TWIN CITIES THRIFTY TRAVELER-FALL EDITION
A week of free fall activities in the Twin Cities
By Claire Noack
If you have never experienced autumn in the Midwest, prepare to be amazed. Bright reds, oranges and yellows dazzle in our many parks and green spaces. Fall in Minneapolis and St. Paul blends the best of our outdoor beauty and indoor amusements. There’s no better way to be a tourist than taking advantage of the amazing free and seasonal activities in the Twin Cities. Follow our itinerary for a week packed with unique experiences and sight-seeing opportunities.
After a four-year renovation project, the Minnesota State Capitol Building has been reopened to the public. Take a free guided tour of the building and see it restored to its former glory. Some of the highlights on the tour include hearing stories about the Capitol’s history and seeing the second largest self-supported marble dome in the world, the golden horses (called the quadriga) on the roof and art from 1905. Tours run every 45 minutes on Mon.-Sat. from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sun. from 1-3 p.m.
For a kid friendly day, stop by the Mall of America for Toddler Tuesdays. The mall hosts free, fun activities for youngsters every Tuesday from 10 a.m.-noon. Events may include arts and crafts, games and activities themed around your child’s favorite TV shows, story time, and character appearances. Kids also eat free at many of the restaurants in the mall on Tuesdays. And while you’re visiting the largest shopping and entertainment attraction in North America, stop into the mall’s more than 520 stores.
If you don’t have a toddler or if you want another fun option for your family, take a trolley ride at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum. Hop onto a historic streetcar and take in the beautiful scenery as you ride between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis on the Como-Harriet Line, or take a spin through the suburbs on the Excelsior Line. While there is a small fee, $2 per ride or $5 for a day pass, free street parking is available in both areas, as well as beautiful parks to explore after your ride.
Take a stroll around the world renowned Weisman Art Museum (WAM) on the University of Minnesota campus. Gaze at contemporary works alongside traditional Korean furniture and Native American ceramics. The stunning museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is a work of art all its own with an intricate stainless steel exterior, and it houses a massive collection of more than 17,000 works. Admission to WAM is always free.
Take a midweek break to breathe in the crisp fall air with a walk or a drive around one of our numerous parks that are free and open all year round. Some of our favorite hotspots to view the beautiful fall foliage include Theodore Wirth Park, Minnehaha Falls and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Visit the cultural hub of the Twin Cities, Midtown Global Market, to experience cultures from around the world. Listen to free, live music every Friday night from 5:30-7:30 p.m. While you’re there, take a look at the work of local artisans, such as Hmong jewelry, African accessories and Tibetan art. Don’t miss your chance to taste authentic eats from a variety of countries including Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, Moroccan and many more.
Step into local artists’ personal studios and view artwork in the heart of the Northeast Minneapolis arts district. Every Saturday, painters, photographers, glassblowers, sculptors and more open the doors to their galleries and studios for free self-guided tours at the Northrup King Building from noon-4 p.m. Be inspired by the talent of dozens of well-known artists and even get a chance to talk to them about their work.
End the week in true fall fashion with a trip to a apple orchard and pumpkin patch. If you want to visit a larger farm with all the bells and whistles, there will usually be a fee for extras like corn mazes and face painting, but most orchards will allow you to walk their grounds for free, apple and pumpkin picking not included. While you may want to spend a couple bucks on a bag of apples or an irresistible baked apple tart, a visit to an apple orchard is still a cheap activity that will provide fun for a whole day. Some of our favorites include Aamodt’s Apple Farm, Afton Apple and Minnesota Harvest Orchard.