Category Archives: USA

Travel guides to help you plan your trip to the United States. 1-4 day itineraries and things to do in popular states including New York, Boston, Chicago and Austin.

26 Free Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer & Winter

Crystal clear waters of Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

If you’re looking for a California destination filled with scenery and activities, head to the beautiful Lake Tahoe. 

Lake Tahoe is located on the border of the U.S. states of California and Nevada. 

The location is known for its gorgeous clear blue-green waters, snow-covered mountains, and breathtaking scenery.

From hiking and taking in scenic views to enjoying live music, Lake Tahoe has everything for all ages and it’ll want you to come back for more. 

And if you’re on a budget and looking to make the most out of your time, this guide will explore the free things to do in Lake Tahoe. 

You’ll also discover inexpensive activities in the area as well as affordable accommodations and transportation.

Lake Tahoe is also considered one of the best places to visit in July in the USA.

Free Outdoor Things to Do in Lake Tahoe 

Lake Tahoe is home to a lot of outdoor activities.

Check out some of the best things to do at Lake Tahoe in the outdoors.

Lake Tahoe Map

Take in the Scenic Views of Emerald Bay

One of the top things to do in Lake Tahoe is to see Emerald Bay.

Situated on the western shore of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay is known for its greenish-blue waters, white-sand shore, and Fannette Island in the center of it. 

It’s also considered one of the most photographed places in the world.

The three viewpoints to see Emerald Bay are Emerald Bay State Park Lookout, Emerald Bay Overlook, and Inspiration Point

Stunning Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe

Hike Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake Trails

If you’re looking for things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer, then hiking should be on your list.

The Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake Trail, located on the California side of Lake Tahoe, is a popular hiking destination, especially in the summer months.

Although the trail is well-marked and easy to follow, the first part is quite steep and rocky, so be prepared for a challenging start.

About halfway up, you’ll get to see the scenic views of Emerald Bay.

Staying in California? You may want to read our California Bucket List.

Birding at Eagle Rock Trail

Eagle Rock (3370 W Lake Blvd) provides stunning sights of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

Only stretching less than one mile, the trail is easy to navigate making it suitable even for young children to trek.

The trail also offers the chance to see wildlife and is visited for other activities like bird-watching.

Relax at Kiva Beach

If you’re looking for more things to do at Lake Tahoe in summer, then check out some of its awesome beaches.

A popular beach that’s free of charge is Kiva Beach. 

It’s one of the best beaches in South Lake Tahoe because thanks to its position on the southernmost point of Lake Tahoe, it is a great place to relax while enjoying the picturesque scenery of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Tallac.

Kiva Beach is dog-friendly but dogs must be kept on leashes.

Cave Rock Trail

The Cave Rock Trail is a great option for those looking for an easy hike with fantastic scenery.

Exploring this popular trail is one of the best outdoorsy things to do in Lake Tahoe Nevada, especially during summer.

The trail includes some light bouldering, but once atop, you’ll be able to see the unobstructed views of the lake, the surrounding mountains as well as the highway beneath.

Enjoy Free Camping Near Lake Tahoe

There are many camping opportunities near Lake Tahoe with full-service campgrounds that usually require a fee.

Fortunately, if you’re looking for free camping in the area, there are dispersed campgrounds you might want to check out.

One popular spot is the Mt. Rose Wilderness, located on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe,  which is perfect for those looking to spend time in the wilderness and enjoy the sights of nature.

Note that visitors need to bring their own camping gear and a campfire permit may be required for all open fires.

Kings Beach State Recreation Area

Head out to Kings Beach State Recreation Area (8318 North Lake Blvd) to experience Lake Tahoe even more without getting into the water.

This is one of the places you can visit if you’re looking for free things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer.

The beach has spots for picnics and features a boardwalk heading to the sea where you can stroll along.

If you’re in North Lake Tahoe in the evening, come here for a gorgeous sunset.

Golden sands of Kings Beach State Recreation Area on a blue sky day

Free Indoor Things to Do in Lake Tahoe

While Lake Tahoe is known for its outdoors, there are also several indoor attractions in the area that you can explore.

The following list will discuss free indoor things to do at Lake Tahoe which you can take advantage of if the sun is too hot, it is raining, or if you want to do more than outdoors activities during your day trip or vacation.

Lake Tahoe Map Things to do inside

Lake Tahoe Historical Museum

Go back in time to the Lake Tahoe History Museum (3058 Lake Tahoe Blvd) and learn about the history of Lake Tahoe and the Washoe Tribe, a Native American tribe from the Great Basin. 

Check out the exhibits on mining, railroad and road construction, and more.

If you’re looking for a Lake Tahoe souvenir, head to the museum store. 

As part of your family things to do in Lake Tahoe, take your kids to this museum to show them the many historical artifacts. 

Taylor Creek Visitor Center

Located in South Lake Tahoe, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center (Visitor Center Road) is a hub that gives you information on the surrounding four trails including Rainbow Trail, Lake of the Sky Trail, and Forest Tree Trail, Smokey’s Trail.

The trails take you through various habitats including marsh, beach, creekside, and forest. 

The center is open seasonally between June and October. 

While in the area, check out the Taylor Creek Boardwalk for salmon fish swimming in the creek.

If you’re lucky, you might spot bears that are searching for salmon.  

Wander the nearby Tallac Historic Site (1 Heritage Way) for historic buildings and exhibits.

Visit Warren Engine Co. No. 1 Museum

Nearby areas around Lake Tahoe have other indoor attractions that are worth visiting.

You can go to the Warren Engine Co. No. 1 Museum (777 S Stewart St) to discover the rich history of fire companies and departments in Carson City and Ormsby County in Nevada.

It’s one of the things to do around Lake Tahoe where you can learn about the early days of firefighting, and see equipment, uniforms, and documents dating back to the late 1800s.

Visit Marcus Ashley Gallery

Visiting an art gallery is one of the free things to do in South Lake Tahoe.

The Marcus Ashley Gallery (4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd #23) has artwork from local and international artists.

The gallery features a huge variety of art- from vast landscapes and wildlife to abstract art. 

You can also buy paintings if you love them.

Cheap Things to Do in Lake Tahoe 

This list will give you ideas on some inexpensive Lake Tahoe activities you can try during your visit.

Lake Tahoe Map cheap things to do

Vikingsholm 

Check out a hidden castle in Lake Tahoe near Emerald Bay.

Built in 1929, Vikingsholm is styled in Scandinavian design.

In the summer, you can tour the insides of the mansion and its 38 rooms. 

The tours are $15 for adults, $12 for children/young adults between 7-17 years old, and free for kids under 7 years old.

Sugar Pine Point State Park

Surrounded by thick forests of juniper, fir, pine, and aspen, Sugar Pine Point State Park is another place to go for summer activities in Lake Tahoe.

The area is a popular campground with amenities like restrooms and picnic tables.

If you’re visiting during the peak season which is in summer, there’s a parking fee of $10; otherwise, it’s $5 during the winter- parking is free if you’re camping in the area.

You can also visit the 19th-century Hellman-Ehrman Mansion where you can walk around the mansion grounds or go on a guided tour to see the mansion’s vintage furniture and decor. 

Sand Harbor

Located on the eastern side of Lake Tahoe, Sand Harbor is the perfect place to spend an entire day with your family. 

Sand Harbor is a part of the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park and has an entrance fee of $10 if you’re from Nevada or $15 if you’re not from Nevada. 

The area is known for its clear water and its many rock formations, making it a great sight when you’re in the waters.

At Sand Harbor, you can hike, swim, kayak, paddleboard, scuba dive, and go boating. 

The place is also filled with Jeffrey pines and cedar trees providing shady spots for picnics. 

City bike rentals are also available if you want to explore Sand Harbor along with other places on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.

Crystal clear waters of Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe

Family-Friendly Fun at Harrah’s Arcade

You can find several arcades in Lake Tahoe if you want to have some family-friendly fun.

Harrah’s Arcade (15 US-50) features a rotating selection of popular arcade games like Jurassic Park and Space Invaders.

It’s a great place for those looking for things to do in Tahoe, NV with children.

Self-Guided Driving Tour Around Lake Tahoe

Driving around Lake Tahoe is a great way to see the magnificent views of the area. 

With an app as your guide, you can go on a self-guided driving tour and explore the entire lake, including all the best vistas, hikes, and swimming spots.

The tour begins at the southern shore and takes a clockwise loop around the lake.

If you only have a day in Lake Tahoe, it’s best to take half the day to drive through this scenic loop.

South Lake Tahoe State Line with snowy mountains in Nevada

Free Events in Lake Tahoe

Here are some fun events to see on your next visit to Late Tahoe.

Saturday Maker’s Markets

Head to a maker’s market in Kings Beach (8428 Trout Ave.) to see local arts and crafts, delicious snacks from the food trucks, games, and more. 

It happens between June and September. 

SunSets Live Music Series at Palisades Tahoe

For more entertaining things to do in North Lake Tahoe in summer, you can watch the SunSets Live Music Series at Palisades Tahoe.

This live community event showcases all kinds of music and happens every Friday from June through August. 

Bluesdays at Palisades Tahoe

For Blues music in the summer, head to The Village at Palisades Tahoe (1750 Village East Rd). 

It’s a free concert series that happens on Tuesdays from June through August.

You’ll see the finest blues artists perform while you can grab drinks or snacks at the bar. 

Seating is limited so bring a folding chair to be able to see the artists as they play. 

Free Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Winter

Check out these fun things to do at Lake Tahoe in winter.

Northern Lights Festival

Seeing the Northern Lights Festival is a great free ​​thing to do in North Lake Tahoe in winter.

This festival starts at the end of November and ends in December. 

It takes place in the Nevada towns of Crystal Bay and Incline Village. 

There are free activities and events including driving along the lighted Tahoe Boulevard. 

Noel Nights at Northstar California

Enjoy a free night of holiday fun at The Village at Northstar Ice Skating Rink (100 Northstar Dr) during Noel Nights.

You can take photos with Santa, get a balloon animal, have your face painted and listen to festive music. 

If you’ve got skates, bring them to skate around the rink for free.

This event takes place in December. 

Free Gondola Ride in Lake Tahoe

Gondola rides are a popular tourist attraction in Tahoe and offer views of the mountains and other sights below.

If you’re in the Village at Northstar, be sure to hop on Highlands Gondola for a scenic ride that takes you to The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe.

Best of all, it’s free for pedestrians without ski equipment.

Holiday Tree Lighting at Kings Beach

Another free thing to do in Tahoe in winter is to check out the Holiday Tree Lighting held at the North Tahoe Event Center (8318 North Lake Blvd) in Kings Beach.

Enjoy live entertainment from locals, sip some hot cocoa or soup, take Santa photos and make some crafts. 

Sled Down Hills in North Lake Tahoe

As winter arrives, Lake Tahoe is covered with snowy hills. 

Grab a sled and dive down these hills. 

You can head to Tahoe Meadows, one of the best spots to enjoy free sledding in North Lake Tahoe.

There are no fees needed but just be sure to bring your own sled.

Build a Snowman

With heavy snow comes opportunities to build a snowman! 

Go to the Spooner Lake area for layers of snow to make a snowman.

It’s one of the enjoyable things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids in winter.

The place is also a popular winter destination for snowshoeing.

Spooner Summit Snow Play Area

Another place to visit for a free snow play in Lake Tahoe is the  Spooner Summit Snow Play area.

People come here for sledding and snow tubing.

The sledding hill features steep slopes near the top and gentle slopes at the bottom- making it ideal for people of all skill levels.

Father and son having fun in the snow

Affordable Accommodations in Lake Tahoe 

While Lake Tahoe is filled with expensive accommodations, there are also budget-friendly options. 

The Cedar House Sport Hotel (10918 Brockway Rd) is one of the best affordable choices.

Located in Truckee, this hotel is a quick 15-minute drive to North Lake Tahoe and features a free parking space as well as storage for your ski equipment.

If you’re staying in Lake Tahoe for longer than a week and like to do some cooking, consider Mountain Studio (11591 Snowpeak Way). 

You can also check out Tahoe Valley Cabin 1 (1175 Melba Drive), a child-friendly accommodation that has a children’s playground and a seasonal outdoor pool.

How to Get Around Lake Tahoe on a Budget

Lake Tahoe is easy to navigate whether you’re driving or walking. 

You can walk around the entire Lake Tahoe via the Tahoe Rim Trail. 

E-bikes and Lime scooters are available for rent around Lake Tahoe as well. 

There’s a public transport system called the Tahoe Transportation District you can check out.

You can also find numerous taxi services – especially near the casinos in South Lake Tahoe – that you can use to get around. 

Uber and Lyft services are available in Lake Tahoe but you’re more likely to get one if you’re traveling from the airport.

The nearest airport to Lake Tahoe is the Reno–Tahoe International Airport.

You can travel from this airport to Lake Tahoe by taking shuttle services from North Lake Tahoe Express or South Tahoe Airporter.

Text Free things to do at Lake Tahoe California and Nevada Image bold blue lake with trees

About the Author

Rasika is a California-based blogger who loves writing about California destinations. She has been planning trips since she was young and enjoys blogging about what California has to offer. 

Rasika, Bae Area and Beyond

27 Free Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona: Outdoor Adventures, Museums, Events & More

Phoenix Arizon skyline at dusk - trees, buildings and mountains

Looking for free things to do in Phoenix, Arizona? This article shares the best free attractions so you can get the most out of this outdoorsy city.

Whether you are a visitor on a budget or a local looking for something cheap to do, our guide explores affordable options without skimping on fun.

Here are some of the best free indoor and outdoor things to do in Valley of Sun, including festivals and events.

You may also like our USA bucket list guide.

Free Outdoor Things to do in Phoenix, Arizona

If you fancy basking in the sun, then let’s start with the al fresco activities you can do in Phoenix.

This section covers fun free things to do in Phoenix which includes cultural activities, incredible hiking trails, gardens, outdoor museums, and a pyramid tomb.

Soak Up Downtown Phoenix

There is no shortage of things to Do in Downtown Phoenix from museums to theaters, restaurants and rooftop bars and while you need some money to fully take advantage of this neighborhood, it is still worth a visit at night to take it all in.

If you are around at the start of the month, hop on the First Friday Art Walks to explore the city’s creative spaces.

It is one of the nation’s largest self-guided art walks with over 70 galleries and venues featuring in the tour.

Hike Camelback Mountains

If you enjoy trekking mountains then Camelback is probably one of the best hikes in Phoenix, as it has around 3 miles of steep hiking that resembles the hump of the camel’s back.

It’s a popular hiking destination and one of the best free things to do in Phoenix for both locals and tourists.

An easier trek would be the Waterfall Trail near the White Tank Regional Park as it is flatter!

Rocky Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon recreation area trail in Phoenix, Arizona.

Trekking at Papago Park

Papago Park was once a reservation for Indigenous people.

It was also a fish hatchery during the Great Depression, a POW camp during WWII, and a VA hospital.

Today, it is home to a massive golf course, a botanical garden, lakes, Sonoran Desert plants, numerous museums, and a large baseball field.

It’s so big it is split into two sections, east and west, with North Galvin Parkway running through it.

There are many hiking trails including routes around the red butte formations.

Magnificent View From Hole in the Rock Trail

When visiting Phoenix, you won’t want not miss the iconic Hole in the Rock Trail on the east side of Papago Park for its incredible view over downtown.

This stunning formation was used by the ancient Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun.

Dusk at famous hole in the rock, Papago Park,Phoenix,Arizona

Beautiful White Pyramid, Governor Hunt’s Tomb

If you’re looking for things to see in Phoenix for free, then you should check out one of the spectacular man-made creations which is the tomb of Arizona, built in honor of the first governor, George W.P. Hunt.

You can take a quick stroll to the top and get a complete view of the eastern part of Greater Phoenix.

World-class Arid Plants at Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the places to see in Phoenix for free where you can check out more than 50,000 varieties of desert plants.

There are five thematic trails: conservation, desert life, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert, and arid wildflowers.

The Botanical Gardens also offers specialized tours, seasonal shows, concerts, a garden gift store, a plant shop, and a restaurant for refreshments.

Explore Pueblo Grande Outdoor Trail 

You can pay a small admission fee to enter the Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park (4619 E Washington St) and delve into the Hohokam civilization.

You can also enjoy the free outdoor trail through the ancient village exhibit that showcases a Hohokam ruin site.

Dobbins Lookout

Dobbins Lookout is located at South Mountain Park and offers breathtaking views of the city from the mountain at an elevation of 2,330 feet.

The historic structure was built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. 

Drive Through the Picturesque Apache Trail 

The stunning drive along the Apache Trail is a great free thing to do around Phoenix.

Known as Route 88, it stretches 40 miles of canyons, desert flora, fauna, lakes, seasonal wildflowers, and geological formations.

Avoid taking this trail during extreme weather conditions like torrential rain, exceptionally hot days, and windy periods.

Desert views along Arizona State Route 88, a former stagecoach route known as the Apache Trail.

Free Indoor Things to Do in Phoenix

This section will cover some of the most popular museums and art centers that are either free to enter or free on certain days of the month.

Delve into American History at Arizona Capitol Museum

Explore Arizona Capitol Museum (1700 W. Washington St) to see the World War II and the Pearl Harbor exhibitions.

Other museum displays include the exclusive rooms that were once Arizona’s Judicial State Courts, House Chamber, and Governor’s office.

It’s one of the free attractions in Phoenix where you get to learn about the story of Arizona territory to statehood.

Hall of Flame Fire Museum: Largest Firefighting Museum in the World

A visit to the Hall of Flame Fire Museum (6101 E Van Buren St) is one of the free things to do in Phoenix with family.

Exhibitions include 130 firefighting pieces that date from 1725.

It has a massive display of badges, alarms, firefighting gears, and a huge fire truck for kids to explore.

Take Free Yoga Classes

You can tour around Phoenix and still stay on track with your fitness goals by attending a free yoga class.

The city is home to many yoga studios where you can find complementary classes with experienced instructors ready to help you no matter what your levels of experience are.

Some classes are held in studios, others are hosted in public spaces.

Available classes are listed here.

Free First Fridays: Phoenix Art Museum

Those looking for free activities in Phoenix can enjoy the free tour of Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N Central Ave) on the first Friday of every month.

It is home to over 20,000 pieces of art from Latin American, Asian, and European countries.

Do not miss the Thorne Rooms that display detailed replicas of exquisite rooms found in the US and Europe, at an exacting 1:12 scale.

Arizona State University Art Museum

The Arizona State University Art Museum at Nelson Fine Arts Center (51 E 10th St) features Latinx and contemporary art exhibits from local and emerging artists.

The museum’s nearly 50,000 square feet of space houses five galleries where the majority of its art collection is displayed.

Admission is always free.

Cheap Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona

During your trip to Phoenix, you’ll be able to find some activities that are worth paying for.

This list brings you loads of cheap fun things to do in Phoenix such as exploring historic sites, public swimming pools, and guided tours.

Prehistoric Sites and Monuments of Phoenix

One of the inexpensive things to do in Phoenix is to plan a day trip to the national park sites like Montezuma Castle National Monument (Montezuma Castle Rd) and Tuzigoot National Monument (25 Tuzigoot Rd).

Witness the historic limestone cliff ruins that were constructed by the Sinagua people between 1100 and 1425 AD.

The monuments are a 90-minutes drive from Phoenix, and you can enter both sites for a small admission fee that is valid for seven days.

Blue sky over rocky cliffs at Montezuma Castle National Monument

Public Pools for Summer Cool Off

When you have more than five months of summer, hitting the splash pads and local pools is an ideal cooling-off solution!

The Park and Recreation Department is responsible for local pools and charge a small fee to enter.

These swimming pools include wave pools and slides that are perfect for kids.

Phoenix Ghost Tour  

Discover the most haunted downtown areas of Phoenix on this walking ghost tour.

Learn about spooky locations such as Hotel San Carlos (202 N Central Ave), the basement of Hanny’s department store (40 N 1st St), and the Gothic Rosson House Museum (113 N 6th St) in this 1.5-hour tour.

Phoenix Scavenger Hunts

Solve clues and complete the challenges thrown your way through this scavenger hunt.

Using your smartphone as your guide, you’ll compete in a quest while seeing the sights of downtown Phoenix as well as learn about the place’s history.

Phoenix Arizon skyline at dusk - trees, buildings and mountains

Free Events in Phoenix

If you’re looking for more free things to see in Phoenix, then check out some of these awesome events!

This section brings you free cultural events, musical concerts, and football matches that you can do during your next AZ visit.

Attend Free Musical Concerts

During the summer, you can catch an outdoor performance by the West Valley Symphony in Phoenix.

There are also year-round indoor concerts by the Chandler Symphony Orchestra.

Fall brings the student’s performance at Glendale Community College which is open to the public for free. 

Watch Football Matches for Free

Some of the cool free things to do in Phoenix include watching football practice matches.

You can watch the open practice of the Arizona Cardinals for free.

Check out the training camp that is open to the public so you can plan games during your Phoenix trip.

Juneteenth Celebrations: Free Street Parties and Gatherings

Juneteenth takes place on June 19th and celebrates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers told the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas that they were free.

This was 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

It is also called Freedom Day.

Expect live dance performances, poetry sessions, art classes, games, vendors, and other family-friendly fun at Desert Mountain Park in Phoenix.

Celebrate Latinx Culture and Art

Arizona Latino Art and Cultural Center (147 E Adams St) promotes and celebrates Latin American, Mexican, and Indigenous life.

You can learn more about the city’s heritage and traditions through the center’s free exhibitions and events such as Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos).

Open Studio Galleries for a Free Self-Guided Tour

Culture fans can also take advantage of the annual open studio event.

Indulge in Phoenix art by meeting the local artists on your walk through the street art, open galleries, and studios spread all over downtown.

Free Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona in Winter

The maximum temperature during winter in Arizona is 69.8-degree Fahrenheit and the minimum is 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

This section will list things to do in Phoenix for free during winter like self-guided tours, hiking trips, and biking trails.

See the Lighting Events at Downtown Glendale

If you’re looking for things to do around Phoenix, Arizona this winter, head to Glendale to see its spectacular lighting event.

The Murphy Park Lights is held at Murphy Park and features beautiful light displays, a 20-foot snowman, and a giant Christmas tree.

Lee & Patricia Sepanek’s Holiday Lights

Lee & Patricia Sepanek’s Holiday Lights (4415 E Calle Tuberia) is one of the extravagantly decorated houses in Phoenix which you can visit and make a leave donation.

The Sepaneks string up over a quarter of a million lights to put on an epic festive show for bystanders.

Phoenix Christkindlmarkt

Take in the sweet smells of the vendors and get in the spirit at Phoenix’s European Christmas Market.

Expect live entertainment, food, and holiday shopping opportunities if you can stretch it!

Venture the Southern Mountains: Hike or Bike

Take advantage of the cooler temps, prepare your hiking gear and head to the South Mountain Park and Preserve which sprawls over 17,000 acres.

You can hike, walk or bike around the area.

South Mountain Park and Preserve Views from Pima Canyon Hiking Trail, Phoenix, Southern Arizona desert

Affordable Accommodation in Phoenix, Arizona

Budget travelers looking for cheap lodgings in Phoenix, Arizona can find affordable accommodations under $100.

Travelodge by Wyndham Phoenix (1424 N 50th Avenue) is an affordable option with great amenities like an outdoor pool, ironing facilities, WiFi, and cable television.

For longer stays in Phoenix, Extended Stay America Suites (5235 N 16th Street Camelback) is a budget-friendly accommodation featuring a fully equipped kitchen inside the rooms.

If you prefer accommodations that are just 5 minutes drive away from Phoenix city center, then you can check out SureStay Hotel (3037 E Van Buren St).

How to Get Around Phoenix, Arizona on a Budget

One great way to get around Phoenix on a budget is by using public transportation.

The Valley Metro light rail system is a good choice for tourists, as it includes stops at the airport and well-known places such as the Phoenix Art Museum and Arizona State University.

You can also navigate the city by biking or walking if you don’t want to worry about parking or traffic.

Phoenix has many walkable neighborhoods including the downtown area and over 600 miles of designated bike lanes.

If you want to have freedom and control in exploring more sites, renting a car or using ride-share services such as Uber, Lyft, and Turo is an ideal option.

Text says Free things to do in Phoenix Arizona and image is of the red toned Hole in the Rock

About the Author

This guide was written by Two Scots Abroad Travel Guides and Catalin Geangos. Catalin is the Founder and Editor of TravelTrained. He was born in Romania and now lives in the UK as a digital nomad.

24 Free Things to Do in Southwest Florida: Beaches, Nature, Museums, and Events

Beach umbrellas lined up at the shore in Naples Beach

One of the most visited places in the state, Southwest Florida is popular for its beautiful beaches and sunny climate.

The area that makes up Southwest Florida extends from Marco Island near the Everglades up the coast past the city of Naples to Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

Southwest Florida is only three hours by car from Miami.

Whether you are experiencing Southwest Florida as part of a larger Southern USA road trip or as a fantastic destination in its own right, you will love the aptly named Paradise Coast.

With a plentiful supply of free things to do in Southwest Florida, you’ll see why the area is popular with active retirees on a fixed budget.

Here are some of the best free indoor and outdoor things to do in Southwest Florida, including festivals and events.

You may also find our Florida bucket list useful.

Free Outdoor Things to Do in Southwest Florida

Perfectly geared towards an outdoor lifestyle, there are more than enough free activities in Southwest Florida to keep you happy and entertained.

Naples’ Family-Friendly Beaches

The beautiful Southwest Florida beaches are must-visit destinations. 

The white sand is powder soft and the water is clear and turquoise blue.

Many of the Southwest Florida beaches are among the best beaches in the US.

Clam Pass Park (465 Seagate Dr) in Naples is a family-friendly wide sandy beach with calm water.

Another great option for families in Naples is the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (11135 Gulf Shore Drive).

Beach umbrellas lined up at the shore in Naples Beach

Bonita Beach Park

Bonita Beach Park (27954 Hickory Blvd) in Bonita Springs is also known as a family-friendly park surrounded by beautiful sand dunes.

There are sheltered picnic areas available at the beach as well as a beach volleyball court.

Visit Captiva Beach

Captiva Beach (14770 Captiva Dr) is widely recognized as one of the best beaches in the country for that Robinson Crusoe castaway feeling. 

Captiva Beach is also perfectly located for fabulous sunsets.

Shelling

There are opportunities to do some of the best shelling in the world, such as sand dollars and Junonia shells. 

There are over 400 types of shells in different colors to collect.

Sanibel Island is known as among the best places in the world to find beautiful shells due to its unique position as a barrier island sitting on a plateau in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Sanibel Island check out Lighthouse Beach Park (10 Periwinkle Way) and Bowman’s Beach (1700 Bowmans Beach Rd)  for the best shelling opportunities.

We also featured Sanibel Island in our guide to US beaches to visit in December for shelling.

Other fabulous places for shelling include Marco Island, Captiva Island, and Bonita Beach.

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach is almost 7 miles long of beautiful white sand and known for its shallow waters.

There are 30 different access points to Fort Myers Beach each with designated signs like on Flamingo Street, Lanark Avenue, and Coconut Drive.

A beach Chaise Longue fronting the beach in Fort Myers, Florida

Sunset Watching

Southwest Florida is perfectly positioned for glorious sunsets. 

Fort Myer makes a nightly event of the sun disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico with a Sunset Celebration at Fort Myers Beach.

Full of shops and cafes, the pedestrian-friendly Times Square area is located at the end of the pier at Fort Myers Beach.

On weekends, street performers and musicians liven up the area as well which makes for great people-watching.

The historic Naples Pier built in 1888 is one of the best places to watch the sunsets. It’s also a popular place to fish without the need for a permit. 

Likewise, the Sanibel Lighthouse, a historic structure dating from 1884, is a great place to watch the sunsets.

Naples Florida pier with sunset

Nature Preserves

One of the free things to do in South Florida is to visit some of its nature preserves.

Naples Preserve (1690 Tamiami Trail North) is a small 10-acre nature preserve with a boardwalk that is great for experiencing wildlife. 

You may spot gopher tortoises, migrating birds, and butterflies.

With over 3500 acres of wetlands, the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve (7751 Penzance Blvd) in Fort Myers has a boardwalk trail where there are great opportunities for wildlife viewing. 

Some animals like otters, alligators, and turtles call this place home while others like migrating birds or butterflies are just seasonal visitors.

South Florida also features in our guide to the best national parks to visit in November.

American Alligator in Florida Wetland. Everglades National Park

Mound Key Archeological State Park

Early Native Americans are thought to have created the ancient mounds located at the Mound Key Archeological State Park (3800 Corkscrew Road) over 1000 years ago.

The site is one of the free places to go in Southwest Florida.

The mounds rise thirty feet above Estero Bay’s waters and are located on an island at this state park. 

Visitors can either rent a canoe or kayak to visit the mounds which are only accessible by boat.

Mound Key is accessible from either Lovers Key State Park (8700 Estero Blvd) or Koreshan State Park (3800 Corkscrew Rd).

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ Markets are a great way to explore local food as well as people-watch.

While some Farmers’ Markets in Southwest Florida are open all year round, the majority are only open during the winter months.

For example, the River District Farmers’ Market in Fort Myers has been running since 1994 and is open all year on Thursdays. 

This market offers many things for sale such as local produce, baked goods, and flowers.

Fort Myers has a choice of many farmers’ markets on different days. 

Other examples of Southwest Florida farmers’ markets are those that run in Bonita Springs on Wednesdays, Marco Island on Wednesdays, and Sanibel Island on Sundays. 

Free Indoor Things to Do in Southwest Florida

There’s a good number of free indoor things to do in Southwest Florida.

In this list, you’ll discover free museums in Southwest Florida that you can visit to learn more about the place’s history and culture.

Museum of the Everglades

The Collier County Museum group tells about the history of Southwest Florida.

The 5 museums in the group, all offering free admission, explore history from different perspectives.

One of them is the Museum of the Everglades (105 Broadway Ave W) which tells the story of the construction of the Tamiami Trail that cut across the Everglades making Southwest Florida more accessible for settlers.

Marco Island Historical Museum

The Marco Island Historical Museum (180 S Heathwood Dr) focuses on the region’s earliest inhabitants, the Calusa tribe.

The museum has permanent and traveling exhibits including a recreated village scene that brings the Calusa Indians’ civilization to life.

Naples Depot Museum

The Naples Depot Museum (1051 5th Ave S)  tells the story of how the arrival of rail travel in the 1920s turned Naples from a sleepy village into a booming tourist town.

Collier Museum at Government Center

The Collier Museum at Government Center (3331 Tamiami Trail E) explains the prehistoric creatures that roamed Southwest Florida, the Native American cultures in the area, and the early settlers.

Visitors can see ancient tools and ceremonial masks, as well as learn about the origins of traditional crafts like patchwork.

Immokalee Pioneer Museum

The Immokalee Pioneer Museum (1215 Roberts Ave W) shows the daily hardships of the early homesteaders and citrus ranchers in the early 1900s.

This 13-acre museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features exhibits and fifteen original preserved buildings.

Cheap Things to Do in Southwest FL

Sarasota Sightseeing Trolley Tour

Touring Sarasota by trolley is a great way to see the city’s sights and learn about its rich history. 

Discover the city’s famous landmarks and neighborhoods along with their interesting stories told by a guide in this 90-minute tour.

You’ll also get to see some of Sarasota’s well-known theaters and opera houses like the Asolo Theater (5555 N Tamiami Trail) and Sarasota Opera House (61 N Pineapple Ave).

Party on a Cycle Boat in Fort Myers Beach

See the sights of Fort Myers Beach from the waters in this unique cycle boat tour.

During the tour, you’ll find everything you need for a great time, including bar stops, amazing views, music, and entertaining captains.

This is a fun South Florida thing to do with friends where you pedal during your cruise while enjoying the drinks you bring aboard.

Fort Myers beach Florida holiday vacation destination, coast of Estero Island with beachfront hotel resort buildings, view from the boat

Free Festivals and Events in Southwest Florida

Anyone who has been to Florida for spring break knows that the state knows how to party!

Major festivals coincide with the usual big events in the USA.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve in Southwest Florida coincides with the busiest time of the tourist season. 

There are parties and fireworks aplenty on New Year’s Eve, including at Naples Pier, Fort Myers Beach, and Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda.

St. Patrick’s Day

Florida has extensive St. Patrick’s day celebrations and the beer runs green in Southwest Florida as well.

St. Patrick’s Day parade is a regular event in Naples. 

Fort Myers has their parade on Fort Myers Beach.

There is also plenty of Irish food and drink and live music at different locations.

St Patricks Day Parade with flags and crowds

July 4th

July 4th is celebrated in Naples with a parade and fireworks over Naples Pier.

Likewise, Fort Myers Beach has a similar parade and fireworks for Independence Day Weekend.

The village of Estero hosts a family-friendly Independence Day 5K run and walk.

Halloween

There is an annual Halloween Spooktacular on Fifth Avenue South Naples with a dog costume contest and other activities. 

The Naples Stone Crab Festival, taking place in the Tin City area, celebrates this local delicacy.

The Haunting on the Harbor is a month-long festival focusing on scares and gores that happens in Punta Gorda.

While admission to the main event is free, there are separate admission fees for the haunted house and kiddie rides.

Dog wearing a costume including a hat and clothes that says up

Free Things to Do in Southwest Florida in Winter

Many visitors also flock to Southwest Florida in winter because the weather is idyllic during this season. 

The following list explores fun things to do in Southwest Florida during winter.

Southwest Florida also has some best islands to visit in December for US travelers.

Lee County Manatee Park

The manatees are also seasonal visitors to Southwest Florida between November and March.

Manatees swim into the 17-acre Lee County Manatee Park where they can overwinter in the warm water discharged from a former power plant. 

The shallow water is great for manatee viewing. 

Christmas Boat Parades

Another free thing to do in SW Florida during winter is to see the Christmas boat parades.

At Christmas time, locals deck out their boats with festive flair and holiday music.

There are several boat parades including the Fort Myers Beach Boat Parade, Bonita Springs Boat Parade, and the Naples Boat Parade.

Luminary Stroll

For nearly forty years, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island have put on the Luminary Stroll.

This festival has Christmas music, Christmas lights, a live nativity scene, and sidewalk sales.

There’s even a golf cart Christmas parade at the Captiva Luminary Stroll.

ArtFest

An annual 3-day event in February, ArtFest is a widely-acclaimed festival that raises funds for art classes in local schools.

Attracting about 70,000 visitors, ArtFest displays over 200 artists’ works in booths in downtown Fort Myers.

Affordable Accommodation in Southwest Florida

During the high season, finding affordable accommodation in Southwest Florida can be a challenge.

As a general matter, the further you get from central Naples, the better value the accommodation will be. 

Located in downtown Fort Myers, this two queen-bed hotel room is great value for a family of four. 

It also has an outdoor pool when you don’t want to head to the beach.

You can also check out Bonita Oasis (10301 Tarrah Lane).

This holiday home rental is a three-bedroom that is located in a nature reserve.

Relax by the pool with its views of a pond where birds and wildlife gather.

How to Get Around Southwest Florida on a Budget

The easiest way to get around Florida is by car. 

The roads are great and parking is easy. 

Uber and Lyft are both available in Florida and are cheaper than taxis.

Downtown areas of cities like Naples and Fort Myers are easy to walk or even cycle. 

The cities also have great public transportation like the Fort Myers Beach Trolley and LeeTran buses run by Lee County.

The closest airport in the region is the Southwest Florida International Airport. 

Fort Myers Beach is 30 minutes from the airport which you can access via LeeTran Bus Route 50.

Collier Area Transit provides bus transportation around the Naples area.

Image free things to do in Southwest Florida image seats on beach

About the Author

Like many a New Yorker, Shobha George has been traveling to Florida all her life, especially now that her current home is in London, England. 

She loves many things about Florida, especially the Caribbean flavor of the Florida Keys, the fantastic food and style of Miami, the glorious sunsets of Southwest Florida, and the theme parks of central Florida.

Shobha George, Just Go Places

12 Stunning Caribbean Islands to Visit in October

Smugglers Cove on Tortola

Are you planning a trip to paradise and hoping to catch a great low-season vacation deal? This guide shares the best Caribbean islands to visit in October before the winter crowds touch down so you can get an overview of which destination is suitable for your style of travel.

Below, we discuss the top Caribbean islands, why people visit in October, the best things to do there, and what to eat.

Which island did you choose? Tell us in the comments.

You may also like our guide to the best places to visit in the US in October and National Parks in October.

Top Caribbean Islands to Visit in October

This map will help you visualize the following islands while you research your next October vacation!

Note: Some of the Caribbean islands are popular cruise ports. If you are visiting as part of a cruise and looking for activities to do independently you will also find the overviews below useful.

If you are not cruising, consider accommodation away from the port towns to avoid the crowds coming off the ships.

Tropical beach on Barbuda island map

Antigua For Outdoors Enthusiasts

The Eastern Caribbean is a perfect place to visit in October for its warm weather and amazing beaches, and Antigua is one of the nicest islands in the area.

The island is 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, and its coolest temperatures throughout the year land in the seventies.

In October, you’ll be in the middle of low season, which is ideal for cheap rates and lighter tourist crowds.

For outdoor excitement, you can rest and relax on Galleon Beach (264R+276, Freeman’s Bay Saint Paul) or take a hike up Shirley Heights.

Galleon Beach features soft white sand and amazing blue water.

Shirley Heights is a relatively quick hike, but at the top, you’ll be able to see the best view of Antigua.

There is also the hike up to the summit of the highest point, Mount Obama, which is named after the US President.

It takes around 3-4 hours and it said to be very muddy so plan to hike with good footwear.

Check out our hiking gear list for advice.

Did you know that Antigua freed its enslaved people as soon as Britain mandated the act of emancipation?

32,000 plantation worker were released at midnight on August 1, 1834.

This was a unique move among the isles of the West Indies.

Today, you can take a one hour guided tour through Ras Freeman, formerly Willis Freeman Plantation, which is located in one of the first villages to be freed during slavery.

View of Galleon Beach from Shirley Heights, Antigua, Caribbean

Barbuda For Consistent Tropical Climate

Just north of Antigua is the island of Barbuda, known for its gorgeous coastlines and pristine beaches.

Very few people live on Barbuda itself, but it is still an incredibly popular tourist destination throughout the year.

You’ll hardly experience any temperature variation in Barbuda due to its tropical marine climate, and the entire island is almost completely flat.

Some of the best outdoor adventures include visiting Pink Sand Beach (H5RG+R9Q, Codrington) and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary.

The more adventurous type will love the caves at Two Foot Bay National Park and Darby’s Cove.

The amazing natural landscape makes Barbuda one of the best Caribbean places to visit in October.

Tropical beach with pink tones on Barbuda island

Andros Island, Bahamas For Mangroves and Snorkeling

Andros Island is the largest island in the Bahamas, and it is truly one of the best places in the Caribbean to visit in October.

Over 100 miles long and 40 miles wide, Andros Island features hundreds of islets, mangroves, swamplands, and estuaries.

From the deepest Tongue of the Ocean to the giant Andros Barrier Reef, the third-largest fringing barrier reef in the world, and the most biological diversity in the Bahamas, there is so much natural wonder to explore on Andros Island.

West Side National Park was named in 2002 and features pines, mangroves and flats of clear blue water.

It is one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the Western Atlantic.

The month of October is considered one of the island’s summer months, and it is a perfect time to go snorkeling and scuba diving.

You may also find our free beach packing list useful.

Barbados For A Much Loved Caribbean Vacation

Of all the Caribbean islands, Barbados is the furthest east; it is also quite large and hosts a little less than 300,000 year-round residents.

The month of October is part of Barbados’ wet season, though you’ll still be able to enjoy tons of lovely weather during your visit.

Barbados is one of the best Caribbean Islands to visit in October for its beaches, gardens, caves, and Historic Bridgetown Barbados.

Large waves and intense surf can be found on the eastern coast at Bathsheba Beach; calm water is located on the south shore at Dover’s Beach.

The adventurer will love the Andromeda Botanic Gardens and Harrison’s Cave, while the history lovers should visit St. Nicholas Abbey or the Morgan Lewis Windmill.

Historic Bridgetown Barbados’s The Garrison, is one of the island’s Cultural Heritage Conservation Areas.

Here you can learn more about its military colonial history through its 115 listed buildings.

There’s also a great food scene although you may be fighting against the cruise tourism for a table!

Barbados also features in our guide to the best islands to visit in December for winter vacations.

Rich vegetation of Bathsheba beach, East coast of Barbados island, Caribbean.

Turks & Caicos For Popular and Secluded Beaches

Most well-known for its incredible tourist attractions, the two small groups of tropical islands known as Turks and Caicos are accessible primarily by ship from the US.

Featuring one of the longest coral reefs in the world and the only conch farm on the planet, you’ll be able to spend quality time in the waters exploring all the natural wonders the islands have to offer.

Grace Gray Beach is the favorite beach of many visitors, but tons of smaller, more secluded beaches like Malcolm’s Road Beach and Bight Beach are also lovely and not as crowded.

All beaches on the islands are free and public, so the choice is yours; explore the island to find your favorite spots!

The most popular activities in Turks & Caicos take place on and in the water – kayaking, SUP, sailing, and jet skiing.

You even get see-through boards so you won’t miss the life below the ripples as you float or paddle!

Make sure you take a short ferry ride for a day trip to North Caicos and Middle Caicos to see the gorgeous natural landscapes and views.

For food, head to Omar’s, Shark Bite, and quatic North Caicos.

Go for the conch salad!

St. Lucia For Rainforests and Volcanoes

Commonly considered one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, St. Lucia features twin volcanos, thick forested lands, and beautiful tropical rainforest climates.

Just under 250 square miles in area and over 150,000 year-round residents make this island a small, yet bustling country.

Tourism is very popular in St. Lucia, though most crowds come through between January and April.

Skip the crowds in October and experience a quieter, more private vacation.

Check out the “drive in” volcano, zip lining, the Botanical Garden, and the Pitons twin volcanos.

You can also venture into the rainforests and take a boat cruise around the island.

Whatever you decide to do in St. Lucia, be sure you make some time for snorkeling or scuba diving at the Anse Chastanet Marine National Park.

You’ll love exploring the coral reefs and swimming among incredible sea creatures.

Beach with view to Piton mountains in Saint Lucia

Grand Cayman For Rum and Diving

The Cayman Islands are one of the best Caribbean places to visit in October.

Though Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, it is still relatively small; it is just about 22 miles long and 8 miles wide.

It is a very flat island, as well, hardly rising higher than 60 feet above sea level.

Most visitors of the island are concentrated around Seven Mile Beach on the western part of the island, north of the capital, George Town.

There’s tons to explore in the city of George Town (port town) as well, like Cayman Crystal Caves, visiting the Cayman Spirits Distillery or shopping downtown.

Cayman Spirits is known for its ageing process which takes place under the sea.

It replicates rum that was aged during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade voyages.

Scuba divers will want to do a tour of one of the best diving sites in the Caribbean, the USS Kittiwake, just off Seven Mile Beach.

Look out for the endangered blue iguana and plentiful stingrays when visiting Grand Cayman.

Grand Cayman also features in our most romantic December honeymoon destinations guide.

The Scuba divers examining the famous USS Kittiwake submarine wreck in the Grand Cayman Islands

British Virgin Islands For Sailing and Swimming

Just to the east of Puerto Rico lie the British Virgin Islands, a grouping of four main islands and more than 50 other small islands and islets.

The largest town, Road Town, is located on the island of Tortola, which is only about 60 square miles large.

It is one of the best Caribbean islands to visit in October, with average temperatures in the mid-to high eighties.

The British Virgin Islands are a popular tourist destination for Americans, though sailors from around the world come to experience some of the best sailing conditions on Earth.

The most iconic experience is to explore the Baths in Virgin Gorda; swimming between massive, smooth boulders in the crystal clear water is a must in the British Virgin Islands.

Smugglers Cove on Tortola

St. Vincent and the Grenadines For Botanic Gardens

Located in the southeastern part of the Caribbean, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a collection of small islands lying just southwest of Barbados.

St. Vincent is known for its volcanoes and thick forested areas, with the westward side of the islands featuring steep rocky cliffs and the eastward side of the island featuring the soft and sandy beaches loved by travelers.

You’ll definitely want to visit the Mustique Beach or the Saltwater Bay Beach to get your fix of soft white sands and gentle waves.

St. Vincent’s botanic garden is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, which makes this island in the Caribbean perfect to visit in October, if not every month of the year.

Idyllic tropical beach with white sand, palm trees and turquoise Caribbean sea water on Mustique island in St Vincent and the Grenadines

St. Barts For Public Beach Swimming

If you’re looking for a special Caribbean island to visit in October, look no further than Saint Barthelemy, St. Barts.

This small island is located in the southeast region of the Caribbean and is considered a luxury tourist spot; be ready to pull out all the stops when you visit!

The coast thrives with beaches and offshore coral reefs, and much of the island’s marine area is protected by a reserve.

There are 22 public beaches across the island, and about 15 are perfect for swimming.

Stick to the eastern side for calm waters and gentle waves!

If you’d like to try sun bathing on a nude beach, head to Anse de Grande Saline and stretch out by the waves.

About 200,000 tourists visit the island every year, but the majority come for winter holiday; you can avoid the biggest crowds by visiting the Caribbean in October!

Striking turquoise ocean surrounded by buildings and boats at Gustavia Harbor in St Barts

Jamaica For Food and Falls

Probably one of the most well-known islands in the Caribbean, Jamaica is perfect for outdoor adventures, late night parties, and incredible beach views.

More than 4.3 million travelers visit Jamaica every year, and for good reason.

Montego Bay is one of the best Caribbean cities to travel to in October, not only for its warm weather and sunny skies, but also for its low tourism season, amazing shopping, and historic natural parks.

Make sure you head to the gorgeous Dunn’s River Falls in the town of St. Ann and the Blue Lagoon in Portland, which is thought to be the result of the crater where an extinct volcano once stood.

With tons of beaches, waterfalls, and sprawling bays, you’ll never run out of outdoor adventures in Jamaica.

Dine on patties, ackee with saltfish, escovitch fish, and jerk pork or chicken obviously.

Lifeguard stand at Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe features more than 12 islands, though Grande-Terre is a small Caribbean island that is one of the best places to visit in October.

It’s mainly flat, but it is home to coastal cliffs, scenic hills, mangrove stands, white sand beaches and gorgeous coral reefs.

With average temperatures in the high eighties in October, Guadeloupe is a perfect place to go to escape the cool autumn weather.

Guadaloupe National Park, La Soufriere Volcano, and La Grande-Anse are amazing outdoor adventures to embark on during your trip.

For a perfect soft white sand beach, be sure to check out St. Anne Beach on the south coast of Grande-Terre.

Lush green vegetation and ocean at Iles des Saintes. French Guadeloupe. Caribean island. West Indies.

Our Islands and Beaches Travel Guides

30 Free Things to Do in Minneapolis, MN: Family-Friendly Activities, Attractions & Events

Blue skies over Stone Arch Bridge and Flour Mill Ruins Park

Known as the sister city to Minnesota’s capital of St. Paul, Minneapolis is filled with plenty of free and inexpensive activities for friends and family to enjoy.

Locals and visitors alike are sure to find plenty to keep them occupied- whether it is exploring nature, visiting museums, listening to live music, and more.

If you’re looking for free things to do in Minneapolis, you’re in the right place, because this guide will explore them.

You’ll also be introduced to cheap fun things to do in Minneapolis as well as affordable options for accommodation and transportation.

Minneapolis also features in our guide to the best places to visit in August USA.

Free Outdoor Things to Do in Minneapolis

Minnesota is an outdoor lovers’ paradise, filled with nature, parks, and other outdoor things to explore.

Here are the best free things to do in Minneapolis outdoors.

See the Waterfalls at Minnehaha Park

Minneapolis’ oldest and most iconic park, the Minnehaha Park (4801 S Minnehaha Drive), is where you can find Minnehaha Falls.

This 53-foot waterfall is an iconic natural wonder in the heart of the city.

You’ll reach the falls after just a short walk from the park’s parking lot.

If you’re up for a bit more hiking, take the Minnehaha Creek Trail which leads you along the nearby creek.

You can also spend time just relaxing at the park, as there are picnic tables and many interesting spots to stop by.

Huge towering Minnehaha Falls located in Minneapolis Minnesota

See the Art at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (725 Vineland Place) features 40 large sculptures- all built by artists from ten different countries.

One of the most popular sculptures is Spoonbridge and Cherry, which is highlighted in many Minneapolis pictures.

Another popular art piece includes a giant blue rooster.

It’s the perfect place to get out and appreciate some of Minnesota’s finest art. 

Walk Across the Stone Arch Bridge

Another free thing to do in Minneapolis, MN is to visit one of its iconic landmarks, the Stone Arch Bridge (100 Portland Ave).

The bridge is made of stones and is one of the oldest in the city, built in the late 1800s.

The bridge is only open to pedestrians and bikers, so feel free to walk or bike across and admire the views of the Mississippi River and the Twin Cities skyline.

You can also see the Mill Ruins Park (102 Portland Ave) situated slightly underneath the bridge.

Blue skies over Stone Arch Bridge and Flour Mill Ruins Park

Explore Mill Ruins Park

If you’re looking for a great place to take in some history, Mill Ruins Park (102 Portland Ave S) is definitely worth a visit.

It’s a great place to come to learn about the history of flour milling in Minneapolis and to see the ruins of some of the old mills that used to be here. 

You can walk around the park and see the ruins up close, and there is also a great view of Saint Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River.

Visit the Minneapolis Farmers Market

There’s nothing better than visiting a farmer’s market in the summer to get a glimpse of some fresh produce in the city.

The market is open from May to October and on certain days during the winter.

One prominent location is at 312 East Lyndale Ave North with over a hundred vendors selling everything from farm-fresh produce to homemade products.

If you’re not looking to spend a dime, you can just walk around the market and appreciate the sight of vendors selling their products, learn where it comes from and immerse yourself in the liveliness of the place.

Admire Minnesota’s Beautiful Wildflowers

If you enjoy wildflowers and the outdoors, then the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden is perfect for you.

This 15-acre piece of land found right in Minneapolis is home to over 500 plant species, all on display for visitors to admire.

Perfect for families and beginner hikers, the Theodore Wirth Wildflower Trail is short, easy, and in the summer, showcases the beautiful flowers.

In June and July, you may even find the state flower, a Lady’s Slipper.

Take a walk on the short, 1.2-mile Quaking Bog trail to experience a wetland.

Tour the Street Art and Murals

One of the free attractions in Minneapolis includes murals and street art all over the city.

Two of the most well-known pieces feature some of Minnesota’s most beloved music artists.

A huge, 5 stories tall mural of Bob Dylan showcases him in three eras of his music career (5th Street and Hennepin Avenue).

Prince, who was born and raised in Minnesota, is memorialized in a few murals around Minneapolis (26th Street and Hennepin Avenue/424 N Washington Avenue).

Alongside these two popular murals, you’ll find several others scattered around the city.

Colorful mural on side of building at Downtown Minneapolis

See the Stars at First Avenue

Speaking of Prince, pay a visit to First Avenue, where the music artist began making a name for himself.

This unique music venue sits on a corner in downtown Minneapolis in a rounded building (701 N 1st Ave).

It’s hard to miss because as you drive by, you’ll catch a glimpse of over 500 white stars with music artists’ names on them.

Stop and take a look at the stars and see if you recognize any of the names that have played on the stage at First Avenue.

Visit Bde Maka Ska Park

Known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minneapolis has its fair share of waterways.

So exploring and spending time on the lakes is one of the best things to do for free in Minneapolis.

Bde Maka Ska means ‘White Earth Lake’ in the Dakota language, and is the largest lake in Minneapolis (also known as Lake Calhoun).

Families can enjoy time at the beach on Bde Maka Ska or enjoy some time on the walking trails around the lake.

Cool Down at a Waterpark

During the summer months, Minneapolis’s temperatures can get hot and humid.

Spending a day at North Commons Water Park (1701 Golden Valley Road) is the perfect way to cool down.

With waterslides, a pool, and a kid’s swimming area, you’ll keep everyone busy, for free!

There are picnic tables right outside of the park for you to enjoy a picnic before swimming.

Snap a Photo By The ‘I Like You’ Wall

Grabbing that perfect Instagram shot is always a fun thing to do in different cities, and best of all, it’s usually free!

And one of the fun free things to do in Minneapolis is snap some photos at some of its most iconic and popular spots.

You can find the perfect place to do this in Minneapolis at a small, local gift shop.

I Like You (1955 Johnson St NE) features locally made gifts made by over 200 artists.

Right outside the store, there’s a white wall with ‘I Like You’ painted in bright colors all over it, where you can take great photos while checking out the cute little shop.

Kind of like the ‘I Love You‘ wall in Austin, Texas right!

Free Indoor Things to Do in Minneapolis

When the weather gets too hot or too cold to stay outside, here are some free indoor activities in Minneapolis you can try.

Visit the Mall of America

Home to over 500 stores, an indoor theme park, plenty of restaurants, and more, the Mall of America is the largest in the country.

Just visiting the mall (60 E Broadway) and seeing what it’s all about is quite the experience-no shopping needed!

During the holidays, the mall features Santa or the Easter Bunny which makes it a nice spot for free things to do in Minnesota with kids.

Also, every Tuesday, families can bring their toddlers to Toddler Tuesday and enjoy free activities, crafts, and storytime.

Minneapolis Institute of Art

The Minneapolis Institute of Art (2400 3rd Ave S), known as Mia, is a great place to see a wide variety of art from different cultures and time periods. 

The museum has a collection of  90,000 artworks with some dating back to as early as 5,000 years ago.

The collection includes paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt as well as Egyptian mummies, musical instruments, and more.

Admission is always free and no tickets are required except for special events.

Wander the Walker Art Center

The Walker Art Center is a museum in Minneapolis (725 Vineyard Place) that showcases beautiful art.

Many unique galleries call this museum home, and it is found right next to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

The Walker Art Center is also one of the places that offer free museum days in Minneapolis- every Thursday night from 5:00 to 9:00 pm as well as on the first Saturday of the month.

And if you’re a teenager, you’re always welcome to visit for free.

Weisman Art Museum

The oddly shaped, metal building on the Mississippi River is home to the Weisman Art Museum (333 E River Road).

This is a free museum in Minneapolis housing all sorts of exhibitions from many artists.

Not only are the pieces inside of the museum art, but also the building itself!

Go Next Door to the State Capitol

If you’re looking for free things to do near Minneapolis, you can head to its sister city, St. Paul, and visit the State Capitol.

There’s always something to see at the State Capitol, from its magnificent architecture to the public pieces of art that surround it.

The tours are free and you can read more about them here.

Striking Minnesota State Capitol Building with garden

Cheap Things to Do in Minneapolis

There are some things to do in Minneapolis that are just worth spending a little extra money on!

This list will give you ideas about fun cheap things to do in Minneapolis.

Minnesota State Fair

You couldn’t have a list of things to do in Minneapolis without mentioning the Minnesota State Fair.

If you’re in town for the fair, it’s worth it to purchase the inexpensive tickets to experience what locals call The Great Minnesota Get Together.

Between the rides, animals, booths, and of course the food, it shouldn’t be missed!

The fair takes place every August, on the 12 days preceding Labor Day.

It’s held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds each year (1265 Snelling Ave N).

Minneapolis Scavenger Hunt Adventure

On this smartphone-guided walking tour, you’ll get a chance to do exciting challenges and solve puzzles while having a closer look at Minneapolis’ history, art, and culture.

You’ll also see many interesting places like the Stone Arch Bridge, US Bank Stadium (401 Chicago Ave), and Saint Anthony Falls (1​​00 Portland Ave).

Crayola Experience

Crayola Experience is a great place to take the family for a day of creative fun.

The Crayola Experience staff are on hand to help you make the most of your visit and ensure you have a wonderful time. 

Whether you’re painting a masterpiece or simply enjoying the colorful atmosphere, Crayola Experience is sure to delight the whole family.

Wabasha Street Caves

For one of the most unique tours in Minneapolis, check out the Wabasha Street Caves.

You’ll get to walk underground and explore some of the caves that were once used for mining.

Your guide will tell you all about the history of the caves, including stories of some paranormal activity that may have happened there.

Nickelodeon Universe

Nickelodeon Universe is the nation’s first indoor Nickelodeon theme park, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a full day of fun. 

With an unlimited ride wristband, you can experience all 26 of the unique rides and attractions, which are suitable for all heights and ages.

The indoor theme park is found inside the Mall of America and it features some famous Nickelodeon characters like SpongeBob and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Free Events in Minneapolis

Throughout the year, Minneapolis hosts some fun events that are free for visitors to attend.

Here are some of the best options!

St. Paul Food Truck Festival

Right next door to Minneapolis, the St. Paul Food Truck Festival takes place every August.

With over 45 food trucks selling their unique, creative, and delicious dishes, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

There are also other fun activities happening such as outdoor games and live music as well.

The festival takes place at the Union Depot’s Lot C (390 E Kellogg Blvd).

Enjoy Some Live Music

If you’re looking for free things to do in Minneapolis at night, you can check out some of its live music events.

Starting in May and lasting throughout the summer, several parks around Minneapolis host artists to play live music.

The events are usually held in the evening so and hosted in venues like Bryant Square Park (3101 Bryant Ave S), Lake Harriet Bandshell Park (4135 W Lake Harriet Pkwy), and Minnehaha Bandstand (4801 S Minnehaha Drive).

All sorts of genres of music can be heard during Music in the Parks, and it’s all free to check out!

You can find the full schedule here.

Outdoor Movies in the Summer

During the summer, there’s an outdoor movie screening almost every night in multiple parks around the Minneapolis and St.Paul area.

It’s one of the fun free activities in the twin cities to do with family or friends.

The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board hosts free movies outdoors in parks like Lyndale Farmstead Park (3900 Bryant Ave S) and Jackson Square Park (2212 Jackson St NE).

The movies start fifteen minutes after sunset and vary between new and old ones.

The Black Market

The Black Market (767 North Eustis Street) is a fun event that aims to increase the visibility of black businesses in the community.

It’s one of the free places to go in Minneapolis that provides a vibrant, unique space for the community to gather and enjoy themed events.

It takes place every Saturday of the month and features food trucks, arts, and shops for the whole family to enjoy.

Free Things to Do in Minneapolis in Winter

Consider these free activities in Minneapolis when the cold weather hits!

We also mentioned Minneapolis for a winter wonderland getaway in our guide to places to visit in USA in January.

Get in the Holiday Spirit at Holidazzle

What was once a holiday-themed parade now takes place as a festival in Loring Park (1382 Willow St) in December.

Holidazzle is the place to be around Christmas with shining lights, Santa visits, fireworks, and more to enjoy.

Go Ice Skating

One of the fun free things to do in Minnesota in the winter is to go ice skating.

There are ice rinks all over Minneapolis, many of which have warming shacks and free ice skate rentals.

Bryant Square Park (3125 Bryant Ave S) has a nice ice rink, and so does North Commons Park (1801 James Ave N).

Low section of couple in skates ice skating on rink

Check Out the European Christmas Market

Every weekend in December, you can wander around the fun, free European Christmas Market at the Union Depot (842 Raymond Ave).

There are over 50 kiosks showcasing European crafts and gifts, delicacies as well as family-friendly entertainment.

Attend the St. Paul Winter Carnival

To celebrate Minnesota’s winter, the city of St. Paul hosts a winter carnival, which is free and open to the public.

It’s one of the free things to do in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area, featuring parades, food, scavenger hunts, and ice sculptures.

Go Sledding

Sledding is an exciting free family activity in Minneapolis during the winter season.

Theodore Wirth Regional Park has a great hill to go sledding.

Unlike the snow tubing, the sledding is free here, as long as you bring your own sled or toboggan.

Adult supervision is always advised when sledding with kids.

Father and son having fun in the snow

Affordable Accommodations in Minneapolis

Minneapolis is full of affordable places to stay as a home base for all of your adventures.

You can consider staying at Ramada (6300 Wayzata Boulevard)  for an affordable stay, which includes a complimentary continental breakfast.

Home2 Suites is another good choice, featuring small kitchenettes so you can make meals in your own room.

There’s also Courtyard Marriott, a great hotel that’s conveniently located downtown and close to attractions like the Huntington Bank Stadium (420 23rd Ave SE) and the University of Minnesota.

How to Get Around Minneapolis on a Budget

Depending on where you’re planning to visit, you can get around Minneapolis on foot or via bicycles or scooters.

You’ll find these modes of transportation all over the city!

You can explore  Minneapolis by car if you want to have the freedom to drive around or go to different places.

There are plenty of taxis as well to get you around downtown Minneapolis.

Uber and Lyft are available around the city, which can be affordable for short distances.

But if you’re really tight on a budget, you may consider using the Metro Light Rail system, which makes 43 stops around Minneapolis.

You can see fares and find a map of the stops here.

Text Free things to do in Minneapolis Minnesota Image colorful street art on building

About the Author

Kassidy is a lifelong Minnesota resident and writes a blog, Kassidy’s Journey, all about her beautiful home state.

She enjoys exploring all that Minnesota has to offer, as well as getting to know the rest of the world.

Kassidy Olson, Kassidy’s Journey