Grab the stroller, hop the bus, bring a picnic or cash for lunch, and you can make a day (or more) of it in downtown Minneapolis with the whole family. There is plenty going on and much of it is free and family-friendly.
Why wait for an out-of-town visitor to explore downtown? I’ve outlined 10 Free Things to Do with Kids Downtown to get you inspired. These activities are not all on the same day of the week, but it would make for a really long day if you powered through all ten activities at once. If you want to play tourist, you could probably get through all of them in a few days.
The featured image shows Cancer Survivors Park on the north side of Nicollet Mall – a nice place for a picnic and a gathering place for downtown residents with dogs.
1. Visit Downtown Minneapolis Central Library
You don’t really need an excuse to visit Minneapolis Central Library. It is enough to sit in the kids area, let your kids browse books and play, read together and just relax for a bit. That just doesn’t get old. However if you call ahead, you can get a guided tour. Tours include the green roof, four fireplaces, an art gallery, a piano room, four-story atrium and an overview of the 2.4 million items in the library’s collection. Call 612-543-8033 to schedule a time. After your visit, grab a beverage and snack at Mocha Momma’s Coffee.
2. Nicollet Mall, Self-Guided Art Tour
This self-guided art tour is only 12 city blocks and you can even hop the Free Ride bus back to your starting point if you find the walk to be too long for your little ones. Mary Tyler Moore is not on this list but you’ll find her along the route. She can be found on the corner of 7th Street & Nicollet. If you want to find the mural of Bob Dylan, you’ll need to take a detour to Hennepin at 5th Street.
BONUS ART: Look for Pianos on Parade in June. The city strews art pianos around downtown during the month of June for the public to play. Part of the fun is finding where they may have been tucked.
3. Find Fun Activities at The Commons
Even with a stroller, the kids are going to need a break. That’s when you head to the new Commons green space. You can pull out the picnic you packed and relax a bit. Minneapolis Parks & Rec took over management of the Commons in the spring of 2020. It will be fun to see what they bring to this space. For now it is a good green space to unpack a picnic and let the kids run.
Summer 2023 Events:
- Wednesdays: Black Market featuring local black entrepreneurs and professionals 11am-3pm; live music at noon; movie screenings at dusk all summer
- Thursdays: Live music at 7pm.
4. Downtown Entertainment
Nicollet Avenue between Washington & 10th Avenues
The Downtown Council advises us that Thursday is the day to visit Downtown Minneapolis. Most events run from 11:30am-1:30pm. June 8th through September 28, 2023.
- June 8: Garden Bash
- June 15: Game Day
- June 22: Pride Day
- June 29: Roller Disco
- July 6: Garden Bash.
- July 13: Game Day
- July 20: Aquatennial Bey Day – plus play FREE “Minne-golf”
- July 27: Roller Disco
- August 3: Garden Bash
- August 10: Carnival
- August 17: Rock Music Appreciation
- August 24: Game Day
- August 31: Roller Disco
- September 7: Fall Fest
- September 14: Fall Fest
- September 21: Fall Fest
- September 28: Fall Fest
BONUS FREE THURSDAY PARKING:
Plaza Parking Ramp, 116 S 12th St, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Park in the Plaza Parking Ramp and grab a voucher from a Downtown Thursday event to get free parking between 7am and 7pm on Thursdays from June 8 – August 31st.
Peavey Plaza, 1101 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Music in Motion is a mix of storytelling, music and dance designed to move body and mind. Two mini- sessions each Saturday this summer. June 3-August 26, 2023, 10-11am. FREE.
If you didn’t already take the light rail to get downtown. You could just take a ride from one side of downtown to the other and then hop back on and come back. This can be free if you took public transportation to get downtown and asked for a transfer. Otherwise it is a relatively affordable ride.
5. Drop A Coin in The Fountain at Gateway Park
1 First Street South, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Gateway Park is on the north end of Hennepin Avenue, shortly before the Mississippi River. We like to hop our bus at this stop because its is fun to throw coins into the fountain while we are waiting. It is right across the street from a Whole Foods, so it is another option for a picnic spot.
6. Visit Currie Park
On the southeast end of downtown on the green/blue light rail lines, Currie Park is just outside of downtown Minneapolis in the 7 corners neighborhood. With its brand new splash pad, this is a good place to let your kids unwind when the busy downtown has gotten to be too much. If you plan to eat out, this is a nice area to pick a restaurant as well.
7. Visit Target Field
On the northwest side of downtown on the light rail is TARGET FIELD. While Twins games are not free, you can still walk around the courtyard, enjoy the public art, and get some fun photos in the giant baseball mitt. If you need an indoor break, you can get to Target field from Nicollet Avenue through the Minneapolis Skyway System. You can get a Skyway map app from Meet Minneapolis.
8. Farmers Market
Mill City Farmers Market is on Saturday mornings. Besides fresh produce, it offers music and family-friendly activities.
9. Tour the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam
We include St. Anthony Falls in our 8 Twin Cities Waterfalls to Visit With Kids. Get a tour of the Lock and Dam at the St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center any day of the week in summer. As long as you on the bank of the Mississippi River, you can visit the Stone Arch Bridge.
10. Loring Park Programming
Loring Park has a playground, wading pool, picnic areas and grills. You could also stroll across the Irene Hixon Whitney bridge to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which is always FREE. Bonus: Walker Art Center offers FREE admission on Thursdays from 5-9pm and First Saturdays of the month.
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This article was last updated 6/3/23