18 Free Things to Do in Minnesota

By Explore Minnesota Tourism

Going on vacation doesn't have to mean spending a lot of money. In Minnesota, there's plenty of attractions and activities that are completely free to visitors. Here are 18 of them:

  1. Munsinger GardensMunsinger Clemens GardensThis well-known, beautiful garden park is located along the Mississippi River in St. Cloud. The Munsinger portion of the gardens began in the 1880s. The gardens have experienced different stages of development, with many of the improvements coming as a result of work during the Great Depression through the WPA. The Clemens portion is dedicated to different varieties of roses. During summer months, there are free music concerts within the gardens.
  2. Franklin Arts CenterArtspace has transformed the former Franklin Junior High School building into a multipurpose arts center, with 25 affordable live/work studios for individuals and families; 37,775 square feet for artist studios, arts organizations, and arts-friendly businesses; and 36,247 square feet that are operated by the Brainerd School District as community programs space. You can visit and learn from local and resident artist and craftsmen. The facility is open to the public daily and also hosts special events the second Saturday of the month.
  3. Northland ArboretumThe Northland Arboretum encompasses more than 500 acres in the heart of Brainerd/Baxter. The Arboretum is dedicated to getting people involved and aware of nature. Areas of interest include the Monet Bridge and Pond, the Landscaping for Wildlife project, the Girl Scout Secret Garden and the many flower beds maintained by volunteers. An orienteering course is available for amateurs and experts. Four seasons of fun are provided with 20 kilometers of hiking and cross-country ski trails. Donations are accepted.
  4. Wm. S. Marvin Training and Visitor CenterExperience the history of Marvin Windows and Doors in the Wm. S. Marvin Training and Visitor Center. The 6,000-square-foot museum and gift shop are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 1-4 p.m. on weekends. Exhibits include a combination of artifacts and interactive presentations to create a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.
  5. discgolf_DSC6428 600x512.jpgDisc Golfing: Minnesota has around 200 disc golf courses, and most are free to play. For a complete listing of all disc golf courses in Minnesota, go to pdga.com.
  6. Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of PipemakersLocated in the old Rock Island Depot in Pipestone, it is on the Historic Register and is one of a very few buildings made of yellow brick. It houses the Pipemakers gift shop, Indian art gallery, and displays of Indian items. Open year-round.
  7. Zumbrota Covered BridgeWalk through one of Minnesota’s last covered bridges. Measuring nearly 120 feet long and 15 feet wide, it was built in 1869 and crosses the Zumbro River.
  8. Grand Rounds Scenic BywayAs the only urban national scenic byway, Minneapolis' Grand Rounds attests to the exceptional qualities of its host city. The byway is truly in the heart of Minneapolis, with many impressive views of the downtown skyline, yet is as green, lush and lined with waterways as most of our rural byways. Enjoy walking, running, biking or Rollerblading along the 50-mile route.
  9. Minneapolis Sculpture GardenOne of the country's largest urban sculpture parks, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden features more than 40 works of art and the Cowles Conservatory. At the Center is a beloved Twin Cities landmark -- the playful fountain "Spoonbridge and Cherry" -- as well as 18 holes of artist-designed mini golf in the summer.
  10. Minneapolis Institute of ArtsThis cultural attraction is regularly ranked among the top 10 comprehensive U.S. art museums. Admission, as always, is free.
  11. Como Park ZooComo Zoo & Marjorie McNeely ConservatoryComo Zoo features indoor and outdoor exhibits, including large cats, primates, polar bears & aquatic animals. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory has permanent tropical and changing seasonal plants and flowers, as well as the new Japanese garden. Donations are accepted.
  12. Lake Superior Maritime Visitor CenterOperated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this is the most visited marine museum on the Great Lakes. 1,000-foot freighters pass within 200 feet of the building. Open daily throughout shipping season.
  13. Superior Hiking TrailThe Superior Hiking Trail is a 300-mile hiking trail that follows the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior. Great for both day hikes and backpack camping.
  14. Gitchi-Gami State TrailThe Gitchi-Gami State Trail connects Two Harbors to Grand Marais along the North Shore of Lake Superior. This 86-mile trail will eventually connect five state parks, several communities, four Scientific and Natural Areas and numerous historic sites, and provides vistas of Lake Superior.
  15. Franconia Sculpture Park: Open 365 days a year, this artists residency in the St. Croix River Valley features more than 100 large-scale sculptures scattered across 25 acres. Free guided tours are offered on Sundays in summer and fall.
  16. New Ulm Glockenspiel: This 45-foot-tall carillon tower in downtown New Ulm plays programmed music three times a day, when the clock's animated figurines come to life. The characters are replaced by a nativity scene during the holiday season.
  17. SPAM Museum, AustinRed Wing Shoe Company Museum: Located inside the flagship store in downtown Red Wing, the museum features the world's largest boot, brand memorabilia and a chance to dress like a ironworker and see how the shoes are made. Tours of the factory are offered on Mondays and Fridays, May-October.
  18. SPAM Museum: This free museum in Austin depicts the long history of the Hormel Foods Corp., makers of SPAM, in an interactive and fun environment.