As a San Francisco Bay Area native who came to the Twin Cities for college, I've spent about four years enduring the harsh winters, yet learning to love the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
I am moving back to California this week, and while I'm looking forward to not shoveling snow or moving my car during snow emergencies this winter, there are three things I will miss the most about Minnesota.
1. Minnesota Nice – it's a real thing
If you have lived in Minnesota your whole life, I guarantee you take Minnesota Nice for granted. When I first heard this term about five years ago, I was like, "What do you mean, people are nice everywhere!" But since then, I have come to appreciate how Minnesotans are exceptionally kind and hospitable.
For example, when I've accidentally bumped into people in a crowded airport or mall, they will turn around and apologize to me. At airports and malls in other places, people just give you dirty looks if they acknowledge you at all.
While I have seen the occasional road rage on freeways, driving here is so much less hostile. Minnesota drivers almost always let you in if you're trying to change lanes. They also stop in the middle of the road to let pedestrians cross the street even if it isn't necessary – I could have easily just walked behind the car once it sped past.
In San Francisco and Los Angeles, usually you have to cut off other drivers if you want to get where you're going, and you really have to time crossing the street to avoid being hit.
Those are a few concrete examples I use when trying to explain Minnesota Nice – but people are also just nicer and friendlier in general. (Side note: I have this theory that Minnesota Nice exists partly because we all have to suffer through these harsh winters together, which makes people more compassionate.)
2. You have the cleanest cities
I've traveled to over a dozen cities in the U.S. and Europe and lived in four different major cities, and Minneapolis and St. Paul are the cleanest of them all. It always smells nice here, there is hardly any pollution, the public transportation doesn't smell like piss, and the downtown areas are essentially litter-free. When I travel, the cleanliness is something that I quickly miss about the Twin Cities.
I'm not the only one who feels that way.
Minneapolis is ranked on several lists as one of the cleanest cities in the entire world. Treehugger attributes it to the city's policy of removing graffiti within 24 hours, banning smoking in public places, and the public transportation system. This article in Sierra Club Green Home adds that the city's work to promote bike riding is another reason. Forbes has even named Minneapolis as the nation's healthiest city for all of those reasons.
Besides these clean initiatives, I'm going to also go back to "Minnesota Nice" being another reason. You're all too nice to trash public spaces.
3. Minnesota's outdoors
Minnesotans pride themselves on the beauty of the outdoors. I finally made it up north to the Boundary Waters last weekend. Coming from a Californian, the Boundary Waters is like the Yosemite of the Midwest.
While I'm not a fan of how winter lasts for half of the year, I do like how Minnesotans really enjoy the summer months to their fullest.
There are so many water sport options at the lakes in the Twin Cities metro, such as kayak rentals (which are now available on the Mississippi River, too.) In addition to the adorable lakeside eateries and all the bars and restaurants with rooftops and patios. And parklets are now becoming more of a trend in the summer months.
Then the city goes all out with activities like movies and yoga in the park. Best of all, there is some kind of art festival or music festival every weekend, if not several to choose from. I'll miss the Stone Arch Bridge Festival, Loring Park Art Festival and Grand Old Day, just to name a few.
The weather is already getting chilly, and I'm sad that I'm going to miss out on fall – my favorite season in Minnesota. The beauty of the four changing seasons is something that I have come to love about this state and the Midwest. The vibrant, autumn leaves are incredible here – make sure you take a moment to appreciate their beauty as they begin to change.