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48 Must-Do Minnesota Events

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Stroll the streets of Minneapolis' oldest neighborhood during the Stone Arch Bridge Festival / Gina Reis

48 Must-Do Minnesota Events

By Erica Wacker

Whether you're into art, animals or ice fishing, you're sure to find an event worth traveling to this year in Minnesota. Find even more fun in the Festivals & Events calendar. 

Team of sled dogs in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon / Thomas Spence

January

Art Shanty Projects

Temporary art installations and sporadic live performances take over a frozen Twin Cities lake for a month. Learn more.

John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

The longest sled dog race in the lower 48, the nearly 400-mile event starts in Duluth and is a qualifier for the Iditarod in Alaska. Learn more.

Kites on Ice Kite Festival in Buffalo

Kites on Ice Kite Festival, Buffalo / Matthew Barron

February

Saint Paul Winter Carnival 

One of Saint Paul's biggest seasonal events, the Winter Carnival has been celebrating the city's snow-dusted side since 1886, and drawing more than 100,000 people a year in the process. Learn more.

I.C.E. Fest

Watch as Little Falls attempts to regain the World Record for the Largest Ice Carousel, which will be carved on top of a frozen lake and solar powered. Curling, skating, fat biking and igloo building round out the on-ice fun. Learn more.

City of Lakes Loppet

Cross-country skiers of all ages can participate in the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival in Minneapolis, which also features skijoring (skiing with dogs) and a fat tire bike race. Learn more.

Winterfest in St. Peter

Scavenger hunt, polar plunge, ice skating, rock-paper-scissors and more are among the family-friendly festivities at this annual celebration on the ice. Learn more.

Kites on Ice

Kites of all colors, shapes and sizes will fill the air above a frozen lake in downtown Buffalo. Watch the pros perform aerial ballet with their kites, or build your own on-site. Learn more.

Grumpy Old Men Festival

Ice fishing, minnow races and a hot dish luncheon anchor an event named after the beloved Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon film. Learn more.

Gull Lake Frozen Fore

Use your snowmobile as a golf cart and play nine holes on Gull Lake, followed by a tent party with live music and an ice bar. Learn more.

 

Alice the Great Horned Owl, International Owl Center, Houston

Alice the Great Horned Owl at the International Owl Center 

March

International Festival of Owls

Owl lovers flock to this Houston festival to get up close with live owls, eat owl-themed treats and watch the kids hooting contest. Learn more.

Celtic Festival

Celebrate traditional Celtic culture, food, music and more at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, where bagpipes and kilts are par for the course. Learn more.

Two baby goats at Minnesota Zoo

Say "aww" to adorable baby animals at the Minnesota Zoo's annual Farm Babies event / Jackie Scherer

April

Farm Babies

Piglets, goat kids, chicks and bunnies up the cute factor at the Minnesota Zoo’s family farm every day in April. Learn more.

WorldFest

Held in Marshall and presented by Southwest Minnesota State University, an annual celebration of world cultures includes a cultures expo, stage performances and foods from around the globe. Learn more.

Dancers in Cinco de Mayo parade

Head to the West Side of St. Paul for the city's Cinco de Mayo parade and festival / Visit Saint Paul

May

Homegrown Music Festival

A weeklong music festival featuring 200 local acts at venues around Duluth. The music is supplemented by art shows, poetry slams and a kickball tourney. Learn more.

Cinco de Mayo

St. Paul celebrates Hispanic/Latino culture with a family-friendly festival spanning six blocks known as the District del Sol. Learn more.

Preston Trout Days

A parade, family bike ride, petting zoo and pancake breakfast add to the fun of this trout-themed festival in Preston. Learn more. 

Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds

Detroit Mountain serves as headquarters for birding workshops, field trips, exhibitors and more during the annual spring migration. Learn more.

Nisswa turtle races

Summer turtle races have been a northern Minnesota tradition since 1963

June

The Judy Garland Festival

Judy Garland’s hometown of Grand Rapids sings her praises year-round, but especially during the annual festival that pays homage to the actress and her most iconic film. This year's event revolves around the Judy Garland Museum and what would have been the hometown heroine's hundredth birthday. Learn more.

Studio Hop

Local Willmar artists open their work spaces up to the public at this annual celebration of everything from photography to pottery. Learn more.

Perham Turtle Fest

A pet parade, train rides, medallion hunt and, of course, turtle races, make this central Minnesota festival a family favorite. Learn more.

Water Ski Days

The birthplace of waterskiing, Lake City, celebrates its popular invention with water ski shows, a parade and three days of festivities. Learn more.

Twin Cities Pride Festival

Minneapolis welcomes revelers from all walks of life for a LGBTQ+-proud celebration with a family picnic, festival, parade and rainbow run in Loring Park. Learn more.

Paul Bunyan Days

Pay homage to everyone’s favorite lumberjack with a Paul Bunyan look-alike contest, art show, minnow races and more in downtown Akeley. Learn more.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum Exterior

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

July

Hot Dog Nite

More than 15,000 free hot dogs are dished out at this long-running Luverne event, which happens the same weekend as a wiener dog race and low rider-led beauty pageant. Learn more.

Sinclair Lewis Days

The Nobel Prize-winning author’s hometown of Sauk Centre hosts five full days of activities, including a treasure hunt, concerts in the park and the Miss Sauk Centre Pageant. Learn more.

Wilder Pageant

Another famous Minnesota author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, is the subject of live outdoor performances for three weekends in July. Learn more.

New London Water Days

Festivities at the annual community festival in central Minnesota range from canoe and kayak races to a hog roast and tennis tournament. Learn more.

Blueberry/Art Festival

Peruse original art and handcrafted items from more than 250 exhibitors at this outdoor festival in Ely, which also features blueberry pie and pancakes, and activities for the kids. Learn more.

Ferris wheel at Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair is the biggest and best state fair in America / Robert Ferdinandt

August

Antique Car Run

Starting in New London and ending in New Brighton, a 120-mile drive features pre-1916 vehicles, including cars, bikes and motorcycles, with special events before and after the ride. Learn more.

Barnesville Potato Days

Named one of the “Top 9 Strangest Food Festivals in the World” by Wanderlust Magazine, Barnesville’s beloved Potato Days is an iconic event in northwest Minnesota. From French fry feeds, lefse cookoffs, a street fair, all the potato dishes you could dream of in the food court and more, this is a must-see summer event. Learn more. 

Heritage Days

Celebrate the history and culture of the Red River Valley in East Grand Forks with an antique tractor pull, parade and historical reenactments. Learn more.

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Journey back in time at this long-standing, seven-week festival in Shakopee, where revelers will be in good company among mermaids, knights, fairies, pirates and other colorful characters. Learn more.

Minnesota State Fair

The granddaddy of them all, the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul is the second-largest state fair in the country, renowned for its exhibits, grandstand performances and just about any food you can think of served on a stick. Learn more.

Young dancer in pow wow regalia

A young dancer in powwow regalia at the Mahkato Wacipi / Karla Caspari

September

Steam Threshers Reunion

Taking place every Labor Day weekend since 1954 in Rollag, this celebration honors the good ol’ days of steam engines, gas tractors and threshing machines. Learn more.

Defeat of Jesse James Days

Witness a thrilling reenactment of the attempted bank raid that led to the demise of the notorious James-Younger Gang in downtown Northfield. Learn more. 

MinnesoThai Festival

The Thai Council of MN follow a summer full of Sunday markets at Wat Promwachirayan with St. Louis Park's most popular street food festival. Come for the spicy papaya salads, stay for the drag show and fire dancers! Learn more.

Taste of the Trail

Explore the towns along the Root River Trail, which include Fountain, Lanesboro, Peterson and Houston, on three Saturdays in September, where you can sample local fare and partake in other activities. Learn more.

Grape Stomp & Fall Festival

Held at Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, the fall harvest celebration centers around a grape stomp competition, with live bands, art and food vendors, and a “man cave” for the beer drinkers. Learn more.

Mahkato Pow Wow

A three-day event honoring the Dakota people with traditional music and dancers, food and handicrafts in Mankato’s Land of Memories Park. Learn more.

Art Along the Lake

Take in the fall beauty along the North Shore of Lake Superior as you tour artists' studios and galleries from Tofte to Hovland. Learn more.

Oktoberfest, New Ulm

Oktoberfest, New Ulm

October

Twin Cities Marathon

Considered one of the prettiest urban marathons in the country, the annual race is worth the trip even if you’re just a spectator. Learn more. 

Oktoberfest

New Ulm hosts one of the best Oktoberfests in the country, with two full weekends of Schell's beer, live polka and German food. Learn more.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth holiday spectacle

Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth / John Heino

November

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

A 128-foot animated tree, dozens of light displays and visits from Santa bring 200,000 people to Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Learn more.

Night We Light

Known as the first city on the Mississippi, Bemidji brightens up the winter nights with an illuminated parade and tree-lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving. Learn more.

Hmong New Year

Sample some delicious food and enjoy a wide variety of entertainment at this three-day celebration of Hmong culture in St. Paul. Learn more.

Winter Walk candlelight shopping in Northfield

Go shopping by candlelight at Northfield's annual Winter Walk event

December

Winterfest

Find handmade gifts at the craft show and take in performances at the historic Palace Theatre in southern Luverne the first weekend in December. Learn more.

Winter Walk

Stroll through charming downtown Northfield by candlelight, where you’ll find Santa, Rudolph, horse-drawn wagon rides, carolers and holiday shopping galore. Learn more.

Ice Candle Celebration

A holiday gathering with food, kids crafts and fellowship takes place in the Iron Range town of Embarrass, where ice candles are lit to remember loved ones in the Finnish tradition. Learn more. 

Erica Wacker

Erica Wacker is a Midwesterner through and through, growing up in Illinois, going to college in Wisconsin, and settling down in Minnesota. She loves to run, travel with her family, and go to concerts to relive her youth.