Free & Budget

The FFTC team parents 12 children collectively – we understand the need for ways to save while still getting out to experience what the Twin Cities has to offer in the way of FREE family fun. What can we do that’s free and fun? And how do we find these activities? The Twin Cities offer hundreds things to do for cheap (or even FREE) with kids! 

Just a reminder. Deals can come and go and we don’t always get a heads up from the venue when info changes. We recommend that you double-check before heading out to verify the deal is still offered.


Free Things to Do With Kids Today in the Twin Cities:

  • Try starting with our Family Fun Events Calendar, which is full of FREE and cheap events. FREE events make up the majority of the calendar; BUDGET events (less than $10/pp) make up nearly all the rest.
  • Our monthly guides include a FREE list and a BUDGET list of events around town. The current month’s guide is always easily located on our homepage.

Strategies for Family Fun on a Limited Income

We share techniques for finding cheap activities and free entertainment on the most limited budgets, including finding how to apply for Limited Income programs at several Twin Cities attractions such as the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Twin Cities Kids Eat Free or Cheap List

Because dining out can be considered family fun…right? All of our entries have been personally verified and are updated regularly. Time to plan that family dinner date!

Twin Cities Birthday Freebies for Kids

It may seem like many of the best Birthday Freebie deals are for ages 13 and up. If you look around, there are some good deals for kids, too. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Birthday Freebies that kids can get right here in the Twin Cities.

Free Outdoor Adventure for Families at Parks & Playgrounds

How thrifty is it to simply discover a new outdoor play space? Our Parks Search is loaded with over 700 entries covering thousands of acres of public lands, the majority of which are completely free to visit. Looking for specifics like a beach & playground, hike trail, bike ride or the perfect place to pitch a tent? Search by all of these amenities and more.

Free Kids Activities & Entertainment in the Parks

The parks literally sing during the summer in the Twin Cities. Free kids entertainment, pop-up performances, puppet shows and more are presented all across the metro area. We’ve organized our list by region so you can easily find plenty of fun close by.

Nature Centers & Nature Play

There’s never any charge for visitors to explore at one of these Twin Cities-area nature centers or green playgrounds.

Kid-Friendly Coffee Shops with Free Play Areas

Enjoy free play nooks to park the kids while you attempt to unwind with a warm cup and a snack.

Fix-It Clinics –  Free Events Throughout the Twin Cities

Spend an afternoon with family members learning to fix something broken. Besides free family fun, you save money and the planet by reducing waste all while learning valuable new skills.

Top Kids Storytimes

Free storytimes – often made extra animated with songs, crafts and even critters (!) can make a perfect outing without spending a penny.

Visit A Public Library for Free Family Events & More

Little girls exploring the children's section of Brookdale Library in A bookshelf in the shape of a purple dragon reading a book lounges in the background. Summer Reading Programs at Twin Cities Libraries
Children’s Section of Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center Minnesota.

Not only can families find all their reading needs at their local public library, you can find discounts to shows at participating venues through the smARTpass Program, get free digital music of popular songs, check out a DVD for a family movie night, check out board games and video games. Some local libraries even loan out special cake pans.

Minnesota Zoo Free Admission

There are a lot of shady sites offering free or discounted tickets to the Minnesota Zoo. We outline all the legitimate offers and opportunities. Don’t forget the Twin Cities other Zoo – Como Park Zoo & Conservatory is always FREE to visit.

Free Aquarium Options

While the tourist attracting aquariums can be a bit of a family splurge, Gianna has some ideas for finding fish aquariums for FREE.

Pay as You Can & Free Shows at Local Theatres

Introduce your kids to drama, comedy and musicals on the cheap. Scroll to the bottom our our Kid-Friendly Theater calendar to learn how to find discounts, rush tickets, free shows and Pay-What-You-Can days at local theaters.

Mall of America Toddler Tuesdays: Fun & Freebies

Tuesday is the best day to go the Mall of America with little ones. You’ll find special deals, discounts and kids-eat-free opportunities at various locations around the mall in addition to weekly FREE entertainment.

Starcade Arcade

This classic arcade in Roseville mall has over 150 machines from the glory days of arcades – 1970-1990s.  Best of all, visitors pay one price for all-day free play.  While this may be a splurge if you take the whole family – it’s not a bad deal for a one-on-one date night with an older child.

Scavenger Hunts

Spring, summer, fall or winter, it doesn’t matter in Minnesota. There is almost always some city or park system offering a FREE scavenger hunt. Plus we have rounded up several self-guided hunts throughout the metro area.

Twin Cities Intergenerational Fun for Grandparents & Kids 

Twin Cities Grandparents enjoying their grandkids

Most of the ideas on this list work just as well for grandparents as parents, but we have rounded up fun finds especially for intergenerational family fun.

Free Days at Local Museums

On this page, we share the best deals at 61 local museums, these include:
  • Museums that are always free for guests
  • Participating smARTpass Museums
  • Free First Saturdays at the Walker
  • Family history fun at the Minnesota Historical Society sites
  • Kids at the Castle – Not free, but cheap Friday and Saturday morning family admission.
  • The “Museum on Us” program offers free general admission to Bank of America cardholders at a handful of local museums.
  • Several local museums host Free Thursday Nights
  • Free First Sundays at Minnesota Children’s Museum
  • Limited Income Programs and 
  • Membership Discounts
Free Kid Activities in the Twin Cities - By Season
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    family fun twin cities

    Twin Cities Free Easter Egg Hunts

    Grab your baskets and get ready for the hunt! Kids all over the Twin Cities can scramble through the spring weather (take that as you will) in search of eggs, bunnies, candy and all sorts of treasures. We’ve got a master list of free hunts along with other helpful hints.

    Spring Family Festivals

    After our long winter’s rest, the Twin Cities is awake with a full lineup of spring family festivals, most of which offer free admission and activities. Get started planning those beautiful spring weekends

    Spring Farmers Markets Offer Budget-Friendly Family Activities

    The produce isn’t complimentary, but you have to buy groceries anyway. Meanwhile, the markets often attract shoppers (and their minis) with free live music, demonstrations, samples and activities to keep kids entertained.

    Stroll Through A Public Flower Garden

    The winter has been long. It’s time to get outside and get excited about the flowers coming up. This list of public flower gardens includes both free gardens and some with inexpensive admission.


    Summer - family fun twin cities

    Five Summer Outings Done on the Cheap

    Swim, bowl, find art and nature and read on the cheap with these free and cheap summertime favorites.

    Twin Cities Splash Pads & Wading Pools

    Created especially for those with younger swimmers, browse these simple spots where you might beat the heat – for FREE.

    Twin Cities Beaches & Playgrounds

    I have fond memories of playing on the beach with my siblings. There is typically no charge to spread out on the sand and while away the day in the water or spend the summer swinging on the monkey bars. We’ve assembled a lineup swimming holes we think are worth checking out, most of which are free to enjoy (some have a small fee for parking or entrance).

    North Commons Park: Free Water Park in Minneapolis

    In June of 2021, the Minneapolis Parks & Rec Board voted to eliminate the admission fees to North Commons Water Park, making it the only free water park in the Twin Cities.

    Free Summer Movies

    Classic outdoor flicks under the stars or features screened while escaping relief from the summer heat, here’s where to catch the free movies over summer break.

    Twin Cities Cheap Flicks: Cheap Theater Options

    We gather the best ticket deals at local movie theaters for that family matinee or night out at the movies.

    Free Summer Concerts – Cheap Family Entertainment

    Get to know the best of our local music community at free concerts in and near the Twin Cities. Whatever your favorite genre, you’ll probably find a local band to love. These live performances are perfect to combine with a summer picnic. 

    Free Summer Meals for Kids

    You need not qualify for any aid programs to enjoy free summer meals in the parks and other community gathering spots. Get your kids out for a bit every day while also making sure they get a reasonably healthy meal.

    Summer Festivals & Parades

    Parades are some of the best free family fun in the summer. And chances are, there’s a free festival with your family’s name on it for every single weekend during the long break. We keep on top of them all.

    10 Free Things To Do With Kids In Downtown Minneapolis in Summer

    Summer is a great time to explore downtown Minneapolis. Thursdays are the best day, but any day of the week will offer some free family fun.

    Free and Inexpensive Family Activities at the Minnesota State Fair

    Yes, folks, it is absolutely possible to attend the Minnesota State Fair as a family without spending a dime. Of course, it’s an unlikely and difficult proposition to consider. Instead, we focus on strategies for getting discount admission and finding free family fun across the Fairgrounds.

    Free Minnesota State Fair Tickets

    We outline the best ways to score Free and discounted admission to the state fair.

    Go Chasing Waterfalls!

    Take your family on a local waterfall tour with these 8 nearby cascades. Plus we list more to look for when traveling the state. These are free to visit, but may have a small parking fee. This includes one of the Twin Cities most popular attractions – Minnehaha Falls!

    Free Walking Tours of St. Paul

    The Landmark Center offers free walking tours of historic St. Paul during June, July, August & September. Even locals will find something interesting on these walks. If you prefer to go it alone, you can find virtual versions online.


    family fun twin cities


    Free Twin Cities Halloween Events

    Have no fear- all the events listed in this Halloween guide are free. Dress up and bring your treat bag.

    Free Apple Orchard & Pumpkin Patches

    We’ve harvested two dozen orchards and patches that offer free admission, and many of them also offer kid-pleasing, free activities like hayrides, mini corn mazes, petting farms and more.

    Fall Family Festivals offer Free Activities for Kids

     The Twin Cities does our gorgeous fall season in a major way, celebrating the last sunny days before winter with a bumper crop of fall festivals, many of which offer free admission.

    Enjoy the Fall Colors

    Although we have some splurges on this list, the majority of self-guided fall color tours are free and a beautiful way to enjoy a beautiful day before the cold and snow sneak in.


    Winter Fun Ideas

    Free Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks

    Strap on your skates and hustle the kids out to enjoy a classic Minnesota winter activity. As most of the rinks on our list are located in city parks, there’s no charge for the skating. If you don’t own a pair of skates, a handful offer rentals or free loaners.

    Free Sledding Hills

    As soon as that first blanket of snow hits until the spring melt, sledding hills can’t really be beat in the free outdoor winter fun department. They are abundant and come in all shapes and sizes – consult our guide to find the best places with the right slope for your crew.

    Winter Family Festivals

    We embrace our winter with a lifestyle that includes recreating in the snow: find free admission and take a sleigh ride, build a snowman, try a new winter sport, or warm up around a crackling bonfire.

    Visit Como Conservatory

    The closest thing the Twin Cities has to botanical gardens, Como’s conservatory is a little dose of sunshine during the darkest and coldest days of the years. The best thing is that it is a FREE attraction (although they are happy to accept donations).


    Four children playing paper and pencil games

    Indoor Games Activities for Kids of All Ages

    Our great big list of indoor games is mostly made up of Free activities you can do without any special equipment. We also include a list of board games you would only need to purchase once.

    Indoor Fun at Home: No Energy, No Space, No TV, No Problem

    This is another list of games to pull out when you just want to sit and relax in the comfort of your favorite chair while your kids play.

    Fun Outdoor Games for Kids

    Take boredom busting out to the yard with these games.

    Physical Activities for Kids of All Ages

    Get them moving with this resource.

    Bake Cookies:

    1. Family Fun Idea: Bake These Easy Sugar Cookies
    2. Easy To Follow Kid Friendly Holiday Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

    Find More Fun Things to Do for Cheap

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