Minneapolis and the greater metro area offer great deals year-round for both residents and visitors. Many attractions can be visited for free or at a discount. You’ll never run out of great family things to do here.
The best deal – and it’s available year-round – is the Check Out a Museum program. Go to any library in the Twin Cities or surrounding counties, and check out the counter display of passes to any one of 17 attractions.
Checking out an Adventure Pass from the library will admit four persons FREE to any ONE of the 17 locations. The list includes the Minnesota Zoo, the Como Park Zoo, American Swedish Institute, Bell Museum of Natural History, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Walker Art Center, and more. Your pass expires in one week, so plan ahead. Thank the sponsors: KARE TV, Macy’s, and the Star-Tribune.
Another museum that is free every day is the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts – free tours given Tues.-Sun. It houses a comprehensive collection of 100,000 works in a landmark building. Call 888-642-2787 or the web at artsmia.org. Wheelchair accessible.
Walking tours sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society range from free to $6. The tour of the State Capitol is free, and runs Mon.-Fri. 9-4, Sat. 10-3, and Sun. 1-3. Tours also are offered at Fort Snelling Trail, Irvine Parks, Summit Avenue, and St. Anthony Falls. Check the website at mnhs.org, or call 612-627-5433. Some sites are wheelchair accessible.
If you’re still not tired of walking, go to the City of Lakes trails for a change of scene. Lakes Calhoun, Harriet, Cedar, and Lake of the Isles have free paved paths circling them. Dual paths separate runners and walkers from bikers and roller bladers. Paddle boats and canoes also available for rental. Join a bicycling club for more great outings.
Explore your own city with bus tours run by MetroConnections. These moderately priced ($25-$52) last from 2.5 to 6.5 hours. The shortest is the popular Holiday Lights tour of downtown St. Paul and environs. Thursdays is the bus tour of the city, with a stop at the farmers market downtown, then a riverboat ride around Harriet Island. Fridays is a riverboat ride in the Stillwater area with lunch on board. Call 612-333-TOUR or the web at metroconnectionstours.com.
Another cheap thrill idea: take pictures of yourself and the kids next to the statue of Mary Tyler Moore in front of Macy’s downtown. Then hop on the light rail (Hiawatha Line) for only $1.50 ($2 at rush hour). Ride from downtown all the way to the airport and then the Mall of America and back. Or park for free at Mall of America, catch the Hiawatha north to downtown, MTM and the farmer’s market. Call 612-373-3333 or metrotransit.org.
Get a Visitor’s Guide with maps and special discount coupons inside. Mine had coupons for: $2 off Sunday brunch for everyone in our party at the Greenhaven Golf & Banquet Center – $5 off a trail ride at Bunker Park Stable – $5 off tickets at Plymouth Playhouse – $4 off adult admissions to Underwater Adventures. They also offer golf packages. Call 800-541-4364 or the web at visitminneapolisnorth.com.
Did you know Minnesota has more golf courses per capita than anywhere in the U.S.? I checked the web and there were 101 courses within 25 miles of me, and 84 within 20 miles! (I live just west of Minneapolis proper.)
Go to the best golf course search engine at golf.com, and click on the button “course finder.” You might want to do this after checking the tee times specials half-way down the home page. Key in your zip code and you get a page of certificates offered by local courses for discounted green fees. There’s no membership fees, no bidding. Just sign up, click to buy, and your certificate is good for one year. Example: $10 off regular weekend fee at Sawmill Golf Club ($9 off on weekdays). You may also sign up for a free e-newsletter from golf.com to keep up with special offers. Break 80 in your score, not your outlay!
While golfing always wear proper golf attire – like the Dockers you found at the Dockers Outlet, at Albertville Premium Outlets just NW of the Twin Cities on Hwy. 94. The outlet mall has 100 stores from Adidas to Zales, and is similar to the popular Johnson Creek outlet between Milwaukee and Madison. This mall hosts Fossil, Coach, Bath and Body Works, Oshkosh B’gosh, Hush Puppies, Reebok, Old Navy, and many more. Check the web at premiumoutlets.com/albertville.
Canterbury Park always has free parking even during special events. And you could even win more than gas money. But even if you come way too early for the simulcasting at 11 am, you may catch horses working out as I did one week. Live racing runs Thurs.-Sun., and the card club is open 24 hours. Canterbury has a fireworks show on July 3, and Weiner Dog races on July 4 with free hot dogs (not the pooches).
Canterbury is in Shakopee, the suburb that is Minneapolis’ playground. Canterbury, Murphy’s Landing, auto racing, Valleyfair amusement park, Mystic Lake casino, and the great Renaissance Faire are within miles of each other. Get a discount coupon to the Renaissance festival at local SuperAmerica gas stations.
There’s a summer vacation highlight for every budget in the Twin Cities, so double your fun and come out and play!