Twin Cities Thrifty Traveler-Spring EditionFollow our weeklong schedule filled with free spring activities in the Twin Cities
By Claire Noack
Spring has officially sprung! With hints of warmer weather coming our way, what better way to celebrate than getting out to the Twin Cities and experiencing some of our favorite spring activities? And the best part—they’re all free. Follow our weeklong schedule filled to the brim with fun and free entertainment around the Twin Cities.
Begin the week by scouting out flower buds and native birds at the Eloise Butler Wildflower and Bird Sanctuary. Founded in 1907, this 15-acre site in Theodore Wirth Park just outside Minneapolis is the oldest public wildflower garden in the U.S. The garden is home to more than 500 different herbaceous and woody plants, and over 130 resident and migratory bird species. Take a stroll on the 2/3-mile trail that winds through three habitats (woodland, wetland and prairie). Admission is free to the sanctuary, with bike racks and metered parking available. Opening its doors for the spring season on April 1, the garden is open to the public seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to one hour before sunset. Keep an eye out for bloodroot, wild ginger, trillium, bluebells and trout lilies nestled beneath the trees in the woodlands area during April and May.
Get cultured at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Affectionately known as “Mia,” this nationally-renown art museum draws in thousands of visitors each year. General admission is always free and the exhibitions are constantly pushing boundaries. The museum offers a bit of everything, from historical sculptures to abstract paintings to powerful modern photo galleries. If you want to see the current special exhibit featuring the magical and terrifying monsters crafted by Guillermo del Toro, tickets will cost you $20 for adults. But there are plenty of free exhibitions that will fit your fancy. Check out A World of Radiant Awakening: Buddhism and the Painting of China; Now Where Were We?, an exhibit that combines artwork from different times and places to speak to the universal theme of human existence; The Jane Austen Reading Room; International Modernism: Art in a Fast-Changing World; and many more inspiring exhibitions. The museum is open every day except Monday from 10 a.m. to at least 5 p.m. (open to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays).
Photo by Minneapolis Institute of Art
Catch a show at the Mixed Blood Theatre. The multi-racial theater troupe is devoted to cultural pluralism, equality and artistic excellence. Mixed Blood has been producing thought-provoking shows ranging from political satires to chamber theatre since 1976. Through radical hospitality, the theater has been able to erase economic barriers so everyone can experience the joys of the stage. Admission is free on a first-come-first-served basis starting two hours before every show. The current production is Vietgone, which chronicles an immigrant love story in the wake of the Vietnam War. Visit the Mixed Blood website for upcoming shows and performance schedules.
Attend the Can Can Variety Show at Can Can Wonderland for a night of unexpected entertainment. The free event every Thursday night from 9-11 p.m. doesn’t promise talent, but it does promise a variety of curious acts on the Indeed Brewing Company stage. The 21+ show also features music from the house band and local celebrity hosts. We love this mini golf joint for its weird and wonderful array of attractions. While you’re at it, play a round of mini golf, admire the eccentric art gallery, munch on a hot dog or nachos, and grab a local craft beer or adult malt.
Kick off the weekend with a leisurely bike ride down the Midtown Greenway. The 5.5-mile long pedestrian and biking trail used to be railroad corridor in south Minneapolis. Ride from St. Paul to Minneapolis anytime of day or weather with snowplowed and streetlamp-lit streets open and free to the public 24/7. The greenway is widely beloved by the community. Many murals by local artists are featured along the trail, and community gardens create beautiful scenery while you’re biking. Make a pit stop at restaurants and bars located along the path, or ride to the Chain of Lakes in Uptown to spend a day soaking up the sunshine on the lake. Don’t have a bike? Pick up a sweet ride at more than 200 NiceRide bike-sharing kiosks throughout the Twin Cities. Pay $3 per half hour and simply return the bike to the nearest bike station. Now there’s no reason to not go outside and enjoy the spring weather.
Midtown Greenway. Photo by ModeShift Omaha/flickr
Embrace the craft beer and spirits culture in the Twin Cities with a free tour of Norseman Distillery on Saturdays. The micro-distillery in Northeast Minneapolis is heralded as a pioneer of locally sourced gin, rum and vodka. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how Norseman handcrafts premium spirits during an hour-long tour. After clinking glasses with several drink samples during the tour, guests of legal drinking age may want to taste more of Norseman’s spirits. Sip on seasonal drinks in their industrial-chic cocktail lounge, or bring a bottle home to share with friends.
Spend a lazy Sunday wandering around Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul. Entrance is free with a voluntary donation of $3 to support the care of the animals and plants. Size up giraffes, peer at polar bears, gaze at gorillas and hang out with many other animals at the zoo. Visit the numerous gardens to see and smell plants and flowers from different habitats and environments. Como Town offers family-friendly amusement park rides and games. Tickets are required for rides and attractions, but the fun doesn’t run out there. The large surrounding green space with playgrounds and barbeque pits is the perfect place for a spring picnic.