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Minneapolis is the biggest and artsiest town on the prairie, with all the trimmings of progressive prosperity – swank art museums, rowdy rock clubs, organic and ethnic eateries, and edgy theaters. It's always happenin', even in winter. And here's the bonus: folks are attitude-free and the embodiment of 'Minnesota Nice.' Count how many times they tell you to 'Have a great day,' come rain, shine or snow.

The city owes its existence to the Mississippi. Water-powered sawmills along the river fueled a boom in timber in the mid-1800s. Wheat from the prairies also needed to be processed, so flour mills churned into the next big business. The population grew rapidly in the late 19th century with mass immigration, especially from Scandinavia and Germany. A more recent wave of immigration in the past few decades, from places like Vietnam and Somalia, have added new layers of complexity, as well as some very good places to eat.

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