Going on vacation doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. In Minnesota, there are plenty of attractions and activities that are completely free to visitors. Here are 18 of them:
1. MUNSINGER CLEMENS GARDENS, ST. CLOUD
This well-known, beautiful garden park is located along the Mississippi River in St. Cloud. The Munsinger portion of the gardens began in the 1880s. The gardens have experienced different stages of development, with many of the improvements coming as a result of work during the Great Depression through the WPA. The Clemens portion is dedicated to different varieties of roses. During the summer, there are free music concerts within the gardens.
2. FRANKLIN ARTS CENTER, BRAINERD
Artspace has transformed the former Franklin Junior High School building into a multipurpose arts center, with 25 affordable live/work studios for individuals and families; 37,775 square feet for artist studios, arts organizations and arts-friendly businesses; and 36,247 square feet that are operated by the Brainerd School District as community programs space. You can visit and learn from local and resident artist and craftsmen. The facility is open to the public daily and also hosts special events the second Saturday of the month.
3. SPAM MUSEUM, AUSTIN
The new and improved Spam Museum opened in spring 2016, featuring interactive exhibits and galleries dedicated to the infamous canned ham’s history, popularity and place in modern life, as well as Spam-inspired artwork and a kids play area.
4. WM. S. MARVIN TRAINING AND VISITOR CENTER, WARROAD
Experience the history of Marvin Windows and Doors in the Wm. S. Marvin Training and Visitor Center. The 6,000-square-foot museum and gift shop are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 1-4 p.m. on weekends. Exhibits include a combination of artifacts and interactive presentations to create a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.
5. KEEPERS OF THE SACRED TRADITION OF PIPEMAKERS, PIPESTONE
Located in the old Rock Island Depot in Pipestone, it is on the Historic Register and is one of a very few buildings made of yellow brick. It houses the Pipemakers gift shop, Indian art gallery and displays of Indian items. Open year-round.
6. DISC GOLFING, STATEWIDE
Minnesota has around 200 disc golf courses, and most are free to play. For a complete listing of all disc golf courses in Minnesota, go to pdga.com.
7. ZUMBROTA COVERED BRIDGE, ZUMBROTA
Walk through one of Minnesota’s last covered bridges. Measuring nearly 120 feet long and 15 feet wide, it was built in 1869 and crosses the Zumbro River.
8. GRAND ROUNDS SCENIC BYWAY, MINNEAPOLIS
As the only urban national scenic byway, Minneapolis’ Grand Rounds attests to the exceptional qualities of its host city. The byway is truly in the heart of Minneapolis, with many impressive views of the downtown skyline, yet is as green, lush and lined with waterways like most of our rural byways. Enjoy walking, running, biking or Rollerblading along the 50-mile route.
One of the country’s largest urban sculpture parks, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden features more than 40 works of art and the Cowles Conservatory. The garden will reopen this June after extensive renovations, bringing back the playful “Spoonbridge and Cherry” as well as 18 holes of artist-designed mini golf.
This cultural attraction is regularly ranked among the top 10 comprehensive U.S. art museums. Admission, as always, is free.
11. COMO ZOO & MARJORIE MCNEELY CONSERVATORY, ST. PAUL
Como Zoo features indoor and outdoor exhibits, including large cats, primates, polar bears and aquatic animals. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory has permanent tropical and changing seasonal plants and flowers, as well as the new Japanese garden. Donations are accepted.
12. LAKE SUPERIOR MARITIME VISITOR CENTER, DULUTH
Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this is the most-visited marine museum on the Great Lakes. 1,000-foot freighters pass within 200 feet of the building. Open daily throughout shipping season.
13. SUPERIOR HIKING TRAIL, NORTH SHORE
The Superior Hiking Trail is a 300-mile hiking trail that follows the rocky ridge line above Lake Superior. Great for both day hikes and backpack camping.
14. GITCHI-GAMI STATE TRAIL, NORTH SHORE
The Gitchi-Gami State Trail connects Two Harbors to Grand Marais along the North Shore of Lake Superior. This 86-mile trail will eventually connect five state parks, several communities, four Scientific and Natural Areas and numerous historic sites, and provides vistas of Lake Superior.
15. FRANCONIA SCULPTURE PARK, SHAFER
Open 365 days a year, this artists’ residency in the St. Croix River Valley features more than 100 large-scale sculptures scattered across 25 acres. Free guided tours are offered on Sundays in summer and fall.
This 45-foot-tall carillon tower in downtown New Ulm plays programmed music three times a day, when the clock’s animated figurines come to life. The characters are replaced by a nativity scene during the holiday season.
Located inside the flagship store in downtown Red Wing, the museum features the world’s largest boot, brand memorabilia, and a chance to dress like a iron worker and learn more about how the famous shoes are made.
18. PAUL & BABE, BEMIDJI
Snap a photo with folklore’s favorite lumberjack and his trusty steed, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The pair can be found in Bemidji, but they also stand tall in Brainerd, Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Akeley and elsewhere throughout the state.