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Free Things to Do in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Looking for free things to do in Minneapolis, Minnesota? Here are some places our family visited and did on a recent road trip there.

Want more free and cheap road trip ideas? Check out my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip. Also, check out my post on Free Things to Do in Madison, Wisconsin.

Free Things to Do as a family in Minneapolis

Free Things to Do in Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you missed yesterday’s post about our impromptu road trip a few weeks ago, check it out here.

On Day 2 of our impromptu road trip, we had planned to spend the day in Minneapolis. Many of you had given us suggestions and we were so excited to explore this area.

Only, we woke up to cold and rain. So, we came up with Plan B — which involved spending most of the day at the Mall of America.

Mall of America

We’ve always wanted to visit MOA and we really loved our experience there. Someone commented online about how that was the least frugal place to go and I had to laugh!

You see, MOA is only expensive if you actually buy stuff at it! If you just walk around and look at the stores and displays like we did, it’s a completely free thing to do in Minneapolis, Minnesota!

Fun fact from their website: “MOA does not use a central heating system; instead, 70 degrees is maintained year-round with passive solar energy from 1.2 miles of skylights and heat generated from lighting, store fixtures and body heat.”

Our kids’ favorite stores were the Crayola stores and the LEGO stores.

Silas and Kaitlynn decided to use some of their money to buy a Pick a Brick Bucket.

We had fun at Five Below — and can you believe I’d never been in that store before? I was definitely impressed. We did end up buying a few cool travel games for the kids for the long car drive home.

We also went to the Gucci section at one of the stores and just about fell over when we saw the prices. No offense to anyone who wears Gucci (though I’m guessing if you read here, you likely don’t!), but, to me, the clothes looked like something I would find at an outdated thrift store.

Clearly, I’m very hip and up with the times! 😉 But basically, you could buy a decent used car for the same price of most of the clothing items!!


We wanted to get a late lunch, so I got out my phone and searched, “Cheapest places to eat at Mall of America.” One of the places it pulled up was BurgerBurger. We discovered they had a Happy Hour from 3-6 p.m. where you could get $2 off burgers.

It was getting close to 3 p.m. at this point, so guess what we did? Of course we waited until 3 p.m.  You had to order from the bar to get the Happy Hour prices, but we asked and they said you could order anything off the menu and did not need to order alcohol to get the Happy Hour prices.

The wait was a little long to get our food, but it was worth it because the burgers were truly amazing!


There is an IKEA right across from MOA and none of us had ever been before. So, once the rain let up, we decided to walk over and check it out.

Since I’d heard so much about IKEA for so long from many, many people, I think I had set the bar really high for what it was going to be.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed with it because of my very high expectations. I have been told that this IKEA is small and not as great as other IKEA stores, though. So maybe that was it?

The kids had fun pretending to sleep on the beds and I loved looking at the small space setups (I dream of someday living part-time in an RV.)

We were all hungry again, so we got some food at IKEA. I’d say that the food was probably the most impressive part! 🙂 We all loved it and the prices were quite good, too.

Minnehaha Falls

One good thing about the rain? It meant that we got to see Minnehaha Falls when it was raging. And I do mean raging!

This was the highlight of the day — and maybe even the trip!

If you get a chance to check out Minnehaha Falls, definitely do so — especially if it’s on a day when it has rained!

We met a local who told us that the river leading to the Falls was higher than he’d ever seen it. And he told us it was 2 inches lower than the highest it had ever been recorded!

This was looking down onto the Falls from the top. I couldn’t believe they didn’t have it fenced off or something! It was rushing at such a ferocious speed it was pretty breath taking and mesmerizing!

What are your best tips and suggestions for free things to do in Minneapolis, Minnesota? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Jennifer Scholl says:

    I hate to tell you, but of the places you mentioned only Minehaha Falls is actually in Minneapolis. The Mall of America and Ikea are actually in Bloomington. ☺

  • Krissy says:

    I’m so glad you had such a fun, free time in Minneapolis. I lived in Minneapolis suburbs all my life until moving to CA at age 50. I recall being at Minnehaha to sing for a group of seniors and watching a model preparing for her shoot at the foot of the falls. She was combing water into her hair, taking forever, and we thought she should just dunk her head. My friend’s daughter was born about the same time as MOA opened, and her older was all excited to have her birthday at her sister’s mall – “Mall of my Erica.”

    Minnehaha gave you an equivalent experience, but another option is to take a walk around any of several lakes in the city. It’s also fun to go downtown and check out the skyways. They were ‘invented’ in Minneapolis and downtown workers appreciate them in the freezing cold of the winter as well as the hot humidity of the summer.

    Thank you for bringing back some really fond memories.

  • Lana says:

    Oh, had I known you were coming to town, I could’ve given you ideas. We live about 5 min from MOA! Combo Zoo, The Conservatory, so many lakes, so many parks, Sculpture Garden, many museums have certain free days, for starters!

    • I asked for ideas on Facebook and Instagram and got so many great ideas… sadly, most of them were outdoors and not really something we wanted to do in the rain and the cold!

  • Shana says:

    I agree with the comment above– Como Zoo and its conservatory are fantastic free options!

  • Jodi says:

    Wow, I’ve never seen Minnehaha Falls rage like that! How cool! We like to go there in the winter too when the falls are frozen.

  • Tina B says:

    I don’t know about Minneapolis, but Five Below and IKEA are two of my fave/go-to stores here on Long Island (NY)!

    • I think I need to maybe try another IKEA??

      • Tina B says:

        Definitely! There’s only one on Long Island and it’s 30 minutes away, but sooo worth the trip! It’s the only place I buy picture frames, lamps and side/end tables. It’s also one of the best restaurants in town!
        I’d checkout other Five Below stores when you can as well. I love going there when my daughter gets invited to parties. There are some fantastic (and frugal!) gifts to find.

  • Angel says:

    Crystal, sadly I’ve been underwhelmed by the IKEA you visited too. I’ve gone a number of times, hoping to find great deals and it just didn’t cut it. You are not alone! If you ever get back to the area, or any of your readers are looking for some other great stuff to do, we live in the St Croix Valley, north of the Cities about an hour. We have a fabulous sculpture garden here called Franconia that is free. and some gorgeous scenery just over the border into Wisconsin with great hiking and another waterfall called Cascade.

  • Shea says:

    Curious what your plan A was?

    • Como Zoo and the Conservatory. We were going to try to still go to the indoor parts of the Conservatory, but by the time we were done at MOA and IKEA (which we hadn’t planned to do but are glad we did!), the Conservatory was already closed. 🙁

  • Emily says:

    A free fun thing that I don’t see listed here is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden! I work nearby and get to drive by it every day and see the Big Blue Rooster. If you make it there, then you have to go for a walk around one of minneapolis’ famous lakes, Lake Calhoun.

  • Carol says:

    The Minneapolis Institute of Art is wonderful. Admission is free everyday.

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