Free Things to Do in Minneapolis
Free - one of our favorite words.
It's the classic dilemma: you want to get out and experience the thrill of a vibrant city... but you're on a budget. Going out doesn't have to empty your wallet here in Minneapolis. Experience our robust arts scene or enjoy the great outdoors on a family hike. Frolic at a lively festival or discover the hidden stories of Minneapolis at one of our iconic landmarks.
So much adventure is waiting for you, and it won't cost you a thing! Check out our list of the top free things to do in Minneapolis, and fill your trip while saving your cash for snacks.
Explore the Art Scene
The Walker Art Center features nationally renowned exhibitions of emerging and established artists, galleries featuring highlights from the long-term collection, artist talks, performing arts events, and so much more. Admission to the museum is free the first Saturday of every month and every Thursday night from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. (and kids and teens under 18 are always free). The iconic Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, home to the oft-photographed Spoonbridge and Cherry, is adjacent to the Walker Art Center and is free for all, every day, every season.
Explore, engage, and find creative inspiration at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (known to locals as Mia), where admission is always free. You’ll find one of the finest art collections in the country, along with intricate exhibitions and plenty of opportunities to foster your creativity and get your hands dirty. Take in over 89,000 artworks from all over the globe spanning 20,000 years. Can't make it to Mia on your trip? You can explore the museum's full collection from home and check out mini-podcasts that highlight key works.
The 60 by 150-foot kaleidoscopic mural—titled "The Times They Are A-Changin'"—can be found at the corner of Hennepin and S. 5th Street. One of the most popular murals in the city, the colorful masterpiece was created by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra in 2015 with the intention of revitalizing the downtown’s Cultural District in collaboration with the Hennepin Theatre Trust.
The city is blessed with not one but two larger-than-life murals of Prince. One (pictured above, painted by Minnesota-based artist Rock “Cyfi” Martinez in April 2016) is located in Uptown on 26th Street and Hennepin Avenue. The other is on the side of the 424 building on Washington Avenue in North Loop, painted by Los Angeles artist Jonas Never for Floyd's Barbershop in 2019.
Housed in a striking stainless steel and brick building designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Weisman Art Museum is both educational and approachable. The museum’s collection features early twentieth-century American artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley, as well as a diverse selection of ceramics and contemporary art. They always have a great selection of events, so be sure to check their calendar to see what’s in town. Admission is free every day of the week.
**The Weisman Art Museum is closed for building maintenance through Fall 2021. In the meantime, visit their free virtual collection or the University of Minnesota's Public Art on Campus.**
Since 2002, The Museum of Russian Art has served as the Twin Cities’ window to art, history, and culture of Muscovite Russia, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, its former republics, and post-Soviet Russia. Housed in a beautifully renovated historic building, the museum’s multi-level galleries provide a tranquil and intimate setting for their exhibitions and educational events. A one-hour tour is free with admission.
Visit an Iconic Building
First Avenue appeared in Prince’s 1984 film “Purple Rain” and many of the movie’s music performances take place at the venue. The nightclub has helped launch many Minneapolis artists, many of whom are featured on the building’s exterior wall of silver stars. Take your photo in front of the wall to commemorate your favorite artists!
Mall of America, the largest indoor shopping center in the nation, has earned a national reputation for entertaining guests. Although it's first and foremost a shopping mecca, there's really no need to spend a dime—thanks to window shopping, people watching, and a calendar of free events from musical acts to celebrity appearances to fashion shows. Plus, there’s no sales tax on clothing and shoes in Minnesota, so you’ll save big if you do shop! (P.S. The mall opens 3 hours before the stores for mall walkers to enjoy a few loops around MOA's half-mile circumference.)
Home of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, the 66,000-seat U.S. Bank Stadium features the first translucent ETFE roof in a U.S. stadium, as well as the Legacy Gate—five pivoting glass doors ranging from 75 to 95 feet tall. The Legacy Ship, located near the main entrance, is comprised of fan-donated bricks and includes several historical markers that highlight some of the milestone moments in Vikings history. It is free to all fans and open during event and non-event hours.
Marvel at the seven-ton Father of Waters statue, the five-story Rotunda adorned with stained glass windows, the stately City Council Chambers, and million-year-old fossils. Explore the building with a self-guided brochure or join a guided tour every third Wednesday of the month, beginning at noon in the Rotunda (enter on 4th Street).
Take in The City By Nature
This new 3-acre public space features a welcoming plaza with fire pits, Nature Play Lab and children's garden, tree-sheltered lawns, terraced benches, and countless native plants, all above an innovative 68,000-gallon rainwater reuse system. The park is home to the much-anticipated Owamni restaurant by The Sioux Chef, a team of Anishinaabe, Mdewakanton Dakota, Navajo, Northern Cheyenne, Oglala Lakota, and Wahpeton-Sisseton Dakota food lovers committed to revitalizing Native American Cuisine.
With St. Anthony Falls' locks and dam, the Stone Arch Bridge, and the Mississippi River as a dramatic backdrop, you'll explore the industrial history of Minneapolis at this spot listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Featuring raised walking paths and bridges through the mill ruins, the park showcases how Minneapolis's network of mills and canals was the leading international producer of flour int he 19th century. (Just a block east of the park, the Mill City Museum offers a deeper dive into the history of the city's mills.)
Heralded as America’s most important urban scenic byway, the Grand Rounds invites you to bike, walk, and skate on this 50-mile loop through the city—yes, in all seasons! Along the way you'll stop by popular sites like Minnehaha Falls, Lake Harriet Rose Garden, and the Quaking Bog in Theodore Wirth Park.
One of the most popular places in the city to walk, run, bike, and relax, Bde Maka Ska (formerly called Lake Calhoun), is a great spot to get moving or sit back and people watch.
One of Minneapolis' oldest and most popular parks features a majestic 53-foot waterfall, limestone bluffs, and river overlooks, attracting more than 850,000 visitors annually.
The Como Zoo & Conservatory is open year-round and admission is free to the public! See the animals you want to see—like the Arctic Fox, a Galapagos Tortoise, lions, tigers, and bears—all in habitats that allow you to get up close. The Conservatory's Sunken Garden is also an eye-catching treat!
Go On a Tour
Take a self-guided tour through the rich local history and famous memorials of Lakewood Cemetery, founded in 1871. You'll explore the historic Lakewood Memorial Chapel, the Pool of Reflections, the Flour Mill Explosion Memorial, the Chinese Community Memorial, and many gravesites of Minneapolis luminaries. The cemetery also offers affordable guided tours for visitors.
Ranger On Call is a free program set up to give visitors the opportunity to learn more about—and hear the unique stories of—Minneapolis's history on the Mississippi River. Take in the beautiful landscape while listening to several audio recordings that give interpretation and information about your surrounding sites.
This historic site has been a cornerstone of the Catholic faith in Minneapolis since 1914. View the stunning interior and learn about the makings of the first Basilica in the United States. Take a self-guided tour or learn from a docent. All tours are free.
This tour consists of 60 bilingual plaques (English and Spanish) including information and photos that tell the history and evolution of Lake Street. The plaques branch off into three separate tour options that highlight the three segments of Lake Street: the Uptown tour, Midtown tour and East Lake Street.