Finding free fun

No-cost entertainment abounds at the University and in the Twin Cities.

Julian Switala

The top four expenses for college students typically consist of tuition, housing, food and alcohol, though not necessarily in that order.

However, constantly budgeting money isnâÄôt the only concern for college students. They must also budget their time among the top four time-consuming college activities: studying, working, partying, and Facebooking; also not necessarily in that order.

In addition to sleeping in, this state of affairs leaves an insufficient amount of both money and time for truly enjoyable leisure and entertainment.

While there are definitely worthwhile events on campus each week, students should expand their horizons and look into what the Twin Cities has to offer.

If youâÄôre looking for a relaxing respite from hours of studying or a calm, serene location, then the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minn. may be perfect.

During midterms last semester, in the middle of studying for tests and writing papers for various classes, I chose to take a break from schoolwork.

Although the deadline-driven week may appear to have been the worst possible time to take a break, freeing myself from a glaring computer screen and a pile of unforgiving books was just what the doctor ordered.

Sitting on a bench appreciating the autumnal colors of the trees and walking through a rafter of turkeys amidst a field of crab apple trees was the best study break imaginable.

Typically breaks from studying include watching a television show or incessantly checking Facebook, yet these procrastinating activities are anything but an acceptable break. These pastimes foster a nagging feeling that you should be doing work, which only adds to stress and thus only further impedes productivity.

However, my brief afternoon visit to the arboretum left me invigorated and refreshed. When I returned to campus I was far more productive than before, and I was willing to work on my assignments to completion.

The kinesthetic aspect of the trip âÄî walking around and exploring a newfound outdoors environment âÄî coupled with not being continually reminded of my work, disrupted my mentally exhausting routine.

The arboretum features over 1,100 acres of beautiful gardens, natural landscapes and educational displays.

The only downside: The arboretum is in Chaska, which means that having access to a car is a must. Not to worry, there are plenty of other free opportunities in the Twin Cities.

If you donâÄôt know about the Winter Carnival in St. Paul, chances are youâÄôve been living under a block of ice or you moved here from out of state.

Either way, the Carnival is celebrating its 125th anniversary and will be running until Feb. 6. This provides ample time to check out the free ice sculptures, ice castle, winter parades, ice skating, various family events and sporting events.

However, if youâÄôd rather stay indoors during winter, then there are numerous museums with free days within a reasonable distance from campus.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is always free and offers much more than galleries and exhibits. Free events such as musical performances, art gatherings and scholarly lectures are common occurrences. For instance, every Sunday morning at the MuseumâÄôs coffee shop, ArtsBreak, local musicians perform a set of music.

Other free museums include the Museum of Russian Art, the Minnesota Air National Guard Museum, the Wiseman Art Museum, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Minnesota State Capitol, which provides free tours daily.

There are also several museums with designated free days such as the Walker Art Center.

The Midtown Global Market is the place to check out if youâÄôre into free musical performances from international artists. The market also offers free weekly group classes on a variety of activities from chess to dance.

If youâÄôre looking for free laughs, then IâÄôd suggest Acme Comedy Club located in the historic warehouse district of Minneapolis. Every Monday the club features an open mic night free of charge. During your birthday month youâÄôll receive six free tickets to any show on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Additionally, if you “Like” the Facebook page of local restaurants and neighborhoods such as Punch Pizza or Northeast Minneapolis Free Stuff, youâÄôll be regularly inundated with offers you wouldnâÄôt hear of otherwise until itâÄôs too late.

If none of these options appeal to you, then maybe being able to drink free beer and wine is what you want. Brewery tours abound in the Twin Cities and typically include free tastings. Check out the Summit brewery, the Flat Earth Brewing Company and the Surly brewery.

Finally, a brief visit to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board website during the summer will yield an overflowing calendar full of hundreds of free outdoor concerts and movies in the park events.

This short list of free activities doesnâÄôt even scratch the surface of what Minneapolis has to offer.

My experiences leaving the comfort zone of campus have me looking forward to this upcoming semester in the Cities and beyond.


Julian Switala welcomes comments at [email protected].