St. Paul, Minn., bills itself as “the most livable city in America,” said John Powers in The Boston Globe. But locals, in a nod to temperatures that in winter can plummet to 30 below, have another name for their hometown: “Moscow on the Mississippi.” Next week St. Paul will host the Republican National Convention and its 45,000 attendees at the Xcel Energy Center. Landing this convention was a rare coup in the ongoing rivalry with co–Twin City Minneapolis—which is bigger both
in area and population, and “has a skyline and four of the state’s five professional sports teams.” St. Paul, though, is the state capital. F. Scott Fitzgerald was born here, and Garrison Keillor broadcasts his Prairie Home Companion radio program Saturday afternoons from the Fitzgerald Theater downtown.

The city’s original name was Pig’s Eye, and in 1886 a New York journalist dismissed it as a Siberia-like place “unfit for human habitation.” In response, the rechristened city “decided to turn itself into a polar playground.” The annual Winter Carnival, described by Fitzgerald in The Ice Palace, lasts until Groundhog Day, when King Boreas and his Queen of Winds are dethroned by the fire king Vulcanus Rex “and his sooty-faced krewe.” In warmer weather, paddlewheelers ply the Mississippi, and amblers roam the Lowertown warehouse district, where concerts are held every Thursday evening
at the bandstand in Mears Park. Every year the Minnesota State
Fair features an Agri-lympics with four events—cow milking, animal calling, “wool pack-o-rama,” and butter carving.

Like many Midwestern cities, St. Paul “is not a late-night town.” But a favorite hangout day or night, seven days a week, is Mickey’s Diner. An easy walk from the convention center, this classic art deco diner was built in 1939 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Republicans and Democrats alike come here for artery-bursting breakfasts, hand-dipped malts, and such diner fare as fried chicken and liver with onions.