Perfectly Small Cities: Eden Prairie

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Minnesota Farm

What do you get when you combine miles of sun-dappled bike paths with a pastoral landscape, a thriving economy, gorgeous lakes with beaches, and a low cost of living? That would be Money Magazine‘s multi-time winner as one of America’s “Best Places to Live” (taking the number one spot in 2010) – Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Eden Prairie was founded in 1858 as a charming rural village – and it basically remained that way. The 19th-century settlement that was populated by a handful of farmers only grew to about 2,000 residents one hundred years later. That changed recently, with the population soaring to more than 60,000 residents, making it the 13th largest city in the state.

This suburban city is located about 12 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis. It is situated along the Minnesota River and is dotted with large lakes and ponds. Either could have been the draw for the influx of new residents – a short commute into the city, a gorgeous landscape – but Eden Prairie is also an economic powerhouse with a highly-educated workforce and a low unemployment rate. Eden Prairie is a true live-work-play community, and it’s this combination that makes it such a desirable location.

As one of the healthiest cities in the country, Eden Prairie offers over 1,000 acres of parkland, 100 miles of bike trails, and 13 miles of nature trails. Those renting apartments in Eden Prairie will enjoy an outdoor lifestyle that includes activities such as hiking, biking, swimming, boating, golfing, splash pads, and winter activities such as sledding, skiing, ice skating, and snowboarding.

If you enjoy fresh, cold spring water right from the source, Eden Prairie has you covered. The Fredrick-Miler Spring has been in active use for more than a century. The City of Eden Prairie acquired the spring in 1969, and it is almost exactly as it was when settlers began to use it in the late 1800s.

If you want to grow your own organic vegetables to have with your fresh spring water, Eden Prairie offers the perfect solution – especially for apartment renters. Eden Prairie’s community gardens are seasonal and available for rent. And while community gardens have just recently become popular, Eden Prairie has been offering community garden plots for more than 37 years.

With its collection of top employers, strong economy, and low unemployment rate, Eden Prairie residents don’t have to make the commute into Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul – but with easy access to both major cities, they can take advantage of the proximity to visit museums, shops, restaurants, and theaters. Eden Prairie has a large shopping mall – the Eden Prairie Center – as well as a community theater and a community band. Art on City Walls is an ongoing exhibit that features murals, paintings, and photography done by local and regional artists. Eden Prairie is also home to Staring Lake Observatory, home to one of the state’s largest telescopes.

Eden Prairie’s high quality of life extends to everyone, including pets. With six off-leash dog parks including the year-round Flying Cloud Dog Park, the city is very pet-friendly. It is also extremely family-friendly – not only for its extensive park system and healthy residents, but because it has one of the best school systems in Minnesota. The district is well-known for innovation, high-quality teaching, and high expectations. Students regularly test among the top in the state on assessment tests and college entrance exams. Nearby colleges include Hennepin Technical College, located in Eden Prairie, and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, located about 20 minutes away in Minneapolis.