Having fun in Greater St. Cloud does not have to cost a lot of money – or anything! There are so many great ways to enjoy the area for free or very little. Here are just a few ideas to get you started, but the options – when you sprinkle in a little creativity and the desire to explore – are endless! PLEASE NOTE: Some activities may be affected by COVID-19 restrictions. Please contact organizers beforehand.
The Beaver Islands are a grouping of islands in the Mississippi River on the south side of St. Cloud near St. Cloud State that were named by the famous explorer Zebulon Pike due to the “immense signs of those animals, for they have dams on every island…” Located along the same stretch of the Mississippi is the Beaver Island Trail, five miles of paved walking, biking, and rollerblading paths. On this trail, scenic views of the Mississippi peak through natural wooded areas as this urban oasis opens up to downtown St. Cloud. Plus, the trail ends with an extension in downtown St. Cloud, that suspends over the river just below the River’s Edge Convention Center, with some of the best river views in the area!
Affectionately known as the Jewel of St. Cloud, this 21 acre flower wonderland located on the banks of the Mississippi River is a must-see in St. Cloud. Munsinger and Clemens gardens boast quaint cobbled walking paths, stunning, ornate water features, upscale landscaping art, and a huge variety of different types of plant life. There is no cost to come wander the paths, so plan a day-date, pack a picnic, or even go to get your own planting inspiration with a trip to Munsinger Clemens Gardens. BONUS: Wander down the river to see the St. Cloud State Dam & Riverside Park – all in one place!
On a hot summer day, there is nothing more refreshing than splashing in fountains, pools, and other water features! Greater St. Cloud has several of these splash pads and wading pools available to enjoy for no fee (with the exception of one). So grab your floaties, your SPF 50 and your swimsuit for an afternoon of cooling down and having a great time, Check out the full list of wading pools and splash pads in St. Cloud here.
This one seems obvious, but you might not realize how much our area parks really do have to offer. Take the Sauk Rapids Municipal Park – did you know that’s home to one of the coolest photo ops in the area, under the Highway 15 Bridge of Hope? And there’s Hester Park, where you will find granite paths, staircases and bridges that are very stroll-worthy. Don’t forget Wilson Park, home to a gorgeous artist-commissioned mosaic wall on the side of the shelter. Plus, the activities you can do at these parks are endless! Check out the disc golf course at Riverside Park for an afternoon of fun. Or enjoy the running paths around Eastman Park at Lake George for the perfect workout! Find more information on area parks below:
Greater St. Cloud is home to many great hiking and biking trails. From paved paths to natural surface trails, there is a hike (or a bike ride) waiting for you! Check out this list of area trails to start planning your fun time outdoors.
Arts & History
You might not realize it when you’re walking around downtown, but you are actually walking in an art museum! That’s right, downtown St. Cloud is home to the Sculpture Walk, which is a year-long outdoor exhibit featuring 6 temporary large-scale sculptures on loan to the St. Cloud community for one year, and 3 permanent sculptures located in St. Cloud’s historic downtown.
Use some of the amazing resources available to take yourself on a self-guided historic downtown walking tour. Explore every block of downtown St. Cloud and learn about this history and heritage of every building along the way. This is a great way to get out and explore downtown, and perhaps do a little shopping and eating while you’re there! See the virtual and printable maps here.
Located at St. John’s University, The Saint John’s Pottery has embodies the Benedictine values of community, hospitality and self-sufficiency as well as the University’s commitment to the integration of art and life; the preservation of the environment; the linkage between work and worship; and the celebration of diverse cultures. Tours are available during open hours, and 3pm tea at the irori table is an awesome experience! Learn more here.
Located downtown in the historic A. G. Whitney Building, The Whit Gallery opened in late April 2021, “with bold intentions to exhibit, promote and support local and regional artists, creatives, and innovators.” This modern art gallery is host to rotating artist exhibits, makers markets, workshops and DIY classes, cultural events, and much more. Check out their hours before you visit, but many of the gallery events are at no cost to you! Come to learn, to explore, and to have fun. Check out the calendar of events at the gallery here.
Kids & Families
The Stearns History Museum is a great way to learn and explore the past in Central Minnesota, plus they have a kids area that is fun for all ages! With interactive displays and toys, it’s a great way to have some educational fun indoors in Greater St. Cloud. Visit often as the exhibits are always changing! Learn more here.
Libraries are always great places to experience, with the vast amount of resources and the community that they foster. The St. Cloud library is especially fun for kids! Check out the kids area, with interactive toys, activities, and of course, tons of books for kids of all ages to enjoy. Learn more here.
For even more kids and family fun, check out this list of great things to do in the area
Free Recurring Events (SUMMER ONLY)
Ever other Sunday starting on June 9th at 3pm, you have another excuse to come out and visit the beautiful Munsinger Clemens Gardens. Music in the Gardens features local musical acts performing for free in the gardens, with root beer floats available for purchase and the promise of really scenic views. Check out the full schedule of Music in the Gardens performance here and mark it on your calendar!
Every Wednesday evening all summer long, the whole family is invited out to Lake George Park for free music and great company. Summertime by George is a weekly outdoor concert that also features dozens of food vendors, popup shops, and even a tavern! This is the perfect way to spend a warm summer evening – listening to live local music with friends or family, eating delicious treats from local food vendors, and admiring the beautiful St. Cloud skyline in the distance over Lake George. It’s a must-do event in the area, so check out the lineup here!
Come out to The Clearing on the banks of the Mississippi River in Sauk Rapids on Thursday evenings for Riverside Nights, a free outdoor concert. Rock out with the opening act and main performers plus grab some great food from local vendors and take in the splendid river views. Check out the 2022 lineup here!
Nothing says spring and summer like a farmer’s market, and the Greater St. Cloud area has plenty of locations, days and times to choose from. While you will need to bring some money to purchase amazing locally sourced goods, there’s just something about browsing a farmers market that puts your mind at ease. Find the full list of Greater St. Cloud farmers market here and start planning a morning to stock up on all of your local goodies!
Probably one of the most recognizable attractions in Greater St. Cloud next to Munsinger and Clemens Gardens is Quarry Park and Nature Presever. For just $5 or $10 per vehicle depending on the season (or $25 for a yearly pass) the variety of activities you can do are endless! Early spring day? Plan a hike that takes you through the flourishing bog and floating walkway. Hot summer day? Bring your swimming gear and dive off of the quarries into the crystal clear waters for a refreshing take on a “lake day.” Into history? A short walk will take you to the historical center at Quarry Park, which features the Liberty Derrick as well as a lot of other old granite mining equipment to view and learn about. Quarry Park is another one of those “must-sees” in the area, so fork over a little cash for an adventure to remember!
When you think “going to the lake,” you probably think about heading North to our friends in the Brainerd Lakes Area and beyond. But really, you can take advantage of a full spectrum of lake day activities right here in St. Cloud’s urban water getaway – Lake George. The Lake George Boathouse offers rentals of kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats, and even ice skating equipment in the winter. It’s a great way to get away for a few hours, just minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Learn more about hours and rentals available here.