Five Free Family Activities in Minneapolis

Ask any parent and they’re sure to agree, one of worst phrases in the English language is “Mom, Dad, I’m bored!”

Keeping the kids entertained can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. There are plenty of enjoyable family-friendly activities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Whether you are a newcomer, or a long-time resident, here are some ideas for free fun:

Visit the Como Zoo

One of the most popular free activities in the Twin Cities is a visit to the Como Zoo in St. Paul. Opened more than 100 years ago to serve the recreational needs of St. Paul and surrounding communities, the zoo features plenty of world-class exhibits.

There is a large cat exhibit, a polar bear exhibit, a seal island, and areas where birds, primates and African hoofed animals are showcased. The zoo is also home to The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, a half acre indoor and outdoor facility where a variety of plant life is on display. The facility is open all year round. More information can be found on their website.

Visit a Three River’s Park

If you enjoy the peace and solitude of spending time outdoors, one of the best-kept secrets in all of Minneapolis is the Three Rivers Park District. The District’s nearly 27,000 acres of park reserves, regional parks, regional trails and special-use facilities are all situated within the watersheds that flow into three significant rivers to this region: the Mississippi, the Minnesota and the Crow. There is no fee for the general use of Three Rivers parks and trails. Parking is also free, but passes are required for certain activities.

Among the activities offered at the parks, hiking, biking, boating, canoeing & kayaking, geocaching, swimming and picnicking. Log on to the website to find the park that offers the amenities you enjoy most.


Bicycling Magazine named Minneapolis America’s Best Bike City in its May edition and for good reason. There are plenty of opportunities to bike in and around the city, and of course, biking is a great family activity.

Minneapolis has 127 miles of bikeways, with 83 of those being off-street trails. Directions to the best bike trails can be found at this website.

Visit the Minneapolis or St. Paul farmer’s market

If you’re looking for something different to do, a trip to one of the local farmers markets is in order. Minneapolis and St. Paul both have markets where fresh local produce and goods are sold. So do a number of the suburbs.

You can find everything from freshly grown fruits and vegetables to flowers, plants, jams and jellies. There are also live performers who keep things interesting. WCCO Television, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, recently published a list of its favorite markets for 2011. You can access that list from their website.

Minnehaha Falls

And no trip to Minneapolis is complete without a stop at the majestic Minnehaha Falls. Located within Minnehaha Park, it is one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most popular parks, attracting over 850,000 thousand visitors annually. The park is located at the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway. In addition to the 53-foot waterfall, the park contains native prairie flowers as well as huge oaks, elm, maple and basswood trees. There are also numerous trails to explore and plenty of places to picnic.

These are just some of the free venues available in Minneapolis. Other fun free activities include exploring downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul through their skyway systems, and spending the day around one of Minneapolis’ many lakes.

For more ideas, visit the city of Minneapolis’ website.