Stacking “Minneapple” Up Against The Big Apple

May 13, 2014

i-love-new-yorkI’m in love. Well, in love with the bright lights of one particular city. Every spring, Minneapolis lifts itself out of a dreary, gray, wintry funk – and I get caught up in day dreams about New York City. The sights. The sounds. The pace. Getting lost in a sea of people and passing through the vibrant, humming city streets. I love it. For me, it’s the crème de la crème of major cities.

But this weekend, something changed.

While sipping my cold press and bitters concoction at Five Watt – the hot new coffee joint in town – I had a moment of clarity: Minneapolis isn’t all that bad.

Seriously. When I think about the things I enjoy most about visiting other cities, almost everything has infiltrated Minneapolis in one way or another. There are amazing shops and restaurants, beautiful parks, sporting events galore and you can find a delicious, craft brew (coffee and beer) in almost every corner of the city. So, what makes a major metropolitan city? Strip away the glamour and notoriety of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and other notable cities, what do they have that Minneapolis doesn’t?

After discussing with a couple good friends, we came up with the following list of expectations of major cities:

A major city must have (to name a few):

  • Public transit: decent and reliable transportation in, out and around the city
  • A cityscape paired with a thriving downtown area (although I would argue that some major cities do not meet this requirement – namely LA)
  • Arts & culture scene
  • High-end, luxury retail
  • Historical importance
  • Nationally recognized chefs, bartenders, restaurants, etc.
  • Celebrities
  • A major body of water
  • Sports teams
  • Host to a big financial market or tech/startup industry

And Minneapolis offers:biking-500

  • A fairly reliable bus system, expanding light rail offerings (including the North Star commuter lines) and 92 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street bikeways
  • Concert venues large and small, including historic spots like First Avenue, and more theater seats per capita than any U.S. metro area, with the exception of New York City.
  • 12 local historic districts and a city-led effort to preserve our landmarks through the Heritage Preservation Commission
  • A quickly growing food scene worthy of national attention (there’s typically at least one Minneapolis nod for the James Beard Awards) and a number of highly anticipated restaurant openings
  • Local celebrity Josh Hartnett can typically be spotted around town, usually at Bev’s Wine Bar, Spyhouse on Hennepin or wandering the Lake Calhoun area
  • Many lakes and walking paths to enjoy a sunny day including the Chain of Lakes and The Grand Rounds
  • Four major sports teams: Vikings, Timberwolves, Twins and the Wild
  • While we have a sleepy/nonexistent financial district, the Twin Cities has received acclaim for the number of high-profile corporate headquarters located in the surrounding area, including 3M, Target, General Mills, Medtronic and more

After examining the list, there aren’t many areas where Minneapolis is completely lacking. If anything, the city’s offerings are more impressive when you think about its size. But there’s one major difference – “Minnesota nice.”

A prime example: While sipping on my craft coffee drink and chatting with friends at Five Watt, our conversation was interrupted. A man announced that every table was full and wondered if he could pull up a chair and read his book at our table. We all looked at each other and hesitantly answered, “Sure.” Upon settling into his chair and digging into his novel, we promptly rolled our eyes and silently communicated our shock at someone daring to enter our personal space. But the reaction gave me pause. What was really so weird about the situation? Other cities – New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles – are comprised of transplants. And the nature of moving to a new city, a big city, is that you’re willing be open, social, make conversation with people and recognize that when you want to sit, an open seat truly is an open seat.

It seems like a city’s status may be defined by the people who live within it – and the transplant attitude typically comes hand in hand with our country’s most notable, metropolitan and glamorous cities. Minnesotans are standoffish and often passive-aggressive in the worst way, and that attitude will never be nice to Minneapolis’s reputation when competing with the big dogs.