Itinerant Fan

Xcel Energy Center

In the “State of Hockey,” where the game thrives from frozen ponds to remote barns, the brightest lights are reserved for the capital of St. Paul. That’s where you’ll find Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild since their expansion season of 2000-01.

More than helping facilitate the return of Minnesota’s favorite sport after the North Stars left for Dallas in 1993, Xcel Energy Center also helped St. Paul establish its downtown area as an entertainment center in its own right, pulling it out of the shadow of neighboring Minneapolis. 

Further helping St. Paul’s status, infrastructure improvements over the years have made it easier for visitors staying in Minneapolis to access St. Paul, putting Minnesota Wild home games more readily in the reach of anyone planning a trip to the Twin Cities. 

The Wild have done their part in recent years, icing a competitive team looking to break through in the annual race for the Stanley Cup. 

For more on visiting St. Paul, check out our Minneapolis/St. Paul city guide.


The approach: Getting to Xcel Energy Center

In the arena’s early days, downtown St. Paul was only accessible via car and bus, limiting the options for visitors who were staying in downtown Minneapolis or generally anywhere that wasn’t nearby.

That changed in 2014, when the region’s transit authority, Metro Transit, opened the Green Line, which linked the two downtowns via a light rail line. It’s a 45-minute ride if you travel the length of the line, and after disembarking at Central station (the second-to last eastbound stop). As of the 208-19 season, a one-way adult fare on Metro Transit was as low as $2.

From the Central station, you’ll still have to walk several blocks west to reach the arena — which could prove to be a challenge in the dead of winter. But, like many cold-weather cities, St. Paul has a network of connected, sheltered paths that make it possible to get to Xcel Energy Center without spending too much time outside. See a skyway map here.

For drivers, Minneapolis and St. Paul are linked by Interstate 94, which runs just north of downtown St. Paul as it links up with I-35E. Exit at Fifth Street or Kellogg Boulevard (depending on your direction of travel) and head south toward the arena from there. For more detailed driving directions, click here.

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The build-up: Things to do around Xcel Energy Center

Because it tends to get overshadowed by its fellow Twin City — certainly by visitors, and oftentimes by locals as well — St. Paul is something of a hidden gem, with plenty to offer in terms of the dining and nightlife scene. That certainly applies on game nights, when there’s no shortage of places for fans to hang out and fill their stomachs while waiting for puck drop.

For proximity as well as sports-fan atmosphere, it’s hard to go wrong by strolling down Seventh Street just west of the arena, where a number of restaurants and bars await over a two-block stretch. A couple of establishments even have hockey-themed names, such as Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub (owned by former North Stars defenseman Tom Reid) and Zamboni’s Pizza

East of the arena, you’ll find a greater selection of restaurants, though many cater to the workaday, state-employee crowd that floods the area during the day. Click here for a guide to food and drink in the area surrounding the arena.

If you’re staying in downtown St. Paul and looking for something to do during the day, the area has a few museums worth visiting, including the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Also, the Minnesota State Capitol is about a mile north of the arena, on the other side of I-94.

Xcel Energy Center concourse

The ambiance: Watching a game at Xcel Energy Center

Befitting its location — and the fact that its main tenant is known as the Minnesota Wild — Xcel Energy Center takes on a log cabin feel, with wood paneling and images of trees just about everywhere you turn. Appropriately enough, the in-arena team store is called the Hockey Lodge and carries on this theme very well.

If it’s your first visit, it’s certainly worth it to take a spin around the main concourse, where you can see plenty of displays related to the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota North Stars, as well as exhibits honoring high school and junior hockey in the state of Minnesota, and even the comic strip “Peanuts” (its creator, Charles Schulz, was a native Minnesotan and huge hockey fan).

Arena concessions range from the traditional (burgers, chicken tenders, pizza) to the slightly adventurous (Italian meatballs in a bucket, Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches). Like many arenas around the country, Xcel Energy Center has worked to increase its food variety in recent years, but Minnesota staples such as bratwursts and fried cheese curds remain entrenched on the menus. For a guide to some of the newer food options, click here.

The seating bowl consists of four levels, including one for luxury suites, but while the upper deck can feel high, it also has a sight line that makes you feel almost as if you’re on top of the ice. A new HD overhead scoreboard was unveiled in 2014, giving fans in the upper reach something else to look at if the action on the ice proved to be a little too far away.

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    The Particulars

    Home Teams
    Minnesota Wild

    Address
    199 W. Kellogg Blvd.
    St. Paul, MN 55102

    Year Opened
    2000

    Capacity
    17,954

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