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Free Things to do in Minnesota(MN) with kids

Updated on September 10, 2013

Times are tough

With times becoming tough for most of us, finding fun and cheap or better yet free things to do in MN with kids are a necessity. I have 2 small children and I have a very limited budget, so finding new and fun things to do in Minneapolis that are inexpensive is quite a challenge. Minnesota has a lot to offer and most things are not free. I have found a few attractions that are good for families, dates, and even just to tour the cities on your own. Many of the attractions I have personally visited and best of all they are absolutely free!

Living near St Paul, Minnesota I have looked for free things to do in St Paul. There are many things around the capital city that is free and generally fun. Besides the usual city parks and trails there is a free zoo, the state capital, the Cathedral of St Paul, and the Minnesota Childrens Museum. As an avid football fan going to Mankato, Minnesota is a great place to go in Minnesota that is free to watch the Minnesota Vikings practice.

Como Zoo and Conservatory

Located near downtown St Paul, the Como Zoo and Conservatory is one place to go for something free to do in St. Paul. The Como Zoo is open year round and is free, although they ask for a $2 donation for adults and $1 for children to help maintain the park. The zoo is a great place to learn about different animals and to spend the day with family, friends, or even go on a date. In the winter months, October - March, the zoo is open in the from 10 AM to 4 PM. The summer months, April - September, the zoo and conservatory is open from 10 AM - 6 PM and other attractions are available as well like Como Town and Mini Golf.

Some of the popular animals the zoo has are Giraffes, Gorillas, Lions, Tigers, Penguins, and the Polar Bears. In the warmer months the Flamingos and other birds arrive in the pond area near the entrance.

The Conservatory houses many different gardens that are beautiful to see. The gardens that are available year round are Bonsai, Enchanted Garden, Fern Room, Japanese Garden, North Garden, Orchid House, Palm Dome, Sunken Garden, and Tropical Encounters.

There are many food carts around the zoo and 2 restaurants, some of them are seasonal. The zoo has a main concession area with Zooper foods, a seasonal concession area, near the seal exhibit. They feature hamburgers, french fries, pizza, popcorn, ice cream, and drinks. There is an indoor cafe called Zöbota Café. the features are chef specials, hand-tossed salads, grilled sandwiches, bakery treats, and Caribou Coffee. They also offer free wi-fi internet to their customers.

There are 2 gift shops in the zoo as well Glacier Gifts near the Polar Bear exhibit. Garden Safari Gifts is in the entrance of the Conservatory. They feature both zoo and conservatory gifts like soaps and lotions, jewelry, stuffed animals, childrens gifts, live plants, and apparel.

Overall I really like the zoo and conservatory. It can be an all day event but 2 hours would cover the entire place. If the weather is nice Como Lake is just across the road and there is a nice picnic area and a trail to walk around the lake.

The Cathedral of St. Paul

The Cathedral of St Paul is another place that has free things to do in St Paul. A historic Landmark of St Paul, it is one of the most prominent buildings in the city. Free guided tours are available Monday –Friday at 1pm (except Holy Days and civil holidays). No appointment is needed to take the tour. Self guided tours are available and tour booklets are available for purchase. Aside from the tours the Cathedral of Saint Paul holds daily and multiple Sunday masses,

Minnesota State Capital Building

If you are interested in learning about what happens in the legislature and want to see where it all happens. The Minnesota State Capital is a place to go that is free in Minnesota. The Minnesota State Capital Tour is one of the free things to do in Minnesota. Here you can learn about the history of the capitol, its art, and architecture. See the chambers where decisions are made. Walk to the quadriga (golden horses) on the roof. Tours are 45 minutes and leave on the hour and they are absolutely free.

Minnesota Childrens Museum

The Minnesota Childrens Museum is another place that offers free things to do in Minnesota. The Minnesota Childrens Museum is free on the third Sunday of the month from 9am -5pm., other dates the price is $8.95. Located in downtown St. Paul the Childrens Museum is one of the popular places to go with kids. The museum offers seven galleries with plenty of activities to entertain everyone. The Gallories include:

  • Our World – brings the places we see every day for a child to play “grown-up” like bus driver, restaurant worker, mailman, and TV personality
  • World Works – creativity and problem solving skills are encouraged in this hands on gallery
  • Earth World – life-like habitats to experience some of Minnesota “residents”.
  • Habitot (ages 6 months to 4 years) – infants and toddlers can safely explore four learning landscapes
  • Rooftop ArtPark (May through September) – on the museums fourth floor this gallery brings art and nature together for more hands on fun
  • Two special galleries offering traveling exhibits from around the world
  • Lego Castle Exhibit – build a lego castle wall and try to break it down with a virtual catapult. Build things with all types of legos, including large soft ones for the toddlers, explore the castle, and joust with others in this popular exibit.

Minnesota Vikings Training Camp

 Located at Mankato State University, Mankato, Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings encourage fans to watch the players and coaches practice for the upcoming season. There are many interactive events for the children such as Punt, Pass, Kick clinic; a Cheerleading clinic; and other fun activities. There are plenty of food and beverage vendors and the Vikings Locker Room Store for souvenirs and other Vikings merchandise. Admission to the practices is free and run at varying times in late July to Early August. There are scheduled opportunities for fans to get autographs of their favorite Viking players before and after most practices.

Summit Brewery Tour

 The Summit Brewing Company offers free tours of their brewery. The Brewery is located at 910 Montreal Circle St. Paul, MN 55102 near downtown St Paul. Tuesdays and Thursdays the tour runs at 1pm. Saturdays (excluding Holiday weekends) the tours begin at 10:30 am and 1 pm. Reservations are required to tour the brewery, and it is recommended to reserve Saturdays 1-2 months in advance as they fill up fast. There is a gift shop as well that is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, and Saturday during the tours 10:30 am – 3pm. After the tour there is an opportunity to sample some of the brewed beers.

Surly Brewery Tours

 Surly Brewery Tours are free but require a non perishable food item. The tours are held Friday evenings from 6 PM – 8 PM, and Every other Saturday 2 PM – 4 PM and 5 PM – 7 PM. Registration is required from their website, and they fill up fast; online registration opens 3 weeks prior to the tour. The brewery is located at 4811 Dusharme Drive Brooklyn Center, MN, 55429 just south of 694 and Highway 100. After the tour there is an opportunity to sample the brewed beers.

Museum Adventure Pass

The Museum adventure pass lets you use your metro public library card to check out 2 admission passes to many of Twin Cities cultural organizations. The passes are first-come-first-served and more than 100 public libraries offer them for check out. The Museum Adventure Pass is generously sponsored by Macy’s Foundation,, and Pioneer Press. The adventure passes allow you to visit:

  • American Swedish Institute
  • Bakken Museum
  • Bell Museum of Natural History
  • Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
  • Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary
  • Firefighters Hall and Museum
  • Foshay Museum and Observation Deck
  • Hennepin History Museum
  • The Landing – Minnesota River Heritage park
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts
  • Minnesota History Center
  • Minnesota Streetcar Museum
  • Minnesota Transportation Museum
  • Minnesota Zoo
  • The Museum of Russian Art
  • Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
  • The Works: Hands-On, Minds-On Museum


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is also free everyday. I just went and it was really nice. It was somewhat empty which is nice for a museum actually. I think you would like it. I also hear the Walker Art Center is free on Thursdays. Even if it isn't the park with the giant spoon is free and it's a nice place to bring the children. Finally the Weisman Art Museum on the east bank campus of the U of M is also free although free parking will be a hassle to find.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow! The museum adventure pass is awesome! Wish I was closer to the cities so I could do this stuff often!

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks Nicole S. I will try to find more things to do and update this hub.

    • Nicole S profile image

      Nicole S Hanson 

      8 years ago from Minnesota

      This is wonderful, I knew the library had things you could check out like this but I didn't know what they were. Thank you, I've bookmarked this to use again and again :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love Como Zoo!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for the great ideas. I'm going to try out the surly tour!!


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