If you’re currently saving up to buy a house in Minneapolis, you might be feeling the financial pinch. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on fun and adventure altogether. Minneapolis is a vibrant and bustling city with plenty of free things to do that won’t break the bank. Whether you’re a lifelong resident, renting an apartment in Minneapolis, or a newcomer to the city, there are many exciting and free things to explore.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of 9 of the best free things to do in Minneapolis, so you can make the most of your time and your budget. From outdoor activities to cultural events, there’s something for everyone in the Mini-Apple.
1. Foster your creativity at MIA
The Minneapolis Institute of Art features acclaimed art and artifacts from their own collection held in public trust, as well as exhibits on loan from museums around the world.
Their focus is on diverse representations of cultures and time periods throughout human history, so you can admire ritual bronze vessels from ancient China, Renaissance paintings by Botticelli, and modern Indigenous American sculptures and beadwork — all in one afternoon. Some special exhibitions require tickets, but general admission is gratis.
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2. Experience breathtaking views of the city at Stone Arch Bridge
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This iconic bridge is both beautiful and functional, and because it’s used only for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, you can safely linger as long as you want. It crosses the Mighty Mississippi right in the heart of the city, surrounded by the historic ruins of the Washburn flour mill, the dramatic Guthrie Theater building, and majestic St. Anthony Falls.
As a former railroad bridge, it’s also a National Civil Engineering Landmark, so history enthusiasts visiting or living in Minneapolis should check out the visitor center on the west side of the river. You can even take a free tour of the nearby lock and dam.
3. Admire the murals
They’re all over the city, celebrating various cultural groups, artistic styles, and musical traditions. Must-sees include the five-story mural of native son Bob Dylan downtown and the tribute to jazz music that welcomes everyone to North Minneapolis. You can also spend a whole day just doing a scavenger hunt for the murals of Prince dotting the city.
If you can’t hit them all, make sure to at least visit the 100-foot-tall piece recently completed in a graffiti style The Artist would have loved. It’s right around the corner from First Avenue, the music venue he made famous in Purple Rain.
4. Tour the Basilica of Saint Mary
This gorgeous cathedral was the first in the U.S. to be accorded the rank of minor basilica, 11 years after its construction was finished in 1915. It offers free self-guided and docent-led tours to teach visitors about the building’s history and enable them to appreciate all its beautiful art and architecture. It also frequently hosts free concerts if you want a soundtrack to your visit.
5. Visit the Como Zoo
This is actually in Minneapolis’ sister city, St. Paul, but it’s not far over the border and it’s easy to get to by bike or via public transit. Plus, there’s even free parking.
They’ve got animals from all over the world, nature-inspired artwork, a hands-on gallery just for kids, and an antique State Fair carousel that was rescued from auction so Minnesotans could continue to enjoy it for years to come. In the summer, get splashed at the legendary Sparky the Sea Lion’s show, and take a tropical midwinter vacation in the gardens of Marjorie McNeely Conservatory.
6. Enjoy a summer day at the lake
Looking for free things to do in Minneapolis with your pet? Take your pup to the off-leash park at Lake of the Isles, catch some rays on the beach at Bde Maka Ska Park, or enjoy a free concert at the picturesque Lake Harriet Band Shell.
7. Take a stroll down Nicollet
In the 1960s, eight blocks of busy downtown Nicollet Ave. became the country’s first transit mall, closed to cars and tailored specifically to pedestrians and buses.
You might be surprised to recognize it because it was featured in exterior shots of the Mary Tyler Moore Show’s fictional TV station. (Make sure to take a picture next to the statue of Mary throwing her hat in the air!) Nicollet has since been upgraded many times, and it features wide sidewalks, lots of seating, beautiful lighting and landscaping, and excellent views of downtown.
8. Escape to Minnehaha Falls
Although it’s in the middle of the city, its gorgeous foliage and limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River will make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere (except for all the other people).
In addition to its namesake 53-foot waterfall, Minnehaha Park also features walking and bike paths, a dog park, gardens, a disc golf course, volleyball courts, and a picnic area. There’s even a wading pool where the kids can cool off in the summer for free.
9. Go on a self-guided tour of Lakewood Cemetery
Founded in the late 1800s, this massive cemetery is one of the most peaceful locations in the entire metro. Take a self-guided tour using the map and information provided on the website and app, or simply get lost among the patinated monuments and pristine landscaping.
You’ll discover something new every time, like the lakeside Garden of Serenity, the exquisite Byzantine architecture of the Memorial Chapel, and the modern serenity of the Memorial Mausoleum.
Free things to do in Minneapolis: The bottom line
You’ll probably end up returning to each of these free things to do in Minneapolis many times, so you’ll have a down payment for a house saved in no time. Then you can move in and start saving for property taxes, maintenance, and heat during the cold Minnesota winters.