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5 cool Twin Cities neighborhoods you can actually afford

Life is all frisbees and blue skies in St. Paul's Highland Park.

Life is all frisbees and blue skies in St. Paul's Highland Park.

You used to be so cool. Tipping back double IPAs at the best bars. Catching whatever boy-girl synth-pop duo Pitchfork deemed buzzworthy this week. Waiting in the line outside the revolutionary new restaurant weeks before your friends, only to listlessly report, “Eh, it was OK.”

Life was sweet.

Then — wham! — adulthood hit you like an unexpected pregnancy. Or maybe exactly like an unexpected pregnancy.

Now it's time to buy a house (something about equity). You’re not completely ready to abandon your lifestyle, nor can you afford the neighborhoods you caroused in while building your Instagram cred. Consider these fabulous sections of the cities that aren’t prohibitively expensive.

5. Windom Park, Minneapolis

When aging renters graduate from the Uptown-Downtown commotion (or never cared for it to begin with), northeast Minneapolis is the logical place to look. Swanky North Loop excursions aren’t too much of a hassle, but who needs 'em when the inexpensive culinary rainbow of Central Avenue awaits?

Tucked behind the Quarry, Windom Park houses with quiet charm can be found to fit various budgets, many falling in the mid-$200,000s. While far enough away from the city’s center to have that quiet neighborhood vibe, it’s close enough that commuting by bus, bike, or car is a breeze.

4. Regina, Minneapolis

Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighborhood is on fire. Not literally, thank God. If it was, some of the Twin Cities’ finest chicken fryers (Revival) and pancake purveyors (Nighthawks) would go up in profoundly fragrant smoke.

While people who photograph their food (guilty) would love to be within walking distance of the city’s hottest food corridor, Regina — just a hop over the I-35W sound barrier — doesn’t garner the same attention.

Be wary of the cosmetic quick-flip houses. But many have great bones with the same hardwood floors and built-ins without the Kingfield premium.

3. Wenonah, Minneapolis

While future stroller-pushers squabble over who can pay more for houses in southwest Minneapolis, look east of I-35W.

Bordered by Highway 62 on the south, Wenonah doesn’t have the hype of Ericsson further north. But comfortably cozy, small-roomed houses in the 1,600 to 1,800-square-foot range can be found for around $200,000-$220,000. Working men and women and families of all stripes nest in this humble enclave, where certain lots can have sneakily large yards.

This sleeper value ‘hood boasts proximity to the east half of Lake Nokomis without the west-side prices. The catch? It’s peak flyover territory. During those Fourth of July backyard picnics, airplane noise will regularly drown out your uncle’s uncomfortable proclamations of the American ideal, as envisioned by a man in cutoff jean shorts four Budweisers deep.

However, after making that mortgage payment there’s enough left over to feed ‘em filets instead of frozen burgers.

2. Keewaydin, Minneapolis

Wenonah’s northern neighbor has many of the same pros — Nokomis-adjacent, comparative value, easy freeway access.

While prices creep north, the 747 din slowly starts decreasing. Keewaydin also pleasantly falls in the Bermuda triangle between Minnehaha Falls, Lake Hiawatha, and Lake Nokomis, not to mention the Minnehaha Creek.

You’ll be overcome with serenity from creek-side bike rides and walks with Fido around the lake. Or you can just crack a beer and watch TV. Your call! But at least you have options.

1. Highland Park, St. Paul

Longtime Minneapolitans can be reluctant to cross the river. (Will anyone come visit me?) But if you’re one of the bazillion first-time buyers hunting for a south Minneapolis home, consider Highland Park.

It doesn’t exactly have a rep as the cheapest neighborhood. Despite a dearth of available houses in St. Paul’s desirable southwest corner, there are deals to be found. The bang-for-the-buck factor can actually be higher than in south Minneapolis’ bidding warzones. Sure, Highland Park has its $300,000-plus “fixer-uppers.” But some houses in the $250,000-$280,000 range can come with more updates and a couple hundred more square feet than their Minneapolis counterparts.

While Minneapolitans tout their virtuous parks system, you’ll have equally easy access to Hidden Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Fort Snelling, and of course Highland Park. Not to mention you’re equidistant from both downtowns and a $6 Uber ride to the airport (without the airplane noise).