I thought I'd write this page in case someone else who was assigned to UMN for the summer needed some advice on housing, groceries, activities, etc. Hopefully, I won't bore those who are just looking to hear what an awesome summer I had in MN!
In terms of housing, I looked at three different places (to sublet). One was FloCo apartments, a nice housing area, but well off campus. It wouldn't be a horrible walk, but I am glad I didn't sublet there. If a future student was to sublease, I would suggest mapping the walk from your proposed housing to Walter Library, where the majority of the labs are and where all three DREU students this summer work. As Walter in on the Minneapolis campus (East Bank), living in St. Paul wouldn't have been ideal; however, Ella lives in St. Paul, and her morning commute wasn't too bad. I ended up subletting in Keeler Apartments, which is only a five minute walk from the lab. Campus housing is available, but subletting is much cheaper, especially since so many people don't want to pay rent for an empty apartment. I have three roommates, my own room, and access to a gym and a kitchen. Typically during the week, I spend most of my time off work hanging out and here relaxing.
When I flew in from Seattle, I was starving and stocked up on a few basics at a local grocery store, House of Hanson. The prices were insanely expensive, and I was surprised to learn there was no real grocery store within a mile. The best option is Lund's, which is a little over a mile down University Avenue. I supplemented with supplies from CVS, the occasional downtown trip to Target, and leftovers from various restaurants. However, grocery shopping is definitely time intensive, and not easy.
In terms of restaurants, the two best bets are Dinkytown (yes, that is the real name) and Stadium Village. Victoria made a point of going out to lunch once a week to talk about our work, and get to know each other, and Ella and I soon supplemented that with our own weekly lunch date. In Dinkytown, there is a Qdoba, Subway, McDonalds, two Greek restaurants, Loring Pasta Bar, and Shuang Cheng (Chinese food). In Stadium Village, there is The Village Wok, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, Breuger's, and The Jasmine Orchid. There is also food in Coffman Memorial Center: Panda Express, Einstein Bagels, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Chick-fil-A.
My summer was pretty relaxed, but I did have a few cool experiences. I went to Mall of America twice, once with my friend Melissa, and once by myself. It was a cool place to walk around, and I even saw a movie. It was pretty easy to get there, just a quick ride on the light rail. Another place to check out is the Central Minneapolis Library. I got a library card the first week, and spent a lot of time picking out books to read after work. I also went to Lake Calhoun with my roommate and her friends--it was definitely a fun place to hang out, although too crowded to think about actually swimming.
There was a university-sponsored music festival on the mall this summer. I went once or twice, and even learned a few salsa dances. There was free food, and lots of families out enjoying the weather. I also went to a farmer's market near Guthrie Theater on Saturday, which was a nice taste of Minnesotan fruits and vegetables. Most of the time however, I just spent my free time walking around Minneapolis, enjoying the Mississippi and the city sights.