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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.

Festival-goers navigate a snow maze at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds

Navigate through a snow maze at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival / The Great Northern Festival

January

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.

Destination Winter Saint Paul

A new winter event is coming to St. Paul's CHS Field, featuring free ice skating, a 130-foot snow slide and concessions. The event starts in early December and runs through February. 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

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.

Cross country ski racer at Theo Wirth Park

Cross-country skiing's elite athletes will converge at Theo Wirth Park for the World Cup in March 2020 / Paul Vincent

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.

Cross-Country World Cup

The world's best cross-country skiers, including Olympic gold medalist and Minnesota native Jessie Diggins, will converge in Minneapolis for four days of racing and other revelry, including street concerts, a block party, parade and fun for kids. Learn more.

Two baby goats at Minnesota Zoo

Saw "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. 

World Festival

Held in Rochester, an annual celebration of world cultures includes a parade, fashion show, stage performances and foods from around the globe.

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.

Cinco de Mayo

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

Preston Trout Days

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

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 Wizard of Oz Festival

Judy Garland’s hometown of Grand Rapids sings her praises year-round, but especially during the annual festival that pays homage to her most famous film. Learn more.

Nisswa-Stamman Scandinavian Folk Music Festival

Performers from Norway, Sweden and across the United States convene in Nisswa every year for this celebration of Scandinavian folk music. 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 GLBT-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.

Skateboarder at X Games in Minneapolis

Head to U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis to catch the X Games / Matt Morning, courtesy ESPN and Meet Minneapolis

July

X Games

The Olympics of extreme sports returns to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, with four days of skateboarding, BMX riding, Moto X jumping and other exciting entertainment.

Nevis Pig Races

Cheer for your favorite costumed porker in this fun race, accompanied by a beer garden and activities for the kids.

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. 

Wilder Pageant

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

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Taste of the Root River 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Frost Fest

Kick off the holiday season in Baudette with a craft fair, downtown window walk and a light parade featuring floats and fish houses. 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.

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. 

Winter Walk

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

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. 

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.