Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Garden Time
- 2. Urban Green Space
- 3. Human Rights
- 4. University of North Dakota Museum
- 5. Year-Round Outdoor Activities
- 6. Play Time for All
- 7. Playground Built by All
- 8. University of North Dakota Hughes Fine Arts Center
- 9. Downtown Street Fair
- 10. Check out the Paddlewheel
- 11. Winter Celebration
- Where to Stay Near Grand Forks, North Dakota
You’ll find a nice mix of outdoor activities, arts and culture in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The free things to do in Grand Forks reflect the diversity of this Midwest city.
The Grand Forks area in North Dakota has a vibrant arts scene, 57 miles of biking, hiking and in-line skating trails, tons of winter activities and a revitalized downtown. The free things to do in Grand Forks can entertain you whether you’re planning to watch sporting events at the University of North Dakota, or you’re on a road trip through the Midwest. The Greater Grand Forks Area includes the city of East Grand Forks, on the other side of the Red River, in Minnesota.
The city has been rebuilding since the historic flood in 1997. For example, places like the Rhombus Guys Brewing Company help fuel the local economy. In a city of just 56,000, the UND stadium held 10,000 for its sporting events. Although the stadium was demolished in early 2021, the football team now plays at the Alerus Center. If you want to see a hockey game, the UND hockey team plays at Ralph Engelstad Arena, which holds 11,000 people.
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Grand Forks, 80 miles from Fargo and 250 from Bismarck, the state capital, is only 150 miles from Winnipeg.
12 Free Things to do in Grand Forks
1. Garden Time
The Japanese Gardens in Sertoma Park were a gift from Awano, Japan, Grand Forks’ sister city. The traditional Japanese Gardens include rocks, water, hills, trees, plants and Japanese lanterns.
2. Urban Green Space
The picturesque urban Greenway lines the Red River and the Red Lake River. You can hike, walk, run, bike or rollerblade on the all-season trail system. There are nature preserves, picnic sites and camping areas. Other outdoor activities along the Greenway include birding, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
The Greenway also features two disc golf courses and a natural play area for kids with balance beams and climbing ropes.
3. Human Rights
North Dakota Museum of Art (NDMOA) specializes in human rights exhibitions. NDMOA’s permanent collections include Northern Plains art, and contents from the apartment of the late NYC artist/collector Barton Benes. His collections include African art and global oddities.
In addition to always offering free admission, the North Dakota Museum of Art has Take & Make free art education packs.
4. University of North Dakota Museum
The Empire Arts Center, home to the University of North Dakota’s permanent art collection, has new exhibits several times a year. The museum has works by Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Roy Lichtenstein.
Note: The Empire Theatre Company, part of the center, is the only professional theatre company in the state of North Dakota; it charges for its productions.
5. Year-Round Outdoor Activities
Turtle River State Park, in Greater Grand Forks, has miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. In winter, head here for cross-country skiing and sledding. Check out the North Star Trail, a 10 mile scenic loop of rolling hills, flatlands and stream crossings, perfect for leisurely family biking.
6. Play Time for All
Ali’s boundless playground for children is a barrier-free playground where children with or without disabilities can play together.
7. Playground Built by All
Sherlock Forest Playground is a whimsically designed playground, created by student architects and constructed by community volunteers.
8. University of North Dakota Hughes Fine Arts Center
The art gallery, on the UND campus, has regional and national artwork as well as shows by art students. Open weekdays only.
9. Downtown Street Fair
This two-day annual event, held in August, includes live music and other entertainment. The street fair features food and crafts vendors as well as free entertainment.
10. Check out the Paddlewheel
Town Square features a larger-than-life paddlewheel. It is Grand Forks’ year-round gathering place.
11. Winter Celebration
Midwest winters can be challenging, but that doesn’t stop people in Grand Forks from enjoying outdoor activities. The HollyDazzle: Festival of Lights brightens up downtown with colorful floats. This year’s Festival of Lights is scheduled for Nov. 21, 2021.
12. Flood Memorial Monument
Many downtown buildings were destroyed in 1997 when the Red River flooded the area. The Flood Memorial Monument shows how high the water level rose in the historic flood.
Bonus: Free for Kids
Grand Forks County Historical Society includes an original log Post Office and Grand Forks’ oldest building, the Myra Museum. The historic site charges admission, but it is free for those under 10 with adults.