Honest Pros and Cons of Living in Minneapolis

living in minneapolis

Thinking about living in Minneapolis?

Finding honest feedback on what it’s actually like to live here isn’t easy. Most of the country imagines all of Minneapolis as as a permanently frozen Siberia, while most Minnesotans give biased answers one way or another.

Thankfully, we put together an honest list of the pros of Minneapolis living, while also keeping in mind some important cons that surprise many new residents.

Why should you trust our list? Well, we like to think we have a pretty unique perspective…

DiscoverTheCities.com founder, Sean, moved here in his 20s, and he lived all over the country before that. DTC co-founder, Lily, grew up here, but she also balanced out that perspective with frequent travel to nearly every U.S. state and over a dozen different countries.

We put our minds together, and now we’re sharing everything you need to know before moving here.

The Pros of Living in Minneapolis

Here are the pros of living in the Mini Apple.

1. The Cost of Living in Minneapolis

According to U.S. News & World Report, Minneapolis is the most populous metro area on their list of the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live, coming in at #21 overall. This is based on statistics which show Minneapolis residents spend just 21% of their household income on living expenses, which is quite low.

In other words, thanks to the city’s low cost of living, Minneapolis residents enjoy a lot of discretionary income and are able to save an above average portion of their earnings.

2. Delicious Food

If you are a foodie, you’ll love Minneapolis.

As the old joke goes, there’s not much do to during Minneapolis winters except eat and drink, and the city’s incredible food scene reflects that.

We’re still not sure whether that’s the true reason, but the city continues to be over-represented in James Beard award winners. Last year, Twin Cities chefs and restaurants were finalists in a staggering six of the 11 national categories.

And that’s just the high profile praise. For detailed lists of the best food around Minneapolis, check out some of our local guides:

3. An Incredible Craft Beer Scene

pros of living in minneapolis - breweries

Craft beer seems to be a trend everywhere, but its especially exploding in Minneapolis. There’s now a mind-blowing 81 different breweries located around the city.

The result is a brewery culture that’s interwoven into the city itself. From the prominent Grain Belt Beer sign, which has become a cultural landmark downtown, to the old Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul, which still dominates the city’s skyline with its rustic neon lights, this city loves its beer.

4. A Strong Job Market

The Minneapolis area has a ton of fortune 500 companies relative to the city’s population size.

The largest employer in downtown Minneapolis is Target, whose headquarters employs thousands of workers in the city. Hennepin Healthcare is the city’s second largest employer.

As far as industries, finance is especially well represented in Minneapolis. Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and Ameriprise Financial are all huge institutions with thousands of downtown employees.

Even more employers exist just outside the city. Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the nearby suburbs include United Healthcare, Best Buy, 3M, and General Mills, among many others.

5. Good Infrastructure

On a practical level, Minneapolis includes a lot of well-managed infrastructure which makes living here convenient.

  • Thanks to a large and well-designed highway network, traffic here usually isn’t bad, especially compared to other major cities.
  • Minneapolis has a major international airport. MSP is located very close to downtown and has affordable flights all over the world, so travel is convenient.
  • Hospitals are good, and there’s a lot of them. The world renown Mayo Clinic is also just an hour way, and its influence the quality of medical care in Minneapolis is obvious.
  • During winter, the city usually does a good job deploying plows at the first hint of snow. So despite the city’s reputation, winter weather is rarely a problem.

6. A Fantastic Park System with Tons of Nature

Most people don’t realize how much nature can be enjoyed in and around Minneapolis. In a recent survey completed by The Trust for Public Land, Minneapolis actually topped Washington D.C. for the best park system in the United States. (And has held that number one spot for four of the past five years.)
No doubt, this is a city packed with green space.
minnehaha falls minneapolis
Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis

The most obvious example is Minneapolis’s Chain of Lakes. This regional park includes three modest sized lakes, each with skyline views of downtown Minneapolis. The lakes are all connected by a long network of paved paths reserved for biking, skating, and jogging. While these paths are used year-round, they really come alive each summer, when the park transforms into a warm-weather paradise complete with beach-goers, kayakers, and free evening concerts.

Then there’s the Mississippi River. This giant cuts right through downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the shoreline is designated as a nationally protected corridor on both sides for 72 miles. The result is endless hiking and biking trails right along the river, no matter where you are in the Twin Cities.

And that’s just the start. All over the city are little pockets of greenery, just waiting to be discovered. The most drastic example of this would be Minnehaha Falls, a massive 50 ft. waterfall hidden in the middle of Minneapolis, but there’s literally hundreds of neighborhood parks and lakes around every turn. In fact, that recent survey found that over 98% of Minneapolis residents live within a 10 minute walk to a park.

7. Lake Life

If the readily available downtown nature wasn’t enough for you, Minnesota also happens to be the “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Minnesotans really take this to heart, and a huge part of the local culture involves weekend getaways to any number of those lakes.

It seems everybody knows somebody who owns or regularly rents a cabin “at the lake.” (Which of course could mean any number of different lakes in the area!) It’s not unusual for those people to host big gatherings for fishing, boating, and relaxing “at the cabin.”

8. Lots of Things to Do

Minnesotans love a good festival! That means all year round, you can certainly pack your calendar. It seems that on any given weekend, you’ll have your choice of 4-5 events or festivals.

In the summer, everyone gets outside and takes advantage of the good weather. The most obvious example of this is the Minnesota State Fair, one of the largest in the country, but there’s also endless music and art festivals, night markets, block parties, and more.

Minneapolis residents even stay busy in the winter, when people embrace the cold weather with outdoor ice sculptures, winter carnivals, and endless winter sports like skiing, snowmobiling, pond hockey, and ice fishing.

The Cons of Living in Minneapolis

Of course, Minneapolis isn’t perfect. You should certainly consider these negatives before you dive into living in Minneapolis.

1. Minneapolis Weather

The big one. You might have heard, but Minneapolis weather is COLD.

How cold?

Well, Minneapolis is legitimately one of the coldest metro areas on earth. (Fun fact: even Moscow, Russia and Anchorage, Alaska don’t get nearly as
cold as Minneapolis, although they do have us beat on the overall
length of Winter.)

Negative 20 to 30 degrees below zero does happen here, as you might have seen on the news. Those days are somewhat rare though. A normal winter’s day seems to be anywhere from zero to 20 degrees. BestPlaces.net has the following information on Minneapolis weather, which looks pretty accurate to us, if not a little on the warm side: 

minneapolis weather

Living here actually gives you a new scale of cold:

  • Freezing = you can feel your ear and nose hairs freeze. (-10 to -30+ degrees below zero)
  • Cold = It hurts. And you might die if you don’t go outside with a heavy duty jacket, gloves, and beanie/hat. (10 to -10 degrees farenheit)
  • Not too cold = You still need a heavy duty jacket. (10 to 30 degrees farenheit)
  • A nice day = You only need a light jacket. (30+ degrees farenheit)

Interesting though, most locals will tell you it’s not actually the temperatures that makes Minneapolis winter’s so brutal. More commonly, locals complain about the length of winter.

Minneapolis can snow any time from October to May, although the peak of the snowy season is definitely December to February.

In total, the city averages around 50 inches of snow per year. And while that’s certainly more than somewhere like Phoenix, Arizona, it’s mostly in line with most colder climate cities. The big difference being that snow in Minnesota tends to stick around, due to the freezing weather.

Surprisingly, the city gets average sunshine (about 200 days per year) although it certainly feels like the majority of overcast days happen during winter.

Once you do make it though the long winter though, it’s smooth sailing. The short Spring and Summer seasons are absolutely beautiful. Days above 90 degrees are a rare event. Sunshine and 60-80 degrees is much more common.

Fall can get a little chilly, but many locals say the sweater weather and beautiful fall colors make for their favorite season.

2. Standoff-ish Locals

This one is hard to explain, but most Minnesotans know exactly what we’re getting at.

On the whole, Minnesotans tend to be reserved, private people. This can be tough on transplants who don’t already have an an established network in the city.

There’s an old joke that goes along the lines of “Minnesotan’s will happily give you directions wherever you need to go, except to their house…” Locals tend to open up slowly to outsiders, so those who aren’t persistent may find it difficult to make friends here.

That said, if you are able to break through to “friend status” with a Minnesotan, you’re likely to have a truly loyal friend for life.

3. High Taxes

Mall of America visitors are usually impressed by the state’s 0% tax on clothes, but Minnesota is certainly not a low tax state. And the city of Minneapolis taxes most things heavily as well.

The two taxes most likely to give new residents sticker shock are the income tax and the meal tax. Income is taxed anywhere from 5.35 to 9.85 percent in Minnesota, with 7.05 percent being the most common income tax rate. The city and the state also tax meals in Minneapolis at a shocking 10.78 percent, which one study found was the highest meal tax rate of any major city.

Other high tax categories include sales tax, property tax, and vehicle registration.

While the overall cost of living is still low, this is something to consider if you get annoyed by certain tax structures.

Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective

1. Politics

According to a study published in American Political Science Review, Minneapolis was recently ranked the 6th most liberal city in the United States. Not surprisingly then, many Minneapolis residents have strong political opinions, which can either be a pro or a con depending on your political orientation or how interested you are in politics.

Conclusion – So, is Minneapolis a good place to live?

More so than any city, Minneapolis’s unique characteristics make it somewhere that you probably shouldn’t just relocate to on a whim. Deciding to live in Minneapolis takes careful consideration of the pros and cons.

Overall, we think those pros outweigh the cons, which makes Minneapolis an extremely underrated city in our eyes. Which makes sense, considering Sean moved here a decade ago and was surprised to fall in love with the city, while Lily’s lived here her whole life and still can’t find anywhere else she’d rather go. (Which is especially impressive since she’s traveled all over the world.)

If you’re looking for practical and affordable living in a beautiful place, with plenty of access to nature, delicious food, and lots of fun things to do, you will probably love Minneapolis.

As long as you’re okay with the cold. 🙂

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