The holidays are a magical time in Minnesota. From holiday light displays to festive events, themed tours, seasonal shows, tax-free shopping and more, visitors will find numerous ways to get in the holiday spirit. Here are some suggestions to celebrate the "most wonderful time of the year" in the True North; find even more at exploreminnesota.com.
1.Holiday Events and Light Displays: Over the next several weeks Bentleyville Tour of Lights (Nov. 23-Dec. 28) will transform Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park on Lake Superior into “America's Largest Free Walk-Through Lighting Display," shining bright with 4 million lights and brilliant exhibits. Holidazzle (Nov. 29-Dec. 22), Minneapolis’ premier holiday celebration, will delight visitors with heated tents, festive food and drinks, local artisans, outdoor holiday movies and more.
Across the Mississippi River, St. Paul will get in the spirit during the new Destination Winter Saint Paul (Dec. 6-Feb. 22), featuring an ice skating rink and 130-foot snow-packed superslide at the St. Paul Saints’ state-of-the-art ballpark, CHS Field. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen offers visitors a stroll through the Winter in Bloom Lights Display (Nov. 22-Jan. 5) to admire 25-foot poinsettia trees, thematically decorated evergreens and more, while Mankato’s Kiwanis Holiday Lights (Nov. 29-Dec. 31) dons 1.5 million LED lights, animated displays, a skating rink, horse-drawn wagon rides, live reindeer and ice sculptures.
2.European Christmas Markets: Stroll through a European-style Christmas market to find one-of-a-kind gifts, holiday decorations or European-inspired dishes. St. Paul’s Union Depot hosts the European Christmas Market for three weekends in December,and Excelsior’s Christkindlsmarkt (Nov. 29-Dec. 1) is a great family outing complete with puppet shows, storytime, reindeers, music and more.
3.Historic Home Tours: The halls of Minnesota’s historic homes are decked for the holidays. Tour the Mayowood Mansion in Rochester or Hubbard House in Mankato, see 25 decorated trees at Glensheen in Duluth, or experience what the holidays were like 100 years ago at the Charles A. Lindbergh House and Museum in Little Falls. Visitors can also feel the magic of a small town Christmas by touring seven charming decorated B&Bs during the Lanesboro Christmas Inn Tour.
4.Free Park Friday: Admission to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas (regularly $7 for one-day vehicle permit) will be free the day after Thanksgiving again this year to encourage families to extend their holiday by spending time together with a walk outdoors. Visitors can share their Free Park Friday adventure on social media using #FreeParkFriday and #OnlyinMN.
5.Holiday Shopping: ‘Tis the season to stroll through some of Minnesota’s charming downtowns, including Stillwater from Black Friday to New Year’s Eve, to find carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, shopping, live reindeer and more. Experience downtown Northfield by candlelight at the 20th annual Winter Walk celebration (Dec. 6). The street is lined with hundreds of luminaries, and shops filled with holiday specials. Up north, downtown Park Rapids sets the scene on their charming main street with a towering pine, festive lights, store front displays and treats during their Yuletide Sampler (Nov. 29). Downtown Minneapolis’ popular shopping and entertainment district, Nicollet, will revive classic department store window installations at The Dayton's Project, which is slated to open in 2020.
And if 500 stores and extended shopping hours isn’t reason enough to visit Mall of America, several holiday activities will delight visitors, including the Skate the Star ice rink (Dec. 14-Feb. 2) and The Santa Experience, offering appointment-based Santa visits. Minnesota is also one of 10 states with no sales tax on clothing and shoes.
6.Holiday Shows: Enjoy the beat of holiday tunes and traditions with carols at The Blenders annual holiday show (Dec. 12-15) at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis, or watch a holiday classic at “It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” (Dec. 5-24), performed at The Saint Paul Hotel accompanied by lunch or dinner. The St. Olaf Christmas Festival is one of the oldest Christmas musical celebrations in the U.S, dating back to 1912, featuring more than 500 student musicians accompanied by the St. Olaf Orchestra.
7.Holiday Teas: Sip tea and enjoy treats like warm scones, canapes, cheesecakes, tea sandwiches and more. Book a tea time at the Lowell Inn in Stillwater or the Mad Hatter in Anoka. The St. James Hotel in Red Wing offers a Victorian Nutcracker Tea with finger sandwiches, petite desserts and ornate nutcrackers up for auction.
8.Holiday Trains: The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will visit two-dozen Minnesota towns from Dec. 5-14 on its annual ride through the northern U.S. The festive train is decked out in holiday lights, and features live entertainment and holiday cheer at every stop in exchange for donations to local food banks. In Duluth, the Christmas City Express departs from the Fitger’s shopping complex and chugs along Lake Superior to the Duluth Depot on weekends in November and December.
For more ideas, information on activities, events and more, please visit exploreminnesota.com or follow along via social media, using #OnlyinMN.
Explore Minnesota can help travelers plan their trips for free at 888-VISITMN, or via live chat, email and at exploreminnesota.com.