Friday, May 16, 2008

The most livable city in America

Saint Paul. Supposedly the most livable city in America. I didn't know that until I took a brief visit to the official city website, which also informed me that St. Paul is the Arts and Cultural Capital of the Midwest, which I find easy to believe. One of the greatest things about the Twin Cities is that they are really not twins at all. They are completely and totally different in attitude and atmosphere. Of the two, St. Paul is old-school...a little ritzy...artsy...cultural.

I can also easily think of some reasons why St. Paul might be the most livable city in America. I love my new West Coast life, but there are some things that I truly and heartily miss about good old St. Paul.

1. Parks

There must be hundreds of parks (big and small) scattered around the area. One of my favorite places to hang out was Como Park--walking trails, a beautiful conservatory, mini golf, barbecue pits, and a free zoo...all in one place. I spent many an afternoon watching the spider monkeys in the zoo!

Central Park was another great place to go for an afternoon or evening walk or run...although it still bothers me that it is kind of a poser.

2. Grand Avenue
This adorable stretch of street, lined with trees, is full of character. It's both urban-chic and small-town charming. There's all kinds of places to eat--little nooks, ethnic restaurants, coffeshops, ice cream parlors...and then there's the boutique shopping. It is indeed, a grand place to spend the day!

3. The Winter Carnival

I'm not sure how long this thing has been around, but I think it's a pretty old festivity. It's totally worth it to brave Minnesota's famous sub-zero temps and horizontal, icy winds. There are snow sculptures, ice sculptures, and a wonder-of-wonders entire palace made of ice and lit up in all sorts of colors. It's breathtaking and makes you feel like you're in another world, like Narnia.

Some quality people have come out of St. Paul. F. Scott Fitzgerald, only one of the greatest authors of the 20th century was born in St. Paul. Garrison Keillor--Prairie Home Companion anyone? Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts grew up in St. Paul.

So there you have it. St. Paul. Soon to be followed by her not-so-twin sister, Minneapolis!

Friday, May 2, 2008

You stay classy, San Diego

What's not to love about Southern California? The perfect Mediterranean climate. Palm trees and the ocean breeze. Sunny, seventy-degrees days. Of course then there's the ridiculous living expenses, fire season, and sharing the road with the other two million San Diegans. But those things pale in comparison with the shining glory that is being a resident of the eighth largest city in the United States.

One of the things I love most about San Diego is that I can be at boogie-boarding at the beach, or hiking in the mountains, or state-park visiting in the desert, or drinking a Corona in Mexico in less than two hours. Who needs four seasons?

San Diego has the amazing ability to be both a major metropolitan hub and a casual, breezy coastal town in one. Let me take you on a tour of some of my favorite San Diego hang-outs.

Seaport Village
Seaport Village is this quaint shopping venue between downtown SD and the breath-taking Coronado Bay Bridge. Full of specialty and themed shops, cute cafes and restaurants on the water, it's the perfect place to spend a warm, sunny day (and aren't they all!) watching the kites being flown on the grassy lawn. Just across the street is the towering Hyatt hotel, whose top-floor bar showcases an amazing view of the bay, Coronado Island, and downtown. A word to the have to buy a drink in order to enjoy said gorgeous view!

The San Diego Zoo & San Diego Wild Animal Park

The San Diego Zoological Society has the rep for boasting one of the best zoos in the world. The Zoo and the WAP are two separate places with two very different vibes and personalities. The Zoo hangs out next to Balboa Park (another fave by the way) just north of downtown. It's huuuge and home to thousands of rare and endangered animals. The plants rock too. The WAP is a wildlife sanctuary and a beautiful botanical collection nestled in the San Pasqual Valley. My favorite time of day to head to the WAP is late afternoon. In the summer, they're open late, and the best time to ride the safari-like tram is the last one before the sun sets. The animals all come out to eat grass and chill by the watering hole. The surrounding hills turn dusky purple, and soon after the ride ends, the moon rises between the foothills. It's an experience!

The Gaslamp District

San Diego's sweet nightlife rocks in the Gaslamp. Sixteen blocks of shopping, entertainment, amazing restaurants, bars, and clubs. You can park in Horton Plaza (free with validation!) and chill at a single locale, or taste-test a variety. There's always interesting people to watch--sometimes talk to--and for the most part, it's pretty safe.
I'm realizing I could probably have a whole blog about living, working, and playing in San Diego. (Now there's some food for thought...hmmm.) And this barely scratches the surface of this very cool city. But for now, this is it. And besides, I don't want to give it all ways. You'll have to come see for yourself.