The aquatic state of Minnesota, the second-northernmost state in the USA (after Alaska) is one of the nation’s leading outdoor destinations. Dubbed as the “land of 10,000 lakes” the poetic name of the State is a Sioux phrase meaning “land of sky-tinted water”. When the antediluvian glaciers were filled by some of the great rivers like the Mississippi, the result was Lake Superior. Its scenic shoreline and dozens of other surrounding small bodies of water are linked by hiking trails, making an ideal location for outdoor recreation pursuits such as kayaking, fishing and canoeing and in wintertime the countryside becomes a wonderland for skiing and dog sledding. Small harbour towns and villages hug the north shore of Lake Superior, making the Highway 61 drive a wonderfully scenic route with breathtaking vistas.
Most of the states population are urbanised, with more than half inhabiting the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. Occupying opposing banks on the Mississippi River, the cities reflect the jovial culture of the roots of the early settlers, who were largely German, Irish and Scandinavian. The Twin Cities are renowned for their entertainment, attractions and shopping opportunities. Minneapolis in particular is a shopper's dream with the mighty Mall of America (which includes an aquarium and amusement park under the same roof as hundreds of shops, restaurants, bars and theatres) situated in its suburb of Bloomington.
The older city, St Paul, is the state capital, smaller, quieter and more reserved than its modern sibling across the river. The capital has a compact downtown area sporting a variety of restored Victorian architecture among its glass skyscrapers. It is also the cultural centre with universities, museums and theatres. Minneapolis, founded on money made by the hundreds of saw and flourmills along the Mississippi has many contemporary buildings in a slick new downtown area with a lively, arty character and a vibrant nightlife.
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