A Travel Guide to Minnesota’s Free Attractions and Tours

posted 01/14/2013 by Tracy Keller

See the North Star State for Free

Minnesota attractionsExplore the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and discover a new adventure around every corner when you visit Minnesota. From historical attractions to natural wonders and exciting lifestyle stops, Minnesota provides the perfect destination for the traveler looking for an action-packed day trip with the family or a relaxing weekend away. And, for those budget conscious trippers, Minnesota offers a variety of attractions and tours for free. Take a look at this travel guide to plan your Minnesota adventure on a budget.

Nature’s Calling You

Minnesota is home to a diverse habitat with a unique ecology. A trip to Minnesota should include an exploration of the state’s beautiful landscapes, including its sprawling lakes and waterways, prairies and deep, lush forests.

Northland Arboretum: Take in over 500 acres of Minnesota’s purest natural landscapes. Northland Arboretum provides guests with plenty of hiking and skiing routes to immerse you in nature. Community members and volunteers maintain many of the site’s vistas. Tourists are invited to walk freely around the grounds and enjoy the surroundings.

Superior Hiking Trail: A trip to the Superior Hiking Trail is a must for hikers of all levels. Grab your pack and hiking shoes and take off on this hiking trail that follows the rocky and winding ridgeline above Lake Superior for over 270 miles. There are numerous campsites available at no cost so you can extend your stay on the trail. 

Gitchi-Gami State Trail: The growing trail stretches 88 miles and will connect five state parks as well as several communities, four scientific and natural areas, many historic sites and views of Lake Superior upon its completion. The trail is open to the public. More than 25 miles of the planned trails are completed.

Discover the Historic Midwest

Pioneers settled in Minnesota to take advantage of its lush forests and nutrient-rich soil, which stimulated the state’s early economy. The industrial revolution spurred industrial development and gave rise to many manufacturing towns throughout the state. Tourists can add historical stops to their itinerary during your next trip to Minnesota.

Minnesota State Capitol: While in Minnesota, stop in Saint Paul and visit the state’s capital for a free guided tour and history lesson. Walk the halls and learn more about the state’s founding history. You can also see the state’s legislature in action during a tour of the House and Senate chambers.

Munsinger Clemens Gardens: Located in St. Cloud, Minn., these gardens have a rich history dating back to the 1880s. The gardens have seen tremendous growth and change throughout its history, including vast improvements made during the Great Depression through Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration recovery program. These improvements included planting trees and flowerbeds to create a lusher garden as well as the addition of rock-lined paths for visitors. You can tour the historic gardens daily from sunrise until 10 p.m. The gardens also host free concerts during summer months.

Wm. S. Marvin Training and Visitor Center: Marvin Windows and Doors have a rich history in Minnesota, and they invite you to tour their 6,000 square foot visitor Center in Warroad, Minn. to learn more about the company’s background. The visitor center is open to the public seven days a week.

Zumbrota Covered Bridge: Take a stroll through the state’s last functioning covered bridges in Zumbrota, Minnesota. The bridge is listed on the National Historic Register and spans the Zumbro River. The bridge has been restored to its original condition, helping to transport visitors back to the days of early pioneer settlers.

Grand Rounds Scenic Byway: Located in the heart of Minneapolis, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is the only urban national scenic byway. Tourists can walk, run or bike along the byway to take in both urban and rural scenic views.

A City of the Arts

Minnesota has a flourishing culture with a strong focus on the arts. Tourists with an artistic inclination will find much to explore throughout Minnesota.

Franklin Arts Center: Explore local art and learn from some of the area’s most talented artists when you visit the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd, Minn. Walk through the nearly 80,000 square feet of community art space. The center is open daily at no cost.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: Plan a visit to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to tour one of the country’s largest urban sculpture parks. Featuring more than 40 works of art and the Cowles Conservatory, the garden is a favorite tourist destination in the city with thousands of people visiting annually.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Art lovers should add a stop to the Minneapolis Institute of Art on their itinerary. Ranked in the top 10 comprehensive U.S. art museums, the Minneapolis Institute of Art provides travelers with a diverse collection of art from around the world. Admission is free.

The North Star State has something for everyone. Plan your visit today to explore Minnesota while on a budget.

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