Top Free Things To Do In Minnesota | Midwest Living

Top Free Things To Do In Minnesota

Como Zoo and Conservatory, The Minneapolis Institute of Art and Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve are just a few free things to do in Minnesota.
  • Saint Paul

    Como Zoo and Conservatory For more than 100 years, Saint Paul's Como Zoo has hosted a menagerie of creatures—zebras, giraffes, lions, monkeys, penguins and more—in an easy-to-navigate area. After visiting the animals, explore the award-winning conservatory (pictured), ride on the historical Cafesjian carousel ($2), or listen to summer concerts at the Como Lakeside Pavilion.

    Minnesota Capitol The interior of the 1905 stunner recently reopened for tours after a three-year, $310 million restoration. Forty-five-minute guided tours leave at the top of the hour. 

    See Midwest Living's trip guide to Saint Paul for more travel ideas

  • Weisman Art Museum


    Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum (pictured) Frank Gehry’s gleaming silver building on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River houses the University of Minnesota’s art collection of more than 20,000 objects, including works of American modernism, ceramics and Korean furniture.

    Minneapolis Institute of Art Collections in this sprawling museum span 20,000 years and a global scope of art. Examine over 89,000 objects, including ancient textiles and scrolls, Monet paintings and Prairie School architecture.

    Minnehaha Park Hikers and bikers on the 10 miles of trails stop to see the Mississippi River, limestone bluffs and 53-foot-tall Minnehaha Falls on the 193 acres this park has to offer.

    Stone Arch Bridge and Mill Ruins Park Take a ride or stroll across the 21-arch stone bridge that has spanned the Mississippi River since 1883. Both riverbanks have historical sites from Minneapolis’ flour milling heydays with paths, interpretive signs and ruins at Mill Ruins Park near the Mill City Museum.

    Minneapolis Sculpture Garden The star attraction: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry, with its 5,800-pound spoon and 1,200-pound cherry. NOTE: The garden is currently closed for renovation and will reopen in summer 2017. Check the website for details.

  • Aerial Lift Bridge


    Aerial Lift Bridge Duluth’s breathtaking Aerial Lift Bridge rises more than 20 times each day for boats—and skyscraper-size ships—traveling between Lake Superior and Duluth Harbor. A whistle salutes the ships. No matter how many times you see it, the scene never gets old.

    Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve More than a dozen species of raptors stop here during their fall migration. Bring binoculars to see them from the trails off Duluth’s East Skyline Parkway.

    Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center At the foot of the city’s Aerial Lift Bridge, watch huge freighters pass within 200 feet of the building, check out the two-story steam engine and see presentations on shipwrecks.

    Park Point Beach Located on the world’s largest sandbar, Park Point Beach stands east of the Aerial Lift Bridge and faces Lake Superior. Visitors park their cars at the base of a big sand dune and clamber their way up and over it.

  • Tamarac

    Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

    About 18 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes, this 43,000-acre sanctuary, in the transition zone between northern hardwood and coniferous forests, has more than 250 species of birds and 50 types of mammals. A visitors' center overlooks marshland and has exhibits and a theater presentation about area wildlife. Explore the refuge on a 5-mile self-guided scenic drive and or hiking trails.


  • Spam Museum

    More in Minnesota

    Spam Museum, Austin This entertaining museum in the hometown of Hormel Foods celebrates with humor and whimsy the canned meat product famous around the world. Try your hand at packing a simulated can of Spam and watch the famous Monty Python skit about the product. Look for signs on I-90 promoting the museum.

    Croft Mine, Crosby Learn about the Crosby area’s brief iron mining history during tours of a mine shaft. In the adjacent dry house-turned-museum, exhibits detail a 1924 disaster that killed 42 miners. 


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