One-on-One with the St. Paul Chief of Fun
We love every moment of the travel experience. But we take extreme joy in helping Amtrak travelers pick their next destination. That’s why we chat with locals each week to get you the insider’s guide to their hometown.
This week we hear from Adam, a St. Paul native that oozes enthusiasm for his city. He describes St. Paul as laidback, crafty and historic. And while his business cards officially say Vice President of Marketing and Media Relations at Visit Saint Paul, he told us, “I consider myself Chief of Fun and Promotion of St. Paul, I’m the CFP of Saint Paul.” Here’s more from Adam and even more useful recommendations for your next trip to St. Paul.
Amtrak: How long have you lived in St. Paul?
Adam: I was born in Saint Paul. Then my family moved to Shoreview when I was in Kindergarten. (I was vehemently opposed to the decision.) I returned as soon as I could transferring to Macalester College as a sophomore. I’ve been back and fully entrenched in Saint Paul ever since.
What do you love about living there?
I love that it has the big city feel with a small town connection amongst the locals. I see the people I work with at the grocery store, at the donut shop and out to dinner. I call it “Saint Small”.
Now that summer is officially in full swing we want to hear about all of the great outdoor events in St. Paul. What events do you recommend visitors check out?
Well, there are so many and while a handful of them are already in the rear view mirror (Grand Old Day, Twin Cities Jazz Fest, etc.) there are many things to do outdoors throughout the rest of the summer. First, don’t let the summer end without checking out a Saints game at the beautiful CHS Field in Lowertown. It is just a spectacular ballpark. Second, in the attraction category, you have to take a Padelford Riverboat Cruise. They have the traditional sightseeing cruise daily but they also have fun themed cruises such as Margaritas on the Mississippi and the Beer and Bacon Cruise. If you prefer to spend your evenings on land instead of water, Tuesday and Thursday nights are great evenings to spend in Saint Paul. On Tuesdays, you’ll find Nine Nights of Music at the Minnesota History Center from 6:30-8:30. Listen to infectious music and get out your dancing shoes for saucy salsa, soulful Motown, and classic big band swing! On Thursdays, you’ll find the concert series, Music in Mears, in Mears Park with a great collection of performers, food trucks and a bunch of people just chillin’ out. After all that fun, you’ll probably want to find a patio around town and enjoy one of the many craft beers being brewed daily in Saint Paul.
For those taking a family-friendly Amtrak adventure to St. Paul, what sites should they not skip?
Saint Paul prides itself on its family ties and you’ll see some of our most famous family names on our restaurants and attractions. Cossettas, Mancini’s and O’Gara’s are all storied Saint Paul families and you’d be foolish to leave town without grabbing a slice of pizza at Cossettas while you’re in town. Attractions that the family will love in the Minnesota Children’s Museum, Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota History Center. The Minnesota Children’s Museum is free on the third Sunday of each month. The Science Museum has an awesome Space Exhibit running through the summer and the History Center has an exhibit highlighting the Hmong culture that families might enjoy. Finally, Saint Paul has the largest free zoo in the upper Midwest in Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. The zoo has everything from anacondas to zebra and the conservatory turns 100 in 2015.
You have one summer day in St. Paul, what’s on your must-do list?
I think it has to start with breakfast at the Downtowner – I recommend the #2 as a hearty start to the day. Walk off breakfast up on Summit Avenue – it’s the longest stretch of preserved Victorian architecture in the entire United States and you’ll see a plague commemorating one of the houses that was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s childhood home. For lunch, you have to have a Juicy Lucy. It’s a cheeseburger with the cheese on the inside. There is some debate as to who invented it – Minneapolis or Saint Paul. I like to say Minneapolis invented it but Saint Paul perfected it. You can get your hands on one of these delicious cheese filled carnivorous creations at The Nook, Blue Door Pub or Bennett’s. Be sure to wash it down with a Summit EPA from Summit Brewing Company – it’s the flag ship beer of the grand daddy of the Saint Paul craft beer scene. After lunch, you’ll want to check out the Wabasha Street Caves. When it comes to 1930’s gangsters, most people think of Chicago or Hot Springs, Arkansas. Few people know Saint Paul was a hot bed of gangster activity in the 1930’s under the O’Connor System. Learn all about it on a tour at the former gangster hangout Castle Royale, now known as the Wabasha Street Caves. After the Caves, pose for a picture in Rice Park with a bronze Charlie Brown or Peppermint Patty. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz grew up in Saint Paul and tributes to comic strip characters can be found throughout the city. In the evening, combine fine dining and fun with dinner at Heartland Restaurant with James Beard nominated chef Lenny Russo. Get your dessert across the street at CHS Field as the Saints battle their opponent in this beautiful ballpark
Longer days mean more time to indulge in great food. What are a few of your favorite spots?
Saint Paul has an eclectic mix of dining options – some of which I mentioned above. You can actually taste food from 18 cultures around the globe in Saint Paul including Afghani, Greek and Nepali. More traditionally, we are known for walleye and wild rice or the Juicy Lucy. Some of my favorite spots are donuts at Mojo Monkey Donuts for breakfast. For lunch, I love the Hot Italian at McGovern’s – the waitress just brings it to me without even offering me a menu. As far as a brand spanking new place to check out, I had the Fried Chicken Sandwich at the Ox Cart Ale House in Lowertown the other day and it was delicious. For dinner, the St. Paul Grill is a staple of Minnesota’s capital city. I start with the hot peppered shrimp and then dive into the main course – either steak or walleye depending on my mood. The service is fantastic and most seats look out over the beautiful hotel garden and Rice Park. If you like to burn the midnight oil, Mickey’s Diner is open 24/7/365. It’s been in a handful of Hollywood movies including Mighty Ducks and Jingle All the Way. It’s greasy spoon deliciousness for people who are probably looking for that type of food in the early morning hours.
Lastly, why should Amtrak riders take a summer trip to St. Paul?
Saint Paul is clean, safe and walkable. It’s very affordable and accessible. There is so much to do here – I think Saint Paul should be the official home of the “3 Day Weekend!” We don’t want to be like anywhere else in the world, and we’re not.
Have you taken an Amtrak adventure to St. Paul? Tell us all about it in the comment section below.