20 Free Things to Do in St. Paul, MN

St. Paul, MN

Buckle up and get ready to explore the best free things to do in St. Paul, Minnesota.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Lisa Roberson, John Jensen, Carl Martin, Dorothy Benavides, Wilfred Rocha, Anthony Haynes and Jose Reeves.

Marvel at the Splendor of the Cathedral of Saint Paul

Exterior of the Cathedral of Saint Paul
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Every time I step into the Cathedral of Saint Paul, a wave of serenity washes over me.

The hushed whispers of history and piety echo around the grandeur of the beaux-arts architecture.

Over a century old, the cathedral stands tall and proud in the heart of our city, a testament to the enduring spirit of faith and beauty.

The moment you enter, your gaze is inevitably drawn upwards to the stunning copper dome that crowns the edifice, a beacon of magnificence that leaves you breathless.

The frescoes adorning the interiors, each a story in itself, are a feast for the eyes.

The intricate rose windows cast a spectral dance of sunlight and shadow that played over the pews, adding to the mystical aura of the place.

As you explore further, the attention to detail in the paintings and sculptures never fails to impress.

Each artwork, each carving, is a testament to the craftsmanship and devotion of those who contributed to the creation of this architectural masterpiece.

You can spend an entire day here and still not be able to soak in all its glory.

Interior of the Cathedral of Saint Paul
Joseph Creamer / Shutterstock.com

But let me assure you, every moment spent at the Cathedral of Saint Paul is a moment of awe, reverence, and peace.

Whenever I have some time to spare, I love to wander in for a moment of quiet reflection.

The church offers solace in silence, a place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Parking is conveniently available on the street next to the cathedral, making it all the more accessible.

Entry to the cathedral is free, with donations being optional.

I encourage everyone who visits to contribute what they can to help preserve this remarkable piece of our city's history.

For those who have the chance to attend Mass here, the experience is as spiritually uplifting as it is visually breathtaking.

I've spent countless hours here, captivated by its beauty and entranced by the tranquil atmosphere.

Grand interior of the Cathedral of Saint Paul
Joseph Creamer / Shutterstock.com

Reflect at the Minnesota Vietnam Memorial

Daytime view of Minnesota Vietnam Memorial
Myotus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whenever I need a moment of reflection, I find myself drawn to the expansive and beautifully designed Minnesota Vietnam Memorial.

There's something about the combination of artistry and history that creates a truly moving experience.

You may want to plan your visit after 4 pm, which is when free parking becomes available in some of the lots.

This place, one of the most striking memorials I have experienced, invites you to spend an hour, or even two, discovering the different statues and memorials.

In particular, the Minnesota Vietnam Memorial stands out with its thoughtful design.

I often find myself standing in front of it, lost in its grandeur and the memories it invokes.

The physical beauty of the memorial, combined with its emotional depth, offers a unique space for contemplation.

Grab Fresh Produce from St Paul Farmers Market

Every weekend, I find myself returning to the vibrant atmosphere of the St Paul Farmers Market.

The moment I walk in, I'm greeted with a beautiful array of fresh produce that seems to burst with color and life.

I can't help but be drawn to the stalls filled with a variety of vegetables and fruits, where I often stock up on my favorites like leeks, banana peppers, carrots, zucchini, and green beans.

But St Paul Farmers Market is not just a place for fresh produce.

It's a food lover's paradise with a great mixture of produce and prepared food.

I often grab a snack or a drink from the various vendors, offering everything from delicious pastries to refreshing beverages, before diving back into my shopping.

And for those who might be worried about the weather, fear not.

The market has permanent, well-built structures for roof shelter, ensuring we can enjoy our shopping come rain or shine.

The market is open on Saturday and Sunday mornings until 1 pm, and it has become my ritual to spend my weekends there.

So, whenever I'm in the city, you can find me wandering between the numerous stalls, picking out the freshest produce, and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of the market.

And rest assured, the market also offers bathroom facilities, so you can spend your entire morning here without any worries.

Have a Retail Therapy at the Landmark Center

Exterior of Landmark Center
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Every time I stride into the Landmark Center, I seem to fall more in love with the rich history and magnificent architecture that the building holds.

Walking in, it's impossible not to get lost in the splendor of the large solarium that spans all the floors.

Trust me when I say that reaching the top floor and looking over the edge will give you a rush of adrenaline - the heights are dizzying!

The winter season here is simply magical.

The beautiful courtrooms on the top floors are adorned with Christmas decorations, creating a picturesque ambiance that feels like it's straight out of a holiday postcard.

And let's not forget the friendly staff - the man at the front desk never fails to share interesting historical snippets about the building, making the experience more enlightening for visitors.

When you've had your fill of history, make sure to explore the unique stores that are tucked away in this building.

From a wood shop to an experimental music store, there's something intriguing to find in every corner.

Facade of Landmark Center
oleprophoto / Shutterstock.com

I've witnessed many events in this cherished building - from musical concerts to weddings, the Landmark Center transforms into a stunning event venue.

The last time I was there, there was a wedding setup in progress, adding to the charm of the place.

The Landmark Center is more than just a building - it's a testament to our city's history and culture that was almost lost to demolition in the 60s.

I often find myself appreciating the in-depth signage throughout the building that gives insight into the historical significance of various rooms and hallways.

There's a feeling of stepping back in time that's hard to put into words.

Living in the city, it's easy to take something as beautiful as the Landmark Center for granted.

But every visit reminds me of how lucky we are to have this historical gem right in our backyard.

So if you are in the city, don't miss out on the chance to soak in the culture, history, and beauty of the Landmark Center. It's a visit you won't regret.

Water fountain in front of Landmark Center
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Catch a Performance at Como Lakeside Pavilion

The waters of Como Lakeside Pavilion
McGhiever, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When I think of my most cherished weekend retreats, the Como Lakeside Pavilion always springs to mind.

The moment I walk in, I'm greeted with a beautiful array of fresh produce that seems to burst with color and life.

I can't help but be drawn to the stalls filled with a variety of vegetables and fruits, where I often stock up on my favorites like leeks, banana peppers, carrots, zucchini, and green beans.

But St Paul Farmers Market is not just a place for fresh produce.

It's a food lover's paradise with a great mixture of produce and prepared food.

I often grab a snack or a drink from the various vendors, offering everything from delicious pastries to refreshing beverages, before diving back into my shopping.

And for those who might be worried about the weather, fear not.

The market has permanent, well-built structures for roof shelter, ensuring we can enjoy our shopping come rain or shine.

The market is open on Saturday and Sunday mornings until 1 pm, and it has become my ritual to spend my weekends there.

Grab a Bite at Keg and Case Market

One ordinary Saturday, I found myself yearning for some adventure in my own city. I recalled a friend raving about a place called Keg and Case Market and decided to make a day of it.

It was easy to find, thanks to the historic Schmidt sign, a notable landmark that stands tall in our neighborhood.

As soon as I parked my car, the animated chatter of fellow visitors the scent of fresh produce and home-cooked meals wafted through the air, instantly warming my spirits.

I was surprised by the vastness of the Keg and Case Market, previously an 1855 brewery, now a bustling food marketplace.

I strolled leisurely, each step leading me to a new local vendor or craft beer brewer, the array of offerings reminding me of the diverse and vibrant community we live in.

One of the most memorable encounters was at a cheese shop.

The shop was a cornucopia of local cheeses, the owners eager to share the stories behind each delicacy.

Their passion for their craft was infectious, turning a casual visit into an enriching experience.

On this particular day, I also stumbled upon a classic car event.

The gleaming vintage motor cars were a hit, especially to a young boy who was overjoyed to see them up close.

The event had an added purpose - to collect non-perishable food donations for the Food Shelf.

It was heartening to see local residents actively contributing, making the event meaningful on a whole new level.

I also discovered a gem in 5 Watt Coffee.

The taste of their specialty coffee still lingers, it is undoubtedly the best one I have ever had.

The nostalgic atmosphere and the historical elements of the place further enhanced the overall experience.

Hike through Crosby Farm Regional Park

Trail lined with trees at Crosby Farm Regional Park
Joe Ferrer / Shutterstock.com

It's hard to believe that amidst the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities, there's a 736-acre haven where nature reigns supreme.

I've always been a nature enthusiast, and my favorite escape from the city's concrete jungle is Crosby Farm Regional Park, located right on the Mississippi River.

It is my sanctuary, my happy place.

Every visit feels like an adventure, exploring miles of trails that wind through forests and along the river bank.

Surprisingly clean and well-maintained, the park has vast access to the Mississippi River, providing idyllic spots for picnics or quiet moments of reflection.

One of my favorite pastimes is discovering the park's best-kept secret - the elusive slot canyon.

A word of caution, though, locating the canyon is a thrilling yet careful task.

But once you find it, the breathtaking view makes the hunt absolutely worthwhile.

During the winter, Crosby Farm Regional Park transforms into a winter wonderland, perfect for hikes and walks.

One particularly sunny day, I took a mile-long hike from the parking lot to the slot canyon.

The journey had its challenges, a couple of icy lifts that required some scrambling, but every step was worth it.

I even got to watch some ice climbers navigating the canyon walls - an intriguing sight indeed!

The park becomes a hotspot for outdoor activities during these chillier days.

From cross-country skiers speeding through the trails to people ice fishing on the ponds, it's like a mini winter sports festival right in our backyard.

Discover Wildlife at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Exterior of the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
KARI K / Shutterstock.com

You know, the magic of living in this city is that you can wake up on any ordinary morning and, by midday, be watching a sea lion have its lunch or admire a vibrant array of orchids in bloom.

It's all thanks to the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.

It's an absolute treasure tucked away in our own backyard, offering a fascinating glimpse into the world of wildlife and the mesmerizing allure of nature.

I remember one balmy Tuesday late last summer, I decided to squeeze in a quick visit just after the zoo had opened.

The place was starting to buzz with visitors, but the atmosphere was far from chaotic.

I was just in time for the animals' breakfast, and oh, what a lively spectacle that was!

They were all out and about, feasting and frolicking, making it a true delight for everyone in attendance.

One of the things I've always appreciated about Como is that it's incredibly easy to navigate.

There are multiple pathways leading to different sections, each offering a unique experience.

A giraffe at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
Adam Tremel / Shutterstock.com

I recall spending roughly two hours that day meandering through the verdant gardens, watching the animals, and even discovering a few playful sculptures scattered around.

And did I mention it's one of the cleanest zoos I've ever been to?

That's a testament to the dedicated staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to maintain the standard of cleanliness.

hey also ensure that the zoo remains free and open to the public, although donations are always welcome.

What's more, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory also offers an impressive array of kid-friendly attractions, making it an ideal destination for family outings.

I've lost count of the number of times I've recommended it to friends and family members who are looking for an enjoyable and educational day out.

A pond at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
KARI K / Shutterstock.com

Go Fishing at Hidden Falls Regional Park

Cascades at Hidden Falls Regional Park
Gabriel Vanslette, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, the joys of having Hidden Falls Regional Park just around the corner! It's like having a little sanctuary in the city.

Whenever I feel the need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, I find myself drawn to this haven.

The park has just about everything you need for a relaxing day out.

I often start my day at the park with a hike along the river trail.

This isn't your typical walk in the park, it's more of an adventure really.

The trail leads to an old, abandoned building where nature has slowly but surely reclaimed its place.

The trail continues to loop around, taking you back to the restroom area.

And yes, you might have to do a little climbing over fallen trees, but that's just part of the fun!

If you're an angler like me, you'll be happy to know that the Mississippi River, which flows through Hidden Falls Regional Park, is teeming with a variety of fish.

I've spent countless afternoons sitting by the river, rod in hand, basking in the peace and tranquility of the park.

And let me tell you, there's no greater thrill than feeling the pull on your line.

Don't miss out on the Hidden Falls waterfall, it's a sight to behold.

The waterfall has its own short trail just north of the restroom.

The view of the falls, cascading down into a serene pool below, is truly something special.

And when the day is drawing to a close, I find the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

The park offers a breathtaking view of the setting sun against the beautiful backdrop of the city.

Sometimes, I even bring along some snacks and start a little bonfire, enjoying the last rays of the day with friends.

Remember, though, the park closes at 10:00 pm.

Immerse Yourself in History at Indian Mounds Regional Park

Burial mound at Indian Mounds Regional Park
McGhiever, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine walking along trails that have been trodden upon for thousands of years, feeling a sense of history and serenity like no other.

That's my everyday experience at Indian Mounds Regional Park in St. Paul.

It's not just a park for me but a sacred sanctuary that has drawn me in with its ancient charm and mesmerizing views of the city.

Walking my dogs here is a ritual I cherish. I take pride in preserving the park's pristine beauty by doing my bit and picking up trash that I happen to come across.

The joy of strolling amidst 30 identified trees, each with its own character and history, is hard to put into words. The park offers more than just trails.

It boasts open fields where kids and dogs can freely run, park benches where you can sit and watch the world go by, and even a playground that is a hit among the children.

One of the park's gems is its scenic overlook, which provides an uninterrupted view of Minneapolis.

The sight of the sun setting behind the city skyline in the fall is simply breathtaking.

On a clear day, you can even spot the fireworks bursting in all their glory on the Fourth of July.

Indian burial mound at Indian Mounds Regional Park
m_e_mccarron, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But what truly sets Indian Mounds Regional Park apart from others is its ancient Indian burial ground.

Whether you're a history enthusiast or not, you can't help but feel a sense of awe at this poignant testament to the park's past.

It has a certain solemn, mystical aura that leaves a lasting impression.

Play a Round at Phalen Regional Park

Ah, Phalen Regional Park - my sanctuary in the heart of the city.

This park is the epitome of the perfect blend of nature and the city hustle.

Be it the delight of walking on the paved trails, the thrill of a game of tennis, or the serenity of a day spent by the swimming beach, Phalen Park has something for everyone.

I must tell you about the golf course.

It's an 18-hole masterpiece, beautifully maintained, and a place where I've spent countless hours perfecting my swing.

The park also has sports courts, which are usually buzzing with activity.

If you're not a fan of golf, you can always join in a friendly game of basketball or tennis.

One of my favorite parts of Phalen Regional Park is the lake.

It is one of the largest in St. Paul, with clear water extending a few feet in.

It's the perfect spot for rowing or canoeing on a sunny day or even for a refreshing swim.

If you prefer dry land, you can rent a bike and explore the park's many trails.

The park is also quite family-friendly.

There are playgrounds for kids, picnic areas for families to enjoy a meal together, and a beach that is a hit during the summer months.

You can grill up some food or just relax and soak up the sun.

Cycle through Harriet Island Regional Park

The grounds of Harriet Island Regional Park
MaK999 / Shutterstock.com

I'm always on the lookout for urban escapes, little oases of tranquility amidst the bustle - and Harriet Island Regional Park never fails to deliver.

I often find myself straddling my bike and pedaling off to this open space along the river, and it's mesmerizing every single time.

The pavilions, paddle boats, and that glorious stage have been host to countless memories.

But it's the bed-and-breakfast that truly steals the show.

There's something innately romantic about the docks with the line of river boats and the quaint bed-and-breakfast.

I've spent countless sunsets at Harriet Island Regional Park, watching the river flow by, the skyline of Downtown Saint Paul painting a beautiful backdrop.

On days when I'm feeling adventurous, I hop on to one of the paddle boats.

The marina is always alive with activity, and the large event center often hums with live music and laughter.

And if you're lucky, you might even stumble upon an Irish fair at the park!

The breathtaking views of the city and the cathedral are an added bonus.

Don't forget to take a detour to Raspberry Island when you're here, it's a small but significant part of the park's charm.

Much later, I learned that Harriet Island was an actual island until the 1950s when the east channel got filled in.

It's funny how even the places you think you know can hold surprises.

Explore Lilydale Regional Park with Your Fido

The waters of Lilydale Regional Park
Joe Ferrer / Shutterstock.com

In the heart of the Twin Cities, hidden amidst the hustle and bustle, lies a tranquil haven - Lilydale Regional Park.

This place is my favorite spot to escape the routine.

The lush greenery, the serene Mississippi River, and the small lake within the park are just a few of the things that make it special.

Walking along the river is always an experience that lifts my spirits.

The melodious chirping of the birds resonates through the forested floodplain, creating a symphony of nature at its finest.

It's also a spot where I frequently indulge in birding since the park is a favored roosting place for a variety of winged beauties.

Just off the park, under the bridge, you'll find a small island.

But what's a park without a dog-friendly area?

Lilydale also boasts a midsized dog park, a perfect combination of wooded and field areas where my furry friend loves to play.

There's also ample parking and a boat ramp nearby, which is handy for a quick rinse after a fun-filled day.

On special days, you might even spot eagles soaring above.

It's a sight that never fails to remind me of the beauty of nature that thrives within our cities.

Stroll through Upper Landing Park

Trail at Upper Landing Park
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

I confide that it's a privilege to have the Upper Landing Park as my sanctuary.

The park's beauty never fails to rejuvenate my spirit, especially after a long day.

Just the thought of its resplendent atmosphere is enough to make my heart flutter with joy.

You see, there’s something about the way the setting sun casts a golden glow across the park, transforming it into a scene right out of a storybook that makes you appreciate the simple pleasures of life.

The tranquil Mississippi River, the star of the park, comes alive at dusk, reflecting the vibrant hues of the setting sun.

The park’s well-maintained lawns offer the perfect spot for picnics, afternoon naps, or simply lounging under the clear blue sky.

I often find myself strolling along the paved paths, which are decorated by the park's charming fountain.

The sight of the water gushing out of the fountain, illuminated by the ethereal glow of the park's lights, is a sight to behold.

I can't help but feel grateful to the St. Paul Parks and Recreation team, who've done an incredible job at maintaining the park's peace and serene atmosphere, making it a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

The park's picturesque water views and natural beauty aren't the only things that draw me in, though.

I've discovered that spending time in Upper Landing Park is my little way of reconnecting with nature, freeing my mind from everyday worries, and giving myself a much-needed break.

Grab a Good Read at Sun Ray Library

I have to mention the time when tax season was creeping up on me, and I was at the Sun Ray Library trying to print a copy of my tax return.

As luck would have it, the printer and I were not on the best of terms.

In no time, a man from the Help Desk came over.

He was manning the copy machine on that Tuesday.

I still remember the patience with which he dealt with my cluelessness about the computer.

He even showed me a few shortcuts, making the entire process a breeze.

The combination of his cheerfulness and helpfulness was a breath of fresh air.

The Sun Ray Library has a pretty neat automatic book return system that I find very convenient.

There's also a collection of read-along books and after-school support for teens, which is commendable.

Marvel at the Grandeur of Cathedral Hill Park

Exterior of Cathedral Hill Park
w_lemay, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Oh, how I always find myself drawn to Cathedral Hill Park, in the heart of St. Paul.

Whenever I have some time to spare, I find myself lazily trekking up the grassy hillside, always rewarded by the panoramic view of the awe-inspiring Cathedral of Saint Paul.

Staring at its grandeur from the open park is a sight that never gets old.

The intricate architecture of the cathedral never fails to mesmerize me as I sit on one of the park benches, basking in the quiet serenity the place offers.

There's something about the cathedral's detailed façade that speaks volumes of the city's rich history and craftsmanship.

And if you're lucky like me, you'll get to hear the organ music wafting down from the cathedral's open doors, a magical experience that makes my casual strolls in the park more extraordinary.

And let me tell you about the annual Red Bull Crashed Ice event that takes place here every year.

The park gets transformed into an electrifying venue filled with festivity and excitement.

It's such a spectacle, and it's something you should definitely check out if you happen to be around.

But, the park isn't just about Cathedral Hill Park or the events.

It's about the community, the people, the laughter of children playing, and the elders enjoying their peaceful walks.

Catch an Event at Mears Park

Daytime view of Mears Park
Iris van den Broek / Shutterstock.com

I'm just a stone's throw away from Mears Park, living in the heart of lower town Saint Paul.

Every day, I wake up to the sight of birch trees and the sound of a man-made stream that runs through the park.

As you roam through Mears Park during the day, it's an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle.

The ambiance of tranquility is enriched with the pavilion for live events, often buzzing with music and laughter.

Trail at Mears Park
Shaded0, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best events that I just can't miss out on is the Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

The park truly comes alive during the festival, with residents and visitors from all over filling the air with a unique, vibrant energy.

Street clock at Mears Park
Tony Webster, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get Inspired at Minnesota Museum of American Art

Exterior of the Minnesota Museum of American Art
Appraiser, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every time I walk into the Minnesota Museum of American Art, I can't help but feel a rush of excitement.

The simplicity of the space is deceiving; it may be small, but it's brimming with an eclectic and beautiful collection of historical art pieces.

The 19th-century American paintings and sculptures never fail to captivate me, and I'm always amazed by how the museum displays these pieces in such a streamlined space.

Even the building itself is a work of art.

The museum, also known as "The M," is situated in the historic Pioneer-Endicott building, an architectural gem.

The charm of this old structure adds a unique touch to the museum experience.

I can't wait to explore the museum further once the expansion is complete!

One thing I love about the Minnesota Museum of American Art is their dedication to nurturing creativity.

The large creative space invites artists and visitors to create art together.

It's always buzzing with energy and innovative ideas.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to witness Brad Kahlhamer's exceptional show.

It was a stellar installation that left me utterly impressed.

Kudos to The M for bringing such a fantastic exhibit to our city!

Final Thoughts

After years of exploring St. Paul, I can confidently say that the city's charm is not in its high-end attractions but in its free, community-centered spaces.

Each visit to these places brings a new perspective, a new story, and a new appreciation for St. Paul.

If you want to truly experience the city, step away from the beaten tourist path and explore these hidden gems.

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