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Top Free Things to Do in the Twin Cities

Whether you’re a fan of the Twin Cities’ glittering blue lakes and lush parks or its many artsy offerings, there is plenty to do for free or for only a parking fee. Even better: Exploring without a car has never been easier. The Green Line light rail train runs between Minneapolis and Saint Paul and connects Target Field to Mall of America and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport.

Weisman Art Museum Modern installations and famed artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe make these University of Minnesota galleries appealing for art-lovers, but the metallic silver museum (designed by Frank Gehry) ranks as the showstopper with curves and angles that dramatically gather morning and evening light. (612) 625-9494, weisman.umn.edu

Weisman Art Museum

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory This century-old attraction has drawn generations of visitors with giraffes, a sea lion show, gorillas and a polar bear. It’s technically free, but a $2 to $3 donation is requested. Be sure to leave time for a trip through the tropics and seasonal flower shows at the conservatory. (651) 487-8200; comozooconservatory.org

Minnehaha Falls Enjoy a 53-foot waterfall and the inspiration behind Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” poem at this 193-acre urban oasis. After a hike along the limestone bluffs, dine on a picnic or eat on the patio at the popular Sea Salt Eatery. (612) 230-6400; minneapolisparks.org

Minnehaha Falls

Minneapolis park movies and concerts Nightly performances, including big bands, pop orchestras, classics and family blockbusters, and 250-plus events entertain park-goers throughout the summer at spots such as Nicollet Island on the Mississippi River and the Victorian band shell at Lake Harriet. mplsmusicandmovies.com 

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. Need to cool off? Splurge on a decadent cone from Izzy’s Ice Cream by Gold Medal Park. (612) 313-7793, minneapolisparks.org

Minneapolis Institute of Art Collections in this sprawling free museum span 5,000 years and a global scope of art, from ancient textiles and scrolls to Monet paintings and Prairie School architecture. The museum is internationally known for Asian art, including a historical Japanese audience hall and a teahouse. (888) 642-2787; artsmia.org

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minnesota State Capitol The architect of the U.S. Supreme Court, Cass Gilbert, designed this 1905 stunner in Saint Paul. The interior recently reopened for tours after a three-year, $310 million renovation. Forty-five minute guided visits leave at the top of the hour. Admission is free, though there is a suggested donation of $5 for guided tours. mnhs.org/statecapitol

Minnesota State Capitol

Mall of America Sample the free perks of Minnesota’s top attraction: the Lego store play area (with inspiring Lego art work and sculptures), frequent concerts and celebrity events, Toddler Tuesdays with free activities and free family movies on Saturday mornings. (952) 883-8800; mallofamerica.com

Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden The center's free sculpture garden, with the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture and more than 40 other works of art, reopened in summer 2017 after a $33 million makeover.  The neighboring Walker Art Center is free on the first Saturday of each month and on Thursday nights. (612) 375-7600, walkerart.org

Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

 

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