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In the suburbs of Minneapolis lies the Mall of America, a megalith of a mall that is the country's largest retail and entertainment complex, and one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the U.S. Metro Transit, Minneapolis' light rail system, connects the Mall of America with the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, allowing visiting shopaholics to head straight from the airport to the mall without even going outside -- or taking a detour to Minneapolis. But anyone planning on traveling to the Minneapolis area and passing on the City of Lakes entirely is making, well, a mega mall of a mistake.

Minneapolis is defined by so much more than its proximity to the mother of all shopping malls. It's a city of lakes, neighborhoods, art, culture, cuisine and other cool things. Miles of futuristic climate-controlled skyways connect high-rise hotels to restaurants, stores and coffee shops in downtown Minneapolis. Lakes pool within peaceful city neighborhoods, offering sun-soaked beaches in summer and frosty natural hockey rinks in colder months. Chefs cook up avant-garde dishes, creating meals one would expect to find in the restaurants of New York or L.A. rather than a mid-size Midwestern city. A word of advice: Those gourmet dinners pair wonderfully with an evening show. A town with a big and bright Theater District, Minneapolis is second only to New York in terms of theater venues per capita. ("A Prairie Home Companion," Garrison Keillor's famous variety show, originates from nearby St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater.)

Minneapolis' twin city, St. Paul, is located just across the Mississippi River. Think of St. Paul as the historic, refined capital city, and of Minneapolis as the more youthful, hip and energetic twin. Soon, it'll be a cinch to travel from one twin to the next. A light rail line connecting the two cities is scheduled to open in June 2014.

--written by Caroline Costello


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