I'm going to Minneapolis and would like to keep this trip on a pretty low budget. What kinds of things can I do that are either free are pretty inexpensive? I'm open to all suggestions thanks!
Hi Christine and welcome! You've got a lot of info here already, but I'll offer up some more budget-conscious suggestions.
Mill City Farmers Market, held on Saturdays, has beautiful produce and crafts on offer, a number of good food vendors and an unbeatable location next to Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater. Within the Guthrie (free entry), go up to the Endless Bridge, a cantilevered lobby that provides sweeping views, and then to the Dowling Studio Lobby, which is encased in amber-hued glass and makes for great photos.
From there, head down 2nd Street toward Izzy's Ice Cream. Grab a cone (their waffle cones are so good and Midnight Snack is an unmissable flavor) and enjoy it while walking up the curling trail to the top of the hill at Gold Medal Park. Come back down, grab a Nice Ride bike and then go toward the river, where you can hop on a bike trail that will lead you along the banks of the Mississippi without having to worry about traffic. You'll go past the University of Minnesota campus and get a great view of the The Frederick R Weisman Art Museum, which Frank Gehry designed before Bilbao and without the aid of a computer design program.
You could go up to campus from here and, crossing Washington Ave., explore the East Bank of campus with its lovely buildings (including the Bell Museum of Natural History) and two enclaves of student life, where you'll find some good, cheap eats: Dinkytown and Washington Avenue between Harvard St. and Huron St., which has Little Szechuan, Hong Kong Noodle, Kim Chi & Tofu House and an outpost of Punch Pizza Stadium Village, our local Neapolitan wood-fired pizza chain that is seriously good (and I am not inclined to like chains). West Bank (no need to cross Washington Ave.) is a little more gritty, but it has some good spots too, including Keefer Court Food (my fav spot for Hong Kong-style eats), Dillas Ethiopian Restaurant and Town Hall Brewery. All of these places are great value for your money.
Alternately, you could ride the bike trail all the way to Minnehaha Park and then chow down at Sea Salt Eatery right next to the falls. There are also some great hikes around the park that lead down to where the creek meets the Mississippi.
I love the Minneapolis Institute Of Arts and I am constantly blown away that this incredible museum is free and open to the public. Though they charge an entry fee ($9), The Museum of Russian Art is really a hidden gem in the city. Housed in a beautifully renovated mission-style church, it has beautifully edited collections and exhibitions that shed light on a lesser known corner of the art world. It's charming, cool and won't eat up your whole day.
The lakes are definitely worth a visit, as has been mentioned. My favorite is Lake Nokomis, which has a great concession stand, Sandcastle, a couple of beaches and is more chill than the Uptown lakes.
I could probably keep going indefinitely here, so I will close this out with what is probably my favorite place in all of the Twin Cities: Hmongtown Marketplace. What an incredible asset to our community this is—it's literally like stepping into the highlands of Laos and Vietnam. The food court has incredible offerings (my musts: noodle-stuffed chicken wings and legs, laab, purple sticky rice, grilled fish, and maybe a couple of the stews on offer—ask the vendors for samples and if you're bold, ask to try some of the bitter dishes, amazing!) and you can wander through the markets looking at everything from textiles and handicrafts to stalks of bamboo, handmade tools and an astonishing array of medicinal plants and herbs.
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We have a great public transportation system that is cheap. When you buy a ticket for the bus, it also works on the light rail. We also have the Nice Ride bikes that you can rent for 6 dollars for 24 hours (no extra charge as long as you get them into a station every 30 minutes).
There is lots to do downtown for free or cheap. Nicollet Mall has a lot of outdoor patio seating as Jacey mentioned and the Farmer's Market is there on Thursdays. Hennepin Avenue downtown has several bars with rooftop patios for a nice view of downtown. Then there is also the Warehouse District which has cool and trendy bars and coffee shops. It's not super cheap but but Smack Shack is a seafood restaurant and bar located in the warehouse district that is an interesting place for drinks. And during lunch time there are a bunch of food trucks located on Marquette Ave.
Up the street on Washington Avenue is a dive bar called Bunker's Music Bar & Grill. They have great live bands at night. If you like funk and are looking for something to do on a Sunday or Monday night that is when The Combo plays. They have been around forever and have played with Prince and The Time.
Loring Park is downtown and is a beautiful park with a lovely pond and flower garden. You will see lots of geese, ducks, squirrels and birds. There is a grocery store called Lunds Pharmacy nearby that has a great salad bar. You could pick something up there and have lunch in the park. You can take the elevated walking bridge from Loring Park over to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden which is free to walk around.
Across from the Sculpture Gardens is the Walker Art Center. Admission is free on the first Saturday of every month and every Thursday evening from 5-9 PM. Behind the Walker is a hilly neighborhood called Kenwood that is fun to walk around. It's just really pretty and filled with amazing ($$$) homes. Also back there is Kenwood Parkway. If you want to ride bikes you can take that road and it will lead you to an entrance to a really nice off-road bike trail that you can take over to the Chain of Lakes and Uptown Area. Cedar Lake is also one of the lakes that is really nice. Less crowded than the others. Public beaches as well as "Hidden Beach" which isn't actually very well hidden. But it has a more hippy vibe and a mud pit.
Both Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet have casual restaurants on the lake where you can buy inexpensive food and drinks to enjoy while sitting outside on the lake. Lake Harriet also has a band shell outdoors with free music.
Back downtown the Stone Arch Bridge is absolutely beautiful. You could start at the Guthrie Theater. You can walk around inside the Guthrie for free and it has some outdoor areas with great views of the Stone Arch Bridge and Mississippi River. From there you can walk through an outdoor park called Mill Ruins Park which is very pretty and interesting. Then walk across the Stone Arch Bridge over to the other side. Turn left and go up the brick street to St. Anthony Main. That is a really nice little area and beginning May 15 there is a great restaurant/bar there called Vic's Restaurant that has a progressive wine bottle happy hour. You can get an entire bottle of wine and sit out on the patio with a view of downtown and the river for 3 dollars from 2-3. Yes, 3 dollars for a whole bottle of wine. From 3-4 the price is 4 dollars and 5 dollars from 4-5 PM.
Right across the Street is another park where you can walk out and see some great views of the river. Then head on up over to Nicollet Island. Nicollet Island is on both sides of the Hennepin Ave bridge. If you stay on the same side as Vics and St Anthony Main that is very pretty. But if you go on the other side of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge there is also a really nice neighborhood with quaint homes and old bridges. You can cross back over there and end up back in the Warehouse District. There are also hiking and bike trails along the river.
Don't miss Minnehaha Falls at Minnehaha Park. You can take the light rail there. The falls are very impressive. Take a hike along Minnehaha Creek at the bottom of the falls. One of my absolute favorite ways to spend a day. After your hike there is an restaurant called Sea Salt Eatery with outdoor seating right by the falls. They also have a band shell right near there with outdoor music for free.
We also have another huge park near downtown called Theodore Wirth Park which has gorgeous trails through a Quaking Bog and a wildflower garden that is just gorgeous to hike through. Theodore Wirth Park also has a lake with a swimming beach.
Minneapolis Institute Of Arts is located just outside of downtown and admission is completely free every day.
There is also the larger Minneapolis Farmers Market open daily which is close to downtown.
You can also take the light rail to downtown Saint Paul (Minnesota) and see the Capitol. Downtown St. Paul has much older architecture and is a different vibe than the more modern downtown Minneapolis. You can take a river cruise from downtown St Paul on Mondays and Saturdays for 8 dollars. http://www.riverrides.com/pages/public/sightseeing.html
You could also go to a St. Paul Saints game for 5 bucks.
We also have loads of outdoor festivals throughout the summer.
Here is a list of outdoor free movies and music in the parks:
And a list of festivals and events:
Enjoy Minneapolis, it is a great city in the summer time!!!!!
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