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. There is so much going on and much of it is free and family-friendly.
Why wait for an out-of-town guest 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 Central Library. It is enough to sit in the kids area, let your kids browse books, read together, play with the giant blocks, 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. If you are wondering about current services, you can find information here. Short story, the library is open and running.
2. Nicollet Mall, Self-Guided Art Tour
This self-guided art tour is only a mile long and you can even ride the Free Ride bus in between stops if you want (Bus rides have opened back up to all riders, but covering of mouth and nose is still required). Mary Tyler Moore is not on this list — maybe because she moves around a lot — but you can find her location on the Meet Minneapolis website. She’s currently on 7th Street & Nicollet.
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.
4. Downtown Minneapolis Thursdays
The Downtown Council tells us that Thursday is the day to visit Downtown Minneapolis. They stretch the definition of “downtown” a little more than I would (from the Walker Art Center to West River Road in NE Minneapolis), but offer a great line up of family fun ideas among their more general suggestions. These are some of our favorites:
- Visit the Nicollet Farmers Market between 6 am – 2 pm. It is a bet scaled back this year, but there are the usual giant board games (Tuesday through Thursday on Nicollet Mall), street musicians and of course locally-grown produce available for purchase. Learn more about the Nicollet Farmers Market Here.
- Walker Art Center’s Free Thursday Nights from 5pm-9pm. Also in the summer, you can play a round of Skyline Mini Golf. Free Thursday Nights require timed admission this year; once there, you can purchase Mini Golf tickets at the front desk.
- Live MNSpin Concerts 12 pm – 1 pm@ Peavey Plaza | June through August. Love what you hear? Did you know that you can stream music by MNSpin Artists for FREE through Hennepin County Library?
- Twin Cities River Rats water ski shows | 6:30 pm – 9 pm. Find more details on the River Rats website.
- Play at Peavey | 11:30 am – 1:30 pm. Stop by for Lawn Games and Activities Tuesday through Thursday 5. Ride the Light Rail.
- Look for Pianos on Parade. The city strews public pianos around downtown during the summer months. Part of the fun is finding where they may have been tucked. (You can do this any day of the week).
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. The light rail has opened back up to all riders, but covering of mouth and nose is still required.
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 it’s 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.
8. Farmers Markets
Mill City Farmers Market is on Saturday mornings with another market in the Commons on Tuesday evenings. Besides fresh produce, it offers music and family-friendly activities. You can also visit the Downtown Farmers Market on Thursdays on Nicollet Mall (now that renovations are done) and Tuesdays at Government Center Plaza.
9. Tour the St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam
If you are playing along with our Summer to Remember challenge, you can complete a challenge: 8 Twin Cities Waterfalls to Visit With Kids. As long as you are close, you can visit the Stone Arch Bridge. Plan ahead: Find hours and more information here.
10. Loring Park Programming
You don’t need to leave the city to commune with nature. Loring Park has programming, like naturalist-led walks and gardening programs. These require pre-registration, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Or just have a fun day on the playground.
More Downtown Minneapolis Ideas:
- 10 Things for Kids: Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis
- Downtown Mpls Christmas Checklist
- Loring Park and Community Arts Center
- Walker Art Center
- Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
- Mill City Museum
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This article was last updated 6/28/21