St. Cloud is more of a “small town grown into a large town”, with a friendly Midwestern feel but an expanding role as a commercial and educational center and commuter suburb to the northwestern reaches of Minneapolis-St Paul.
The downtown is clean and in good shape if not especially exciting. Five small private colleges and the larger St. Cloud State University bring college town feel and cultural diversity. The area serves as a gateway to wilderness lakes and parks to the north. The city has a number of its own amenities and is close enough to share those of Minneapolis–St. Paul while being lower on the cost of living scale. Proximity to the Twin Cities area is a plus, and suburban development southeast of town is springing up to take advantage of it. There is talk of commuter rail service, which will work to further connect the two metro areas.
The terrain is flat to gently rolling with numerous lakes and wooded areas. The continental climate is highly variable with four distinct seasons. Spring, summer, and fall are pleasant, with moderate temperatures and low humidity. Thunderstorms are the principal source of rainfall and severe storms are common. Winters are cold with low humidity. On average in winter, 5 to 10 days reach temperatures between –20 and –30 degrees. Heavy snowfalls occur, but the location north of most storm tracks means they are less frequent than in cities to the south. Snow generally remains on the ground throughout winter. First freeze is late September, last is mid-May.