With winter lows (and highs) dropping below zero degrees Fahrenheit, the rest of the country often wonders how Minnesotans aren’t hunkered down in their igloos. If anything, winter is the time that the Twin Cities come out to play. But as fun as Twin City winters can be, they aren’t always cheap.
Winter sports gear can cost an arm and a leg, and the cold weather can tempt you to order out more than is healthy — physically or financially. Want to enjoy the great Minnesota winter with your wallet intact? We found five free things to do in Minneapolis in winter that residents can enjoy. Just make sure to bundle up!
- Go to Holidazzle
- Watch the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
- Visit the Commons
- Get behind Minnehaha Falls
- Sled at Theodore Wirth Park
The Holidazzle parade used to be one of the great Minneapolis traditions. As a child, my dad loaded me and my two brothers and two sisters onto the city bus to watch the nighttime spectacle of lights. The old Holidazzle parade took its last run in 2013. It’s since been replaced with a bigger event with more free things to do for both kids and adults — the Holidazzle at Loring Park.
Every weekend from Thanksgiving till Christmas, you can enjoy movies, outdoor skating, fireworks, and more. Just make sure to pack your own snacks and hold your wallet tight. You’ll also have opportunities to buy food, drinks, and all kinds of Minnesota-themed gifts.
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Want to get downtown for free? MetroTransit usually sponsors two free-ride Saturdays. You can also park on the west side of I-94 and walk. Those who are feeling a little more generous can pay $5 to park near Loring Park.
2. The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
Is there anything more Minnesotan than pond hockey? Can the rest of the world appreciate hockey’s roots the way we Minnesotans do? I think not.
If you’re a hockey fan, you can watch the next U.S. Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis from January 25 to 28. The victor will lift the fabled Golden Shovel and enjoy bragging rights for the rest of the year.
Year after year, I’m amazed by the quality of hockey that I watch at the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.
I also enjoy the camaraderie of the fans who endure chattering teeth to cheer their friends and family on to victory.
3. The Commons
The Commons in South Minneapolis hosts tons of free events all year round. We already know that they host Vikings game-day events with free entertainment and games for kids, and they keep a list of upcoming events on their website.
Keep up-to-date on the Commons’ online event schedule, and you’re sure to find plenty of free things to do in Minneapolis in winter (and the rest of the year). There are even a few events where you can bring your own alcohol. I’m sure that we can all agree that there’s nothing quite like a little buzz to take the edge off the biting cold.
4. Minnehaha Falls
Whether you’re a teenager hoping to steal a kiss or a family looking for things to do with kids, Minnehaha Falls offers a great way to enjoy Mother Nature’s winter beauty. By late December, Minnehaha Falls is completely frozen, and you can slide down the lower parts of the falls or take a walk behind the frozen waterfall.
5. Theodore Wirth Park
When my grandpa was 82 years old, he took out a sled and dove headfirst down a sledding hill. If he can enjoy a ride at 82, then you can enjoy one, too. And don’t make excuses about the cost, either. After years of charging tubers for access to the hill, Theodore Wirth Park recently announced that anyone can sled down the tubing hill for free.
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Sure, your quads will burn on the trip back up the hill, but that’s part of the fun. The park shelter at Theodore Wirth is close enough to the sledding hill that you can take your potty-training toddler with you and still have a good time.
Day Tripper also recommends the 10 best sledding hills in the Twin Cities, and I agree with them. Most of them are free.
Bonus: Freeze Your Jeans
When it’s so cold you’ll freeze your pants off, it’s probably time to freeze a pair of jeans in your front yard for your neighbors to enjoy. It’s already a trend in Northeast Minneapolis (I saw more than a few pairs when visiting friends in the area), but the trend is bound to catch like fire — or maybe ice. At the very least, follow the #FrozenPants tag to get your daily dose of chuckles.