The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

If you do one thing at Mac, love the Twin Cities

The Macalester-Groveland Neighborhood, photo by Rory Donaghy ’24

 I first came to Macalester in August 2020. I had never been to Minnesota before, and it was probably the worst possible time to explore a new city. I donned a mask and took the light rail to downtown Minneapolis. It was quiet and empty. When I rode the 63 bus along Grand Avenue to downtown Saint Paul, things were much the same. 

Local exploration was a little bit easier — I came to enjoy getting takeout from the neighborhood spots in Mac-Groveland. But soon enough it was very cold, and the combination of the weather and COVID-19 meant I mostly just spent time on campus. By the time the weather improved, it was nearly the end of the semester, and I didn’t connect with the Twin Cities much more before going back home with my family for the summer. 

In the following years, things have changed and I’ve learned to appreciate the Twin Cities more deeply than I could’ve imagined. More than that, I’ve come to think of this as one of the best pieces of advice that I could give my fellow Macalester students: in your time here, try your hardest to love the Twin Cities.

Surely I’m not saying anything new to most students. After all, our urban location is central to Macalester’s own branding and self-image. The application for Mac proudly features the Twin Cities. Throughout our time here, we get ads and promotions about off-campus opportunities all the time, and many of us already do engage with our surrounding community in meaningful ways. So why reiterate this point?

Even with Mac’s emphasis on the benefits of our location, I don’t think we follow this ethos as thoroughly as we ought to — and we especially fall short of appreciating this place in ways outside of utilitarian purposes, such as jobs and internships. The Macalester community would be more fulfilled if we worked more to cultivate real affection for, and connection to, the Twin Cities.

I know that there are challenges to really getting to know our surroundings. Taking public transit to various destinations can be painfully slow and weekends can get swallowed up in homework. Many students don’t stay here in the summer, which I’ve found to be the best season, by far, for exploring the Twin Cities. But learning to love the place where you live is always worth the effort.

You can always start in Mac Groveland. Our neighborhood can be a little quiet — I like to say that everyone in our neighborhood is either a college student or is already raising kids, but it’s also got a lot of wonderful little shops and restaurants, plus interesting old homes and countless little gardens.

Even just within the next few neighborhoods in Saint Paul, there’s a lot more to see. Our city is 49% non-white, and many ethnic groups from across the world have made their homes here. But you definitely wouldn’t know that from walking through the neighborhoods around Macalester, which are among the whitest and wealthiest in the city. Travel just a few miles east or north (or, for that matter, west into Minneapolis), and you’ll find vibrant communities with year-round celebrations and cultural events, and a wide variety of small businesses.

It’s a big metropolitan area, and if you’re willing to travel a bit further, there’s an incredible variety of unique things to enjoy, appreciate and connect with.

Some of the reasons for my Twin Cities affection are pretty idiosyncratic to my own interests; other reasons are less so. I enjoy biking, and so I’ve found my favorite little bike route (under the old railroad bridge in Swede Hollow Park). I enjoy Hamm’s beer — also, by the way an invention from Saint Paul — and so I’ve discovered the best neighborhood dive to buy a $3 pint of Hamm’s (The Spot on Randolph Ave). Our many lakes are quite fun to swim in, and make for gorgeous places to walk year-round.

However, it’s ultimately unnecessary for me to bloviate about why I like the Twin Cities. I’ve developed my local affection through my own experiences, as I’ve sought out new excitements or stumbled upon unexpected gems with a little help from my friends. You might hate biking, think that Hamm’s is a nasty drink and care little for swimming in questionably hygienic urban lakes.

Even so, I’m certain that you could come to love the Twin Cities if you don’t already. That’s what’s great about a modern city — there’s a few million of us here, and collectively we foster a wonderful array of things to do, for all kinds of people.

Every city has a lot of great things. You might even be able to argue that other places have more great things than the Twin Cities do. The importance of appreciating our surrounding community, however, isn’t about where it scores on a ranking of city quality. After all, this is the only place where we all live in our time at Mac.


[email protected] 

View Comments (2)
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Zak Yudhishthu
Zak Yudhishthu, Managing Editor
Zak Yudhishthu '24 is one of the Managing Editors, from Portland, OR. He's majoring in economics and minoring in music. He likes to devour Stacy's Pita Chips.

Comments (2)

All The Mac Weekly Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    JospehMar 12, 2024 at 9:22 pm

    Our city is 49% non-white,

    Why is this important to you. Imagine you write this line in 1970…… Our city is only 51% white.

  • D

    David BeechamMar 9, 2024 at 7:21 pm

    My wife and I grew up in Mac/Grovland & have resided in nearby Highland Park for over 40 years. It’s people like the author that make our neighborhoods in St Paul as wonderful as they are…diverse and strong! Thanks!