Whether you are in the Twin Cities for the Super Bowl or to see the Vikings play at their new downtown stadium, there are also a bevy of free things to do in Minneapolis. From theater to museums to farm to table restaurants to major league baseball and Prince’s estate, Paisley Park, Minneapolis has it all. The midwestern city also has brutal winters, mitigated by skyways connecting much of downtown. The rest of the year, you can enjoy outdoor activities.
Minnesota Nice describes the polite, friendly behavior of people in Minnesota. It even extends to budget considerations, particularly if you are visiting Minneapolis. There are plenty of free things to do in Minneapolis. You can visit museums, hit some festivals and tour gardens, all at no cost. Since Minneapolis has excellent farm to table restaurants, and great shopping at the mega Mall of America, you can save your money for those by visiting these free fun activities.
The outdoor sculpture garden, open daily, is both an urban park and an outdoor museum. It is filled with native plants and trees, and has over 40 works of art. The Hixon Whitney Footbridge connects the garden to Loring Park, which has biking and walking paths.
A contemporary art museum, the Walker Art Center focuses on both established and emerging artist. The museum is across the street from the sculpture garden. Admission to the Walker is free the first Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and every Thursday night from 5 – 9 p.m. Kids 18 and under are always free. During free hours, there are art projects, music and storytelling, all also free.
Although there is a cafe, you can bring your own food and eat in the lounge. You save money AND ensure your kids have food they want.
- The Mill City Farmers Market is a treat for all senses, and ages. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom
Go hiking or biking in this huge park, which has a waterfall and variety of native plants. Minneapolis calls itself the “city by nature,” which makes sense when you explore the park. See wildflowers, woodlands and prairie plants in the Pergola Garden. Longfellow Garden promotes ‘living’ soil and is pesticide free. You can tour the historic “Princess” Depot where the railroad once ran. There is both free and paid parking at the park.
The MIA is a massive world class art museum. It is best explored in multiple visits, easy since the museum is always free. Frank Lloyd Wright fans should head Hallway, once part of a house he designed. There is also Asian art, photography, and Impressionist art. The textiles and decorative art collections are particularly rich. A free family event on the second Sunday of the month includes art projects, child focused tours, and musicians, dancers, and storytellers.
- The Frank Gehry designed Weisman Art Museum, on the University of Minnesota campus. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom
The Weisman Art Museum, on the campus of the University of Minnesota, is in a Frank Gehry designed building. University art students serve as docents and lead free tours, Saturday and Sundays at 1 p.m. There are large collections of Korean furniture and Native American pottery.
- Get your art on at the MIA. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom
A four day festival in July is the biggest free summer festival in Minneapolis. Events include the Torchlight Parade through the city, fireworks, live music, milk carton boat races and sandcastle sculpting contests. An evening 5K fun run even has free refreshments.
7. The City of Lakes Loppet Cross Country Ski Festival
This celebration of winter in Minnesota takes place at the end of January and beginning of February. The Loppet features trails and lakes around the Twin Cities. Additional activities include a snow sculpture contest, heated tent party, fat tire bike race, dog race and a Sons of Norway Minne-Loppet for children 12 and under.
8. Mill District
- Get back to nature at Minnehaha Park. Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TravelingMom
Minneapolis’ Mill District is home to the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theatre. The Theatre is in an unusual building. The Gold Medal Park is a great place to run around. Walk across the Mississippi River via the Stone Arch Bridge. There are free tours of Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam.
The Mill District has a seasonal farmers market, with live music and food samples, every Saturday. There are kids activities, cooking demonstrations and games and free yoga. There is also a Tuesday night market, with live entertainment and yoga, July – September. In the colder months, there is an indoor winter market on select Saturdays inside the Mill City Museum.
This urban scenic byway offers 51 miles of biking, walking and skating trails on a loop through the city. Trails are maintained through winter so you can run or bike any time.