23 Best Free & Affordable Attractions in Minneapolis
By VacationIdea Staff on April 24, 2023 - Updated
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As one of the American Midwest's major centers for arts and culture, Minneapolis is home to nationally-acclaimed art museums such as the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which may be explored for free as part of special free admission days. For low-cost transportation, visitors can ride the city's METRO transit system, which offers free buses on select routes. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1. The Minnesota African-American Heritage Museum and Gallery
© The Minnesota African-American Heritage Museum and Gallery
The Minnesota African-American Heritage Museum and Gallery is a nonprofit museum that was originally founded in 2018, open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays during the morning and afternoon hours. The free-admission museum strives to preserve and promote the accomplishments and experiences of Minneapolis and Minnesota's African-American citizens, showcasing a variety of permanent and temporary rotating exhibits, including a retrospective exhibit of the area's earliest African-American settlers, who moved to the area during the early 20th century as part of what has become known as the Great Migration. Exhibits also highlight influential black women in Minnesota and the service of African-American soldiers in World War I and World War II. Children can enjoy a weekly reading circle, which showcases stories and puppet performances by local authors.
1256 Penn Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411
2. The Minneapolis Institute of Art
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The Minneapolis Institute of Art is the premiere fine art museum in Minneapolis, located across an eight-acre campus in the city's Whittier neighborhood. The museum was originally established in 1883 as the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts and showcases an impressive encyclopedic collection of more than 80,000 objects and artworks covering 5,000 years of human history from antiquity to the present day. Collections include impressive holdings of African, Oceanic, Asian, and American art, along with the historic Purcell-Cutts House, a Chinese Garden, and the outdoor Target Park contemporary sculpture park. Visitors can enjoy the museum for free Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours, though certain special exhibitions require a ticketed upcharge.
2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404, Phone: 888-642-2787
3. The Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory
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The Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory are a public zoo and conservatory garden facility within Saint Paul's Como Park, open to the public for free every day of the year during the morning and afternoon hours. Visitors can view displays of native and exotic animals at the zoo, including giraffes, zebras, orangutans, tigers, wolves, and reindeer. Beautiful indoor conservatory gardens also span half an acre, including a Japanese-style garden, a Sunken Garden, and a Tropical Encounters exhibit area. Though admission is free, a voluntary suggested donation is strongly recommended to ensure future zoo and conservatory operations. Other nearby attractions at Como Park include athletic fields, a fishing pier and lake, an 18-hole golf course, and the family-friendly Como Town amusement park.
225 Estabrook Dr, St Paul, MN 55103, Phone: 651-487-8201
4. The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
© The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is the premiere teaching art museum of the University of Minnesota, originally opened in 1934 and housed within a beautiful Frank Gehry-designed museum facility. The free-admission museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours, with the exception of major national holidays and times when the university is closed to the public. It holds impressive collections of modern art and photography, including works by Charles Biederman, Alfred Maurer, and Marsden Hartley. Other collections on display include indigenous Mimbres pottery and traditional Korean furniture.
333 E River Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55455, Phone: 612-625-9494
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5. The Mall of America
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The Mall of America is the United States' largest shopping mall and the 12th-largest mall in the world, located in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. The mall was opened to the public in 1992 and attracts more than 42 million annual visitors, over eight times the state's population. More than 570 retailers and restaurants are hosted at the mall, including national chain favorites such as Nordstrom, Macy's, Barnes and Noble, the LEGO Store, and Hard Rock Cafe. Its Nickelodeon Universe theme park is the United States' largest indoor theme park, offering roller coasters and high and family thrill rides. Other major attractions include a CMX Cinemas movie theater, the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, and the Crayola Experience. Visitors should note that while the mall is free to enter, many attractions require a ticketed upcharge or purchase.
60 E Broadway, Bloomington, MN 55425, Phone: 952-883-8800
6. Lakewood Cemetery
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Lakewood Cemetery is a non-sectarian cemetery within Minneapolis' Uptown district, spanning 250 acres. The cemetery was originally established in 1871 and is considered to be one of the United States' most beautiful cemeteries today, modeled after some of France's most beautiful rural cemeteries. More than 100,000 monuments and markers line the cemetery, along with a beautiful Byzantine-style chapel that is available for private wedding and funeral services. Notable burials at the cemetery include Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, M&M's and Mars candies entrepreneurs Forrest Mars, Sr. and Frank Clarence Mars, and John H. Pillsbury, the founder of the Pillsbury baked goods company. Free tours of the cemetery are available for groups, with several annual free special events hosted on its grounds, including a Memorial Day celebration.
3600 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408, Phone: 612-822-2171
7. The Basilica of Saint Mary
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The Basilica of Saint Mary is an historic Roman Catholic minor basilica located along downtown Minneapolis' Hennepin Avenue, noted as the first basilica established in America. The beautiful church is noted as one of the United States' finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture, constructed in 1915 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is open to the public daily for exploration, with self-guided tour guides available for download or pickup at the church site. Free tours are also conducted on Sundays year-round, departing following morning mass services and lasting approximately 15 minutes. Sacred art exhibitions are showcased at the church's Blessed John XXIII Gallery, with free live musical performances held throughout the year, including the yearly Basilica Block Party music festival.
88 17th St N, Minneapolis, MN 55403, Phone: 612-333-1381
8. Bde Maka Ska Park
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Bde Maka Ska Park, formerly known as Lake Calhoun, is a 401-acre lake and outdoor recreational area in Minneapolis that is surrounded by city park space. The lake is part of Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway and was renamed in 2018 in honor of its original indigenous Dakota name, which roughly translates to "White Earth Lake" in English. It is open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours and offers opportunities for swimming, boating, and water sports, with a fishing pier and boat launch facilities provided. Three public beach sites are also available, along with volleyball, soccer, and softball courts, an archery range, and separate three-mile loops for use by walkers and cyclists. Visitors should note that the park has a pay parking lot, though annual permits are available for purchase for discounted parking for frequent visitors.
3000 E Calhoun Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55408, Phone: 612-230-6400
9. Mill City Farmers Market
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Mill City Farmers Market is a new Minneapolis tradition, founded in 2006 in cooperation with the Mill City Museum. The market is open to the public on Saturday mornings between 8:00am and 1:00pm during the months of May, June, July, August, September, and October, showcasing more than 120 regional farmers and producers. Live music performers and artisan vendors are also hosted on site, along with children's activities for families to enjoy. Free cooking demonstrations with area professional chefs aim to engage the Minneapolis community with the culinary arts and encourage healthy and sustainable eating habits. During the winter months, markets are held indoors within the Mill City Museum, showcasing unique handmade holiday gifts.
704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55415, Phone: 612-341-7580
10. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
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The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has been named as America's best botanical garden by readers of USA Today, open to the public for free each third Monday of the month between 8:00am and 5:00pm. The 1,137-acre botanical garden and arboretum is located approximately four miles outside of Minneapolis suburb Chanhassen and was originally developed in 1907 as the city's Horticultural Research Center. Today, it serves as Minneapolis' most diverse horticultural site, home to more than 5,000 varieties of plants, trees, and shrubs. Visitors can explore the beautiful Meyers-Deats Conservatory, which houses orchid and bromeliad collections and a large horticultural research library, or peruse the facility's outdoor gardens, which include a Japanese garden and several demonstration gardens. The gardens may be explored on foot or as part of vehicular tours around the facility's three-mile access road.
3675 Arboretum Dr, Chaska, MN 55318, Phone: 952-443-1400
11. Theodore Wirth Regional Park
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Theodore Wirth Regional Park is Minneapolis' largest public park, spanning 759 acres throughout the city and its neighboring Golden Valley suburb. It was originally established on 66 acres in 1889 and is named in honor of former Minneapolis parks superintendent Theodore Wirth, who served the community between 1906 and 1936. Major park amenities include two public golf courses, a disc golf course, an archery range, soccer fields and tennis courts, and a fishing pier over Wirth Lake. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, with a chalet-style clubhouse hosted on site. The park is open to the public during daylight hours year-round, with extended late-night hours in developed areas.
1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy, Golden Valley, MN 55422, Phone: 612-230-6528
12. The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System
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The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System is one of the longest continuous systems of urban parkway in the United States, originally developed by Horace W.S. Cleveland and the Minneapolis Park System in the early 20th century. Today, the byway is recognized as part of the Federal Highway Administration's National Scenic Byways Program and serves to create a connected park system throughout the city, linking many of the city's major park systems through 50 miles of parkways and 102 miles of trailway. Seven segments of the byway pass through natural woodland, wetland, and riverbank ecosystems, with more than 50 interpretive sites located along the route.
13. Minnehaha Regional Park
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Minnehaha Regional Park is a 193-acre riverfront park in Minneapolis that draws more than 850,000 annual visitors, immortalized in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The park was established in 1889, named for the indigenous Dakota word meaning "waterfall" for its impressive 53-foot waterfall. In 1937, the park acquired the Longfellow House, a former part of the Longfellow Gardens attraction, which has been converted into a visitor center for the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Sculptures on display at the park include Hiawatha and Minnehaha by Jakob Fjelde, constructed for the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Visitors amenities offered include biking and walking paths, a disc golf course, children's playgrounds, and volleyball courts.
4801 S Minnehaha Dr, Minneapolis, MN 55417, Phone: 612-230-6400
14. Museum in the Streets
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Museum in the Streets is a unique initiative by Minneapolis' Lake Street Council, implemented in 2012 to showcase informational plaques along the city's Lake Street corridor. As the first walking tour museum in the American Midwest, the initiative spans three public walking tour areas throughout the city's Uptown, Midtown, and Lake Street areas, with 15-20 informational stops showcased along the way as part of each tour. All plaques are engraved in English and Spanish and allow visitors to meander through the neighborhoods at their own pace and learn about area history and culture. Two dozen similar projects have been implemented throughout the American Midwest in response to the project's success, though the Minneapolis version remains the only urban version of the project.
15. Murals and Public Art
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Murals and Public Art line Minneapolis' downtown district, serving as a reflection of the city's highly cultural and artistic reputation. Visitors can explore murals and public art pieces on foot as part of self-guided walking tours, meandering at their own pace and finding Instagrammable photo opportunities. Murals within the city's downtown area include the Bob Dylan-inspired The Times They Are A-Changin' by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra, the Aztec Temple Panorama, and remaining art pieces from the now-defunct Mosaic Cafe. Other major works include a unique mural on one of the city's Taco Bell buildings, a Paddling Squirrels mural on the side of the 1029 Bar building, and works by the Broken Crow collective, including a piece outside the Sheridan Room.
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16. Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park
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Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park, commonly known as the Chain of Lakes, is Minneapolis' most popular public park area, connecting the shorelines of Bde Maka Ska Lake, Lake of the Isles, Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, and Lake Harriet. As one of seven byway districts within the Grand Rounds Scenic National Byway, the park offers five public beaches and opportunities for boating between lakefronts. Several beautiful gardens are offered at the park, along with a bird sanctuary, dog park, and hockey and ice skating rink. Other visitor amenities include an archery range, a cross-country skiing trail, and soccer, softball, volleyball, and tennis courts.
17. The Stone Arch Bridge
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The Stone Arch Bridge is a preserved historic bridge in downtown Minneapolis, serving as the only stone arched bridge crossing the entire length of the Mississippi River. The bridge was originally constructed in 1883 for a sum of over $17.1 million USD in modern currency, intended to connect the city's Great Northern Railway system to its Union Depot. Today, it is preserved as an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, located within the Saint Anthony Falls Historic District. 23 arches are located along the 2,100-foot bridge, which crosses the river near Saint Anthony Falls. A National Park Service-operated visitor center is located along the bridge's western end, open to the public daily during business hours, with tours of the bridge offered on foot tree times daily.
100 Portland Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401, Phone: 612-230-6400
18. Minneapolis' Midtown Global Market
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Minneapolis' Midtown Global Market repurposes the city's former vacant Sears building on Lake Street, opened to the public in 2006 through preservation efforts and local business initiatives by the Neighborhood Development Center. Today, the market attracts more than 1.5 million annual visitors and hosts more than 45 local businesses and vendors, including 18 specialty food vendors and international restaurants and food stalls. Restaurants include Mexican favorite Taquería Los Ocampo, East African joint Safari Express, and Vietnamese restaurant Pham’s Rice Bowl. Unique artisans and home goods vendors are also offered, along with periodic family-friendly free special events and public workshops.
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407, Phone: 612-872-4041
19. Downtown Minneapolis Walking Tour
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Downtown Minneapolis Walking Tour lets visitors take in the top tourist attractions and landmarks in Minneapolis as part of one all-encompassing self-guided walking tour, spanning approximately 1.7 miles throughout the city's downtown district. Tours begin at the city's Government Plaza light rail stop, offering a low-cost public transit option, and explore attractions such as the city's Old City Hall, Federal Courthouse Plaza, and newly-renovated Target Center, the home of the city's basketball teams. Many attractions are linked through the city's Skyway system, which spans over 80 blocks and offers climate-controlled pedestrian overpasses. Cultural highlights include the city's Orchestra Hall, Le Méridien Chambers Hotel Art Gallery, and Hennepin Theater District, while culinary lovers can stop at the city's Fulton Brewery, which offers free brewery tours and tastings daily. More route information can be found at Bigboytravel.com.
20. Free Ride Buses
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Free Ride Buses are offered by Minneapolis' METRO Transit Blue and Green lines, allowing riders to skip fare pay when boarding near the newly-renovated Nicollet Mall. Buses travel north from the mall and into downtown Minneapolis, with all routes ending at Washington Avenue. Visitors can board Route 18 buses for connections into the city, or hop on Route 10 or 59 buses for connections to the Minneapolis Convention Center. All buses board at Fifth Street between Nicollet and Grant and are available seven days a week. Visitors can also extend their rides to other bus routes throughout the city for only a 50 cent charge, a substantial discount over typical METRO bus fare.
505 Nicollet, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55402, Phone: 612-397-9275
21. Annual Minneapolis Print and Drawing Fair
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Annual Minneapolis Print and Drawing Fair is a free-admission festival held each October over two weekend days within Macmillan Atrium, offering the Twin Cities' top opportunity for collection of museum-quality art. Dozens of top international art dealers and publishers showcase beautiful original works on paper, including works by European Old Masters and art world luminaries such as Pablo Picasso. Works by international artists are also showcased, including substantial collections of Japanese art. Whether visitors are in the market for high-quality works or simply looking to peruse museum-grade collections, exhibitors are happy to share their knowledge of art with the public. Pop-up artist talks are also hosted at the event throughout the weekend, along with curator-led tours, poster screenprinting activities, and refreshments available for purchase at the atrium's cafe.
2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404, Phone: 888-642-2787
22. The Walker Art Center
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The Walker Art Center is Minneapolis' premiere contemporary arts center, located within the city's Lowry Hill neighborhood. The museum was originally opened as a private art gallery in 1879 and has become one of America's most-visited contemporary art museums today, attracting an annual visitorship of more than 700,000. More than 13,000 works across a variety of media are held within the museum's permanent collections, including works by Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol, though the bulk of the museum's exhibits are presented as temporary rotating exhibitions by regional and international artists. Visitors can explore the museum and its adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden for free as part of Free First Saturday events or Target Free Thursday Night events.
725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN 55403, Phone: 612-375-7600
What are the 23 Best Free & Affordable Attractions in Minneapolis?
The 23 Best Free & Affordable Attractions in Minneapolis according to local experts are: