Tis the season for some good cheer and festive holiday and Christmas festivals in the Twin Cities area. Here are a few of the top things to do in and near Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota metro area. And some of these Twin Cities holiday events are free for families and all ages.
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Best holiday festivals and Christmas events in the Twin Cities metro
GLOW Holiday Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota
One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit is to check out the GLOW Holiday Festival. With more than a million lights and festive music, you’ll be transported to a magical place. GLOW Holiday Festival is located at CHS Field this year – home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team.
This winter wonderland is fun for families and friends and very romantic for couples. In fact, we saw a group of people setting up a marriage proposal while we visited. Allow at least a couple of hours to enjoy all the GLOW festivities in St. Paul, MN. You’ll find a big slide, an enchanted forest, elf huts, light tunnels and globes, dazzling trees, and so much more.
GLOW Holiday Festival offers concessions and modern restroom facilities as well as heat lamps and bonfires to warm up. Additionally, you’ll find craft beer tents for adult beverages.
While Visit Saint Paul and GLOW Holiday Festival in St. Paul hosted my husband and me, opinions are always my own. And we loved the GLOW Holiday Festival and highly recommend checking it out this season. It’s one of the best holiday and Christmas lights events in the Twin Cities.
Good to know
Address: Where is the GLOW Holiday Festival located in the Twin Cities? CHS Field in downtown St. Paul is hosting the GLOW Holiday Festival again this year. You’ll find the main entrance for the GLOW Holiday Festival at 360 North Broadway Street between 5th Street East and 6th Street East. It’s directly across from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.
Hours of operation: GLOW Holiday Festival runs Nov. 16 through Dec. 31, 2023. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. nightly.
Parking: You can find metered street parking as well as pay lots. The St. Paul Farmer’s Market parking located across from the main entrance of GLOW Holiday Festival is $20. Additional parking lots are also near the European Christmas Market and Union Depot a few blocks away. Event parking is $10; however, it was only $2 when we visited on a Sunday night.
Note that some parking lots in the area are cash only.
If you park in the Union Depot parking lots, it’s difficult to see where you insert your ticket as you exit. (It wasn’t just me; people in front of me and next to me were getting the same error messages). Insert your parking ticket into the machine where it’s flashing (blue or white lights). Then you insert your credit card in a different slot to the right of the flashing lights. The lights were distracting so I couldn’t see the other slot. I finally figured it out!
Park and trolley ride: Look also for a GLOW trolley to catch a ride to the festival. It runs daily when the festival is open (Wed-Sun) from 5 to 10 p.m. Stops include Rice Park / The Saint Paul Hotel and CHS Field – the entrance to GLOW.
Tickets: Purchase your GLOW Holiday Festival tickets online and select your entrance time in advance. Tickets prices for GLOW Holiday Festival range from $12.75 to $20.75. Children 2 and younger are free. Please note that tickets to the GLOW Holiday Festival in St. Paul are non-refundable. GLOW Holiday Festival donates $1 from every ticket to various community organizations.
European Christmas Market in St. Paul, Minnesota
I’m in awe of all the magical European Christmas Markets I’m seeing on social media. So was excited to check out the European Christmas Market in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Both my husband and I loved this free event. Well, entrance to the market is free. You will do some shopping! Parking in the Union Depot lots is $10 and we did purchase a few Christmas gifts and decorations.
This festive Christmas village many local artisans showcasing their crafts, beer tents, lots of hot chocolate, bon fires. And come hungry as you’ll find a number of European food delicacies like pierogis, cabbage rolls, goulash, roasted nuts, handmade spaetzle noodles, homemade Polish and German smoked meats, and more. We especially loved our German brats and European cookies.
And since you’re in the area, check out the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. It’s located in the Union Depot in St. Paul. We could hear and see it from a distance when we parked in the Union Depot parking lot. This free event includes a holiday concert. You can also purchase VIP tickets to a hot chocolate bar and warming house.
Good to know
Note that they only have portable toilets at the European Christmas Market.
Address: Where is the European Christmas Market in the Twin Cities located? The European Christmas Market is located at Union Depot Station, 240 E. Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Hours of operation: The European Christmas Market in St. Paul is open the last weekend in November and the first three weekends in December (through Dec. 17). Hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Parking: You’ll find plenty of parking European Christmas Market and Union Depot a few blocks away. Event parking is $10. See my parking tip above under the GLOW Holiday Festival section.
Tickets: No tickets required.
Holidazzle in Minneapolis, Minnesota
One of the best and can’t-miss holiday events of the year is the Holidazzle in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding , the Holidazzle is hibernating in 2023.
Mears Park Christmas lights display in St. Paul, Minnesota
Special thanks to Visit Saint Paul (Minnesota) for recommending Mears Park. It’s one of several of their favorite picks this holiday season. And we have to agree!
It’s a beautiful walk in the park at Christmas. This winter wonderland features many trees decked out in blue, purple, multicolor holiday lights on display. Additionally, the Mears Park bandshell puts on a snowflake light show.
Address: Mears Park is located at 221 5th Street East, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Hours of operation: Mears Park in St. Paul is open from sunrise to 11 p.m.
Parking: You can find metered street parking next to Mears Park and throughout downtown St. Paul.
Tickets: No tickets required. Mears Park in St. Paul, Minn. is free to the public.
Rice Park holiday lights in St. Paul, Minnesota
I grew up in Fairfield, Iowa and my hometown features the quintessential small-town square. And at Christmas, it is pure magic. The Candy Cane House where we would line up to see Santa. So many beautiful lights, the nativity scene, and holiday displays. My favorite was the reindeer and Santa sleigh merry-go-round in the square gazebo.
So when my husband and I stopped by to see the holiday lights in Rice Park in St. Paul, MN last weekend, it brought back those childhood Christmas memories. While there was no Rudolph at Rice Lake, you will find a 40-foot Christmas tree with about 25,000 lights. The tree is courtesy of the Salvation Army and powered by Xcel Energy Center.
And be sure to check out the Peanuts character statues of Marcie, Woodstock, and Peppermint Patty. Charles M. Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts come strip, was born in the Twin Cities.
Hallmark Channel Christmas Cams – Rice Park in St. Paul
Address: Where is The Tree of Lights at Rice Park located? Rice Park is located at 104 W. 4th Street, St. Paul, Minnesota
Hours of operation: Rice Park in St. Paul is open from sunrise to 11 p.m. You can watch the Hallmark Channel Christmas live webcam of Rice Park from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern.
Parking: You can find metered street parking alongside Rice Park.
Tickets: No tickets required. Rice Park is free to the public.
What’s nearby: Landmark Center, located across from Rice Park, holds a Santa Workshop and a holiday bazaar early/mid-December. You’ll find another Christmas lights display at Mears Park (mentioned above). Additionally, the Herb Brooks memorial statue is located across from Rice Park next to the Ordway Theater. Brooks was the legendary hockey coach – most notably of the underdog U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980. Do you believe in miracles?
A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis
One of our favorite holiday traditions was attending the live performance of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater. We went every year for over a decade. Unfortunately, our son’s hockey schedule eventually derailed that tradition. But we are returning this year. So excited!
The Guthrie Theater is a work of art – beautiful architecture. I recommend arriving early so you can check out the Endless Bridge and Amber Box. Both are super cool! Learn how to access those public spaces and view photos in my Top 10 walking tours in the Twin Cities post.
Good to know
Address: The Guthrie Theater is located at 818 South Second Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Tickets and showtimes: While some shows are sold out, you can still purchase face value tickets for A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater. Performances run through Dec. 30 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Parking: You can park across the street from the Guthrie Theater in the Riverfront Ramp on South 2nd Street. Event parking is $10, which you can pay by credit card when you exit or at one of the pay stations inside the ramp. Street parking is also available; however; meters are typically only two hours.
Mall of America holiday events in Bloomington, Minnesota
The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota hosts a variety of holiday events. Experience the Candy Cane Institute, festive elves, letters to Santa, festival trees, the Santa Experience, holiday music concerts in the Rotunda, pet photos with Santa, and more.
See the Mall of America’s holiday event page for the latest festivities, hours of operations, and locations.
See also my dedicated and hosted Mall of America experience post on how to shake off cabin fever this holiday season and throughout the winter. This 5.6 million square-foot megamall offers something for everyone. And much more than just shopping. The Mall of America is an experience!
Good to know
Address: The Mall of America is located at 60 East Broadway in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Hours of operation: See the Mall of America website for special holiday hours.
Parking: You’ll find lots of free parking at the Mall of America in the East and West parking ramps as well as surface lots and overflow lots. Digital signage will tell you which sections are full or how many parking spots remain. Note there is a fee if you park in one of the attached hotel parking lots.
Tickets: No admission required.
York Avenue neighborhood Christmas holiday lights display
Another top pick on where to see Christmas holiday lights display in the Twin Cities – recommended by Visit St. Paul.
The Schultz family in St. Paul choreographs their Christmas lights to holiday music. When you arrive, tune in your radio to 91.5.
Address: The Schultz family Christmas lights is located at 1526 York Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Hours of operation: You can see the York Avenue Christmas lights from 5 to 10 p.m. Nov. 24 through Dec. 31, 2023.
Parking: Street parking is available on York Avenue.
Tickets: Free. They do accept non-perishable items for the food shelf.
Top things to do in Minnesota in the winter
These are just a few of the best holiday and Christmas events to do in the Twin Cities. I’ll add more holiday festivals and events as I experience them. Additionally, check out Visit Saint Paul’s holiday picks and recommendations. And Bloomington MN CVB recommends these holiday events in the Twin Cities.
List of holiday hopefuls – Twin Cities Christmas events and festivals
Here is a list of Twin Cities Christmas events and holiday festivals I hope to visit yet this season.
- Como Park Conservatory Holiday Flower Show in St. Paul Dec. 2, 2023-Jan. 2, 2024. This Twin Cities annual tradition since 1925 showcases hundreds of poinsettias.
- Gingerbread Wonderland at the Norway House in Minneapolis features more than 250 gingerbread houses. Open Nov. 24, 2023 through Jan. 7, 2024.
- Night Trains at the Twin City Model Railroad Museum – a special holiday tradition that runs through February every Saturday except Christmas Eve (Christmas decorations stay up through January). Located in St. Paul, MN.
- Sever’s Holiday Light Show in Shakopee, MN features a half-mile drive-through surrounded by 2.5 million Christmas lights through Dec. 31, 2023.
- Valleyfair Christmas in Color drive-through light show in Shakopee, MN typically run through Jan. 1 each year (confirming dates for 2023 season).
- Winter Lights 2023 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, MN. The 0.75-mile walk takes you though outdoor Christmas light displays, a 16-foot weeping willow, flowers, trees through Dec. 31, 2023. You can also purchase s’more kits a S’more Village.
- Winter Solstice Celebration 2023 at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis celebrates the shortest day of the year.
If you love historic homes, then check out three of my favorites in Minnesota all decked out for Christmas: Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, and James J. Hill House in St. Paul.
BTW: Winter lasts a long time in MinneSNOWta. So check out my top 90 things to do this winter after the holiday season is over. And once it gets brrrr-low zero, take my favorite frozen Minnesota waterfalls tour.