99 Free Things to Do in Minneapolis and St. Paul

There's no shortage of free entertainment in the Twin Cities.

Minneapolis Downtown
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Looking for free things to do in Minneapolis? Here are 99 free things to do in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In no particular order, find free events, sights, and activities.

Free Things to Do in Minneapolis and St. Paul

  1. Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. A phenomenal collection of art and historical objects. Free admission to all every day; closed on Mondays, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
  2. A huge variety of free classes, club meetings, presentations and events at area libraries. Nearly all Twin Cities metro area libraries have free events.
  3. See a cutting-edge art show at the Altered Esthetics Gallery in Minneapolis.
  4. Hang out at one or more of Minneapolis' chain of lakes: Lake Calhoun, Harriet, Isles, and Cedar. Each has its own distinct character.
  1. In the spring, learn how to make maple syrup at local parks, and taste some samples. 
  2. Go on a free tour of Summit Brewing or Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul and enjoy free samples.
  3. Watch one of the cross-country ski races during the City of Lakes Loppet, particularly the beautiful nighttime Luminary Loppet. In late January or early February. For 2018, the event is January 27 to February 4.
  4. Hudson Hot Air Affair is a celebration of hot air balloons. The multitude of brightly colored balloons against the white snow is a beautiful sight. Typically early February but for 2018, this event will be January 26 to 28.
  1. See cloth and fabric in an entirely new way at an exhibition in the Textile Center of Minneapolis.
  2. Cinco de Mayo Festival in St. Paul's west side has a car show, music, and entertainment. Early May.
  3. Tour the Minnesota State Capitol. There are free tours every hour most days of the week, including the golden horses on the roof, if weather permits.
  4. Free music at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis, including indie, folk, and rock acts almost every night. There's never a cover.
  5. Ride to the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival with bike events and races, including the awe-inspiring Uptown Minneapolis Criterium. June.
  1. Lake Harriet Kite Festival. Watch the pros flying, or fly your own kites on Frozen Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. January. For 2018, the event is January 27.
  2. Minnesota Sinfonia offers free concerts for adults, children , and families around the Twin Cities.
  3. The Cathedral of St. Paul is a stunning European-style cathedral overlooking downtown St. Paul. All are welcome to worship, and it's free to visit the cathedral when it's not being used for services.
  4. First Thursdays in the Arts District features about 200 painters, sculptors, printmakers, textile artists and more who open their studios in the Northrup King Building to the public.
  1. Visit the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, a peaceful garden in Minneapolis. Join in free, regularly scheduled birding walks and nature hikes at the garden from spring through fall.
  2. Watch free musical performances in parks around Minneapolis and St. Paul.
  3. Visit St. Paul City Hall to marvel at the glamorous art deco interior and the colossal marble Vision of Peace statue, a Native American bearing a peace pipe.
  4. The Hexagon Bar in Minneapolis is a proper dive bar, but despite that, the Hex hosts some of the hottest underground bands in the Twin Cities on weekend nights, with no cover.
  1. The free Minneapolis Aquatennial Festival includes parades, soapbox boat racing, and a block party with national music acts in downtown Minneapolis.
  2. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, free on the first Saturday of the month and Thursdays after 5 p.m., has monumental sculptures opposite the Walker Art Center, including a gigantic Frank Gehry glassfish, and the iconic Cherry and Spoonbridge sculpture.
  3. Take a free class at the Midtown Global Market. There are adult classes on cooking, yoga and dance and kids classes. Most are free.
  1. Get free admission to a museum or gallery in the Twin Cities with a Museum Adventure Pass,  available from your local library.
  2. Make the annual Holidazzle Parade part of your holiday tradition.
  3. See tropical flowers in bloom all year-round at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park. In summer, admire the adjacent Japanese Gardens.
  4. Enjoy the river: Take a stroll, hike, run or ride your bike on trails alongside the Mississippi River, Minnesota River or St. Croix River.
  5. Sad that Delta bought out the local Northwest Airlines (NWA)? Relive NWA's glory days at the independently operated NWA History Center in Bloomington. It's also great for anyone interested in the glamorous days of aviation.
  1. Get psyched about summer or winter with free product demonstrations, presentations, samples and raffles, and discounts and deals on gear at Midwest Mountaineering's Bi-annual Outdoor Expo.
  2. Go snowshoeing. All you need is snow and open space. Minneapolis parks offer snowshoe classes at various locations, either free or bargain prices.
  3. Visit a nature center. Eastman Nature Center in Dayton, Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville, Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul, Maplewood Nature Center, Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes, and others in the Twin Cities wild preserve areas for families to enjoy. Nature center buildings offer free admission to their exhibits and children's' activities, and nature centers organize regular family-friendly nature events and hikes.
  1. Join in the annual Earth Day cleanup and help clean up Minneapolis and St. Paul parks on the weekends before Earth Day.
  2. Don't forget to grab free swag at the Minnesota State Fair. Yardstick, anyone? Late August and September.
  3. Watch a nine-minute nightly light show at the Mall of America.
  4. Celebrate Juneteenth at the annual festival in Minneapolis. Music, arts, and entertainment.
  5. Watch a St Patrick's Day Parade: one at lunchtime in downtown Minneapolis, one in the evening in downtown Minneapolis.
  6. Join in on celebrations at the Winter Carnival. See ice carving, snow sculptures, sporting contests, and the Torchlight Parade and the overthrow of King Boreas. January.
  1. Ice skate on a temporary ice rink in the middle of downtown St. Paul from Thanksgiving until the end of January.
  2. Visit Lyndale Rose Garden, with 100 varieties of roses, on the shore of Lake Harriet.
  3. Bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket to one of the Nine Nights of Music events at the Minnesota History Center on Tuesdays in July and August. An eclectic selection of musical acts play in the museum's courtyards, and there's free admission to the museum's galleries on Tuesday evenings.
  4. Watch a free water ski show on the Mississippi River on Thursday evenings during the summer. See human pyramids, ballet on the water, and ski jumps.
  1. Rock out at the Pizza Luce Block Party, a daylong event with some of Minneapolis' most popular rock and hip-hop artists. August.
  2. Watch an Art Car Parade. Usually around a lake in Minneapolis, and the Art Cars can be seen at other parades and events around the cities during the summer.
  3. Celebrate July 4 at a free fireworks display. Downtown Minneapolis has the annual Red, White, and Boom on July 4; St. Paul also has celebrations.
  4. Gaze at the stars during a free astronomy night at the University of Minnesota's physics department or at one of the department's traveling Universe in the Park summer programs.
  1. Get outside at one of many free family events, hikes, nature events and special events at the parks of the Three Rivers Parks District. Many events are free. All year round.
  2. Welcome spring at the community celebration MayDay Parade and festival, put on by In the Heart of the Beast puppet theater. Early May.
  3. See a free orchestral, band, choral or jazz concert at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, performed by students from the University of Minnesota's School of Music.
  4. Admire Minnehaha Falls, both in the summer when they look like a traditional waterfall, and in the winter when they form a frozen curtain of ice.
  1. See the latest environmentally friendly technologies, attend workshops and presentations, and meet local green businesses at the Go Green Expo at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. May.
  2. Go on a day trip to the town of Taylors Falls, See the Franconia Sculpture Garden, interesting geological formations at Interstate State Park, and historic buildings in downtown Taylors Falls, including the cutest public library you'll ever see. All free, except parking in the State Park, although you can park for free a short distance outside the park.
  1. Watch school and community group musical performances at the Mall of America as part of their "Music in the Mall" program.
  2. Show your pride at one of the largest such events in the nation, the Twin Cities LGBT Pride Parade and Festival. June.
  3. Watch a movie in the park. Minneapolis' Loring Park has music and movies, and other Minneapolis parks show movies on summer evenings.
  4. Visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. The third Monday of the month is free admission day.
  5. Take Dad to the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts, with artists' work, performers, live music and a car show. Father's Day weekend.
  1. Visit the Lego Store in the Mall of America to see a LEGO robot over 34 feet tall and to play.
  2. Bring your bike to the Bearded Lady Motorcycle Freak Show at the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis. There's a fee to enter your bike in the show, but you're free to eye everyone else's bikes. Live punk and rock music.
  3. Watch a Minnesota Twins game for free through one of the knotholes in the stadium walls, on Fifth Street.
  4. Visit temporary artists' residences and studios on a lake during the Ice Shanty Projects. January and February.
  1. Remember that the history of Minnesota goes much farther back than the Fort Snelling and Mill City pioneers, by visiting 2,000-year-old Native American burial mounds at Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul.
  2. Admire classic cars on one of the Saturday night Historic Hastings Classic Car Cruise-Ins. Alternate Saturday nights, May–October.
  3. See a piece of the city's railroad past at the historic Minnehaha Depot station, near Minnehaha Park.
  4. Take your little one to a free story reading at a local library or bookstore. Local independent bookstores Wild Rumpus and The Red Balloon have excellent storytimes.
  1. See hockey the way it was meant to be played during the US Pond Hockey Championships. Watch all the games are free.
  2. Enjoy live jazz music at the Twin Cities Hot Summer Jazz Festival, held during June in downtown St. Paul.
  3. Join a Gorilla Yoga class, yoga classes held in interesting locations across the Twin Cities. Free, but a donation is suggested.
  4. The annual Northeast Festival and Parade, one of the longest running community events in the state.
  5. Svenskarnas Dag, a Swedish heritage festival and celebration, is held annually in June in Minnehaha Park.
  1. Visit the Weisman Art Museum.
  2. Let your little ones burn off some energy during the winter at open gyms and tot time at recreation centers in parks across the Twin Cities.
  3. Get your Irish on at the Irish Fair, with major Irish-American music acts, sporting events, entertainment, live animals and all things Irish on Harriet Island in St. Paul. August.
  4. See local artists' work in open studios and galleries, watch live music and performances all across Northeast Minneapolis during Art-A-Whirl, the largest art crawl in the Twin Cities.
  1. Block parties become numerous every summer. The Red Stag, Barbette, Bryant Lake Bowl and other bars and venues host a block party during the warmer months.
  2. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a world-class art gallery, is always free.
  3. Need some inspiration to ride your bike more? Join a free cycling club run by a local bike shop and join in some group rides.
  4. The creators of the May Day parade do plenty of other things during the rest of the year, namely free kids' puppet shows at their Minneapolis theater on select Saturday mornings. Free, but donations are appreciated.
  1. Events, entertainment, and discounts catered to toddlers and their families are free every "Toddler Tuesday" at the Mall of America.
  2. Watch the Twin Cities Marathon in October, which has many professional athletes competing. Or go for a run anytime.
  3. The Twin Cities Polish Festival has entertainment, dogs, music and polka dancing on Old Main Street in Minneapolis. August.
  4. Visit Lilydale Park in St. Paul, which has caves and kilns remaining from its days at St. Paul's brickyards, and even more ancient history—it's a popular fossil-hunting ground. Buying a permit is necessary if you want to remove fossils, but it's free to look for them.
  1. Go to the beach. Lake Minnetonka has many beaches for beautiful people. Lake Calhoun does, too. And your local lake has a beach for the rest of us.
  2. Blaine Aviation Days. Admire vintage and modern aircraft and cars at Anoka County Airport. May.
  3. Tour Minneapolis' Riverfront District on foot or by bike. See the Stone Arch Bridge, historic mill ruins, and Waterpower Park in the middle of the river.
  4. The largest one-day festival in the Midwest is the Grand Old Day festival, with a parade, kids' activities, and live music at locations all along Grand Avenue in St. Paul. June.
  1. Help monitor Minnesota's wildlife by volunteering for the Audubon Society's annual Christmas bird count in December.
  2. See local scientists, schools and inventors sail solar-powered boats at the annual Solar Boat Regatta at Lake Phalen. May.
  3. Give blood at Red Cross donation centers. You'll get cookies afterward and special offers like free entrance to local festivals and events.
  4. Underground holiday 4/20 Day, is celebrated in Minneapolis, with a free 4/20 festival in Loring Park and various other events around the Twin Cities.
  1. Merriam Park Ice Cream Social is a fun family-friendly community event in St. Paul and the ice cream comes from Izzy's. July.
  2. Craziness abounds at the annual Art Sled Rally, which sees improbable, dangerous, un-aerodynamic, hilarious, and possibly flammable sleds taking to the slopes at Powderhorn Park. Free to watch, and free to enter.
  3. New Belgium Brewery brings the Tour de Fat to Minneapolis' Loring Park every year, featuring music, performers, bike culture, and mayhem. Summer.
  4. Once a month, see professional dancers perform for Ballet Tuesday at the Landmark Center in a free lunchtime performance.
  1. Go sledding.
  2. The Dragon Festival has Dragon Boat Races, martial arts demonstrations, at the Asian Pacific festival held at Lake Phalen in St. Paul. July.
  3. Walk along Summit Avenue and around Cathedral Hill to admire the architecture of the empire builders' mansions, and see some of F. Scott Fitzgerald's homes.
  4. Start the Holiday season on Grand Avenue at the Grand Meander, special events at stores on Grand Avenue, a Christmas tree lighting, and visits with Santa and his reindeer. December.
  5. Go ice skating at your local park's outdoor ice rink.