How to Spend 48 Hours in St. Paul, Minnesota

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While Minneapolis, MN is often the attention grabbing “other half” of the Twin Cities, St. Paul is much more than just the seat of the state capitol. If you’re in town for a weekend or even an extended layover, explore the adventures that abound in the city on the other side of the river! St. Paul has it all when it comes to family fun; here’s how to make the most of a brief stay.

Spend 48 hours in St. Paul at the Mississippi Riverfront.
Mississippi Riverfront of Saint Paul, MN near Xcel Energy Center; Photo Credit: Pixabay

There are a host of things to do while spending 48 hours in St. Paul. You can visit museums, hit the riverfront, and check out a brewery, all while remaining within the city proper. If you spend a small bit of time ahead of your trip planning a Twin Cities weekend itinerary, you can land yourself at the best hotel in the city, to make a fantastic base camp for all of your St. Paul adventures. Why not start there, then? Eh?

48 Hours in St. Paul – Where to Stay

Stay in a room with a view! The InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront Hotel is less than a mile from the best of downtown St. Paul. With luxury and convenience, you can’t lose. Make sure you request a top floor, facing the river if available, to get the best of the unmatched views. Even in the winter, the upper floors afford guests spectacular views of the green (and blue) spaces within the city.

Located on Kellogg Blvd (one of the main streets in the downtown area), you’re literally at the heart of St. Paul and have the city at your fingertips (or the tips of your toes if yo’re walking for the weekend!). It’s easy to grab a cab or order an Uber from the front of the property. Take it from a local: this is the hotel from which you want to wander if only for a weekend. Ample parking makes a stress-free stop, while on-site food and libations at Citizen restaurant make phenomenal foodie favorites.

Twin Cities Weekend Itinerary – Prominent Pit Stops

Only 48 hours in St. Paul? No problem. You’ll want to find time in your Twin Cities weekend itinerary for these fabled favorites. You may not know it, but the city has roots steeped in history, including formerly being called “Pig’s Eye” — though it’s an unflattering nickname derived from a booze peddler, NOT from pork!

twin cities weekend itinerary
Polar Bear at the Como Park Zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota; Photo Credit: Amanda Williams / Rural TravelingMom

You’ll find interesting tidbits along the way at some of these premier Saint Paul pit stops, all of which are only about a mile or less from the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel.

Xcel Energy Center – Catch the Wild as they take on an opposing team for the puck drop or see a favorite performer. This venue is a little more intimate but doesn’t lack luxury. If you want to view your power plays from a posh perch, grab a ticket in a box suite and enjoy a slightly warmer, cozier experience.

Science Museum of MN – If you want to spend a few hours letting the middle school-aged kids have a blast and learn a bit too, this is the place to be. To be sure, grown ups and kids of all ages marvel at dinosaur skeletons and even the smallest tykes can appreciate the musical staircase. Everything is pretty “hands-on” and it’s easy to sink a few hours into this outing, but it’s well-worth your time. Furthermore, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Visitor Center is located in the lobby of the Science Center. It’s free to dive in to the splendor of our Great River.

Just a Little Bit Further

The MN History Center  is right at about the one-mile mark from downtown. The rotating exhibits are incredible and this Minnesota Historical Society site encourages you to “start seeing history.” It is worth the extra walk. You want to hit your steps anyway, right? Some exhibits have included Chocolate, Prohibition, The Year 1968, and upcoming First Avenue, to name a few notables. The kids will enjoy some of the interesting facts and displays, but this one is especially intriguing for those grown ups in the group who are history buffs.

Saint Paul Stops – Beyond Downtown

If you have the ability to get a ride, or if you’re road tripping with your own wheels, these two sites are fantastic for those who aren’t limited to sites within walking distance of home base.

Summit Ave – What was once dubbed by a famous Minnesotan as something along the lines of “miles of monstrosities,” Summit Ave. is a fun drive where you’ll see Victorian era homes which were not the most extravagant in their time. Today, however, this stretch of 4.5 miles of the impressive structures is the best-preserved avenue of opulent homes from that period in the country. An interesting sight for those enthusiastic about architecture from bygone years.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory – This is an all-time favorite stop for our family. There is no set charge, so donate what you feel you’re able. Most of all, we love that this facility is part of the community and the kids enjoy stuffing bills into the glass cubes manned by volunteers at the entry. With polar bears and African hoofed animals, it’s a fabulous  respite, especially during winter. Make it a stop on your list if you’re able!

48 hrs in Saint Paul
Salmon and Asparagus with Beets and Blackberries at the upscale Citizen restaurant in-house at the InterContinental Riverfront Saint Paul; Photo Credit: Amanda Williams / Rural TravelingMom

Where to Eat in Only 48 Hours in Saint Paul

Citizen – This revamped restaurant has a delicious new menu and serves all three meals, including late night. This is a convenient choice if you stay at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel. The menu includes smaller plates, fresh and interesting sides, and app boards with local meats and cheeses.

Great Waters Brewing Company – Hand-crafted beer and burgers are served at this hip spot which is walkable from a downtown basecamp. The restaurant is especially convenient for pre-event eats, being close to several venues. It was built over the site of the old Saint Paul Cathedral.

Tongue in Cheek – Offering brunch, Tongue in Cheek is a great stop for sample-sized cocktails and finer dining. Definitely more geared toward grown-ups, this is a modern, trendy eatery in your weekend fun!

twin cities weekend itinerary
Mississippi River near Saint Paul, Minnesota – a great place to spend part of a Twin Cities weekend itinerary! Photo Credit: Pixabay.

Twin Cities Weekend Itinerary – Winter’s Best

Saint Paul Winter Carnival

This celebration (a.k.a. “The Coolest Celebration on Earth”) runs annually in February. Since the SuperBowl was held in their sister city in 2018, St. Paul went big, with a huge multi-story ice palace. This was the first the city has had since the early 90s! Thia carnival began in 1886 in an effort to prove one could go outside during winter AND have fun! The concept this year was collectively called the Bold North. It’s the oldest winter festival in the United States! Enjoy vendors selling craft beers, local wines and hot drinks, plus so much more fun. Even if you’ve been there before, you’ll find new surprises, as events and activities change a bit each year.

A Twin Cities weekend itinerary can warm your heart to the idea of visiting St. Paul, even in winter. Though it’s cold, this is a four season destination–even if you’ve only got 48 hours.


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About The Author

Amanda Williams is a self-proclaimed bird-nerd and mother to two high energy sons under five years old. She has worked as a wildlife biologist, wildland firefighter, and environmental educator, so she has a lot of outdoors experience to share–but those jobs pale in comparison to the adventure of being MOM! You can find her writing as a freelancer or exploring with the family for her own site, Field Guide to Parenting Outside. Amanda and her family aspire to become Global Citizens and consider their house merely a base camp for trip-planning operations. More comfortable in the middle of nowhere than in a big city, most of the year they’ll be at large in a loaded down minivan, wandering National Parks and frequenting festivals all over the map.

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