For Immediate Release
State of Minnesota
10 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Minnesota
’Tis the Season to ‘Explore’ Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. (Dec. 2, 2021) — 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 season #OnlyinMN. Find even more at exploreminnesota.com.
- Holiday Light Displays: Every winter, Duluth's Bayfront Festival Park on Lake Superior transforms into "America's Largest Free Walk-Through Lighting Display," shining bright with 4 million lights at Bentleyville Tour of Lights (through Dec. 27). Admission is free, but monetary donations as well as unwrapped toys and non-perishable food items are appreciated.
Southern Minnesota is also shining this season. Kiwanis Holiday Lights (through Dec. 31) in Mankato features 1.5 million LED lights, animated displays, a skating rink, horse-drawn wagon rides, Santa Claus, live reindeer, ice sculptures and more. The event is free, but guests are encouraged to bring other donations such as non-perishable food items.
In the Twin Cities, Winter Lights at the Minnesota Arboretum (through Jan. 2) will enhance the beauty of the natural landscape with 16 outdoor light displays featuring flowers and wintry nature on an accessible and stroller-friendly half-mile walk. The GLOW Holiday Festival (through Jan. 2) at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds features more than a million lights, an ice palace, Sky Glider rides and some iconic State Fair foods. At the Minnesota Zoo, Nature Illuminated shines with stunning light work and larger-than-life animal art installations (through Jan. 16).
Or, hop in the car to see thousands of sparkling lights at drive-through displays at Sever's Holiday Lights in Shakopee (through Jan. 3), Christmas in Color at Valleyfair (through Jan. 2), Sertoma Winter Wonderland in Baxter (through Dec. 31) or Celebrate the Light of the World in Willmar (through Jan. 1).
- Holiday Trains: In Duluth, the Christmas City Express chugs along Lake Superior to and from the Duluth Depot. While onboard, guests will enjoy carolers, hear a holiday story and have the opportunity to visit Santa Claus. The Christmas City Express runs select weekends through December. The annual Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will be virtual for 2021.
- Festive Holiday Events: The Northern Express delivers double the fun with celebrations in Excelsior (through Dec. 19) and Moorhead (Dec. 10 – 12). The immersive experience features holiday markets, Santa Claus meet-and-greets, llamas, festive food and drink, reindeer and more. Holidazzle is back in downtown Minneapolis's Loring Park (Dec. 17 – 19) with new experiences, including a ferris wheel, carousel and giant slide under the skyline, as well as old favorites, such as the Holidazzle Yeti, fireworks, festive food and drink and shopping.
- European Christmas Markets: Visit a European-style Christmas market to find one-of-a-kind gifts and holiday decorations. Warm up with a cup of Glühwein or sample European-inspired dishes at the European Christmas Market at St. Paul's Union Depot (weekends through Dec. 19). Plan a festive German-themed outing with your family to Excelsior's Christkindlsmarkt's KinderWorld (Dec. 3 – 5) to see puppet shows, storytime, alpacas, reindeer and more, or visit the Duluth Winter Village (Dec. 4 – 5) at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
- 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 Mansion in Duluth or experience what the holidays were like 100 years ago at the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum in Little Falls.
- Pop-Up Holiday Bars: Celebrate in the city at holiday-themed pop-up bars like Miracle at Lawless Distilling in Minneapolis to enjoy festive Minnesota-made cocktails in a kitschy holiday setting. In northeast Minneapolis, Psycho Suzi's is transformed into Mary's Christmas Palace, while nearby sister restaurant Betty Danger's converts to Felicia's Navidad, complete with a vertical revolving sleigh ride, to celebrate Christmas in the tackiest (and tastiest!) way possible through New Year's Eve.
- Holiday Shopping: 'Tis the season to stroll through some of Minnesota's most charming downtowns. Visit downtown Stillwater's Hometown for the Holidays through New Year's Eve to find carolers, horse-drawn wagonette rides, shopping deals, live reindeer and more, or experience downtown Northfield by candlelight at Northfield's Winter Walk celebration on Dec. 9. The street is lined with hundreds of luminaries, and the shops offer great holiday specials.
Downtown Minneapolis dons the Departments at Dayton's, a new makers market and nostalgic holiday window displays on view in the skyways and on Nicollet Mall. Visit the historic downtown Minneapolis department store building for the first time since Macy's closed in 2017.
If more than 500 stores and tax-free shopping on clothing and shoes isn't reason enough to visit Mall of America, several holiday activities will delight visitors, including private or virtual meet-and-greets with Santa and the Candy Cane Institute, where families and kids of all ages can find Santa's top team of elves for an interactive tour.
- You-Pick Christmas Tree Farms: Channel your inner Clark Griswold by visiting one of Minnesota's you-pick Christmas tree farms. This outing is not only fun, but it's also good for the environment. For every tree harvested for the holidays farmers plant an average of one to three seedlings in its place. Each farm features its own personality, from quiet and peaceful to bustling holiday hubs with sleigh rides, family crafts, Santa Claus meet-and-greets and more.
- Holiday Shows: Tune in to the Twin Cities holiday theater scene with holiday classics, including It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (through Dec. 24), performed at The Saint Paul Hotel and accompanied by lunch or dinner, A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 27) at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and many other magical must-see shows. The St. Olaf Christmas Festival (Dec. 3 – 5) is one of the oldest Christmas musical celebrations in the United States. It dates back to 1912 and features more than 500 student musicians and the St. Olaf Orchestra.
- Holiday Teas: Sip tea and enjoy treats like warm scones, canapés, cheesecakes, tea sandwiches and more. Book a tea time at the Lowell Inn in Stillwater, the Mad Hatter in Anoka or The Saint Paul Hotel.
For more ideas, information on activities, events and more, please visit exploreminnesota.com, live chat or call 888-VISITMN to speak with a Minnesota travel expert, or follow along via social media, using #OnlyinMN.
About Explore Minnesota
As the state's tourism promotion office, Explore Minnesota works to inspire consumers and facilitate travel to and within Minnesota while pursuing an entrepreneurial approach and leveraging the state's tourism investment with increased involvement by the private sector. Tourism is a key sector of the state's economy, historically generating $1.0 billion in state sales tax on $16.6 billion in leisure and hospitality sales and employing nearly 275,000 workers in Minnesota's leisure and hospitality businesses. Visit exploreminnesota.com, and share your sights with @exploreminn on Twitter, or @exploreminnesota on Instagram and Facebook, using #OnlyinMN.
Note: High-res photos are available here.