The capital of Minnesota and Minneapolis’ twin is Fun things to do in St. Paul, one of the major economic and cultural centers of the Midwest — yet it retains an old-city, local sense of charm. Whether you’re on a layover at a St. Paul airport, or visiting for another reason, there are plenty of things to do and see while you’re here. Let’s nosedive into the details!
The History of Early St. Paul
If you’re in the central-southeastern portion of Minnesota, you won’t miss St. Paul, with its extended skyline, and picturesque views of the Mississippi River Valley’s imposing “S” bend. But, it didn’t always start out as the sprawling metropolis that it resembles today. The city’s past is rich, reaching all the way back to ancient times, when the first evidence of human life comes in the form of ancient Native American burial mounds, still visible from St. Paul’s Mounds Park to this day. Over time, Mdewankton Dakota of the Sioux tribes eventually settled in the area, naming it “I-mni-za ska dan”, (white rocks or cliffs), and also used the established mounds and nearby Carver’s Cave system for ceremonial burials. By the time the U.S. gained interest in acquiring the land in the Louisiana Purchase in the 18th century, there were already a growing number of European settlers flocking to St. Paul because of the location on the Mississippi. When Pike’s Purchase was made, essentially the sale of 100,000 acres by the Dakota to the U.S. in 1805, construction of Fort Snelling kicked off and amped up the local military population, as well.
Throughout the 19th century, St. Paul remained mostly untamed, rivershore wilderness, popular with fur traders, river transportation and even bootleggers. The town was officially put on the map when, in 1838, Pig’s Eye Landing was established. This was the first traceable claim, made by a tavern owner Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant — a man who gained his nickname by being blind in one eye and who was notorious among local law enforcement. The city of St. Paul even casually adorned his name in the earliest years. But, The Lord always has to intervene in some way. In 1841, Father Lucien Galtier, Minnesota’s first Roman Catholic priest, established Saint Paul’s Chapel on the very same landing. Not finding the “Pig’s Eye” name suitable for his flock, he renamed it to what it’s known as today. From the late 1800s and through the 20th century, Saint Paul grew rapidly and cemented itself as the economic center of the state, establishing one of the first schools, commercial banks, international law firms, and industrial powerhouses like Minneapolis Grain Exchange and Lumber Exchange. Citizens started building ever-more houses, forming long-established roads, growing small businesses and officially planting their roots that still hold strong to this day.
St. Paul Today
St. Paul continues as an industrial, commercial, financial, and trading center within the northern United States and Midwest as a whole. Major businesses and sports teams have set up shop in the capital city, including 20 Fortune 500 companies like 3M, Ecolabs and Gander Outdoors, as well as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Wild. The St. Paul suburbs are also plenty in number, and include surrounding towns like Roseville (north), Maplewood (northeast), Woodbury (east), and West St. Paul (south). Each of which offer their own unique vibe. As of 2021, St. Paul is the second most populous city, behind Minneapolis, and most would say it’s quieter, more affordable, authentic and laid-back, in comparison to its larger neighbor. As such, there are a lot of unique neighborhoods and establishments to explore.
Fun things to do in St. Paul
Minnesota’s capital city supplies a ton of fun things to do. Take a look at some of the highlights below:
Parks in St. Paul
- There are eight lakes fully or partially within the boundaries of St. Paul, that provide access to boating, canoeing, beach-going, water sports and other aquatic-based activities. Visit the popular Lake Como and Lake Phalen for a wet and wild day.
- Get your fill of hiking, biking or just lounging in nature — the capital city maintains more than 160 parks that are well maintained and supply all of the amenities you could ask for — so there’s plenty to explore!
Restaurants in St. Paul
- For those pilots planning a stop at Downtown St. Paul Airport during a cross-country solo flight, for instance, don’t forget to check out Holman’s Table. They serve up new American fare like mushroom toast, grilled ribeye steak and candied walnut aioli, along with classic cocktails and an extensive beer list.
- The Commodore was once a hotel built in the 1920s, but is now a classy cocktail lounge and restaurant that pays tribute to the decade that roared — you really can’t go wrong with their flavorful dishes, live music all in a cool, jazz-age setting.
Shopping in St. Paul
- Find that special treasure, whether it’s vintage home décor, one-of-a-kind T-shirt or antique vinyl record, at The Mall of St. Paul.
- In the Lexington-Hamline South neighborhood, there’s a batch of upscale boutique clothing shops, including Primp, Poppy Fun Fashion, Atlier957 and IDUN.
Fun things to do in St. Paul
- There are a ton of fun things to do along the Mississippi River front, including the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Museum of Art. Or, see St. Paul from a different angle and take a river cruise from the likes of Padelford River Rides.
- Team with the top flight crew in St. Paul, Inflight Pilot Training and fly an airplane (under direction of a professional flight instructor, of course). With their Discovery Flight offering, you get the chance to take control of the yoke yourself and explore the Twin Cities metro area from thousands of feet above.
Do you want to become a licensed pilot?
Whether you want to experience flying before you sign up for lessons or you’re ready for training, our certified instructors will put you on the right track to becoming a private pilot. We have hundreds of hours of experience under our collective belts, and specialize in private pilot licensing throughout St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs. Find out what it’s like to work with our team and take to the skies — contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.