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Minnesota 2016 Festivals, Events and Noteworthy Anniversaries
Minnesota boasts many noteworthy festivals and events throughout the year, giving residents and visitors alike the opportunity to participate in a kaleidoscope of activities. Every corner of the state showcases spectacular events, highlighting the heritage and culture of the region, ranging from German Oktoberfest festivities, ice fishing adventures to American Indian powwows. Visit with colorful fur traders at Big Island Rendezvous in Albert Lea, or experience one of the largest state fairs in the nation in St. Paul. Minnesota festivals and events offer a unique experience for everyone.
In addition to the sampling of festivals listed below, hundreds of other events take place throughout the state. For more information, please visit www.exploreminnesota.com/events, and sign up for free weekly events newsletters here: http://www.exploreminnesota.com/eNewsletterSignup.aspx.
Checkpoint MN – Explore Minnesota’s Statewide Winter Scavenger Hunt
Dec. 3, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016
For the third consecutive year, Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism promotion office, in partnership with Minneapolis-based marketing agency Monopoint Media, will launch a statewide winter scavenger hunt this Thursday, Dec. 3. Coined “Checkpoint MN,” the event highlights 10 iconic travel destinations that can be found only in Minnesota this season. The scavenger hunt runs December 3 through January 31, 2016, aiming to entice thousands of Minnesota travelers over the course of 8 weeks with $35,000+ in prizes, including winter gear, Wigwam Socks, MN getaways, grand prize ski, snowboard, and fat bike packages from The-House.com, and more. Participants are encouraged to follow Explore Minnesota and CheckpointMN on social media, and share their #OnlyinMN winter experiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for a chance to win prizes.
Saint Paul Winter Carnival (128th year)
Jan. 28, 2016 – Feb. 7, 2016
The 128th Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the “Coolest Celebration on Earth™” since 1886! It continues to bring family-friendly events and community pride to Saint Paul and the Twin Cities metro area. The Saint Paul Heritage and Festival Foundation manages and produces the Saint Paul Winter Carnival and the celebration features 75 events including parades, ice and snow carving competitions, ice skating, golf on ice and singing contests. New events include: The Frozen Film Festival and the King Boreas Winter Triathlon.
Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza
January 23, 2016
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, what’s billed the world’s ice fishing event, is held each January on Gull Lake, where anglers compete for more than $150,000 in cash and prizes, including a new truck, ATVs, ice augers, ice fishing equipment, more. Competitors and spectators alike will enjoy the camaraderie on what seemingly represents a city on ice with a parking lot, rows of tents, food booths, and even shopping areas. Over 10,000 anglers from around the world compete in this fun outdoor ice event.
Hockey Day Minnesota (10th year!), Duluth
Feb. 6, 2016
Minnesotans run in cooperation with the Minnesota Wil and Fox Sports North to showcase, at least, two Minnesota High School boy’s hockey games, a Minnesota Gopher men’s hockey game and a Minnesota Wild NHL game. But, the day includes much more than just hockey, with: tailgating, raffles, festivities and a specially-constructed rink set against the backdrop of Lake Superior in Duluth’s Bayfront Park, Hockey Day MN is a great day to embrace all the outdoor fun that Duluth has to offer.
International Eelpout Festival, Walker
Feb. 18th-21 2016
This festival is a tradition steeped in ice angling on Leech Lake for one of the ugliest bottom-dwelling fish. The Annual International Eelpout Festival attracts more than 10,000 participants and visitors to the tiny town of Walker, Minn., (pop. 1,500) for three days in February. Several activities are held throughout the weekend, including the always-freezing Polar Pout Plunge, curling, bull riding, auto ice racing, rugby and a fishing show. Always a spectacle, this bucket list-worthy adventure has increasingly drawn national attention, including "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and one of the top “15 Weird Midwestern Festivals You Never knew Existed.
Grumpy Old Men Festival, Wabasha
February 27, 2016
Celebrate winter with that grumpy old man's hobby of ice fishing, in the town that inspired the movie of the same name. Activities include an ice shack contest, the plaid parade, the Grumpy Plunge, frisbee games, golf tournaments on snow, bird watching and a spaghetti dinner and dance. You won’t run into Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon, but this quaint Mississippi River town knows how to celebrate.
Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship, St. Paul
Feb. 26, 2016 – Feb. 27, 2016
The Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship makes its way to Saint Paul, Minnesota, for the fifth year in a row as one of four stops around the world. Two hundred of the toughest, fastest, ice cross downhill racers will go head-to-head through a downhill course full of mind-and-body-bending jumps, turns and slides – all against the backdrop of the historic Cathedral of Saint Paul with over 115,000 spectators cheering them on. Admission is free.
Reopening of the SPAM™ Museum, Austin
A staple for 12+ years, bringing in over a million visitors, the Spam Museum relocates to Austin, Minnesota to (re)disclose its new museum. For now, new features are being kept under wraps, but the unveiling is proving to be exciting for SPAM™ lovers across the country.
Valley Fair opens for its 40th Anniversary, Shakopee
May 13, 2016
40 years means “a great opportunity for guests to recreate some of those shared moments and make some new ones along the way,” and this means new attractions, a new venue for entertainment and new ways to experience fun across age-groups. The “Flying Eagles” ride will be re-introduced (Left in 1976) and a renovation of the outdoor amphitheater space will take place, including much more.
Grand Celebration Pow Wow, Hinckley
June 2016 (exact date TBA)
This American Indian event is the largest powwow in the Midwest with more than 1,200 dancers, drummers and singers from nearly every tribe in the USA and Canada participating. In addition to watching the dances, visitors learn about American Indian traditions, eat traditional food and purchase handmade crafts.
Scandinavian Hjemkomst & Midwest Viking Festivals, Moorhead
June 2016 (exact date TBA)
This authentic Scandinavian event features dancing, entertainment, booths and food celebrating the heritage of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Each year boasting a unique highlight, the festival takes place at the Heritage Hjemkomst Center, home of the Viking ship that sailed from Minnesota to Norway in 1982.
U.S. Bank Stadium™ to be completed, Minneapolis
The long-awaited new Vikings stadium is set to be finished July 2016. Some notable features include: a stature 2X the size of the metrodome with a 13X larger screen, free WiFi, A Vikings Hall of Legends and two team retail stores. SKOL Vikings!
Basilica Block Party, Minneapolis
July 8 & 9, 2016
A favorite summertime event in the Twin Cities, the Basilica Block Party is a great way to celebrate good music, nice weather and community. The two-day festival is family-friendly event that attracts diverse crowds of all ages. Festival goers not only jam to the beat of good music, but to a good cause, as all concert proceeds go to preserving the historic Basilica of St. Mary – a landmark that has been an integral part of the community for more than a century, and also benefits the St. Vincent de Paul outreach program, an organization that provides food and shelter to nearly 3,500 people each month. Lineup TBA.
Minneapolis Aquatennial Festival, Minneapolis
July 20-23, 2016 (exact date TBA)
Summer in the Twin Cities is full of festivals – one of the biggest and the oldest being the Minneapolis Aquatennial. Touted as “the best days of summer,” and the official celebration of Minneapolis, thousands of Minneapolis residents, workers, and visitors participate in the nine day celebration, enjoying everything from sandcastle building tournaments, water ski shows, triathlons to parades and firework displays.
25th Year of the Moondance Jam Rock Festival, Walker
July 21-23, 2016
The annual rock and classic rock 4-day festival and the “Best Rock Festival in the Nation,” started back in 1992 turns 25 this year. Hosting more than 60,000 and 10,000 campers, this festival has only grown since its humble beginnings. The festival pumps up the community and many make their way from around the state to join in on the excitement.
Blueberry Art Festival, Ely
July 29-31, 2016
This three-day event in Whiteside Park in beautiful Ely Minnesota features 300 exhibitors of original art, photography, handcraft items, clothing, ethnic foods, plus a variety of musical entertainment. And to top it off, blueberry pancake breakfasts are served both Saturday and Sunday mornings at the event.
Bayfront Blues Festival, Duluth
Aug. 12 – 14, 2016
One of the largest outdoor music festivals in the Midwest, for over a quarter century, the annual Bayfront Blues Festival showcases nearly 30 national performances on two concert stages. Additional weekend events include a Moonlight Mardi Gras Cruise and live blues performances at nearly 20 Duluth nightclubs. The event takes place in Canal Park on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world.
Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Shakopee
Weekends: Aug. 20 - October 2, 2016
Journey back in time to a 16th-century European village at the 46th-annual Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, MN. The popular festival dons 120 European food booths, live jousting, elephant rides and belly dancing. Plus, an abundance of artisans, selling everything from 16th-century attire, pottery and hand-blown glass to real battle axes. The event welcomes more than 300,000 people each year, becoming one of the largest renaissance festivals in the country and each weekend has a different and unique theme.
National Park Centennial (The Park Service turns 100)
Aug. 25, 2016
Stewardship, engaging communities through recreation, conservation and historic preservation program are tenants of the parks and the base-line for the celebration to be held. Participants are encouraged to visit their National parks today. Specific events? TBD.
Return of the Tall Ships in Duluth
Aug. 18-20, 2016
For a fourth chapter, the popular Tall Ships festival will “flood” Duluth’s Waterfront, Bayfront Festival Park and Harbor Drive with a gala of grand Tall Ships. While the producer of Tall Ships Duluth doesn't want to give too much away, this year's Tall Ships will outshine its 2013 event. This popular festival includes: onboard tours, day-sails and expanded hours, alongside: vendors, artisans, music, reenactments entertainment and many more surprises to be announced!
Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul
Aug. 25- Sep. 5, 2016
The Great Minnesota Get-Together features world-class entertainment, agricultural exhibits, horse shows, a rodeo, arts and craft displays, amusement park rides, a daily parade and food of every variety, often served on a stick! The event attracts almost 2 million visitors each year and is arguably the best state fair across America.
The Defeat of Jesse James Days
Sept. 7-11, 2016
Each year on the second weekend of September, townspeople of Northfield, Minnesota and visitors alike commemorate and re-enact the James-Younger Gang's notorious 1876 bank raid on the town. The popular event features a bank raid re-enactment, Jesse James Bike tour, horseshoe hunt, classic car show, old-time tractor pull, parade, arts festival, carnival, and much more.
Big Island Rendezvous & Festival, Albert Lea
Oct. 2016 (exact date TBA)
This celebration of history during the fur trade period of America (1650-1840) and early frontier America features music performances by groups from throughout the U.S. and Canada, hundreds of tents and campfires with more than 1,000 living history re-enactors carrying on daily life as it would have been more than 200 years ago. Demonstrations of colonial crafts, Native American skills and pioneer life are showcased throughout the festival so you can try your hand at rigid heddle weaving, spinning and spoon carving, or watch a gunsmith create a work of art.
Oktoberfest, New Ulm
Oct. 7-15 2016 (first two weekends – exact date TBA)
This old world celebration features live local, regional and European entertainment, along with plenty of great German food and locally brewed August Schell's beer. The festival also boasts musical entertainment, including New Ulm's famous Concord Singers, German brass bands, polka bands and more, and was even ranked one of "10 great places to celebrate Octoberfest" by USA Today Travel.
Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth
Nov.– Dec. 2016
Tis' the season for holiday tradition filled with family, friends and celebration on the shores of Lake Superior at Bayfront Festival Park, home to the largest holiday display in the Midwest. Bentleyville Tour of Lights is a magical display of nearly three million lights and the tallest Christmas tree in the U.S. (twice the height of New York City's famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree). Admission to Bentleyville Tour of Lights is free to the public.