City Living Guide: What is it like to live in St. Paul, MN?
Author: The HOMEiA Team & Gloria Russell
St. Paul, Minnesota is full of tradition, culture and opportunity! You may have heard references to the history of the city, tales of river life, winter festivities and ice castles, MN Wild hockey and educational options. This historic city has that and much more. It’s a beloved hometown for many with distinct neighborhoods, employment opportunity, dining and nightlife. In this article, we’ll discuss highlights for Saint Paul residents and guests regarding standard of living, housing, education, business, healthcare, weather and recreation. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents:
- 1. Large city with easy access
- 2. Diverse population and notable landmarks
- 3. Distinct seasons and natural beauty
- 4. High living standard and excellent services
- 5. Excellent healthcare options
- 6. Educational opportunities for everyone
- 7. Job growth and low unemployment
- 8. Cultural center and activities for all
- 9. Pros and cons for living in St. Paul
- 10. The City of Neighborhoods
- 11. Real estate options for all ages
- 12. A trusted realtor can help
1. Large city with easy access
The midwestern state of Minnesota borders Canada to the north, Iowa to the south, Lake Superior and Wisconsin to the east, and the Dakotas to the west. Its rich history dates to Native Americans, then fur traders, voyageurs and early European settlers. The state has a magnificent blend of forests, prairies, lakes and rivers, and of course, the beauty and splendor of its four distinct seasons. The state’s largest metropolitan area is the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Saint Paul is the second most populous city in the state.
Situated on North America’s longest river, the Mississippi, St. Paul was an early hub of activity as a commercial center for river trade, railroad access to the west coast, and stockyards and meat packing plants. Today, the international airport efficiently facilitates global travel for business and leisure. The city offers bus and light rail services, and residents also drive, walk and bike.
2. Diverse population and notable landmarks
With a population of well over 300,000 residents, St. Paul, originally home to mainly European settlers, is now home to a diverse population with a wide array of cultural activities and interests. There is a real sense of community among residents, and it’s typical to see the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area at the top of the “best of” lists for healthy living, exceptional healthcare and job opportunities.
Among the noteworthy landmarks is the spectacular Capitol building, located in St. Paul’s North End and completed in 1904, with its white marble and granite exterior, radiant “Quadriga” gold sculpture with the six marble “Virtues” below it. Other examples of note are the stunning Beaux Arts architecture of the Cathedral of Saint Paul, the Victorian Alexander Ramsey House, now a treasured museum, and the James J. Hill House of the late 1800s, the largest mansion, now offering tours and known as the Downton Abbey of Minnesota.
3. Distinct seasons and natural beauty
The beauty of Minnesota is in its four seasons. In St. Paul, summers are pleasant, although there can be those extremely high temps that send most in search of air conditioning. After a long winter, Minnesotans love their flowers, and you’ll see blooming plants along the boulevards, on balconies, patios and front steps.
In fall, families make trips to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch and search for the route with the best fall colors. With cold weather on its way, residents get their homes and cars ready for winter conditions and check their supply of winter clothing, boots and gloves.
Winter is a beautiful sight in Minnesota with crisp snowfall and frost on the tree branches. It can be the setting for unusual activities like the polar plunge or downhill mattress races as well as typical activities like skiing, snowmobiling and skating. Lakes freeze over and become the destination for ice fishing and skating. Roads get icy and travel conditions are iffy until the city’s plows clear and sand the streets. Many a pickup truck sports a blade on the front, and it’s all quite an efficient production.
As winter comes to an end, spring shows signs of new growth in an assortment of green. The birds return with their cheery songs, and temperatures start to rise. Residents plant flowers and gardens and are happy to store their shovels and snow brushes until the next year. Once again, bikes, cycles and boats come out of storage, and Minnesotans are on the lookout for springtime entertainment.
4. High living standard and excellent services
The cost of living and living standards in St. Paul are typically above average, and generally, residents seem to appreciate the higher standards evident in quality education, parks, well-maintained roadways and excellent healthcare. The city is home to families, career professionals, business owners, students and retirees, many choosing condos and single-family housing. There’s a sense of community as residents enjoy the river, lakes, trails, taverns and restaurants.
5. Excellent healthcare options
United Hospital is the largest hospital in the east metro and home of the John Nasseff Neuroscience Institute and Nasseff CyberKnife. You’ll also find Gillette’s Children’s Hospital, Regions Hospital, Bethesda Hospital with its long-term acute care and St. Joseph’s Hospital. There are many clinics available in St. Paul and its suburbs, and St. Paul is a short distance from the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Medical Center locations.
6. Educational opportunities for everyone
For families, St. Paul’s public school district is one of the largest in the state and maintains an excellent reputation. There are Head Start and early childhood programs in addition to its K-12 and recreational programs. The system’s highly diverse student population speaks over 100 languages and dialects, and many are English language learners. Of the more than 100 private school options in the city, more than half of those schools have a religious affiliation, primarily Catholic or Lutheran.
St. Paul is home to many universities and colleges: University of Northwestern, Hamline University, Macalester College, Concordia University, College of St. Catherine (St. Kate’s), University of St. Thomas, Bethel University, Lutheran Seminary, St. Paul College, Metropolitan State University campuses and a University of Minnesota campus.
Continuing education is available in a variety of settings: at the Science Museum of Minnesota, within the library system and in the community education and adult enrichment system in St. Paul and its suburbs. The St. Paul Public Library system has a variety of locations, and the privately funded James J. Hill Reference Library in downtown St. Paul is a beautiful location for business resources, learning and social events.
7. Job growth and low unemployment
Major industries are manufacturing, food and hospitality, healthcare, professional services, banking, retail and educational services. A few of St. Paul’s well-known employers are 3M, Ecolab, Securian Financial, Travelers, Allina Health and Lawson Software. Employment opportunities continue to grow while unemployment rates remain low. Average commute times are reasonable within the city and to the suburbs.
The suburbs also offer additional employment options within a manageable distance. Surrounding the city, you’ll find the cities of North St. Paul, South St Paul, West St Paul, St. Paul Park, Woodbury, Maplewood, Little Canada, White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights and Roseville—all with additional employment, residential, shopping, recreational and social opportunities.
8. Cultural center and activities for all
What does St. Paul have to offer for recreation and inspiration? The city claims 26 miles of Mississippi riverfront, which is more than any other city along its 2,348-mile path winding south to the Gulf of Mexico. There’s opportunity for hiking, biking and relaxing along the river and the bluffs, enjoying Raspberry Island or attending festivities on Harriet Island. The city prides itself on its parks and natural resources, and fishing, rowing, boating or canoeing are fair-weather favorites.
Another family favorite is spending the day at the admission-free Como Zoo, with its tropical-themed Conservatory, Como Town amusement park for the youngsters, and its many gardens including the Japanese Gardens with its acclaimed Lantern Lighting Festival each August. Proximity to world-renowned Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota offers another excursion for shopping, dining, entertainment and themed amusement park for kids of all ages.
For the performing arts fan, the Ordway hosts the Minnesota Opera, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and a variety of music, theatre and dance events. The Fitzgerald Theater, named after the American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was purchased from Minnesota Public Radio in March 2019 by First Avenue to continue its mission of entertainment excellence. Other popular theaters include Park Square Theater, Palace Theatre and History Theatre.
St. Paul is also home to many fine museums including Minnesota Museum of American Art, Minnesota Transportation Museum, Minnesota History Center and Minnesota Children’s Museum. The Science Museum of Minnesota, with its impressive views of the Mississippi River, attracts families and students for continuing education, interactive learning, special traveling exhibits, and bigger-than-life films at the Omnitheater.
Sports fans descend on the Xcel Energy Center to cheer on the Minnesota Wild professional hockey team and return for their favorite concerts and events. The beloved St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team plays at the CHS Field in Lowertown.
You can take in a St. Patrick’s Day parade popular with its Irish population and those who love the shamrocks, music and merriment, the Grand Old Day parade during festivities on Grand Avenue in June, and the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta in the West Side neighborhood. Since 1886, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival has been a family-friendly tradition with ice carvings, snow sculptures, games, medallion hunt, Vulcan antics, parades, fireworks, music and more.
9. Pros and cons for living in St. Paul
Each large city will have its pros and cons. Let’s discuss possible negatives, which depend on your priorities, personality and preferences. Taxes could be viewed as a negative. There are income taxes and sales taxes although Minnesota does not charge sales tax on clothing, groceries or prescriptions. Property taxes vary by county, and Ramsey County is higher than the average but not nearly the highest.
Some people might view parking as a negative as it can be an expensive hassle. Fortunately, there are options. You can choose public transportation or carpooling, or possibly walk or bike to school or work. Another urban negative can be incidents of crime. We know that crimes can happen anywhere, and cities have their own special breed of criminal activity. You can check police reports to find out what is happening in the neighborhoods of interest.
Minnesota residents experience extremes in weather in the summer and winter. Many people understand that the winters are cold and temperatures dip below zero with wind chills making it feel much worse. Driving can be hazardous until roads are cleared. Blizzard conditions happen, sometimes for days on end.
Summers also can produce extremes, with temperatures well into the 90s (Fahrenheit) and even reaching 100+ degrees. The weather can be strikingly hot and humid. Tornados, straight line winds, hail storms and flooding are also among Minnesota weather concerns.
Yes, winters can be a challenge, but mainly, Minnesotans don’t let winter weather get in the way of work or activities. The roads are cleared expertly and quickly, and people go to work and school even in bad weather conditions. They also enjoy winter sports and socializing enough to bundle up and get out in it anyway.
So, what’s on the good side of all those negatives? Plenty. The Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area is consistently rated as a leader for healthy living, happy citizens and opportunity for all ages, with good reason. The area supports a healthy lifestyle for all ages, with outdoor activities and fresh food from the farmers market. Typical of the Midwest, residents are friendly, helpful and a fair representation of “Minnesota Nice.”
St. Paul has a great educational system, a beautiful, historic downtown area, clean streets and gorgeous parks, a host of neighborhoods and the best in cultural experiences. Compared to Minneapolis, its twin city on the opposite side of the river, St. Paul appears to be a bit quieter and more conventional. Getting around in the city is convenient with its skyway system, consisting of enclosed bridges connecting buildings to keep people out of the traffic and bad weather.
As a commercial center with a strong economy, St. Paul has ample employment and educational opportunities. Medical options include some of the finest in the region. You’ll find ample shopping, dining, theater, sports and entertainment. With the Mississippi River, eight lakes and over 100 parks, residents can enjoy the outdoors in any season. Housing is available in all styles and prices, and you can find senior housing and assisted living options for those who are ready for senior amenities.
10. The City of Neighborhoods
St. Paul is known as “The City of Neighborhoods” with its many, unique neighborhoods, each with its own heritage and cultural presence. Among these, you’ll find the East Side, Summit Avenue, North End, Highland Park, Selby at Snelling, Como Park, Lowertown, the charming Cathedral Hill, entertainment center of Downtown, cultural festivities at Frogtown and Rondo, boutiques and dining at Grand Avenue, the Latino West Side with dining and cultural events, the artsy Creative Enterprise Zone, and the West 7th Street restaurants, breweries and taverns. There’s something for everyone!
11. Real estate options for all ages
The St. Paul real estate market offers single-family homes, multi-family housing, condos, investment opportunities and commercial real estate options. If you are considering a home purchase in St. Paul, there are a wide variety of homes, neighborhoods and pricing. The city attracts families, young professionals, students, a dedicated workforce and retirees.
The river, parks and beautiful bluffs provide a welcome vista, and the many neighborhood choices provide a comfortable setting with a sense of community. Whether you are downsizing or looking for more space, St. Paul can offer the ideal location. If your preference is a quiet neighborhood or an active, energetic district, there’s a locality waiting for you.
While getting better acquainted with the area, its resources and residents, you’ll see everything from luxury homes to economical housing. Your realtor and mortgage professional will be valued resources. As you get closer to a buying decision, you can take comfort in knowing that Minnesota real estate tax remains close to the national average and property values have continued to increase.
12. A trusted realtor can help
Especially if you are a first-time home buyer, take the time needed to interview realtors to find one that will accommodate your needs and look out for your best interests. Ask trusted friends and colleagues for referrals to realtors who have served them well, check HOMEiA.com or online reviews. Buying a home is an important decision and a large monetary commitment. Your realtor will provide the knowledge and expertise necessary to make an informed decision that will benefit you throughout your homeownership years.
Not only do realtors understand the residential options and market values, they are also aware of future changes coming to the neighborhood that might influence your decision. Mortgage rates are still favorable for home buyers, and housing is generally affordable. Spring typically sees a surge in real estate activity and, in Minnesota, even winter can be an advantageous time of year to make a purchase while competition is a bit lower.
There are more important factors in choosing a REAL real estate professional such as: personality, experience, reputation and local expertise. Here’s how to choose the right buyer’s agent or broker for yourself.
Now that you know more about St. Paul and what it might be like to live there, you can look further into the neighborhoods that appeal to you and check out options for education, employment and recreation in the surrounding area. The Capital City offers a wide range of urban pursuits, nature at its best and family-friendly activities.
If you are thinking of buying or selling a house in St. Paul, have a serious discussion with a trusted real estate agent to make sure you consider all factors. It’s a decision that will affect your finances and lifestyle and worth all the time you put into it.
Best of luck with your future transaction and homeownership! If you have enjoyed this article and learned more about what to consider when buying a house in St. Paul, please share it with a friend who might also benefit. Thank you!