Best Places to Live: Minneapolis Beats Out Austin, Portland, Nashville and Other Hot Spots

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

–Proverb, Aesop’s Fables; “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

I’d rather be picked by Ashlea Halpern than by Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos, of course, is the gazillionaire founder and CEO of Amazon, which received proposals from 238 cities vying to be Amazon’s second North American headquarters (almost instantly dubbed “Amazon HQ2”).

Ashlea Halpern is  . . . who, exactly?

Actually, she’s an Airbnb travel writer who spent 3+ years checking out 229 U.S. towns and cities with her partner before deciding where to put down roots.

“And the Winner is . . . “

While Amazon has yet to announce its decision, the rumored front runners are metro Washington D.C, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Halpern picked . . . Minneapolis.

She explains why:

“The first thing that sold us on Minneapolis and its sister city of St. Paul was the diversity. Beyond its deep Nordic roots, Minnesota is home to the second largest Hmong diaspora in the United States, plus sizable immigrant populations from Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Mexico, Russia, India, China and Korea. The locals’ welcoming of outsiders was in step with their liberal political agenda — another plus for us ex-Blue Staters.

There was no shortage of things to eat, see, and do, either.

Importantly, the best bands, comedians, and authors also stopped in the Twin Cities when touring — another thumbs up for the Bold North.

Among the many things that astonished us about Minneapolis and St. Paul was the abundant greenery.

Enormous old trees, winsome rose gardens, lushly manicured parks, sparkling blue lakes, bike lanes everywhere — it’s absolutely gorgeous seven months out of the year.

What sold us on the other five was how much the locals embrace winter: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fat biking, snowmobiling, ice fishing, building hygge bonfires, and turning out in force to see wacky art installations pitched in the middle of a frozen lake.”

–“Speed Dating America”; Airbnbmag (Fall, 2018).

In addition to all those virtues (exactly what are “hygge bonfires??”), Halpern cited these three clinchers:  1) the Twin Cities’ state-of-the art airport, conveniently located “smack in the middle of America” (relevant for travel writers visiting Asia and Europe); 2) the vibrant Twin Cities’ economy, host to 17 Fortune 500 companies (see, “Travel Writer — Plan B”); and 3) the relatively affordable cost of living here.

Amazon HQ2: Pluses & Minuses (Yes, Minuses)

“All well and good,” you say. “But what city wouldn’t want the turbo-charged growth sure to accompany all those new Amazon jobs?”

The catch, of course, is what’s likely to come with those jobs: congestion, spiraling housing costs, and overtaxed infrastructure.

All those problems are likely to be exacerbated by the lush package of tax breaks and incentives needed to entice Amazon in the first place — practically guaranteeing that the “winning” city will be financially hamstrung coping with the inevitable Amazon-related growing pains for years to come.

Thanks, but no thanks.

For me, it all sort of recalls a conversation I had with an old college friend just after moving to Manhattan more than 20 years ago.

“I feel like I just moved to the Center of the Universe!,” I excitedly exclaimed.

“Why would you want to do that?,” he deadpanned.


See also, “There’s No Place Like Home”: Garrison Keillor’s Homage to the Twin Cities in National Geographic.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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