Minnesota is the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” and St. Cloud is no exception, with the region boasting at least a hundred of the blue gems. In the wintertime, the glistening water freezes up and residents can be seen dragging little huts onto the ice with holes in the bottom to fish out of (ala “Grumpy Old Men”). Other outdoor sports include ice skating, sledding and snowmobiling— which brings us to another, perhaps obvious, point: St. Cloud, Minnesota is cold. Really cold. In December and January, it’s not uncommon to have multiple days that reach negative 20 to negative 30 degrees. Thus, it’s safe to say that if you’re planning a move this way and don’t own an excellent winter parka, you’re going to want to hit REI before you get on the plane.
St. Cloudians tend to be an agreeable group of people in general and the opinion that it’s easy to find housing seems to be one more thing they agree on. Just about every realtor you talk to will tell you that St. Cloud has done an excellent job monitoring its ratio of people living here to its available rental housing. There is fairly little competition and abundance of units available. As a result, you don’t find the housing crunch here that is typical of bigger cities. Nevertheless, house hunting is easiest in May through August. The three-bedroom units fill faster, along with one-bedrooms — especially with apartment complexes. Two-bedroom units are available virtually all year throughout the town.
South Side: This part of town is a beautiful, historic part of town with some of the oldest structures in the city. The South Side has nice open spaces— with Barden Park being a key feature. This neighborhood is great for renters.
St. John Cantius/Lake George: This area is in the center of the city and offers a recently revamped park that now hosts summer concerts by the lake. The neighborhood has a variety of housing styles including apartments, duplexes, multiplexes and single family homes for rent. Movers to the Lake George area will definitely find lots of trees, neighbors with gardens and public spaces that host “art in the park” and “neighborhood movie night.”
East Side: This section is defined as the section of town to the east side of the Mississippi river. In the Northern part you find Wilson Park and on the southern end Clemens-Minsinger Gardens, a popular tourist attraction. The region includes a nice variety of housing styles and it’s conveniently located near other parts of town.
North St. Cloud/Hester Park: Perhaps the most convenient part of living in the north end of St. Cloud is its proximity to the hospital. Also, there’s a lovely walking path on one end along the Mississippi River and a park that boasts beautiful granite walking bridges. The houses tend to have less backyard space and garages are mostly limited to single-car designs; however, the location and its pleasant feel makes the area an optimal choice for many renters.
Pantown: This old, historic part of St. Cloud hails its name from the Pan Motor Company which operated briefly between 1917 and 1921, producing about 750 automobiles during that time period. Most of the houses on the neighborhood’s south side therefore date to that era. The north side of Pantown developed later and most of those homes were built in the 1950s and 1960s.
Sartell: This newer part of town has a distinct suburban feel. Critics point to a certain homogeny in the new development but residents enjoy its cozy vibe.
For a smaller city, St. Cloud has done a great job developing public transportation and offering options to its citizens. There’s a Ride and Share in addition to the standard metro bus, which runs frequently and services each of the suburbs. It isn’t a city that’s too difficult to live in without a car and some die-hards will even get on their bicycle in the snow. If you can tolerate the frigid air, there are plenty of walking paths and good traffic lights. If you do have a vehicle, you’ll be spared rush hour. There are two brief times – from about 7:30 to 8 a.m. and again from 4:30 to 6 p.m. where there you will notice more traffic on the road. Even then, you won’t find hour-long waits or heavy congestion.
Chilly weather is a staple of culture here and tolerance for it is something Minnesotans take pride in. In fact, St. Cloudians enjoy the cold so much they actually plan many of their festivals and parades for wintertime. According to Cindy at the Chamber of Commerce, their annual Santa Parade, for instance, is so popular residents arrive every year in droves, despite the fact that it is often actively snowing and well below zero. “You just dress warm,” she says.
Apart from cooler temperatures, St. Cloud has many sunny days too, and its springtime scenery is nothing to shake a stick at. With woodland forests to the north and sprawling farmlands to the south, St. Cloud showcases a happy mixture of both. The city is nicknamed Granite Country, USA, after its old quarries and stone-finishing businesses, the remains of which can be seen throughout the town’s architecture. The Paramount Theatre and the Stearns History Museum are two popular features of the city and in recent years, a burgeoning art scene has developed.
Although it may take an outsider some time to get used to the language (“You betchya,” “Lutefisk,” etc.), most agree it’s a pleasant place to live. So go ahead, grab your fishing waders and a copy of “How to Talk Minnesotan,” (with helpful tips like “refusing food three times before accepting” and “understanding the ‘long goodbye’”) and come this way! Happy Hunting!