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Freeloader Friday: 87 Free Things To Do This Weekend

It's kinda gross out, so let's just pretend it feels like winter. Also, as pointed out by several wonderful readers, check to see if any given event has been canceled before attending—the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships got nixed at the last minute due to poor ice on Lake Nokomis.

Saint Paul Winter Carnival|

The Vulcan Reveal, a very chill event at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

Freeloader Friday is your weekly guide to having fun no matter what your budget looks like. Each week we have a list of 100% free events like gallery parties, music, and films in the park, as well as free admission events like special happy hours, markets, and more. For our picks of the week's best events, price be damned, click here.

[Edited to add: Folks, we're seeing record temps this year. While all of these events were still on when I made this list yesterday afternoon, last-minute cancellations, like the Pond Hockey Tournament, could still happen. Check Facebook and other event pages before setting out to do anything involving snow or ice.]

Saint Paul Winter Carnival


Saint Paul Winter Carnival

While our hearts may lie with the Minnesota State Fair, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival might be the fest that we’re best known for outside the state. And that’s for good reason: Minnesotans have been freaking out the rest of the nation with our enthusiasm for subzero temps for 138 years. This year’s installment is as epic as ever, with ice and snow sculpting competitions, an ice fishing tourney, hockey games, winter runs, huge parades, and music in a heated tent in Rice Park. For a complete schedule of events, see Through February 3—Jessica Armbruster

Free Winter Carnival events happening/starting this Friday:

Snow Park at the Fair

Watch sculptors at work this weekend, and/or visit later to see complete work. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Feb. 5. Minnesota State Fairgrounds, 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul.

Monique Blakey

Singer-songwriter tunes. 5-7 p.m. Hamernick's Entertainment Chalet at Rice Park, 109 W. Fourth St., St. Paul.

The 70’s Magic Sunshine Band

7-10 p.m. Hamernick's Entertainment Chalet at Rice Park, 109 W. Fourth St., St. Paul.

Ice Carving Contest 

Watch folks make art out of ice. Carvings run through the weekend and will stay up throughout the fest–weather permitting. Rice Park, 109 W. Fourth St., St. Paul.

The Great Northern Ice Bar

Free events this Friday at the Great Northern Festival:

The Great Northern Ice Bar

Guest variety of bartenders, distilleries, breweries, and other drink makers will be stopping by this 100-foot ice bar spanning an entire block. 4-7 p.m. Fridays, plus Jan. 31-February 1; 2-6 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays through February 4. Nicollet Mall, between Washington Avenue and 3rd St. S. (behind Mara), Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Institute of Ice

While Winter Carnival ice artists are firing up the chainsaws for an epic ice show, Mia is also hosting its own collection on ice, and it sounds pretty cool. For the project, carvers will create 10 pieces inspired by works in the museum’s permanent collection. On display, pretty much until they melt, iconic sculptures recreated using frozen water will include Raffaelo Monti’s Veiled Lady, a Tatra T-87 sedan, and a Celestial Horse from China. So check them out in the garden and then head inside to see the original inspiration. An especially good time to visit is during the ice-themed Meet at Mia this Thursday, January 25, from from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. with hands-on printmaking activity hosted by Highpoint Center for Printmaking, tunes from DJ TaliaKnight, and food and drinks for purchase. Otherwise, see them outside during museum hours. Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis. Through February 4—Jessica Armbruster

U.S. Pond hockey Championships

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (Canceled due to poor ice)

We got a late start on winter this year, but the latest updates from the Pond Hockey crew confirm that we went subzero just in time to keep things on schedule. So once again, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships take place in the dead of winter on a frozen lake, with teams battling it out for the right to put their name on the Golden Shovel. This ain’t no rinky-dink tourney: Folks from all over the U.S. and Canada flock here for 10 days of team games in a variety of divisions. There’s a division for folks over 50, one for players who are newish to ice hockey, and one for seasoned athletes dealing with injuries. Folks are welcome to watch games, with areas for open skating, a warming tent, and a beer garden keeping the party going between matches. For complete game schedules and more info, visit Lake Nokomis, 5001 Lake Nokomis Pkwy. W., Minneapolis. January 18-28—Jessica Armbruster

The Collaboratory Fourth Fridays

Carnage the Executioner and DJ Piecemeal present this evening of live music and art making. With visual artists Third Eye Girl and Hillary Combs; performers Nacho Suave, Cujo, and Keys Larkin. 8-11 p.m. White Squirrel Bar, 974 W. Seventh St., St. Paul.

Open Skate Night

BYO skates every Friday through winter. Sign a safety waiver beforehand and show it to the bartender for free admission/wristband. 7-10 p.m. Sociable Cider Werks, 1500 Fillmore St. NE, Minneapolis.

"Wilderness Without End"

“Wilderness Without End”

Featuring work by Carolyn Swiszcz and Ian Van D. The opening reception this Friday from 6-8 p.m. features tunes from Raycurt of Raycurt Cabaret Showcase. NE Sculpture/Gallery Factory, 1720 Madison St. NE, Minneapolis.

Kinda Fonda Wanda

Rockabilly, swing, and country tunes from the ‘50s and ‘60s. With J-Mo on the Beat. 6-9 p.m. 11 Wells, 704 Minnehaha Ave. E., St. Paul.

Vinyl Friday in the B-Side Lounge: BYOV

Bring your own vinyl and/or enjoy other folks’ offerings. 7-10 p.m. Broken Clock Brewing Collective, 3134 California St. NE, Minneapolis.

Jody Williams

“Jody Williams: A Life in Art”

This retrospective exhibition celebrates the life and art of teacher and book artist Jody Williams. 6-8 p.m. Minnesota Center for Book Arts, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Jamison Murphy

Music. 7-10 p.m. Steele & Hops, 2800 39th Ave. NE, St. Anthony. 

Corduroy Cool

Aimee Mann and Grateful Dead covers, plus original tunes. 8 p.m. La Doña Cervecería, 241 Fremont Ave. N., Minneapolis.

IzzieSummer/444denim Pop-up

Shop denim and Y2K looks all weekend, with a kick-off party featuring tooth gems, a permanent jewelry bar, and cocktails from 7-9 p.m. Legacy, 1610 W. Lake St., Minneapolis.

Kenny Park Fire & Ice

Fire & Ice Skating Party

Skate with your neighbors and the Kenny Neighborhood Association. With a bonfire, hot cocoa, and other treats. 6-7:30 p.m. Kenny Park, 1328 W. 58th St., Minneapolis. 

Sunshine & the Nightwalkers

8-11:30 p.m. Schooner Tavern, 2901 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Manias, Flavor Crystals, Moy Dukksen 

10 p.m. 331 Club, 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis.

Friday Night Open Mic

21+. 10 p.m. The Comedy Corner Underground, 1501 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis.

Winter Skolstice at Viking Lakes

Featuring vendors, holiday-themed cocktails, food trucks, free live music, outdoor activities for kids, and more. While some events have cover charges, many happenings are free admission. 4-9 p.m. Mon.-Wed.; 4-10 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; 3-10 p.m. Sun. through Feb. 24. Viking Lakes, 730 Vikings Pkwy., Eagan; find a complete schedule at

Powderhorn Sled Rally


Powderhorn Art Sled Rally

While the winter carnivals go big, sometimes it’s the smaller events that really bring the fun. Enter the Powderhorn Art Sled Rally, one of the most charming neighborhood happenings in town. Each year, kids and kids-at-heart create a variety of artsy sleds that they bring to the park and send down a hill. Who will make it to the bottom? Who will fall apart? Past entrants include sleds fashioned after fly swatters, a swarm of bees, and a gingerbread house sled. No matter what the outcome, you’re gonna have a lot of fun whether you participate or simply cheer friends on. You can find updates, including sled building sessions, at Also, yes, this event is still on... though it might be more of a mudslide. Free. 2 p.m. Powderhorn Park, 3400 15th Ave. S., Minneapolis.—Jessica Armbruster 

Yacht Rock Afternoon with the Yachtsmen

3-6 p.m. Day Block Brewing, 1105 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Beer Brûlée

It’s another afternoon of beer pokin’. 3:30-5:30 p.m. Indeed Brewing Co., 711 15th Ave. NE, Minneapolis. 

Late Night Comedy in the Ox

10 p.m. Indeed Brewing Co., 711 15th Ave. NE, Minneapolis. 

"Feline Fantastica"

Open Studio Saturdays

Open studios, sales, special receptions, and more. Noon to 4 p.m. Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St. NE, Minneapolis. 

Feline Fantastica; A Cat Show

Aw yeah, cat art! Noon to 8 p.m. Northrup King Building (third floor gallery #332), 1500 Jackson St. NE, Minneapolis. 

ArtJuice Winter Vacation Makers Market

Featuring 20 local makers and tunes from Dylan Wylde. 3-8 p.m. Urban Growler Brewing, 2325 Endicott St., St. Paul.

More free events at the Great Northern Festival:

Climate Solution Series

This two-day event features a variety of talks, including sustainability in fashion, careers in climate, winter sports, and trends across the nation. Find the complete schedule here, and sign up for (free) passes to events here. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat.; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun. American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis. 

Jon Neuse


Art from Jon Neuse recalling personal past events and relationships. 6-7:30 p.m. Traffic Zone Gallery at Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art, 250 Third Ave. N., Minneapolis.

Early Show

With Martin Devaney. 1-4 p.m. White Squirrel Bar, 974 W. Seventh St., St. Paul.

Saturday is Instrumental

With Big Trouble. 6 p.m. White Squirrel Bar, 974 W. Seventh St., St. Paul.


With A Sunken Ship Irony, Red Lovely. 9 p.m. White Squirrel Bar, 974 W. Seventh St., St. Paul.

Saint Paul Winter Carnival

More stuff happening in conjunction with the Saint Paul Winter Carnival:

King Boreas Grande Day 

2 p.m. Parade begins at Smith Avenue, proceeds down West 7th Street, and concludes in Rice Park.

Bonfire in the Park

4-7 p.m. Jan. 27; noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 3. Landmark Plaza, Fifth St. and Washington St., St. Paul.


6-10 p.m. Hamernick's Entertainment Chalet at Rice Park, 109 W. Fourth St., St. Paul.

Springboard on Ice

While many event organizers are waiting for the lakes to freeze, Springboard’s mini ice rink provides a sure thing. This winter, the St. Paul arts org will host a variety of events that are completely free and open to the public. Brownbody, a local performance group that showcases BIPOC ice artists, will perform at each event, followed by free ice skating lessons and open skate times. Sign the safety waiver online, bring your skates, or rent a pair for, you guessed it, free. This Saturday, Flava Cafe will be stopping by with free hot treats, and Brownbody will host a film screening and panel talk next week at 5 p.m., January 27. 1-4 p.m. Saturdays, January 20-27, plus Sunday, February 4. Springboard for the Arts, 262 University Ave. W., St. Paul. Through February 4—Jessica Armbruster

Art Shanty 2024

Art Shanty Projects

Once again the Art Shanty Project is taking over a frozen lake for weekends of hands-on happenings, live music and performances, and wholesome fun. And for the first time since the pandemic, people can again go inside some of the shanties, with activities taking place both inside and out. “We've got a 50/50 mix,” says artistic director Erin Lavelle. “So if you've been waiting to cozy up inside with us again, this is your year! And if you're still not comfortable with that, we got you!” Shanties include the Free Store Shanty, where you can donate a warm winter item or pick one up; Hot Box: Disco Inferno aimed to get people warmed up via dancing; and the Time. Light.Color. installation, which works as a unique sundial. The outdoor performance stage will host a variety of entertainment, from klezmer jams to yoga classes to Ice Pirate Radio broadcasts. In total, 18 different shanties will be heading back to Lake Harriet. Find more deets at Free; $10-$20 suggested donation. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Lake Harriet, 4135 W. Lake Harriet Parkway, Minneapolis. Through February 11—Jessica Armbruster

Kite Festival

No matter what time of year it is, there is pretty much always wind out there. Meaning, it’s always kite season. That’s one of the reasons why this annual festival works well, even though it is traditionally scheduled in the dead of winter. Yet again organizers are teaming up and sharing space with the Art Shanty Projects, which is also on the lake right now (see above). In addition to kite flying, there will also be food trucks, live music, kite sales, and free s’mores roasting by the bonfire. Be warned: Parking is a reliable nightmare for this very popular, very fun family wintertime tradition. Find more info here, including shuttle details. Free. Noon-4 p.m. Lake Harriet, 4135 W. Lake Harriet Parkway, Minneapolis.—Jessica Armbruster

“Falling into Place” 

Nathanael Flink's first solo art show. With DJ tunes and snacks. 5-8 p.m. Veronique Wantz, 901 N. 5th St., Minneapolis. 

Red Eye Ruby, Color Chord, The Johnny Sincerely Orchestra

10 p.m. to 1 a.m. 331 Club, 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis.


Turbo Tim’s isn’t your everyday autobody chain (and yes, I do feel weird typing that). No wait! Hear me out: What other car shop has a page dedicated to ranking their cats, becomes a gallery space during Art-a-Whirl, or hosts the occasional standup comedy night? One of their delightfully weird events is coming up this Saturday at their Northeast location, where 44 salvagers, trash artists, and up-cycling vendors will be setting up shop. Check out new-to-you clothing, jewelry made from things like melted plastic, and conversation starting home decor. Food and drink will also be for sale and, as an added bonus, you’ll probably be able to make a tune-up appointment on your way out. Noon to 6 p.m. Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive, 2823 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis.Jessica Armbruster

Bartz Snow Sculptures

Bartz Snow Sculptures

Based on the event’s Facebook page, yes this event is still on! Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Feb. 10–weather permitting. Brightwood Hills Golf Course, 1975 Silver Lake Rd. NW, St. Paul.

Allie Colleen

The country singer-songwriter gives a short free performance ahead of her Turf Club show. 11 a.m. Mall of America, Huntington Bank Rotunda.

Reuse Minnesota Fix-It Clinic

Get help fixing your clothes, household items, and other things. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. West Minnehaha Recreation Center, 685 W. Minnehaha Ave., St. Paul.

Wild Vintage Monthly Market

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Clapping Monkey, 7274 Commerce Cir. E., Fridley.

Ray Barnard

8-11:30 p.m. Schooner Tavern, 2901 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Four Seasons Nordic Village Market

Eight cabins host a weekend holiday market by MartinPatrick3, with a different variety of makers each weekend. Noon to 4 p.m. Sat.-Sun. through January. Four Seasons Minneapolis, 245 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis.

Lowertown Winter Farmers Markets

Lowertown’s pride and one of the state’s largest markets. 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. 290 5th St. E., St. Paul;

Winter Skating Party


Winter Skating Party

With open skating, hot cocoa, and puppy dog tails from Isles Bun & Coffee. Free skate rentals will be available for those who need them. 1-3 p.m. 2500 E. Lake of the Isles Pkwy, Minneapolis.

More events from the Great Northern Fest: 

Pop-Up: Frozen Footgolf

Sculpt your own minigolf hole out of snow and then play a round of footgolf through the full course created this afternoon. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. construction; 2-3 p.m. play-through. Silverwood Park, 2500 Cty. Rd. E W, St. Anthony.

More Saint Paul Winter Carnival happenings:

Billy Johnson

Noon to 2 p.m. Hamernick's Entertainment Chalet at Rice Park, 109 W. Fourth St., St. Paul.

Twins Winter Caravan at Vulcan Snow Park

Featuring Twins athletes and sportscasters. 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Minnesota State Fairgrounds, 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul.

Halfway to Pride

Get a sneak-peek of this year’s Twin Cities Pride celebration. With a food truck, beer, and hangs. Noon to 6 p.m. Bauhaus Brewlabs, 1315 Tyler St. NE, Minneapolis.

Sunday Brunch & Bloodys

Featuring live music from Mark Kreger, 10+ rotating art vendors, free distillery tours, and a special brunch cocktail menu. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 11 Wells Spirits 704 Minnehaha Ave. E., St. Paul.

Meat Raffle and Beer Bingo

Yep, it’s free to play. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Forgotten Star Brewing, 38 Northern Stacks Dr., Fridley. 

Winter Buy Nothing Meetup

Bring items to gift and check out free stuff. Leftover items will be donated. 1-3 p.m. Inbound BrewCo., 701 N. 5th St., Minneapolis.

Music Mayhem Trivia

Did you know Sociable hosts music trivia, where audio snippets serve as the clues, every Sunday inside its northeast Minneapolis taproom? It’s true, and it’s a blast. Your encyclopedic knowledge of Steely Dan riffs can finally be put to productive use! Grub-wise, Sociable’s intriguing house food truck, So & So’s, will be cooking from 1 to 7 p.m.; their riffs on “MN street food”—wild rice dogs, cider battered walleye, chicken wild rice soup—sound good as hell. Free. 6-8 p.m. Sociable Cider Werks, 1500 Fillmore St. NE, Minneapolis; find more info here.—Jay Boller     

Early Show

With Lonesome Dan Kase, Kismet Rendezvous. 1 p.m. White Squirrel Bar, 974 W. Seventh St., St. Paul.

St. Paul Songwriter Rounds 

7 p.m. White Squirrel Bar, 974 W. Seventh St., St. Paul.

Kelly Smith

3 p.m. 331 Club, 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis.

The Real Chuck NORAD

7 p.m. 331 Club, 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis.

Arts! For New Starts! Art Market

Featuring 12 local makers and artists. 1-7 p.m. Insight Brewing, 2821 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis.

Varsity Gaymes

Weekly event features spots on TVs, beer pong, and other bar games. 2 p.m. LUSH Lounge & Theater, 990 NE Central Ave., Minneapolis.

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