Free Summer Dates in the Cities

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By Laura Beier and Meghan Baumler

As college students, we have a limited budget and love to spend our money on coffee and food (if you’re anything like us). No worries, this summer doesn’t have to be expensive. We live in the Twin Cities where there are a plethora of free, yes FREE, activities and things to do!


Below you’ll find a list of our favorite, cost-free pastimes that make a summer in the Twin Cities unlike any other. So grab your sunglasses and someone to share it with and try some out!


Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Known for the Spoonbridge and Cherry and Hahn/Cock sculpture, the Walker Art Center has created an amazing experience for visitors to get involved in. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was recently renovated and reopened, featuring work from 40 museum collections and public events. From June 7th through August 2nd, they have a workout class in the garden and have Target Free Thursday Nights for the public. Target Free Thursday Nights involve anything from music to films, and are a great way to learn more about the Minneapolis culture and art!

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Farmers markets

The Twin Cities are known for being a great scene for foodies, but they also have a great farmers market scene with fresh, local produce and fun products like flavored honey and specialty meats. They’re all over - from downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis, to smaller neighborhood spots. Here’s a few of Laura’s favorites:

  • Mill City Farmers Market

    Every Saturday morning from May to October, 8am-1pm, the area between Guthrie Theater and the Mill City Museum is filled with flowers, food trucks, and wood-fired pizza. This market is a bit smaller, but offers unique treats, and also does a night market on Tuesdays, 4pm-8pm at The Commons park (with live music!)
  • University of Minnesota Farmers Market

    McNamara Alumni Center is home to the quaint Wednesday afternoon U of M farmers market! From 11am-2pm right in the middle of the week, you can stop by on your way through campus to grab some fresh veggies or a bouquet of flowers for real cheap. If you’re wanting to keep it free, just look around and make conversation with the personable vendors.
  • St. Paul Farmers Market

    Open weekly year round, the St. Paul farmers markets (there’s actually a few in one) offer a huge variety of veggies, fruits, and meats in Lowertown and other suburbs of the capital city!


Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)

When you want to avoid the heat, but still explore the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is the perfect answer. Free admission allows you to see exhibits from local and international artists. A recent exhibit, Art and Healing: In the Moment, focuses on the recent Philando Castile shooting and is on exhibit until July 29th. From hosting talks to healing circles and learning circles, Mia is a great place to explore and learn about yourself and different cultures.


Lake days

Minneapolis isn’t called the “City of Lakes” for nothing. With over a dozen lakes and beaches in the metro area, the opportunities for kayaking, paddleboarding, or just laying in the sun are endless. While Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) and Lake Harriet see the most visitors, with water sport rentals and lakeside restaurants, I’m listing a few lesser known spots for a relaxing day within city borders.

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  • Hidden Beach:

    A spot for locals right on Cedar Lake is known for being quieter and more “hipster.” Impress a new date or bring a picnic with friends to this secluded spot. Fun fact: it’s also the only nude beach in the Cities!
  • Lake Nokomis:

    Surrounded by park area on all sides, Lake Nokomis is just east of its more popular siblings Harriet and Bde Maka Ska. Walk around the many lakeside trails or camp out at the main beach to join people of all ages enjoying this less crowded spot.
  • Lake of the Isles:

    While this spot is a bit more well known and doesn’t have a designated beach, it’s still a breathtaking area to spend some time. Wander around and admire the gorgeous (and insanely expensive) estates that border the lakes or bike around the loop that connects with Bde Maka Ska - it’ll soon become one of your favorite parts of Minneapolis.


Minnehaha Park

Known for its stunning waterfall, Minnehaha Park has trails and paths that extend beyond the 53 foot waterfall. Surrounded with gardens, a disc golf course, wading pool and historical sites, there’s more than one way to make your summer day at Minnehaha Park. Explore where the name Minneapolis originated at the John H. Stevens House or grab a bite to eat at the Sea Salt Eatery in the park!


Getting outside

Living in the city can make it hard to spend time outside, but luckily the Twin Cities is surrounded by opportunities to spend time outside. Whether you just want to go for a hike, or spend a weekend in a tent accompanied by S’mores, there’s a ton of state parks not too far away from our home.

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Here’s a few to start out with:

  • Fort Snelling State Park:

    Right next to the airport and a great place for biking and fishing.
  • Afton State Park:

    This riverside park offers backpack camping and is right outside of Hastings, Minnesota.
  • Lake Maria State Park:

    A gorgeous park about an hour away from the Cities, Lake Maria is home to the endangered Blandings turtle and spring wildflowers!


Movies in the park

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Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board puts on a movie every night of the summer season, in various parks around the metro area. From new releases to old-time favorites, there’s something for everyone in every neighborhood! Starting 15 minutes after sunset, these movies are a great way to spend time outside and see those films you’ve been wanting to at no cost. Bring food and/or drinks and spread out a blanket underneath the stars, and enjoy a wholesome night out completely free.

Laura BeierComment