Keeping a family entertained for an entire summer in Minnesota is not easy (or cheap). Here are ten cool things you can experience in Minnesota for free.

Take the Gang to Como Zoo & Conservatory

A trip to Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in Saint Paul is sure to engage all the senses. Admission is free to the zoo which features everything from giraffes and gorillas, to lions, monkeys, and polar bears. This year the seals & sea lions were treated to a beautiful new habitat makeover.

The conservatory and gardens are also part off the wonder of this park.

Open 365 days a year, from 10 am to 6pm, admission to the Zoo and Conservatory is free (however there are plenty of other things to spend money on like amusement park rides and food & drinks.

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Photo by Philip Marsh on Unsplash
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Cool Off at Avon Beach on Middle Spunk Lake

Located in the City of Avon and just off the Wobegon Trail, Avon Beach on Middle Spunk Lake is one of the few truly public beaches in the area. Redesigned in 2021, the park features picnic areas and restrooms. Avon Beach is open daily until 10:00 p.m from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

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Visit the New & Improved SPAM Museum

A road trip south to Austin, Minnesota will take you to the one and only SPAM Museum. Opened daily from 9 to 5 (Sundays 11-4) the SPAM Museum features a trip through the history of SPAM, plus a gift shop. Say hi to the SPAMbassadors that volunteer their time at the museum. Admission is free.

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Go Frisbee Disc Golfing

Disc or frisbee golf is the definition of free fun. Most cities have at least one disc golf course in a public park. It's a great way to get outside, enjoy some fresh air with the family, and mix in a little friendly competition. You can buy a disc for as little as five bucks, and while enthusiasts will have several for different situations, I just play with one.

Here's a list of 16 courses in our area.

Photo by Kemble Hildreth on Unsplash

Check Out the National Trout Center

Who would have thought that the National Trout Center would be in Minnesota. When most people thing of great trout fisheries they think of the Rocky Mountain West or the northeast part of the U.S. -- but southeast Minnesota boasts some of the best trout fishing in the country.

Located in downtown Preston, Minnesota, the National Trout Center is open mid-April to the end of September -- and features a gift shop with National Trout Center items, and some fly-fishing supplies, exhibits, maps and information related to trout fishing in the upper midwest. Free admission.

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Stop & Smell the Flowers at Munsinger Clemens Gardens

As locals to the area, it's easy to overlook this treasure literally in our own backyard -- but no matter how many times you've been there, Munsinger Clemens Gardens treats your to something new and amazing every time you visit.

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Saint Cloud, the garden feature flowers and plants or every shape, size, and color. There's a gift shop too -- plus live music on select Sunday afternoons in the summer. The Gardens are open every day from Spring to Fall from 7:00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. Free admission.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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Learn About the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers

Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota near the city of Pipestone features a trip back in time to when Native Americans quarried pipestone for the making of ceremonial pipes.

The destination offers a visitor center, museum, orientation film, exhibits, gift shop, pipestone carving demonstrations by American Indians, a ¾ mile walking trail along Pipestone Creek, Winnewissa Falls, and the tall grass prairie. Free admission.

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Explore the Minneapolis Institute of Art

The Minneapolis Institute of Art is regularly ranked among the ten best art museums in the U.S. -- featuring more than 90,000 works of art. The museum is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10:00 am through 5:00 pm. And yes, admission is free.

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Go for a Hike, then Take a Dip at Schroeder Park

Schroeder Regional Park in Wright County park features a  swimming beach on 837-acre Cedar Lake, a playground, hiking trail, picnic grounds with a reservable shelter and sand volleyball courts, a boat launch with dock, a fishing pier, fish cleaning facilities, a sanitary dump station, and modern restrooms with showers.

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Get Artsy at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Since opening in 1988, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has seen millions of visitors, showcasing works from the Walker Art Center’s renowned collections of modern and contemporary art in the setting of an urban park. The Garden is a partnership between the Walker and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is home to more than 40 outdoor sculptures. There Garden is open every day from 6:00 am to Midnight, and admission is free.

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The 25 Best Places to Live in Minnesota

Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in Minnesota using data from Niche. Niche ranks places to live based on a variety of factors including cost of living, schools, health care, recreation, and weather. Cities, suburbs, and towns were included. Listings and images are from realtor.com.

On the list, there's a robust mix of offerings from great schools and nightlife to high walkability and public parks. Some areas have enjoyed rapid growth thanks to new businesses moving to the area, while others offer glimpses into area history with well-preserved architecture and museums. Keep reading to see if your hometown made the list.

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