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Minneapolis, MN is a Top Pick for Affordable Vacations

Mall of America’s SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in Minneapolis, MN
Mall of America’s SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis is a hands-down cool destination for family fun. The city's many parks and natural amenities, all free, make it a summer playground, and several major attractions are free or discounted.

Explore the City of Lakes and 180-plus area parks, where 81 miles of on-street and 85 miles of off-street trails showcase landscapes and historic neighborhoods. Or soak up some sun at the Chain of Lakes which are connected by the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. The 13.3-mile chain provides lakeside paths for exercise and relaxation, canoeing, and more.

Spend a day (or three) at the Mall of America, where Nickelodeon Universe awaits thrill seekers with seven acres of attractions and entertainment. Promotions for 2012 include a Toddler Tuesday ride special and daily discounts on rides after 5 p.m. Discount tickets also are available online to the Mall’s Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, while massive Lego and American Girl stores are destinations in and of themselves.

Pack a lunch and head to St. Paul’s Como Park Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, which offer free admission (although donations are welcome). From sea lions to polar bears, the zoo houses an amazing display of nature’s best.

Minneapolis is a city that values the abstract, and visitors enjoy free general admission to the prestigious Minneapolis Institute of Arts. There's another great deal at the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Thursday nights from 5 to 9 p.m., when admission is free to the popular contemporary gallery. And don’t miss America's first basilica in downtown Minneapolis, the Basilica of St. Mary, which opened in 1908 and was built in the Beaux Arts style. 

Hotels: 70

Restaurants: 1450-plus

Other Attractions: Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota Children's Museum, Valleyfair Family Amusement Park, Water Park of America, Historic Fort Snelling, Minnesota Twins baseball

Sources: www.minneapolis.org, www.yelp.com

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