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Free Things To Do in Minneapolis - St. Paul
- #1View all Photos#1 in Minneapolis - St. PaulMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Sheltering more than 90,000 works of art that span more than 5,000 years, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is the place to go if you're an art aficionado. Whether you're interested in ancient Egyptian artifacts or European masterpieces by artists such as Titian and Monet, this museum has what you need to get your fix. Recent visitors attest the museum is well-suited for all ages, thanks to the kids scavenger hunt offerered by the museum. Along with the impressive collection of art, travelers are also complimentary of the museum's other offerings, including the Agra Culture Coffee Shop and Cafe.
Located south of the downtown area, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays) and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is free; special exhibits cost extra. Past visitors advised setting aside at least 90 minutes for your visit, though some recommended breaking up your museum tour into two days. Off-street parking is available in a parking ramp south of the museum. There are also surface lots on the northeast and southeast corners of the museum. If you're coming by bus, the museum is located on Route No. 11. For more information about current and upcoming exhibitions, visit the Mia's website.
- #2View all PhotosfreeChain of Lakes#2 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/PoolsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
No trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes is complete without a stroll around some of the metro's most popular. Each of the five bodies of water that encompass the Chain of Lakes byway district has something different to offer: Lake Harriet features live music during the summer, not to mention a bird sanctuary, rose gardens and two family-friendly beaches, while Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) draws a more active crowd with plenty of boat and bike rentals and paths for jogging and biking. Though not as popular, the Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake are great backdrops for a picnic or a stroll. If you visit during the summer, you'll find a plethora of sporting and live music events at the Chain of Lakes, particularly during July's Aquatennial festival.
Located about 5 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, the Chain of Lakes is open to visitors year-round. Access to the lakes is free, but parking and facility rentals may not be. Pricing can vary by lake.
- #5View all PhotosfreeMinnehaha Park#5 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Sprawling along the banks of the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Park offers respite from the fast-paced atmosphere of Minneapolis. Situated about 6 miles southeast of central Minneapolis, the 193-acre park is a popular spot all year round. And the park's renowned 53-foot Minnehaha Falls – made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Song of Hiawatha" – have played an important role in the city's history, from its status as a treasured site among Native American tribes to having powered a mill during the latter half of the 19th century. Today, the falls attract tourists from around the country, while the park itself offers active visitors a perfect venue for outdoor recreation, including bike paths, volleyball courts and a playground.
Past visitors raved about Minnehaha Park, describing it as "beautiful" and "relaxing." Many said the waterfall was the highlight here, but also recommended exploring the various hiking trails and bringing a picnic.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Stone Arch Bridge is a must-see for any architecture buff. This 2,100-foot granite and limestone bridge (featuring a total of 23 arches) was constructed in 1883 and was vital to the city's development by increasing movement of people and goods into and out of Minneapolis. Designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1971, it is the only stone arch bridge to have ever traversed the Mississippi River. Today, you can walk or ride bikes between Father Hennepin Bluff Park on the east bank of the river and Mill Ruins Park on the west bank. You might also visit for the bridge's impressive views of downtown Minneapolis (especially at sunset) from its perch over St. Anthony Falls. Thanks to the bridge's scenic perch, it's become a popular spot for marriage proposals and wedding photos.
Recent visitors recommend wearing comfortable shoes for your walk or ride and advise bringing a camera to capture the skyline views. If you want to make a day of it, you'll also find the Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theater less than a mile from the bridge's westside entrance. You'll also find parking lots and ramps located near both ends of the bridge. If you're looking for more to-dos in this area, check out St. Anthony Main. Situated across the Mississippi River from the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum, this area is home to several restaurants, including local favorite, Aster Cafe. Along with a handful of eateries and a movie theater, St. Anthony Main also hosts one of the Nice Ride bike-share stations – perfect for getting across the bridge. For more information about the bridge, visit the National Park Service website. It is accessible 24/7 free of charge.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Minneapolis - St. PaulMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Designed by avant-garde architect Frank Gehry, the Weisman Art Museum is the place to go for a glimpse at some of America's most renowned contemporary art. Here, you'll find pieces by such famed artists as Georgia O'Keeffe and Roy Lichtenstein, not to mention an impressive collection of ceramics and Korean furniture. This museum also hosts notable touring exhibits.
Some recent travelers found the museum too small, but others enjoyed its manageable size. A few reviewers said the collection wasn't worth making a special trip, but those who did stop by were impressed with its unique facade and scenic setting on the banks of the Mississippi River.
- #8View all PhotosfreeMall of America#8 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're facing a rainy day or simply can't bear the weight of your wallet, the largest shopping mall in the country is a welcome distraction. With more than 500 stores (2.5 million square feet of retail space), this is the place to shop till you drop. If you're not in the mood to shop, the Mall of America is also home to several family-friendly attractions, including the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park – complete with more than 25 different rides and attractions – and the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. Also make time for FlyOver America (a flight simulation ride) and XD Ride (part roller coaster, part video game) – you can even go to the movies. With so much to do, it's easy to make a trip to the mall a day-long activity. On the downside, the perpetual crowds and the sheer size of the space can be exhausting, according to past visitors. Others described the mall as clean and safe, and a great place to entertain the whole family.
Located about 11 miles south of downtown Minneapolis near the airport, the Mall of America is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. You should plan on spending money, even if you don't intend to shop, and wear comfortable shoes. For prices on individual attractions located within the mall, visit its website.
- #12View all Photos#12 in Minneapolis - St. PaulFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're looking for a more unique and local shopping experience, skip the Mall of America and head to the Midtown Global Market, where nearly 50 vendors sell food and trinkets ranging from local produce to Moroccan cuisine, Mexican pastries and Asian spices. There are also cultural events – from musical performances to Irish step-dancing lessons.
Past visitors said the market is a great place to stop if you're traveling with a group thanks to the variety of options. Others warned that peak meal times (specifically lunch) can get quite crowded.
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