We arrived to these shores/skyways in 2014 and as you can see from this blog, I’m quite smitten with it. Below is what I wish I had known from the start about navigating the Saint Paul skyway. I hope it helps you enjoy downtown!
#1 Skyway map: There are lots. I like this one best (but even it has errors, see #5).
#2 Wayfinding, how to read a sign:
These signs are placed at every entrance and exit of a skyway. They have logic, but it took me 6 months to deduce it. There are 3 levels of information.
- The center information. This is always where you are, not where you are going. It makes wonderful sense when entering a building. When you are exiting a building, it confuses terribly. I can’t tell you how many times I walked into the Lawson Commons Building thinking I was going to the Lowry Building. I was already in the Lowry – but kept following the signs out of it. The sign above is directly outside the Children’s Museum, but you are standing in the Wells Fargo Place building reading it.
- Right and left of center. This is where you are going – your next stop so to speak.
- The black end caps. This is also where you are going, but farther on in the distance. They reassure you are heading in the generally correct direction. If you are at the Green Line’s Central Station, look to the black end caps to find your way to the River Center still 5 blocks away.
Saint Paul isn’t flat. Skyways will become ground ways and vice versa. It’s disorienting when suddenly you are above or below where you thought you should be.
#4 Entrance doors:
They say the skyways are open 6am – 2am every day. Well, yes and no. If you are already on the inside, yes, you can move about freely in the skyways. If you are on the outside trying to get in, that can be trickier. Private businesses are obliged to keep the skyways open, but they aren’t obliged to keep their doors unlocked outside business hours. Small detours to explore outside may turn into longer outdoor expeditions as you search for a way back in.
So far we’ve found these doors to be reliably open at night and on weekends.
- Union Depot (open 24/7, see #5)
- Central Station (from 6am to 2am)
- Wells Fargo Place on Wabasha
- Lawson Commons Entrance facing Rice Park/Landmark Center (A security guard told us these doors were open 24/7.)
- Robert Street and 7th St. Parking Garage
- River Center at Rice Park
- El Barrio Restaurant Foyer off of Mears Park
- YMCA Entrance. Open until 10pm M-F, 8pm Sat. & Sun.
- The Crown Plaza Hotel
- The Double Tree by Hilton (Rival House Restaurant is right there).
- Ecolab Plaza Entrance on Wabasha. (Main doors lock at 9:30pm everyday. A small door to the right just around the corner – like 20 feet over – leading to the same foyer is open until 11:30pm. Info untested, but learned from a security guard at Alliance Bank.)
Do you know of others?
#5 Map errors
Union Depot IS accessible from the skyways always. Skybridges #26 and #36 are always open despite what the maps say. The closed part is within the Sibley Square building only, the East Fifth building next door remains open. In fact, there is a hallway/shortcut not shown on the maps that runs parallel to the closed portion. I have never, ever been denied an indoor walk to Union Depot and I’ve tested it a lot. This a huge mistake considering a $250 million dollar investment to make Union Depot a transportation hub once again.
Skyway bridge #4 from Bremer Tower to City Walk Condos should be listed as “restricted hours”. It’s a long and totally useless hallway on the weekends. I promise you will waste your time walking there after 8pm on weekdays, all day weekends and holidays.
#6 Fast food and convenience stores:
It’s pretty easy to find fast food or convenience stores in the skyway Monday-Friday during business hours. Town Square and Alliance Bank, side by side, both have food court areas open at lunch.
After hours and weekends is the trickier part. Here’s what I know for sure:
Ho Fan, an Asian take-out restaurant, bless their hearts, is open until 7pm M-F, located in the Town Square building. (This is my go to place when I don’t feel like cooking supper.) Chipotle in the Lawson Commons building is open until 6pm M-F.
Subway next to the Children’s Museum in the Wells Fargo Place building is open 7 days a week and all holidays, but they close at 5pm. Lee’s Express Restaurant across the hall is also open on Saturdays until 5pm and weekdays until 6pm.
For convenience store items after hours or weekends, you’ll need to go outside to Walgreens, just across the street from the Wells Fargo Place building on Wabasha. The River Market grocery store is also right there a few doors down.
#7 Great places to wander to and thru:
1st National Bank – this is the building with the large neon “1st” shining in the St. Paul skyline. Built the same time as the Empire State Building the main floor is a beautiful time capsule. Weigh yourself on the old-school scale at the base of the escalators. The updated skyway level is filled with art and sculptures.
Pioneer Endicott – another time capsule, this building is now apartment rentals. The street and skyway levels house a trifecta of art, chocolate and booze – making it one of the best corners of the skyways.
- Minnesota Museum of American Art
- Legacy Chocolates
- Revival Wine, Beer and Spirits
- Plus fun elevators – kids (or adults) can pretend to manually operate them just like in olden days.
Union Depot – colossal is the word that comes to mind -gorgeous, amazing, huge, cavernous work too. Walk all the way to the back to see views of the Mississippi. Play ping pong, interact with the art. Open 24/7. Bathrooms and water fountains will recharge you for the walk back.
City Hall and County Courthouse – if you happen to be walking in between 8-4:30pm M-F the Ramsey County Courthouse is a fun destination. The whole building is a beautifully preserved Art Deco masterpiece. Go through the metal detectors and find the information desk on the main floor to get a self-guided tour information sheet.
George Latimer Central Library – impressive building with a particularly impressive kid and teen sections. Find your book, then go to the kids’ sections for a more comfy place to read.
Children’s Museum – with kids it’s a must go to location, without kids it’s still interesting to take a peek. The museum store is open to the public and the art in the skyway leading there and in the atrium are fun to see.
There’s a great view of the Minnesota State Capitol Building at skybridge #7 between the Wells Fargo Building and Town Square.
Am I missing anything?
Please add your two cents in the comments section!