The following are free things to do in and around Bloomington. And since Bloomington hotels are simply central, stay at one of our 45 hotels while experiencing these great attractions. Most hotels offer free parking and free shuttle service to Mall of America and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.
Aamodt’s Apple Farm 6428 Manning Avenue N., Stillwater 651-439-3127
Stroll through this orchard in Stillwater, Minnesota, that has been family owned and operated since 1948. The staff will direct you to the trees where you can pick the freshest apples available. Call ahead for the varieties that are currently being picked. Opens annually for the season on August 1.
Apple Jack Orchards 4875 37th Street S.E., Delano 763-972-6673
Apple Jack Orchards boasts many apple varieties, apple cider, other tasty treats and a large barn full of handmade crafts and gifts. Weekend wagon rides are available for a small fee. A fun fall family outing! Opens annually for the season on August 1.
Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Loulou Streissguth. Bachman’s Florists 6010 Lyndale Avenue S., Minneapolis 612-861-7311
Bachman’s is one of the largest floral and garden centers in the nation. Tours are available by appointment for groups of 10 or more. The tour includes greenhouses, nursery, garden center and floral design.
Basilica of Saint Mary 88 N. 17th Street, Minneapolis 612-333-1381
What originated as the vision of Archbishop John Ireland became the nation’s first basilica, a Beaux Arts-style wonder designed by French architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray and honored by Pope Pius XI. Dating back to 1906, the basilica features beautiful stained glass windows and a 187-foot dome. Tours are available by appointment.
Bloomington Center for the Arts 1800 W. Shakopee Road, Bloomington 952-563-8575
Bloomington Center for the Arts features artwork from professional
artists residing in the five-state area. Six exhibitions of quality artwork executed in a variety of media and styles are displayed annually along with several free “meet the artists” sessions.
Bloomington Historical Museum 10200 Penn Avenue S., Bloomington 952-881-4114
Bult in 1892, the Bloomington Historical Museum is a museum featuring pioneer artifacts donated by descendants of Bloomington settlers.
Carpenter Nature Center 12805 St. Croix Trail, Hastings 651-437-4359
Featuring more than 700 acres of green space that spans beautiful land in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Carpenter Nature Center features year-round recreation, environmental education activities and programs, a visitors Center with exhibits, and 15 miles of hiking trails.
Cathedral of Saint Paul 239 Selby Avenue, Saint Paul 651-228-1766
The Cathedral of Saint Paul is set dramatically on Summit Hill overlooking the city of Saint Paul. The Cathedral's Renaissance architecture, inspired by the churches and cathedrals of France, is characterized by rounded domes and arches, a symmetrical cross floor plan and clean, straight lines. Decorative elements are grouped at certain points around the Cathedral—the façade, towers, sides, entrances and dome.
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory 1325 Aida Place, Saint Paul 651-487-8200
Open 365 days per year, the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory exhibits include gorillas, orangutans, giraffes, polar bears, penguins, lions and tigers. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory presents seasonal floral shows in the Sunken Garden.
Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary Theodore Wirth Parkway & Glenwood Avenue 612-370-4903
The 15-acre garden is the oldest public wildflower garden in the nation and is home to more than 500 plant and 130 bird species. It provides 60,000 visitors annually with spectacular seasonal displays of native wildflowers in woodland, wetland and prairie areas. Each area creates a different habitat that fosters different types of plants, animals and birds.
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum 333 E. River Road, Minneapolis 612-625-9494
The museum’s collection features early 20th century American artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and Marsden Hartley and a vast selection of contemporary art. Closed Mondays and major holidays.
Governor’s Residence 1066 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul 651-201-3464
The Governor’s Residence on Summit Avenue is the official home of Minnesota’s First Family and serves as a venue for state ceremonial functions, meetings conducted by the governor and events related to the residence. Free guided public tours are available during the summer months. Reservations are required for 15 people or more.
Guthrie Theater 818 S. Second Street, Minneapolis 612-377-2224
This theater is as stunning inside as it is outside. Anyone is welcome to tour the public spaces inside the building, including the Endless Bridge and the Amber Room with a glass floor.
Hyland Lake Play Area 10145 Bush Lake Road, Bloomington 763-694-7687
The huge, award-winning creative play area at Hyland has something for the young and the young-of-heart. The structure includes platforms, hexagonal climbers and slides up to 50 feet long. The park is located in Hyland Lake Park Reserve, which includes a visitor center with limited concessions, a restroom, canoe/kayak/geocaching rentals, and a fireplace and cross country ski rental in winter.
Landmark Center 75 W. Fifth Street, Saint Paul 651-292-3225
Tour the beautifully restored Old Federal Courts Building, site of the famous Gangster Trials. Free public tours on Thursdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at noon. Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
The Lego Store 164 South Avenue, Mall of America, Bloomington 952-858-8949
Located in Mall of America, The Lego Store features a giant pick-a-brick wall with 180 different Lego elements to choose from, a variety of play tables to create anything children can imagine, and racing tables for young Lego auto inventors. Standing guard are eight larger-than-life models built entirely of Legos, including a robot towering over 34 feet tall.
Lyndale Park Rose Garden 4124 Roseway Road, Minneapolis 612-230-6400
On the shores of Lake Harriet, this rose garden showcases 3,000 plants in 100 different varieties and is the second oldest public rose garden in the United States. Located near the northeast corner of Lake Harriet, the 1.5 acre garden was designated an official All America Rose Selections test rose garden in 1946.
Mall of America 60 E. Broadway, Bloomington 952-883-8800
Mall of America is the largest fully enclosed retail and entertainment complex in the United States. More than 520 specialty stores, LEGO, Nickelodeon Universe®, and more are all inside. For a fee, visit SEA LIFE at Mall of America, FlyOver America, and Crayola Experience.
Midtown Global Market 920 E. Lake Street, Suite G10, Minneapolis 612-872-4041
As one of the largest indoor public markets in the Twin Cities with more than 50 vendors, Midtown Global Market offers free weekly education and entertainment programs and features a free children’s play space.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts 2400 Third Avenue S., Minneapolis 612-870-3000
Internationally acclaimed as one of the greatest American museums, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts includes 85,000 masterpieces in painting, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, photography and textiles. Free admission.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden 721 Vineland Place, Minneapolis 612-375-7600
The largest urban sculpture garden in the nation, highlighted by the Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain, features 11 acres containing more than 40 sculptures, seasonal plantings and the Cowles Conservatory. Free guided tours are offered May through September on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. Meet by the steps at the Vineyard Place entrance to the garden.
Minnehaha Falls and Regional Park 4801 S. Minnehaha Park Drive, Minneapolis 612-230-6500
Overlooking the Mississippi River, Minnehaha Park is one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most popular parks, attracting more than 850,000 thousand visitors annually. Located at the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway, the 193-acre park features a 53-foot waterfall, limestone bluffs and river overlooks. Paved trails offer visitors the opportunity to see the park on bike or foot. Visitors can also walk along Minnehaha Creek and follow it as it makes its way to the Mississippi River.
Minnesota State Capitol 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Saint Paul 651-296-2881
The beautiful architectural design by Cass Gilbert has captured a classically styled building boasting 23 different types of stone and marble from around the world, including Minnesotan granite and limestone, for the last 110 years. Discover the architectural masterpiece of our state capitol and explore the House and Senate chambers; you might even see the legislature in action.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge 3815 American Boulevard E., Bloomington 952-854-5915
The Visitor Center features interactive wildlife exhibits, and miles of trails for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing are right at its doorstep. Covering 14,000 acres and stretching for 34 miles from Fort Snelling State Park to Henderson, Minnesota, the refuge is one of only four urban wildlife refuges in the United States. Visitors to the refuge can enjoy a variety of year-round recreational activities.
Northwest Airlines History Center Crowne Plaza AiRE, Two Appletree Square, Bloomington 952-698-4478
Relive Northwest Airlines' glory days at the independently operated Northwest Airlines History Center in Bloomington. This museum is also great for anyone interested in the glamorous days of aviation.
Nickelodeon Universe 60 E. Broadway, Mall of America, Bloomington 952-883-8800
The nation’s largest indoor theme park located in the center of Mall of America and features unique restaurants, themed shops, and thrilling rides that will knock your socks off! Free admission, charge for rides. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Normandale Japanese Garden 9700 France Avenue S., Bloomington 952-487-8200
Normandale Community College’s Japanese Garden is a two-acre oasis of beauty and serenity in the heart of Bloomington. Ideal for contemplation and renewal of the spirit, the garden is also one of the most popular and unique locations in the Twin Cities for weddings and photography sessions. It is open year-round at no charge, except when reserved for special events.
Saint Croix Vineyards & Tasting Room 6428 Manning Avenue, Stillwater 651-430-3310
Founded in 1992, Saint Croix Vineyards has grown to become one of Minnesota's premier wineries. Owners Paul Quast, Peter Hemstad and Chris Aamodt invite you to stop out, try their wines and take a stroll through the picturesque vineyards. The rustic tasting room in a restored 1800s barn is open each year from mid-April to December 31 and is located just west of scenic Stillwater. Visitors are also welcome to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at picnic tables overlooking a quiet pond.
The Schubert Club Museum of Musical Instruments 75 W. Fifth Street, Saint Paul 651-292-3267
Located on the second floor of Saint Paul’s iconic Landmark Center, the museum offers visitors a reflection on the joys of music-making through the centuries. From a massive “cyclone” sculpture of instruments, through the gallery of historic keyboards, to the impressive collection of correspondence from famous composers, the museum opens a window on the inspiring role of music in people’s lives. Additionally, visitors can step back in time and hear music boxes and phonographs dating back to 1900.Open Sunday through Friday, noon-4 p.m. Always free admission.
Skyway Systems Explore shopping, coffee shops and unique galleries in either Saint Paul or Minneapolis. Minneapolis boasts 60 city blocks connected by skyway. St. Paul has five miles of connecting skyways to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Summit Avenue and Cathedral Hill Summit Avenue, Saint Paul
Take a walking tour of the historic Summit Avenue neighborhood, named one of America’s “Great Streets.” While paid tours are offered starting at the James J. Hill House, simply walking or driving throughout the area is equally intriguing as you can admire the architecture of the empire builders' mansions and see some of F. Scott Fitzgerald's homes.
Stone Arch Bridge 1758 W. River Road N., Minneapolis 612-230-6400
Built by railroad baron James J. Hill in 1883, the Stone Arch Bridge is the only of its kind over the Mississippi River. It is made of native granite and limestone and measures 2,100 feet long by 28 feet wide. The bridge consists of 23 arches and spans the river below St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.