It's not that Minnesota sports teams have a culture of triumph: The NFL Vikings and MLB Twins are only average, the NBA Timberwolves and NHL Wild subpar. So when a winning streak comes to town, the fans go bananas. Even when their hometown teams are flat, people here report higher-than-average happiness. Provided you can handle the tough winters, the Twin Cities shine as one of America's healthiest and most sophisticated places.
Minneapolis (population 382,578) and St. Paul (285,000) occupy opposite sides of the Mississippi River, just north of where it joins the Minnesota River. The metro area includes Bloomington (81,000) and nearly 100 other towns.
Accolades for Minneapolis-St. Paul bracket the cultural spectrum, from consistently ranking among the top five Most Literate Cities in America to its recent recognition as the number-one city for per-capita consumption of Cool Whip. Go figure.
The Minnesota Orchestra is routinely mentioned as one of the best symphonies in the world. The Guthrie Theater‘s blue building on the riverfront heads up a list of impressive theater companies and art museums. And the proportion of gay households (about 1 percent) is roughly double the national average.
The University of Minnesota (enrollment 49,000) dominates higher education in the region, but the area is in fact home to three dozen degree-granting institutions.
The Twin Cities has one of the country's lowest rates of deaths from heart disease; a large percentage of residents report they exercise regularly, and similarly high numbers say they don't smoke. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently ranked Minnesota first in the U.S. for the overall quality of its health care.
The concentration of hospitals, physicians and specialists is adequate. The well-organized health system includes a large medical college and proximity to the renowned Mayo Clinic, 80 miles southeast in Rochester.
Studded with 180 parks all told, Minneapolis boasts more parkland per 1,000 residents than any other large city in the country. There's also the Grand Rounds — a 50-mile loop of trails, paths and roadways girding the city — and (as you might expect in the Land of 10,000 Lakes) a connected chain of lakes.
If you hanker to eat something more exotic than Cool Whip, St. Paul has a burgeoning restaurant scene, anchored by a handful of excellent ethnic restaurants.
Unemployment (5.5 percent in December 2011) is below the national average, and foreclosures are low. But then there's the flesh-freezing cold: The average high temperature stays below zero for about three months of the year. Could this human refrigeration explain why people enjoy longer-than-average life spans here?
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