Minneapolis and St. Paul have so much to offer, and so many of the best things to do are totally free! From concerts and movies in the park to sculpture gardens, lakeside yoga, and museums, the Twin Cities have a lot to offer. Read on for 18 awesome and totally free things to do in Minneapolis and St. Paul!
1. Lakeside Yoga
There are a lot of free lakeside yoga classes happening all summer long around the Twin Cities. Typically, you don’t need to reserve a spot in advance. Just bring your mat and a water bottle and get your zen on. A few of my favorites are the Lake Harriet Yoga Project, Sunset Yoga at the Sculpture Garden, and Yoga at East Cedar Lake Beach.
2. Chain of Lakes
The Twin Cities have many beautiful lakes. The most popular spot is the Chain of Lakes, which includes Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet, and the lesser-known Brownie Lake. It’s an excellent place for walking, biking, and swimming in spring, summer, and fall. You can also bring your own kayak (or rent one) and spend time on the water. And in the winter check out the ice plunge at Lake Harriet, or cross country ski and snowshoe on a frozen lake! Just be sure to check ice thickness and weather conditions first.
3. Como Zoo and Conservatory
The Como Park Zoo & Conservatory are fun for the whole family. Bring the kids to walk around and see the giraffes and tigers, or bring a friend to visit the vibrant gardens in the conservatory. Although both the zoo and conservatory are free year-round, you’ll need to reserve your time slot in advance, which you can do here.
The Twin Cities have a handful of great museums, and many are free, although sometimes you will need to reserve a time slot in advance. Some of our favorites are the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Center, and the Russian Museum of Art. Check each museum’s website to see which specific days and exhibitions offer free entry.
5. Boom and Nicollet Islands
I love spending time in downtown Minneapolis, and I especially love walking around the Boom Island and Nicollet Island area. You’ll find a ton of unique bridges and colorful Victorian-style homes. There is also a lighthouse on Boom Island and a large grassy park where you’ll see children playing, and people throwing frisbees. You’ll find yourself surrounded by nature and in an oasis that feels far from the noise of the city. Yet, at certain spots, you’ll find breathtaking views of the Minneapolis skyline as well as the Mississippi River. Enjoy the walk or bring a picnic basket and enjoy the quiet park.
6. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is 11 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens with over 40 sculptures. Some sculptures are permanent, like the iconic Spoon and Cherry, and others are new and on rotation. This park is free for everyone to enjoy and it’s also next to the Walker Art Museum, which is free on Thursdays and the first Saturdays of each month. Often in the summer, you can find free yoga classes in the sculpture garden as well.
7. Stone Arch Bridge
The Stone Arch Bridge is one of my favorite places in the Twin Cities. Park on the Northeast Minneapolis side and walk into downtown Minneapolis for an epic view of the skyline. You can also enjoy the Mill Ruins Park, which runs along the Stone Arch Bridge and the Mississippi River.
8. Beautiful Murals
The Twin Cities have a lively art and music scene, and the painted murals scattered around the Cities are no exception. See how many murals you can find, and explore new neighborhoods along the way. Click here to use my interactive map and track down 18 Instagrammable murals in Minneapolis.
9. Mall of America
The Mall of America has everything needed to bring you an epic afternoon, from roller coasters, ax throwing, and go-carts to margaritas, cotton candy, and fancy steak dinners. Plus of course miles of shopping, comedy shows, nail salons and so much more. This is the place to go for hours of free people-watching, and a nice warm place to walk during the cold winter months!
10. Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway
The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway consists of 102 miles, 51 miles of walking paths, and 51 miles of bike lanes. You’ll pass by lakes, creeks, woodlands, riverbanks, wetlands, golf courses, playgrounds, gardens, and bridges. Some of the most popular spots include circling the Chain of Lakes, biking around Northeast Minneapolis, and along the downtown Riverfront.
11. Minnehaha Waterfall
Minnehaha Falls is a beautiful waterfall right within the Minneapolis city limits. You can walk down the steep winding steps to the base of the waterfall for a close view and awesome photos. The autumn colors along the Mississippi River are stunning in September and October, and in the winter you can climb behind the frozen waterfall. St. Paul also has some great waterfalls including Hidden Falls and Shadow Falls. Check out my blog post on 8 incredible waterfalls near the Twin Cities.
Shop some of my favorite travel items
12. Lyndale Rose Garden
The Lyndale Rose Garden, adjacent to Lake Harriet is a beautiful place to take a stroll, or sit and read a book. It’s especially stunning in late summer and early fall when the roses are in full bloom. My husband and I took our engagement photos here, it’s a beautiful place.
13. Movies and Music in the Park
All summer long, you can find free concerts and movies at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. Pack a picnic, bring a blanket and some friends and enjoy! Stay updated with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation event calendar to see which bands and movies are playing.
14. Minnesota State Capitol
Take a free guided tour of Minnesota’s Capitol building and learn about its history, art, architecture, and the state government. The Capitol building was built in 1905 and has the second-largest self-supported marble dome in the world. You’ll also see beautiful marble, murals, paintings, and golden horses on the roof.
15. Farmers’ Market
I love Farmers’ Markets and picking up fresh, locally grown fruit, tomatoes and flowers. The St. Paul Farmers’ Market first opened in 1854 and the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market has been around since 1876! It’s a great way to spend the morning while supporting local growers. Learn more about the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market here, and the St. Paul Farmers’ Market here.
16. St. Paul Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Paul is gorgeous year-round, with intricate stained glass windows and a massive dome ceiling. It’s especially stunning in the spring and summer when flowers and pink trees are bursting with vibrant colors. It’s free and all are welcome to enjoy it.
17. Midtown Global Market
Walk around this unique market for a variety of foods, drinks, shops, services, and events. The Midtown Global Market is home to 45 businesses spanning over 22 cultures. Learn more about these businesses and the market’s hours here.
18. Basilica of St. Mary
The Basilica of Saint Mary is absolutely stunning and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy it once for an Easter Mass and once for a friend’s wedding. It was the first basilica established in the United States when it was built in 1907. The stained glass windows are breathtaking!
There’s So Much to Do in the Twin Cities
Minneapolis and St. Paul have so much to offer, and some of the best things are free! For more inspiration, check out my blog posts on 18 Awesome Things to Do in Minneapolis, 27 Fun Things to Do in St. Paul, and 18 of the Best Instagrammable Minneapolis Murals.