Unabashed civic promotion—St. Paul edition

Did you know that St. Paul is in the running to become a Fan Favorite among a Dozen Distinctive Destinations chosen by the National Trust for Historic Preservation? Well, now  you know—and you can help St. Paul win! “Vote for your favorite destination between February 15 and March 15,” the NTHP tells us, “and not only could your town become the 2011 Fan Favorite, but you will also be entered to win a two night stay at any Historic Hotel of America.” If that’s not enough incentive, consider this: right now, St. Paul is ranked number nine. That’s right, folks, we are NINTH out of twelve, trailing such notables as Paducah, Kentucky and Sheridan, Wyoming.  I don’t know about you, but that hurts my St. Paul pride. Vote early! Vote often! (Yes, you can vote once a day.) And you folks over in Minneapolis—lend us a hand, or at least a mouse-click-vote!

Here’s what the Dozen Distinctive Destinations website has to say about our fair city:

In the 19th century, Saint Paul was known as the “last city of the East,” while Minneapolis– its neighbor across the Mississippi River—carried the moniker “first city of the West.” Today, visitors to Minnesota’s capital city will still find a city whose stately, well-preserved residential neighborhoods and historic downtown buildings evoke the spirit of cities along the East Coast.

Visitors to Minnesota’s capital have a vast array of options, from browsing the quaint boutiques of Grand Avenue, to enjoying a meal in the restored warehouse area downtown, to admiring the stately mansions of Summit Avenue. Anyone who read last year’s best-selling novel “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen will want to spend time in the historic Ramsey Hill neighborhood where much of the novel was set.

Home to some of Minnesota’s most famous historic buildings—including the Cass Gilbert-designed State Capitol, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s home and the stunning Beaux-Arts Cathedral of Saint Paul—the city boasts 104 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Lowertown area of downtown, a poster child for the transformative power of preservation, was once home to abandoned former commercial buildings. Today, the area hums with activity thanks to an influx of coffee shops, artist lofts, a destination farmers’ market, and some of the Twin Cities’ premiere cutting-edge, locally sourced restaurants. The refurbished Union Depot train station is slated to open in the next few years, providing visitors even easier access to Lowertown.

The city’s diverse cultural heritage is celebrated nearly year round, thanks to series of festivals that include Hmong New Year, Rondo Days (named for an African-American neighborhood largely lost to freeway construction in the 1950s), Cinco de Mayo and the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the upper Midwest. Hearty visitors to Saint Paul in the cold-weather months won’t want to miss the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, a nationally known homage to outdoor winter activities featuring ice sculptures, a parade, and ice castles stretching several stories into the air!

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