Six dollars and a spirit of discovery are all you need to explore the Twin Cities, thanks to the new Metro Green Line light-rail addition.
Connecting the hearts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, this train makes it easy for visitors to enjoy a weekend’s worth of museums, sports, music and food without ever touching the car keys. The $900 million project represents the state’s largest public works initiative to date.
For residents, the line inspired some $2.5 billion worth of housing, retail and office developments, as well as renovations to destinations like the 1920s Union Depot in downtown Saint Paul.
For visitors, the line provides easy access to the classic Twin Cities attractions, like Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall, plus an invitation to explore off-the-radar neighborhoods.
Below is how to make the Green Line your ticket to the Twin Cities.
Heart of Minneapolis
Target Field, Warehouse/Hennepin Avenue, Nicollet Mall
The three stops at the western end of the Green Line sit in Minneapolis’ bass-thumping, baseball-smacking, burger-slinging downtown. The six blocks between the Target Field and Nicollet Mall stations are jam-packed with things to do.
Who comes here? On a warm summer night, it feels like everyone.
Families fill Target Field to see the Minnesota Twins play baseball and to nosh sausages from local deli Kramarczuk’s. Fans without tickets climb to rooftop bars at places like Cowboy Jacks to watch the game on the big-screen and hear the crack of the bat and the crowd’s roar.
If music is more your style, join students from the nearby University of Minnesota at the gritty, indie-focused First Avenue (just call it First Ave) to discover new bands, or see big-name acts at Target Center.
Smack Shack dishes boiled lobster near Target Field.
For dining, there are more worthy restaurants than we can list; we especially like the lush lobster rolls at Smack Shack; the crisp-crusted meatball, ricotta and garlic pizza from Black Sheep; and the rum-rubbed pork ribs from Butcher and the Boar.
On mild evenings, the patios of craft-beer producer Fulton Brewery and expansive Kieran’s Irish Pub are popular hangouts. (Kieran’s often has live music playing, too.) The super-luxe Loews Minneapolis Hotel sits in the heart of it all, with views that show off the city.
The University of Minnesota campus
West Bank, East Bank, Stadium Village, Prospect Park
You’ll find the university’s best summer attractions around the East Bank station. The Green Line runs under the wing of a surreal metal castle: the Weisman Art Museum, a free museum housing works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Roy Lichtenstein and Marsden Hartley. If modern isn’t your speed, go old-school at the midcentury Bell Museum of Natural History, where a touch-and-see gallery lets visitors hold a mammoth tusk and see how they measure up to a Kodiak bear. Classic collegiate scenes surround the museums: Young adults lounging on long stretches of green grass or playing Frisbee around giant sculptures. (Some three dozen pieces of public art dot the East Bank and the West Bank.)
Students congregate in the triangle created by University Avenue, Washington Avenue and Oak Street, where casual eateries beckon. Punch Neapolitan Pizza and My Burger dish their namesake eats; Stub and Herbs serves pub food in a casual bar setting; and ethnic restaurants dish Afghan, Vietnamese and Korean meals.
At The Commons Hotel, a book butler delivers good reads to your room and plush beds encourage lingering.
Raymond Creative Enterprise Zone
Westgate, Raymond Avenue
This Saint Paul stop has the slightly urban-gritty feel of a Neighborhood Coming Back. Stop here to dine at Caffe Biaggio, a classic Italian restaurant in the shell of an old diner just half a block from the train stop. (The spaghetti carbonara is heavy with smoky bacon and cream.) Then shop in some of the neighborhood’s vintage stores, including MidModMen and Friends.
Victoria Street, Dale Street
This neighborhood in Saint Paul has long been an enclave for immigrants. In the early 1900s, it was German and French expats; today, it trends toward Vietnamese and Thai, and the eateries and markets reflect that heritage. It’s unpolished and urban, but locals know it’s the best place for authentic cuisine. iPho by Saigon makes giant bowls of Vietnamese pho: rice noodles, veggies and meats swimming in broth.
Heart of Saint Paul
Capitol/Rice Street, Robert Street, 10th Street, Central, Union Depot
In capital city Saint Paul, the Green Line’s eastern terminal sits outside Union Depot, a restored Beaux Arts building that’s as much community center as transit hub. (Transfer to buses and catch Amtrak trains, or take advantage of a bike-share program here.) Glittering chandeliers, transportation-theme murals and a restaurant have brought life to the once-overlooked space.
Three blocks away, peaceful Mears Park fills a city block at the heart of Lowertown, a residential neighborhood full of laid-back restaurants. Locals like The Bulldog bar for shuffleboard, burgers and Belgian brews; Barrio bills itself as a tequila bar, but it’s a standout taqueria, too.
The 10th Street and Central stations grant access to a pocket of densely packed cultural institutions: the Minnesota History Center, the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota and the newly expanded Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, where the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Opera perform.
They all sit in the shadow of the Minnesota State Capitol, closest to the Capitol station. Free tours of the building end May 18, when the legislature returns to session, but you can always see the rooftop quadriga (a statue of four horses pulling a chariot).
Chenille chairs and down comforters ensure a comfy stay at elegant The Saint Paul Hotel.
Quick facts about riding the train:
Fare Ticket kiosks at the train stations take cash or credit card.
Speed Expect to spend about 45 minutes on the rails to get from Target Field to Union Depot.
Frequency Trains arrive at stations about every 10 minutes.
Navigation The Twin Cities have two light-rail train lines: The Green Line and the Blue Line. You can transfer between them at the Warehouse/Hennepin Avenue or Target Field stations and take the Blue Line to the airport or the Mall of America.
What it’s like Bright and clean. Expect standing-room-only congestion during rush hour, but you should be able to grab a seat on daytime and evening rides.