Everything you need to know about America’s ‘Twin Cities’ Minneapolis Saint Paul

Why visit one city when you can see two?

That’s the thinking behind the so-called “Twin Cities” concept of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in the US Midwest’s state of ­Minnesota.

Collectively known as MSP, Minneapolis is bigger and glitzier, while Saint Paul, despite being Minnesota’s capital, is quieter with its own distinctive charms.

Both have lively nightlife, a thriving food and drink scene and quick access to America’s great outdoors.

Throw in a laid-back, friendly vibe dubbed ­“Minnesota Nice” and you’ve got a winning formula for ­travellers who fancy a change from Florida and New York.

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Plus, Aer Lingus now flies to ­Minneapolis from Dublin with connections from UK airports including Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and ­Edinburgh.

Minnesota is nicknamed “Land of 10,000 lakes”, but it actually has 11,842, the largest and most famous being Lake Superior.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy it, from pedalos to kayaking and fishing. Built on the Mississippi, Minneapolis itself has an ­abundance of parks and open water.

It’s a place for a culture fix too, with $500million spent on its arts scene by donors during the last 13 years alone.

Minneapolis is also home to the impressive Guthrie Theatre and the Orpheum, which recently staged the smash-hit Broadway show Hamilton.

Downtown has more than a dozen major art galleries and museums within a few blocks of each other, including the Minneapolis ­Institute of Art.

The Mill City Museum, which explores the industrial history of the city, manages to make flour sound interesting, has stunning views from the rooftop balcony, and even a Great Glass Elevator in the spirit of Roald Dahl’s Charlie Bucket.

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Minneapolis might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of music, but it has produced some incredible talent over the years.

Prince would be its most famous son and there are plenty of others.

Garage rockers The Hold Steady’s lead singer Craig Finn, Grant Hart of legendary alternative pioneers Husker Du, and more recently disco diva Lizzo cut her teeth on the local scene.

The city’s enthusiasm for music is obvious as you wander around, from the giant Times They Are A-Changin’ mural of Bob Dylan by Eduardo Kobra, to other building-size art pieces.

The other thing that catches your eye is the rather wonderful Skyway System, 10 miles of first-floor pedestrian ­footbridges that connect dozens of ­buildings Downtown.

There’s a subway-style map showing all the shops, restaurants and workplaces you can get to but as a visitor it’s fun to just meander through the ­corridors and see where you end up.

All that walking will leave you pretty hungry and you can’t come to America without talking about food.

The Twin Cities’ most famous invention is the Juicy Lucy, a cheeseburger stuffed with cheese.

Like all great local specialities every restaurant does its own version, and there’s heated debate about who came up with the idea first.

Then there are the mighty fried cheese curds, the kind of bar snack that takes years off your life but worth every bite.

You’ll find these everywhere you go, but Shamrocks bar in Saint Paul has a pretty fine example.

If you fancy something more sophisticated, Loews Hotel offers an extravagant 12-course tasting menu that comes up with some amazing things to do with mushrooms.

The hotel itself is an ­excellent choice, it’s modern in design and perfectly placed in Downtown ­opposite First Avenue for a night out.

Like many American cities, ­Minneapolis has been gripped by the craft beer trend.

Keg and Case in Saint Paul is an impressive marketplace on the grounds of Schmidt Brewery, which offers a wide range of food, drink and trinket shops.

The brewery itself has been converted into artists’ lofts, with a bee-themed spa recently opened.

Alternatively Surly’s Brewing Company provides hipster-friendly canned beers and tours of the site for people who know India pale ale from a Russian stout.

For ­dedicated consumers there’s only one place to visit – the Mall of America.

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The ­country’s largest shopping centre boasts dozens of staggering ­statistics – like if you only spent 10 minutes in every one of its 555 stores it would take you 86 hours to see them all.

But there’s far more to the Mall than just shops.

It has its own theme park in the middle with several rollercoasters, and an aquarium with a shark tunnel so you can walk safely though the predators.

People come from around the world to see it, and they certainly make it easy to visit – it’s 10 minutes from the airport, has its own light rail stop and is close to the Hyatt Regency Bloomington hotel.

Hardcore shoppers out there might want to think about bringing a second suitcase, empty on arrival but packed to bursting going back.

Paisley Park’s all a bit beige

Some musicians are synonymous with their home cities – the Beatles and Liverpool, Nirvana and Seattle…

But nothing about Minneapolis screams “tiny Purple sex god”. Nevertheless, not only was Prince from here, he stayed all his life.

He sold 100 million records and much of his work was penned at Paisley Park, a $10million compound in Chanhassen, Minneapolis, that served as both his music studio and home.

Now run as a museum it offers tours, but when you arrive, it couldn’t be less like what you would expect; a large, white, anonymous-looking shell that says “boring research lab” more than it does “libidinous funk machine”.

It’s obviously a must-see for fans but in truth it’s a rather sanitised experience for someone who lived such a fascinating life.

But if you view it as a studio tour with iconic memorabilia you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Aer Lingus flies daily to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, via Dublin, from UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Fares start at £229 one-way. aerlingus.com

Rooms at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel start at £115 a night. loewshotels.com

Rooms at the Hyatt Regency Bloomington hotel start at £92 a night. hyatt.com

Tourist info: minneapolis.org, visitsaintpaul.com

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