Are you looking for some entertainment but find yourself confined by your meager bank account?

Fear not! Here are seven free things to do or places to visit in Winona.

P.S. These ideas can also make great date ideas!

Students go canoeing on Lake Winona.

1. Free Outdoor Exploration

It’s no secret that the Winona area is beautiful. Take advantage of the breathtaking views from Garvin Heights, a blissful walk around the Winona lakes, a picnic in Levee Park, or the mystery of a where a winding trail might take you as you hike through the bluffs.

Another thing to note is the WSU Outdoor Education & Recreation Center hosts free rock climbing up Sugar Loaf, snowshoeing, ice climbing and paddling. Follow the OERC Facebook page for updates on the latest free outdoor activities.

No matter the season, from summer to winter, Winona has an outdoor adventure waiting for you!

Local band Karate Chop Silence performs at Mugshots Coffeehouse

2. Free Live Music at Coffee Shops

Maybe being outdoors isn’t for you. If that’s the case, be sure to check out the schedules posted for free live music at Blooming Grounds, Acoustic Café and WSU’s very own Mugshots Coffeehouse!

Two cups of coffee

3. Free Food on Your Birthday 

Although celebrating your first birthday in college without your family can be tough, the community has found ways to comfort your homesickness with free food. Check it out!

  • Perkins: Free pancakes
  • Caribou: Free drink (membership required)
  • Acoustic Café: Free hoagie
  • Starbucks: Free drink (membership required)
  • Ground Round: Free dessert

A student walks through the WSU Library while reading a book.

4. Free Reading 

After dropping a bunch of money on textbooks, the last thing you probably want to do is buy another book. If you enjoy reading for pleasure, check out these different options for free reading in Winona:

  • WSU Library – Fun fact for you, the books in the WSU library are all FREE! It’s shocking, I know.
  • Little Free Libraries – There are a few Little Free Libraries located around city of Winona – there is even one on main campus! Feel free to grab a book for yourself and maybe even share an old book for someone else to enjoy.
  • Chapter 2 Books – This is a used bookstore located in downtown Winona where you can nestle up with a good book and pet cats!
  • Paperbacks and Pieces – An off-campus getaway with comfy, and free meet-the-author events mean you might just get a chance to get an signed autograph for your favorite novel
  • Coffee shops – As you might have already noticed, there is a plethora of coffee shops in Winona. Some of these coffee shops, like Blooming Grounds for example, have free book nooks for you to enjoy.
  • Winona Public Library – The public library provides not only free books but also a great study environment if you need a break from campus.

Students cheering at a WSU football game.

5. Free Events On and Off Campus

Before paying lots of money to attend a concert in the Twin Cities, be sure to check the WSU Event Calendar to see what events are happening on campus, at the Levee and in downtown Winona. Pretty much all campus events are free to students so be sure to take advantage of these opportunities:

Pro tip: if you are just looking for free entertainment within your residence hall, swing by the front desk of your hall to check out free movies, games, etc.

Student admires a photograph displayed at MMAM.

6. Free Museums and Galleries

Winona has an artistic side that you may be missing out on. Consider visiting some of these free museums and galleries:

  • Watkins Art Gallery – This gallery, located on main campus, is constantly changing. Be on the lookout for new displays each month.
  • Minnesota Marine Art Museum  – You can see a real Picasso right here in Winona! Admission into the museum is free for students on Tuesdays.
  • Winona National Bank – With a large bank vault on display, Winona National Bank allows visitors to tour the building and browse various exhibits. The second floor of the bank has taxidermy animals and a miniature bank sculpture on display.

A student smiles while holding a dog on his lap.

7. Free Animal Friends

Maybe you’re missing your family pet or maybe you just love furry friends. If that’s the case, here are a few opportunities to find a furry friend:

  • Wednesdays with Aiden – Every Wednesday, Aiden the therapy dog is located in the Relaxation room (IWC 267) for students to come play with him.
  • Winona Area Humane Society – At the Humane Society there are little cats, big cats, fat cats– so many cats to pet for free! There are also dogs for you to visit or volunteer to take on walks.


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