Free family activities in Minneapolis
LEA ANN FESSENDEN
Minneapolis is full of interesting tourist attractions and many of them are free or very easy on the pocketbook. Once the flour mill capital of the world, Minneapolis has over twenty lakes, creeks, wetlands, waterfalls and the great Mississippi River.
Take an afternoon or morning to explore the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, part of the Walker Art Center. Aside from being free, this garden boasts being the city's crown jewel. The 11-acre complex has over 40 works of art on permanent display including the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture. Free guided tours of the garden are available during the summer months, May through August. The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department maintains the garden grounds which are open to the public daily from 6:00 a.m. until midnight. Easy parking and well maintained trails and gardens make this a great outing for all ages. Be sure to visit the conservatory as well.
One of my favorite attractions in Minneapolis is St. Anthony Falls. St Anthony is an interesting waterfall which flows over a cliff into the Mississippi River and was used to provide energy for the flour mill industry. Follow the 2 mile walking trail that provides views of the fall as well as the Hennepin and the 2,000 ft. long Stone Arch Bridge. A great place for a refreshing walk, and best of all it is free.
Another free attraction to visit while in Minneapolis is the Eloise Butler Wildflower and Bird Sanctuary. This public garden is where visitors can see woodlands, swamps, and prairies from April to October and admission is free.
The Como Zoo, located right next to Como Lake, has some very interesting exhibits including: African Hoofed Animals, Bird Yard, Large Cat Building, Old Hoofed Stack Barn, Aquatic Animal Building, a Primate House, and much more. The zoo features an amazing variety of animals, and beautiful plants and flowers in a beautiful conservatory. Although the zoo requests a small donation, it is free to the public.
The Northwest Airlines History Centre is an aviation buff's delight. I found fascinating photographs, scaled models, books and art describing the history of this venerable airline. Free.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art is a "must see" on your trip to the Twin Cities. I didn't allow enough time to see the over 100,000 objects from around the world. Allow ample time to see their permanent collections such as Asian Art, African Art, Native Art and a large Modern Art collection. If your time is limited, I recommend you pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the museum entrance to see the museum's most popular pieces. The museum and adjoining parking is free.
Another fun thing to do is visit the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. It doesn't cost a cent to wander around and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of this rowdy market. It will be hard to resist buying some of the wonderful fruits and vegetables, meats, breads, honey or flowers. When your travel plans include a stop in Minneapolis, MN you won't have to worry about expensive entertainment as there are many free activities to enjoy throughout the Twin Cities.