Explore the town along the Rum River and catch the Snowflake Parade Nov. 18

Image by Laurie Solle

By Taylor Weeks

About an hour north of the Twin Cities, Cambridge, the “City on the Rum River”—and the city of snowflakes—is just a little ways off of Interstate 35, making it a stop on a trip up to the cabin. When you drive into town, you will see a two-part city: One half is reminiscent of the town’s 1866 origins, complete with a quiet main street, vintage store fronts and decorative streetlights, and the other half is representative of its modern edge with the larger retail stores like Target and Kohl’s. Cambridge has its charms, and this historic-contemporary duality is chief among them.

With the holiday season approaching, Cambridge is gearing up for its annual Snowflake Parade on Nov. 18. Always on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, this parade is self-referred to as the town’s “own little Holidazzle” in downtown Cambridge. For a town of about 8,700 people, it throws a large parade: This year, it stretches 75 entries long.

Since the parade will begin after sundown at 5:30 p.m., the floats are lit with hundreds of twinkling lights, and many of them play music, too. To warm up from the weather before or after the parade, you can take part in another town tradition: Chow down on some chili at the Community Chili Feed. Santa will be visiting after the parade, but during it, you will be greeted by the waves of the Cambridge Ambassadors.

The Cambridge Ambassadors, Rylie Weeks, Keely Wicklund and Kate Goodmanson, are three young women who were chosen to represent the community for the year though a volunteer-based scholarship program. So really, who better to talk to in order to learn more about the city? They know everything about it, including its history.

Before the Snowflake Parade existed, Cambridge used to have a Swedish festival to celebrate one of the common heritages of the town. “Although the Swedish festival is no longer going on,” Wicklund says, “Cambridge hosts the lighted Snowflake Parade each year to give the community a way to come together and celebrate.”

As the ambassadors know, community festivals bring the town together, but everyday life shows the city’s true, homey feel.

Some of the ambassadors’ favorite parts of Cambridge aren’t inside at all. When the weather is right, they love to visit the city park along the Rum River trail to play Frisbee golf. Biking along the Cambridge-Isanti bike trail is another must. For an indoor break, oftentimes they’ll catch a movie at the Cambridge movie theater. (Even newcomers will be able to spot the theater without any trouble; its towering marquee’s blue, teal and red colors are easy to see on the skyline.)

For some ambassador-recommended bites, go down Main Street. Goodmanson picked Herman’s Bakery for their doughnuts and soup; Weeks voiced her love for Cambridge Bar and Grill, a family friendly restaurant that was voted the home of the best burger in Isanti County; and Wicklund chose People’s Café, which she says has a “small café with an at-home feel.”

Cambridge is a small town with a lot to offer in its history and its community, so start planning your stop there, whether it’s on the way to your northern cabin or whether you just want to try some of its chili during the Snowflake Parade. Either way, you might find yourself taken in by its sincerity. As Weeks puts it, “Cambridge has the character of an old town that makes it home.”

Snowflake Parade and Chili Feed:

  • Date: Nov. 18, 2017
  • Community Chili Feed: 4-7:30 p.m. at the Cambridge City Center Mall
  • Snowflake Parade: 5:30 p.m. and will go down Main Street.
  • For more information on downtown Cambridge, visit

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