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The Twin Cities (the Minnesota river towns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul), can provide families with holiday fun from just after Halloween until well into the New Year! If you’re willing to brave some real wintry weather in a true wonderland, you’ll have many options for outdoor and indoor fun and festive activities. Here are some favorite Christmas Events in Minneapolis and St. Paul that locals and visitors alike enjoy!
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Holidazzle is a Minneapolis tradition. The Holidazzle is a holiday market that is completely free and features an outdoor bazaar with unique gift vendors, areas for warming and indulging in treats of the season, and all sorts of holiday cheer. It is open from November 23rd – December 23rd. Live music, artisan booths, exquisite foods, craft beers, and glühwein (festive, spiced red wine), visits with Santa, and holiday-themed weekly movies (including the classics) are all on the agenda. Bring your skates and enjoy the outdoor rink followed by a warm drink — all of this is taking place at Loring Park, in the heart of Minneapolis.
Thursdays-Sundays, November 23rd-December 23rd, 2018
Thursdays from 5:00-9:00pm | Fridays from 5:00–10:00pm |
Saturdays from 11:00am–10:00pm | Sundays from 11:00am–7:00pm
Enjoy the gardens and collections in the winter, too. Special events are happening at the Arboretum from Nov. 23, 2018 to Jan. 6, 2019. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum makes spirits (and trees) bright for the holiday season as visitors enjoy the Great Hall tree lighting event, many lighted trees, visits and winter brunch with Santa, and outdoor light displays. Located in Chanhassen, this is about a half hour drive from the heart of the Twin Cities. This is a unique way to enjoy the season! Be sure to visit the website for specific dates and times.
Holiday Gift Market dates for 2018:
Friday, Dec. 14, 4-8 pm | Saturday, Dec. 15, 10 am-4 pm
Bring your appetite and have your wish list ready, kids! This VIP event is fun for the entire family, starting with breakfast. The historic downtown location closed its doors permanently in 2017, but Macy’s Ridgedale and Southdale are offering dates and times with the jolly old elf this year.
Mom and dad can enjoy coffee and goodies while kids are entertained by festivities. The spread is pretty extensive, including kid’s favorite sugary items and more traditional appeal for adults! Think Buddy the Elf here; you can go wild with syrup on pancakes or French toast if that’s what you desire! Breakfast with Santa is sure to be a hit with your little ones! This event does sell out and return customers get a little advance preference for buying tickets, so make sure to plan ahead and get on “the nice list” right away!
DINNER is offered at SOUTHDALE on December 16th at 5 p.m.
As usual, reservations are needed and the best and most current information is always available on the Macy’s website.
All of the holiday favorites, including baking, music, and shopping are represented with a Nordic twist at this holiday event. The American Swedish Institute (ASI) has a line-up called ‘Handmade Holidays” which includes Julmarknad and features a visit by Tomte, a Swedish Santa who hands out Swedish fish to the children and reads them a story. There is a wonderful and mostly warm market full of handicrafts, many that are very unique and have a Scandinavian touch to them.
Take a tour of the enormous Turnblad Mansion, which is a bonafide and decorated castle. There is a Dala horse for small children to take rides on. Make ornaments or play a scavenger hunt, listen to a chorus, or just take some time to get to know the roots of many Minnesotans. With so much going on, makes you want to set up a tent and just live on the ASI campus through the holiday season!
Experience the quaint downtown area of the Northfield by candlelight December 6th, 2018 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Winter Walk fun includes reindeer-drawn sleigh rides, cocoa, and caroling. This location is about 45 minutes from Minneapolis/St. Paul and a half hour from Mall of America — but to experience a “small town” holiday, this is a great place to explore!
About thirty minutes from the heart of the big city is Stillwater, MN. This year, Stillwater is one of four cities in North America to host this gorgeous frozen structure complete with vivid lights and fairytale-like splendor! Each site must grow 10,000 icicles a day to make this happen and as you may have guessed, it’s a super seasonal, weather dependent spectacle! Check the main Ice Castles website to determine the hours and opening of each site. Be aware, strollers and wheelchairs are not easy to navigate through the crushed ice pathways of the Ice Castles site.
Perhaps your family loves to watch A Christmas Carol (November 13th – December 29th, 2018, times vary). Maybe a version of The Nutcracker? If you like arts and culture and want a little holiday-themed storyline for an evening outing, the Twin Cities won’t leave you wanting for much! The famed Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis hosts a variety of shows and plays that will delight and dazzle the family. Penumbra Theatre is proud to bring you some diversity to a traditional story, enjoyed over the decades by families, entitled: Black Nativity. Children’s Theatre Company presents this year, How the Grinch Stole Christmas: November 6th, 2018 – January 6th, 2019.
The annual Holiday Flower Show opens December 1st at 10am and the theme is “Sunken Garden” this year. This is a great place to take that perfect holiday family photo! Como is a wonderful reprieve from the cold winds of the frozen north, even if you opt for visiting the polar bears! Since admission is FREE (donations encouraged) and many exhibits are indoors, this can make a great winter escape if the weather takes a turn. Most of the animals can be seen, except for the tortoises and aviary which are seasonal.
Experience the “servants” of the James J. Hill house ushering in a Gilded Age Christmas as they prepare for the holidays, fully costumed at the Summit Ave. mansion. History, arts, fun! Tours leave every half hour, and Hill House Holidays runs Saturdays and Sundays from November 24 – December 29; reservations are recommended. Often called Minnesota’s Downton Abbey, this site also offers Christmas Traditions Guided House Tours on more flexible tour dates if a Saturday does not work for you.
Snowland is a fun collection of annual festivities around the winter season at Great Wolf Lodge. Having experienced this first-hand with our family, we couldn’t recommend it more for a unique and exciting way to spend your holiday season with kids. From November 24th through January 4th, 2019, Great Wolf Lodge becomes a magical winter wonderland. You can expect visits with Santa, Snow ‘N’ Glow Dance Parties, and North Pole University activities.
The entire property is themed in a Northwoods motif, but the holiday trimmings really add some magic to an already fun atmosphere. You also get white wolf ears instead of the standard brown ears during the Snowland season.
Being the mecca of shopping to satiate even the most ravenous bargain hunter, the Mall of America has decadent dinner options for the whole family, amusement park rides, special events (check the schedule to plan around something fun for kids), and so many offerings for families. MOA is a fantastic place to frequent if you’re feeling festive. Staying in the area or looking to do so? Here’s a helpful list of nearby hotels that are great for families. Don’t forget, one of them has a gigantic waterpark and is just a stone’s throw from the mall; perfect makings for a fun-filled holiday weekend!
I recommend Flyover America, located at the entrance of Nickelodeon Universe (tickets sold separately from the theme park). The ride is similar to Disney’s Soarin’ but during the winter season at The Mall, you might just have extra magic mixed into a very thrilling ride.
Check out the Top Ten Things for Families to do in Minnesota to get started planning year-round fun in this playground of lakes – frozen or not!
Check for the best hotel prices for families in Minnesota.
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