Serving as one-half of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis is one of the largest cities in the Midwest. Located on both banks of the Mississippi River, this great city has much to explore – visitors will be drawn in by its abundance of art, music and natural virtues such as lakes and waterfalls. For those with lighter wallets, we’ve put together a list of free attractions to experience in Minneapolis.
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Established in 1915, the Minneapolis Institute of Art proudly offers free admission to anyone interested in stepping through its columned façade. The gallery currently features 800 works of art that span 5,000 years of history and cover a wide range of subjects, giving your group plenty to explore. Past exhibitions have included one of Leonardo da Vinci’s original notebooks and an in-depth look at Italian fashion, from Prada to Gucci to Versace. Reservations are required for school groups, but students are warmly welcomed by the Institute, which provides potential tour topics and an application for transportation reimbursement. To see what other resources the Institute offers teachers, check out new.artsmia.org.
Location: 2400 3rd Ave. South
Midtown Global Market
This popular Minneapolis destination has been deemed by City Pages as the “best place to hang out with the kids.” The colorful public market contains shops that sell food, clothes, art and more, from merchants who showcase many different cultures; just wandering around would provide your group with much to do and see. Explore stalls such as Arte Hispano, which exhibits Latin American arts and crafts, and Café Finspang, which sells Scandinavian treats. For something more hands-on, the market offers free classes every month – right now, your group can stretch their legs with Salsa Dancing Sundays or take part in Cooking the Market, a cooking class that teaches seasonal recipes to groups of any kind. Learn more from the market’s website at www.midtownglobalmarket.org.
Location: 920 East Lake St. #G1
Created as an antithesis to the commercialism of Broadway, the Guthrie Theater boasts three separate spaces for its productions, from mainstream works such as Macbeth and The Music Man to original plays by contemporary playwrights. The theater also offers several different tours, one of which is both free and innovative. Visitors can take part in a self-guided audio tour, for which podcasts can be downloaded from iTunes free of charge. Don’t own an iPod? They can be rented at the box office for $5. You even have a number of guides to choose from – the podcasts are narrated by prominent Minneapolis figures such as R.T. Rybak and Angela Davis, as well as Guthrie veterans like actress Sally Wingert. The audio tour is a great way to learn about this piece of Minneapolis from people who know it well. For more information on the tour, go to www.guthrietheater.org.
Location: 818 South 2nd St.
Minnehaha Regional Park
Looking to enjoy nature with your group? Check out Minnehaha Regional Park, which offers free activities of all kinds. Your group can wander along the numerous paths and gardens, which contain a variety of plants and flowers to enjoy. One of the park’s most beautiful features is the Minnehaha Falls, a 53-foot waterfall that served as the inspiration for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. If you’re looking for a bit of history, explore the Princess Depot, a former train station on a railroad line that connected Minneapolis to Chicago, and now serves as a museum of early railroad history in the summer months. This park offers all that and more – just check out its page on minneapolisparks.org.
Location: 4801 South Minnehaha Park Dr.
Located in Northeast Minneapolis, this place is easy to overlook – but the tiny yellow-brick building contains one of the best free music venues in the city. Nearby the Dangerous Man Brewing Company, 331 Club offers a great way to hear live, original music from bands such as the Rockford Mules, Big Lake and Roe Family Singers. In addition, 331 Club is home to Trivia Mafia every Saturday, as well as other trivia nights such as Laura and Sean’s Movie and Music Trivia. This spot is not recommended for younger groups, but older students may enjoy the wide variety of music.
Location: 331 13th Ave NE.
Walker Art Center
Unlike the Minneapolis Institute of Art, this contemporary gallery is not always free – however, your group may participate in its weekly Target Free Thursday Nights, in which the gallery grants free admission from 5-9 p.m. During this time, visitors may enjoy the exhibitions, lectures, film screenings and live performances the gallery offers, such as International Pop, a past exhibition that focused on the evolution of pop art. In addition to Target Free Thursdays, the Center also holds First Free Saturdays during the first Saturday of every month, during which time visitors may view the gallery and children between the ages of 6-12 may participate in special activities. Check out walkerart.org to see what the Walker Art Center will have on display during your visit.
Location: 1750 Hennepin Ave.
Minnesota National Wildlife Refuge
Located in nearby Bloomington, the Minnesota National Wildlife Refuge offers two centers for visitors, as well as activities that your group can take part in. Guests can walk along hiking routes or engage in bird watching and fishing. The refuge is especially welcoming to school groups; educators may choose from three different field trip options sponsored by the parks to learn about the plants and wildlife encountered in the area. Field trips vary by the level of guidance your group needs, from programs that are led by the refuge staff to tours that can be self-guided with the aid of the resources provided by the refuge. Several curriculums are provided for different age groups, and transportations costs are even reimbursed. Explore the refuge’s page on www.fws.gov to learn more about the resources available to you.
Location: 3815 American Blvd. East, Bloomington, Minnesota
Know of any other fun and free things to do in Minneapolis? Share your experiences in the comments below!