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The Best Places to Live in Minnesota

The state of Minnesota gets its name from the Dakota words for “clear water”—a fitting description, since the state is famously known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” And surrounding these lakes are miles and miles of beautiful green forests. But don’t worry . . . there’s plenty of city life for those seeking the comforts of the modern world.

If you’re thinking about relocating to the North Star State, or maybe even imagining yourself setting up on the shoreline of one of those 10,000 lakes, we’ll “betcha” that you’ll find some nice place to call home on our list of the best places to live in Minnesota.

10,000 Lakes and Much More

It’s true that Minnesota offers its residents a pretty nice life—and it starts with the people. Yes, “Minnesota nice” is a real thing. Minnesotans are known for their friendliness and willingness to help complete strangers. You’ll see lots of smiling faces when you go grocery shopping, and you can expect nice conversations with your neighbors on the regular. You’ll also find plenty of churches on Minnesota street corners, adding to the close-knit community feel. Minnesotans are so social that there’s also such a thing as a long Minnesota goodbye!

All that friendliness and community comes in handy year-round. See, Minnesota deals with both humid summers and bitter winters. The summer brings an invasion of mosquitos and flies that is often shocking to newcomers. And temps during the winter fall well below freezing, bringing icy conditions (and the further north you go, the colder it gets). But Minnesota residents bear it all together—sharing their bug spray and rescuing their neighbors when their cars get stuck in the snow.

All that snow can lead to another headache. There’s an old saying that Minnesota really has only two seasons: winter and road construction. Since the winters are so cold, all the road maintenance is done during the warmer months. And that can lead to traffic snarls—especially in the cities. So make sure you have a car that can withstand the cold temps as well as the clunkety-clunk of roadwork.

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The good news is that Minnesota’s network of roads and freeways are well laid out, with crews prepared for all the bad weather. They even name their snowplows (who wouldn’t love a plow named Taylor Drift?).

But Minnesotans will tell you that all the beautiful natural scenery and fresh air make everything worth it. With 10,000 lakes, multiple big rivers (including the headwaters of the Mississippi), and the shore of Lake Superior, water is a way of life in Minnesota—boating, fishing, kayaking and the like. The forests surrounding all those waterways are full of trails for hiking, mountain biking, camping and more. And the outdoor fun doesn’t stop in the winter. Ice skating, ice fishing, sledding and cross-country skiing are just some of the ways Minnesotans pass the time in colder months.

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Minnesota has more than just her looks going for her. New residents are also attracted to the booming job market. Many cities have unemployment rates at around 2%. And several big, innovative companies call the state home, including Target, Best Buy, United Health and 3M. Of course, your paycheck will have to contend with the state income tax, which is among the highest in the country (have to pay for all those snowplows somehow).1 But there’s no sales tax on clothes, so that’ll come in handy when you’re shopping for your winter layers.

The Best Places to Live in Minnesota

Something to remember: All “best places” lists are subjective, including this one. While we did use some data points, a “best place to live” remains purely opinion and will ultimately depend on your personal likes and dislikes. For example, some people love the energy of the city, while others prefer a quiet place in the country.

And to add a little more authenticity to our list, we asked a few super nice Minnesotans what they thought too!

Alexandria

Looking at the 28-foot-tall Viking statue in the center of town, it’s obvious that the residents of Alexandria love their local history and heritage. And Big Ole (that’s the statue’s name) has the city’s motto on his shield: “The Birthplace of America.” See, the story goes that a local farmer discovered a Scandinavian runestone that supposedly dates to the 1300s—well before Christopher Columbus came to the New World.

The mystery of the runestone is still debated in the community to this day (in a “Minnesota nice” way, of course). And Alexandria (or “Alec” to the locals) has lots of places to enjoy the discussion like fine restaurants, breweries, wineries and more. In addition to all the usual Minnesota outdoor fun, you’ll find year-round activities throughout the Alexandria Lakes Area, such as the Big Splash Indoor Water Park, live theater, museums (one of which displays the famous runestone), festivals, and a downtown full of unique shops. The job market is very strong, with manufacturing, health care, and hospitality among the hottest industries.2

Metro Area Population*

39,0813

Median Household Income

$57,3094

Median Home Price

$392,4505

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,1956

Average Annual Rainfall

31"7

Unemployment Rate***

2.6%8

*Metro area population numbers include the citytogether with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on a total of all apartment types.
***Unemployment rate is for all of Douglas County.

Duluth

Parked on the southwest shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, Duluth is the state’s fifth-largest city and a major international port town.9 The city runs parallel with the shore and offers beautiful views of the water no matter where you live. During the summers, the great lake’s offshore winds give much-needed relief to the heat and humidity, which is why Duluth is sometimes called “The Air-Conditioned City.” But those same cooling winds also make the winters extremely harsh, with windchills down well below freezing.

Aside from the freight, shipping, and other marine-based industries associated with Lake Superior, Duluth also has thriving health care, manufacturing and aviation sectors. The heart of the community is Canal Park on the lake shore, which has a warehouse-turned-retail district with trendy shops and restaurants, as well as the beautiful Lakewalk and the Great Lakes Aquarium. Lake Superior itself has plenty of water-based recreation, including surfing in the summer thanks to those winds!

Metro Area Population*

291,93110

Median Household Income

$63,54511

Median Home Price

$248,62512

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,46313

Average Annual Rainfall

35"14

Unemployment Rate

3.1%15

*Metro area population numbers include the citytogether with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**Median monthly rent number is based on a total of all apartment types.

Owatonna

It’s a river, not a lake, that cuts straight through the heart of Owatonna (and it’s called the “Straight River,” by the way). There’s a legend that the city was named for a Native American princess who was healed by the waters of the Maple Creek natural springs. But the name actually comes from the Dakota word for “straight” (which is where the river gets its name). So now you know the straight story.

Name games aside, Owatonna (pronounced “oh-wah-taun-ah”) has lots more history to explore, like the National Farmers’ Bank Building—the first “jewel box” designed by Louis Sullivan, the father of the skyscraper. Other sights include the Village of Yesteryear, Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum, and the Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo. Owatonna is also home to the Steele County Free Fair, the largest county fair in the state. The city’s industrial base includes manufacturing and insurance, as well as headquarters for well-known companies like Jostens, Cybex and Wenger.16

Metro Area Population*

37,39617

Median Household Income

$78,29518

Median Home Price

$322,32519

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,05520

Average Annual Rainfall

38"21

Unemployment Rate

4.1%22

*For each city, the metro area population numbers include the citytogether with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**“Median Monthly Rent” number is based on a total of all apartment types.

Rochester

The overall vibe of Rochester is wellness, both in body and spirit. The city, which is the third largest in Minnesota, is the home of the Mayo Clinic—the world-famous medical research hospital where people come from all over for hope and healing. The Mayo Clinic is also one of the top employers in Rochester, along with technology and manufacturing businesses.23

Great food to feed the body can be found in Rochester’s many fine restaurants and breweries, as well as a year-round farmer’s market. For the spirit, Rochester has a healthy collection of arts and cultural spots like galleries, art studios, gardens, live theater and festivals. The natural beauty of the gentle bluffs, parks, lakes and rivers also contribute to the city’s positive energy.

Couple all this good stuff with the niceness of Minnesotans and it’s no wonder that Rochester is consistently named one of the top places to live in not just Minnesota, but the whole country.

Metro Area Population*

228,07324

Median Household Income

$83,97325

Median Home Price

$404,99526

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,20027

Average Annual Rainfall

37"28

Unemployment Rate

2.0%29

*For each city, the metro area population numbers include the citytogether with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**“Median Monthly Rent” refers to two-bedroom apartments.

Twin Cities

The true center of cultural and economic activity in Minnesota is the Twin Cities region, anchored by the (spoiler alert) two cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Fifteen Fortune 500 companies call the area home, including Target and Best Buy, in addition to businesses in the manufacturing and health care sectors.30 There’s a friendly rivalry between the two cities, with St. Paul being the older, more experienced sibling (it’s also the state capital) compared to Minneapolis—the stylish, energetic kid sister—with its modern culture and lots more glass-walled skyscrapers.

If you’re a true city dweller, this is the place to be in the North Star State. Not only does the area boast a great public transportation system and proximity to a major airport, but there’s also a thriving arts and music scene. The Mall of America, the biggest mall in the U.S., contains an indoor amusement park and the busiest transit hub in the state. The North Loop (also known as the Warehouse District) has trendy shops, food halls, and restaurants to attract the younger set—especially students from the nearby University of Minnesota campus. The First Avenue Nightclub is one of the country’s premiere music venues, and Hennepin Avenue offers many live theater shows. And you can root for sports teams from all the major pro leagues: the Twins (MLB), Vikings (NFL), Wild (NHL) and Timberwolves (NBA).

Metro Area Population*

3.7 million31

Median Household Income

Minneapolis: $76,33232

St. Paul: $69,91933

Median Home Price

$425,00034

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,52835

Average Annual Rainfall

34"36

Unemployment Rate

2.4%37

*For each city, the metro area population numbers include the citytogether with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.
**“Median Monthly Rent” refers to two-bedroom apartments.

Best Suburbs of the Twin Cities

Minneapolis and St. Paul are surrounded by suburbs that ring the Twin Cities like planets orbiting twin suns. Millions of people live in these suburbs and commute into the city, striking the balance between being close enough to take advantage of big-city conveniences, but far enough away to avoid some of the more unpleasant realities of city life (like crime and homelessness). And being in the suburbs means Minnesota’s beautiful lakes and forests are that much closer.

Here are some great suburbs in the Twin Cities metro area.

Chanhassen

About 20 miles southwest of Minneapolis is Chanhassen, which gets its name from the Dakota word for the sugar maple tree. And this is a pretty sweet place to live—a great mix of suburban tracts and multiacre rural property surrounded by 12 lakes, 30 parks, and 90 miles of hiking and biking trails. The job market is more white-collar with the largest industries being professional services like insurance, banking, and health care.38 And with top-rated schools and near-100% graduation rates, Chanhassen is also a great place to raise kids.

There’s lots of unique things to do to keep you occupied in Chanhassen. The lake life activities are a given, of course. Chanhassen is most famous for the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, which features high-caliber productions of Broadway hits, stand-up comedy and more. Paisley Park, the home and recording studio of music legend and longtime Twin Cities resident Prince, is in the city and offers guided tours. And the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum—birthplace of the Honeycrisp apple—is a beautiful spot in full bloom during the summer.

Median Household Income

$131,63339

Median Home Price

$627,50040

Median Monthly Rent*

$1,95041

Unemployment Rate**

2.1%42

*“Median Monthly Rent” number is based on a total of all apartment types.
**Unemployment rate is for all of Carver County.

Lakeville

Directly south of Minneapolis in the outer rim of the Twin Cities metro is the city of Lakeville. Unlike many of the Twin Cities suburbs, Lakeville is very spread out with pockets of neighborhoods in between its many parks, green spaces, and the two main lakes: Lake Marion and Orchard Lake. Even though the city dates to the mid-1800s and was incorporated in the 1960s, most of the homes in Lakeville were built in the last 20 years—giving the community a more modern feel. And the city is continuing to grow, with new construction of homes and schools to meet demand.

The growth of Lakeville is due to its industry-centered outlook. Home to one of the state’s largest industrial parks, the town attracts employers in fields like manufacturing, retail, education, food service and health care.43 But Lakeville isn’t all work—there’s plenty of play too. There are beautiful parks, golf courses, and art festivals throughout the year. But the biggest event in the city is the Panorama of Progress (or Pan-O-Prog) that combines the Fourth of July with a celebration of the city’s ongoing development with a large street fair, fireworks and fun.

Median Household Income

$129,06944

Median Home Price

$530,30045

Median Monthly Rent*

$2,34546

Unemployment Rate

2.3%47

*“Median Monthly Rent” number is based on a total of all apartment types.

Shakopee

The city of Shakopee is a classic example of an older city with a youthful soul. Founded in 1857 and named for a Dakota Native American chief, Shakopee still retains its roots as a farming community with larger residential lots and a smaller downtown. But the city has also embraced the future, courtesy of an Amazon fulfillment center that opened there in 2016. Shakopee has been growing ever since, adding modern amenities and job opportunities in several sectors, including manufacturing, health care and professional services.48

Shakopee has lots of unique things to do within its city limits (and is still relatively close to the Twin Cities). The top draw to the city is Valleyfair, an amusement park where you can find some wild roller coasters and meet Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts characters. Canterbury Park is a famous racetrack known for not just horseracing but corgi and llama races as well (who doesn’t like a good corgi race?). And you can “huzzah” and feast your way through the annual Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

Median Household Income

$103,92449

Median Home Price

$425,50050

Median Monthly Rent*

$1,99451

Unemployment Rate

2.9%52

*“Median Monthly Rent” refers to two-bedroom apartments.

Other Great Suburbs of the Twin Cities

Here are a few other examples of some great suburbs located in the Twin Cities metro area:

Burnsville
Eagan
Eden Prairie
Edina
Lauderdale
Maple Grove
Minnetonka
Stillwater
Woodbury

Best Places to Live in Minnesota for Families

Minnesota is consistently rated as one of the best states to raise a family. Many of the school districts are highly rated, with high school graduation rates nearing 100%. Here are a few highly recommended cities families can call home.

Alexandria
Chanhassen
Detroit Lakes
Lakeville
Mahtomedi
Shoreview
St. Michael
Victoria

Best Places to Live in Minnesota for Young Professionals

Young, single, employed, and looking for a place with an arts and culture scene to fill your weekend? There are lots of great places in Minnesota that offer great nightlife and/or activities geared to younger folks.                

Columbia Heights
Dellwood
Minneapolis
Richfield
St. Paul
Waconia
White Bear Lake

Best Places to Live in Minnesota for Retirees

The North Star State is also a great place for retirees who want a slower pace of life but still want to be close enough to the city to benefit from amenities like modern medicine. Minnesota is known throughout the country and around the world for its quality health care industry and research hospitals—with the Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota being the most notable.

Alexandria
Duluth
Eagan
Edina
Northfield
Plymouth
Rochester

Ready to Move to Minnesota?

Itching to move to Minnesota and get out on one of those 10,000 lakes? A real estate agent can make the transition as easy as, well, jumping in a lake. But you don’t want just any real estate agent—you need one you can trust. For a fast and easy way to find local Minnesota agents, look no further than our network of RamseyTrusted agents.

You betcha we only recommend agents who know the area and are completely dedicated to helping you find the perfect “Minnesota nice” neighborhood to call home.

 

Next Steps

  • Decide where in Minnesota you’re thinking about moving to.
  • Interview at least three trusted local agents from that area.
  • Choose one who’s right for you and start your moving journey!

Find a Minnesota real estate agent we trust.

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About the author

Ramsey

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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