There’s much to see in Minnesota for only the time it takes to see it. The beauty of the state’s architecture, the history and the industry and culture are all on display. Often, you have to dig deep into the pocketbook to enjoy it. But not always. You can be led through many of the state’s most interesting aspects for the low, low price of nothing. These landmarks are must-sees for tourists and residents alike, so take an afternoon and go on a tour. Why not? It won’t cost you a thing.
The State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
The Cass Gilbert-designed architectural treasure that houses our state government is a must-see both inside and out. Tours are led every hour and will take you through the magnificence of the capitol building. The tour is free (who says the government is always trying to take our money?), but donations are accepted. On this tour you’ll see the second-largest unsupported dome in the world, painted ceilings and stallions carved from gold. You can even see the House and Senate, and maybe even catch an important new policy being discussed. It all goes down at the Capitol. Tours run typically every hour on weekdays, so there are plenty of opportunities to take a look.
The Cathedral of St. Paul
239 Selby Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Possibly the most striking, and recognizable, building in St. Paul, the Cathed=ral sits magnificently atop a hill overlooking downtown. Built in 1915, the city’s second domed wonder (the first being the aforementioned Capitol building) is, in a word, breathtaking. Ornate carvings become clearer as you step closer and the giant arched doorway with saints look down upon you as you step inside. But nothing can prepare you for the vast majesty of the interior. You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the beauty of this iconic Minnesota cathedral. Free tours start at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
214 E. 4th St.
St. Paul, MN 55101
The historic train station, where the president just gave his speech on infrastructure, offers tours on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays. The 90-year-old depot holds a lot of secrets, but it’s cool just to see how the building incorporated new technologies and design, while simultaneously enhancing the historic charm. The multi-modal transit hub is another of St. Paul’s gems from the past, and you can see it for no extra cost (although it’s worth stopping for lunch at Christo’s restaurant).
Related: Best Sightseeing Tours In Minnesota
R & S Hillside Alpacas
61606 185th Ave.
Dodge Center, MN 55927
Rochester isn’t known just for the Mayo Clinic. It’s also know for its… alpacas? Sure enough, the farm offers free tours of its grounds and animals, and those unique creatures are sure to put on a show. While the gas to get out to Rochester might not be free, you won’t have to spend a dime to see this unique attraction. Great for families and kids, a free tour on the Hillside means there just might be money left over for ice cream after.
910 Montreal Circle
St. Paul, MN 55102
The second largest brewery in the state, and the godfather of the local craft brewing scene, is located right here in St. Paul. The enormous facilities, including the under-construction canning department, are a sight to be seen. Even if you’re not interested in the process of making beer, the giant copper vats imported from Germany are sure to impress. Enjoy a cold one in the tap room after the tour (and free samples along the way).
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Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.