint Paul Saints). There will be live music and other entertainment as well.
Twin Cities Jazz Festival (Mears Park, 221 5th St. E) has humble roots as a one-day free jazz event back in 1999. What started as the dream of two local jazz promoters grew in fits and starts from that day. 3,000 people attended that event, and now, it's expanded to a three-day festival with hundreds of musicians. In 2016, over 350 Minnesotan artists were involved at 30 different venues. There were also roughly 150 youth who also performed that year. If you love jazz, this is definitely the festival for you.
As you might expect, there are plenty of ways to get to and around Downtown. They include the Metro Transit bus lines, and you can get all the routes here. If you prefer to travel by light rail, you can hop on the Green Line, and it'll get you there.
Creative Arts Secondary School (360 Colborne St., 651-767-8100) is a school for students in grades 6 - 12 who are passionate about both academics and arts. CASS offers curriculum in all kinds of arts--visual, media, performing, technical, literary, and dance as well. The students participate in activities ranging from open mics to art shows to artist residencies. CASS encourages and nurtures their students' artistic visions while maintaining a high standard of academics as well.
Global Language Institute (340 Cedar St., Suite 25, 651-209-3525) offers intensive English programs as well as other adult and youth programs in a supportive and friendly atmosphere. They are committed to helping their students succeed, and they have a highly-qualified staff who have been doing just that since 1990.
Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (16 W 5th St., 651-290-2225) is a school for students in grades 9 - 12 who are interested in becoming professional artists. SPCPA holds their students to a high academic standard while providing them with a safe environment in which to take artistic risks and to explore their creative natures. They provide classes in performance, theater, music, vocals, dance, and more.
St. Paul Preparatory School (380 Jackson St., Suite 100, 651-288-4606) is a private college prep high school for students in grades 9 - 12. It was opened in 2003, and it is an AdvancED accredited school. Its students run the gamut from students whose English is limited to those who thirst for a demanding and rigorous academic workload. The staff believes in a global outlook and in diversity, and they prepare their students to live and work in an international world.