Useful Notes: Twin Cities


St. Paul
"Hey, look at that. Twin Cities. That's the IDS Building, the big glass one. Tallest skyscraper in the Midwest - after the uh, Sears, in, uh, Chicago, or John Hancock Building, whatever."

Minneapolis and Saint Paul are the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Minneapolis is the most populous city in the state and situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, while state capital St. Paul sits right across the rivernote  on the east bank and is the second-largest city. Minneapolis is the county seat of Hennepin County while St. Paul is the seat of Ramsey County. This is mildly important for people who live there.

Minneapolis and St. Paul, and many of their suburbs, are known as "The Cities" by inhabitants of Minnesota and neighboring states. Minneapolis and St. Paul essentially function as one large metropolitan area, hence the name "Twin Cities". However, residents are trying to move away from this image and promote each city separately. St. Paul is slightly smaller and viewed as very friendly, clean, blue-collar, and family-oriented. Minneapolis is younger and trendier, and contains more of the Cities' art scene. Despite the differences, the Cities do function as one metro area.

Despite the Twin Cities' reputation for dowdy Midwesternness, the area has the largest Hmong and Somali populations in the United States, but you never seem to see them on TV. It is the 12th largest media market, has the second-most theatre seats per capita of any metro area in the country, ranks eighth on the list of metropolitan areas with the largest percentage of GLBT residents (with Minneapolis itself in fourth on the list of top cities, by percent), and is one of the five main concentrations of neopagans in the US (the others being San Francisco, New Orleans, New York City, and Salem, Massachusetts), leading to the nickname "Paganistan". But again, not something you'd hear every day.

Perhaps its most famous landmark is the Mall of America in the suburb of Bloomington, the second-largest indoor mall in the US and the most visited mall in the world.

Many musicians are from or got their start there, including Prince and his associates, Bob Dylan, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, and Hüsker Dü. A number of Speculative Fiction authors also live in or near the Twin Cities, including Neil Gaiman, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Patricia C. Wrede.

In fiction:

  • Much of Fargo actually takes place in the Twin Cities. Very little actually happens in Fargo, and although the murders that set the main action off occur in Brainerd, most of the interesting stuff happens in Minneapolis.
  • Jingle All the Way
    • Just for the record, herds of wild caribou do not roam the suburbs....
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show. To this day, the corner where Mary tosses her hat in the opening has a statue of MTM.
  • The Mighty Ducks (the live-action movies, not the cartoon). Each movie has a sequence designed to show off the sights, usually with our heroes in-line skating through them. /
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 originated on a UHF channel here.
    • There are a lot of Bilingual Bonus jokes for locals who get the references to local institutions.
  • Jack O'Neill of Stargate SG-1 was born here, and he maintains a cabin in the North Woods, near a lake that, until the season eight finale, didn't have any fish in it.
  • The early-nineties cult TV series Get a Life presumably takes place somewhere in the Twin Cities, as Chris Elliott's paperboy character is seen delivering copies of the Pioneer-Press (Saint Paul's local newspaper) during the opening credits.
  • Coach: While most of the cast lives near a fictional university, Christine lives in downtown Minneapolis.
    • At the time the show was on, living downtown in a high-rise as Christine is depicted was fairly unusual for someone of her presumed income. More likely she would have lived in a posh suburb.
    • The hunting/fishing/going to the cabin leisure activities of Coach and his staff are actually fairly believable.
  • Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was from St. Paul, and there are a few hints that Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang live here as well. You can also find 50 statues of the characters on the streets and in some of the public buildings.
  • Purple Rain is actually fairly accurate, given a bit of Television Geography. Not all that surprising, as the film is semi-autobiographical.
    • Lake Minnetonka is an actual lake that sprawls through several western suburbs of Minneapolis, including Minnetonka, Wayzata (which does not sound a thing like it's spelled), Minnetrista, Mound, and Shoreview.
      • The closest approximation of the pronunciation of Wayzata's name is "Why-zeh-ta."
  • A Prairie Home Companion is based in the Twin Cities, with most episodes being broadcast from the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul or (less commonly) from Minneapolis, from the State Theatre (here on Hennepin Avenue), being distributed by Minnesota Public Radio. Some of the skits, particularly "Guy Noir", explicitly take place there.
  • Emma Bull's War for the Oaks makes spectacular use of Twin Cities locations. Another of her novels, Bone Dance, is also set there, although since it's an After the End story, it's easy to miss.
  • The Betsy the Vampire Queen books by Mary-Janice Davidson.
  • Wapsi Square takes its name from a fictitious Minneapolis neighborhood. Creator Paul "Pablo" Taylor is a Twin Cities resident himself, and there are occasional gags about the region's changeable climate.
  • Juno is set in St. Cloud, a satellite town about an hour's drive away from the Cities. The characters make many trips to the Cities.
  • The students from Survival of the Fittest Version 4 came from a fictional St. Paul high school.
  • X Middle School from Fillmore! is located in an unnamed suburb of the Twin Cities
  • The webcomic Alpha Shade takes place in the Twin Cities. (At least, the parts of the comic that don't take place in another world do.)
  • John Sandford's novels - the Prey, Kidd and Virgil Flowers series of novels by almost all take place in the Twin Cities - and the ones that don't prominently feature characters from the cities.
  • After Last Season. No, really.
  • Villain Protagonist of Young Adult resides in Minneapolis.

"The Trope Cities":

  • Abandoned Area: Most notably the Landmark Brewery in St. Paul.
  • Bizarro World: You can literally live on either Twin City for most of your life and be completely and utterly unfamiliar with the neighborhoods of the other.
  • Goddamn Bats: The Cities are extremely bike-friendly. Cyclists consider outstate drivers to be Goddamn Bats, and outstate drivers feel the same way about cyclists.
    • Pedestrians in the city (and they do exist) find cyclists to be pests. Similarly, in the suburbs, drivers find cyclists who ride in the half-foot-wide gutters instead of on the empty sidewalks to be a nuisance.
  • Grim Up North: More or less the American counterpart to Oop North, between the trustworthy people and the harsh, bitter winters; some states entirely close down for an inch of snow, while Minnesotans still have to go to work with a half-foot, and the streets are all but clean 24 hours later.
  • Hipster: St. Paul and Minneapolis are the largest cities in the most hipster state in the union. They contain an estimated 90% of the state's hipster population; while individuals may be glimpsed in any largish town within twenty miles of I-35 or in spontaneous visits to vacation-town craft/kitsch galleries, and Duluth also contains a significant hipster population, Minneapolis is a place where vast herds of hipsters roam free and unchecked. In particular, they have a very high density near the Walker Art Center.
  • Malevolent Architecture: The Ikea building next to the Mall of America is notorious for its layout. They lure you in to the top floor for the food, then use a series of slopes, repetitive turns, and misleading signs to turn a five-minute walk into a half-hour maze.
  • Mind Screw: The names of the neighborhoods, particularly in St. Paul.
    • Under a railroad bridge on I-94 is the footbridge to nowhere. There is a footbridge that starts at a solid wall, runs 14" under an active railroad bridge, and ends at a solid wall. Boggles the mind.
    • It is not unheard of for a straight road to be called Street One, until it hits a crossroad, at which point Street One jumps a block over and the straight road continues on as Street Two.
    • The Twin City's urban planners really love long continuous streets with a single name. This does not play well with those 10,000 lakes. If you find yourself looking for (say) 1500 Elm it is quite common to drive down Elm & pass 1200, then 1300, then hit a dead end with a lake in front of you & the only way to go around is to go back. 1301 Elm will be found on the opposite side of the lake (if you can get there), and the numbers will continue normally.
  • Minnesota Nice
  • Non-Indicative Name: The West Side is in Southern St. Paul. See Mind Screw.
    • Similarly, West St. Paul is to the EAST of St. Paul.
    • And the West Side and West St. Paul are completely different things.
    • There are four different streets named Hennepin Avenue, and three named University, none of which have anything at all to do with each other. Visitors to the Cities are strongly cautioned to use a GPS or get detailed directions.
  • Planet of Hats: The stereotype of being blonde, Swedish, Lutheran, and polite. But it's not true. Some of the Swedes are brunettes.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Most visitors won't go any further north than where the light rail ends.
  • Small Town Rivalry: Big Time...
    • Minneapolis Aquatennial — St Paul Winter Carnival.
    • Minneapolis Millers — St Paul Saints. Both teams folded in 1960, with the arrival of the Twins in 1961; the Saints were reestablished in 1994 and are one of the most successful and popular independent minor league baseball teams in the country.
    • This is the reason that all of the four major league teams are named for the state instead of the city, even though three of the four (the Twins, the Vikings, note  and the Timberwolves) play in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Wild plays in St Paul.
    • There are two full WFTDA roller derby leagues in the Twin Cities. The older league, the Minnesota RollerGirls, train and bout in St. Paul's Roy Wilkins Auditorium, while the younger team, the North Star Roller Girls, train in a warehouse in Nordeast but bout at the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds.
    • There's a freaking full-sized cathedral in each city (although one is called a Basilica due to proximity issues).
    • One reason the Minnesota State Fair grounds are in a "city" between the cities is so neither Minneapolis nor St Paul could claim that prize.
    • Interstate 35 splits into I-35E and I-35W to go through both cities, one of only two remaining sets of suffixed Interstates in the US. note  The exit numbers follow I-35E despite through trucks being directed onto I-35W.
  • Theme Naming: A major street in Minneapolis is called Lyndale Avenue. Proceeding west from Lyndale, the streets go Aldrich, Bryant, Colfax, Dupont . . . and so on until Zenith, at which point they start again with Abbott. This continues for a total of at least seven alphabets, well into the suburbs.
    • Northeast Minneapolis ("Nordeast" to locals) was a major immigrant neighborhood in the early 1900s. To assist residents in studying for their citizenship test, north-south streets in Nordeast are named after the Presidents through Harding St. NE. Except there was already a Grant Street downtown, causing the street named after President Grant to be named Ulysses St. NE.
      • Kennedy St. NE runs east-west in an industrial area near East Hennepin Ave., and is not part of this naming scheme.