If you’re thinking about moving to Minnesota, there are probably some things that you don’t even realize you need to know. I’m here to help. 🙂
Minnesota Liquor Laws
I moved here from Chicago, and I think the motto there was something like “keep everyone drunk so they don’t notice the high taxes”. There were very few constraints on when or where you could buy alcohol. I was so confused when I couldn’t buy beer on Sunday here – AT ALL.
Here in Minnesota, you won’t be seeing people crawl home after being at the bar til 4am like you might in Wrigleyville. Liquor can be served here Monday – Saturday 8am-2am, and on Sunday, they hope you hit the 8 am service before you hit the bar between 10am and 2am. In 2017 the Minnesota legislature finally came to their senses and decided that adults should be allowed to decide for themselves if they wanted to buy Devil juice on Sunday and allowed Sunday liquor store sales.
They aren’t going to make it convenient for you though! You will not be grabbing a bottle of wine to have with dinner while you’re at the grocery store. NOPE! You need to go to an actual liquor store to buy your beverage. There are a lot of them, and they do tend to locate close to grocery stores, but it still annoys me. Hot recommendation for one of the best liquor stores I’ve seen- if you are in SW Minneapolis and want a great selection of micro-brews, craft alcohols, and wine stop into South Lyndale Liquors. The people there are super helpful and the variety is just amazing.
Everyone’s favorite word! And top of mind for me as we get close to April 15. I feel like I just did my taxes thanks to the extension that we were given last year.
Sales Tax I’m not really much of a shopper (if you meet me you’ll notice my meager wardrobe), but even I had heard about the magic that is shopping for clothing in Minnesota! No sales tax on clothing here – the price is the price! Other items not subject to tax are groceries, prescriptions, and diapers. Everything else has a sales tax of 6.875%, but counties and municipalities may add taxes of their own. Harkening back to Chicago, it was about a 10% premium to buy a burrito after you had your beer in Chicago. (Can you feel the indigestion?)
Property Tax OK, I will continue to compare MN (favorably) to IL here. When we moved here people would frequently make complaints about property taxes. We were confused since the homes we were looking at were like twice the size and half the taxes. Lake County IL has an effective tax rate of about 2.83%, Hennepin county MN is at 1.28%, so you can see why we were thrilled! For a $300,000 home that’s a BIG difference! $8,490 year vs $3,840. The median home price in the Twin Cities metro area is about $309,000.
Let’s look at it regionally and at a state level. Here is a grid of how we compare to our immediate neighbors. We look pretty good!
Vehicle Tax Sales taxes are applied when you purchase major items like cars. But the tax I’m thinking of here is the vehicle registration tax – when you get new tags each year in MN the least amount you will pay is $44. The minimum charge is $25 + other fees for cars over the age of 11. MN takes the MSRP of the car and reduces it by 10% each year to determine the tax for tax renewal, so if you buy an expensive car you’ll expect to pay a bit for tags as well.
Minnesota actually has FOUR international airports! Ranked by size they are:
Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport in the Twin Cities. This airport is enormous. Nearly 40,000,000 people fly into or out of MSP every year, which is over 400,000 flights! 87,000 people are employed in some way through MSP. 11 major airlines fly into MSP, Delta, American, and United have major presences in Terminal 1, and Terminal 2 is largely dominated by Southwest.
If you have kids, there is a fun drive-up viewing area to watch planes take off and land, it has parking and picnic tables and can be an entertaining lunch time activity with (or without) kids.
Duluth International Airport Delta, United and Sun Country Airlines fly into and out of Duluth. If you fly out of or into Duluth, you’ll most likely be connecting in Detroit, Minneapolis or Chicago.
Greater Rochester International Airport United, Delta, American, Southwest, and JetBlue are major carriers that serve this airport. They have MANY flights in and out every day. I imagine that this airport exists in support of the world renowned Mayo Clinic.
Finally, the International Falls International Airport. International Falls is a smaller city and they have an international airport because they border directly with our neighbor to the north. They have daily connecting flights to MSP airport on Delta Airlines. I’m charmed by the fact that the web site touts that the airport has vending machines. It’s a small airport, but critical to that region of the state. I am a fan of small airports, because the hassle level is so much smaller, you’re treated like a person not a herd animal.
This was a tough one for me, even coming from a northern state like Illinois. I love flowers and like to have home grown tomatoes. The lower third of Minnesota falls into zone 4a for gardening. We don’t plant anything til after the threat of last frost which is Mothers Day. That can feel like an eternal wait at times. So plan on controlling the urge to plant until middle to late May and know that mid September to early October is likely the latest that you can plan to see tender annuals survive.
If you decide to plant perennials, I would recommend that you be extra cautious and select a hardiness to zone 3. If you like home grown vegetables, and you’re thinking of things like tomatoes and peppers, plan to either start them inside or buy plants that have had a head start so they have time to produce for you before the frost. Of course, cool weather crops have a really happy life here – cabbage, hardy greens like kale and swiss chard do well. I’ve also had great success with herbs, even planted from seed.
I’ve said it before, but one of the things that I truly love about Minnesota is that there are four TRUE seasons here! I love them all, but I’m usually ready for the next one when the time comes. The seasons are pretty prompt and take their place right on schedule every 3 months (even though sometimes a season can seem eternal – like a really harsh winter that doesn’t want to quit).
One thing to know is that while MN has a reputation for cold, don’t be surprised in summer when it gets HOT and humid. Spring turns to summer like someone flipped a switch. We have a pretty good stretch of days in the summer that are in the high 80’s and low 90’s. You may not need your AC ALL summer, but there are days when you’ll be very grateful to have it.
Sticking with the weather theme, what should you be prepared for? Other areas of the country have things that they are known for – California wild fires, hurricanes on the coast, but these aren’t concerns here.
Things that we worry about (and maybe hope for depending on how old your roof is) are hail storms, severe thunderstorms and tornados. I, personally, want to have a basement to hide in when tornado season is in full swing, and most homes here have them. If you don’t have a basement, head to an interior room without windows if possible. A bathroom with tiled walls work, get into the tub, and if you have a mattress of something that you can put over your heads to protect your head, even better.
In Minneapolis and much of Minnesota, we test our tornado sirens every month on the first Wednesday. This day is my dogs’s worst nightmare and it happens regularly. You should be aware of what day it is and know that we never actually have tornados at 1pm on the first Wednesday of the month. Or at least we hope not, because no one gets alarmed at that particular alarm.
Two sides of the same natural disaster coin are flood and drought. There isn’t much you can do about a drought, but knowing if you’re buying in a flood plain can be very helpful when you’re looking at property and knowing if you need to have flood insurance or not. Our multiple listing service gives us the flood status of lots, but if you’d like to check yourself you can go to the FEMA website and take a look.
Unlike South Dakota which basically has a sign at the border saying that the speed limit is 80, and don’t let us catch you exceeding that or you’re in deep doodoo, Minnesota has lots of different rules about how fast you can go and when.
On rural interstates, the speed limit is 70 MPH, urban expressways and interstates it drops to 65. Other main highways are at 55mph, and when you enter an urban area you can plan on the speed limit being 30. Unless you’re on a neighborhood street in Minneapolis in which case you better know that it’s 20.
We have a lot of potholes here because of the changing weather conditions and you should keep an eye out for them unless you don’t mind getting a flat or having your teeth come down hard on your tongue. People joke about there being 2 seasons, winter and road construction, but there is really only one season – road construction.
We thought moving here would mean moving to a place that had a good handle on snow removal, but I’ve found that it varies widely. In the city of St. Paul it can feel like every man for himself. Suburbs and outer areas handled by the state tend to do a better job clearing with plows and salt or a salt/grit combo. I’m writing this in peak grit season as the snow has melted and it leaves behind the grit. LOTS OF GRIT. It’s unavoidable and annoying, but I appreciate the traction in winter. Hot tip – get an all wheel drive car that has some weight to it and you’ll probably be ok driving on our roads. 😉
Staying warm (or cool)
I’ve been in other parts of the country that seem to rely on electricity to provide heat, but here in Minnesota we primarily use natural gas and forced air furnaces. If you have a forced air furnace you’re also likely to have, or be able to easily install, central air conditioning.
Older homes use radiant heat, either through baseboard radiators, radiant floor heat or the traditional style cast iron radiators that you may have seen. I’m a fan because it’s a constant warm heat rather than a blower clicking on and off all the time, but there are downsides. No ductwork available for the AC, and the air may get very dry in your home.
If you do have radiant heat and still want AC your choices are the old school window units or you can have an attic condenser unit and they will put round ducts in the ceiling for it, or what is called a “mini split” that is kind of a rectangle shaped AC unit installed on the wall. Retrofitting an old home for AC can be a little pricey and it’s important to think about that when you’re considering how you like to live in a home.
Many people in Minnesota have wood stoves in their homes – we have one! They are a nice addition for mood and heat, but it’s totally an extra that we enjoy, not the way we heat our house. The beauty of a wood stove is that the heat stays in the home, and they are made of cast iron which retains and radiates the heat, so you get that glow and warmth without the heat loss that you can have with a regular fireplace.
What else are you curious about? How does this seem different from where you live now?