Explore more of Minnesota with holiday festivals just outside the Twin Cities

Photo courtesy of Glensheen

By Lianna Matt

Minneapolis and St. Paul know how to deck themselves out for the holidays—just check out our top five quintessential Twin Cities holiday events—but that spirit is spread throughout the state. And, since Thanksgiving is over, the holiday festivities are in full swing. Check out some of our favorite events away from the cities to kick off the season, but plan quickly; some of them happen the weekend after Thanksgiving, and some are before that.

Hometown for the Holidays, Stillwater

Nov. 18-Dec. 30; 27 miles northeast

It’s difficult to describe this multi-month event simply because of all of its happenings. Historic Main Street is fully decked out for Hometown for the Holidays, and activities such as horse-drawn wagon rides; visits from Santa and reindeer; theater, music and dance performances; biercycle caroling tours; holiday tea and more populate the calendar.

Holiday Stroll, Red Wing

Nov. 24, 2017; 51 miles southeast

Red Wing has always been one of those quaint towns for shopping and nature parks, but with the Holiday Stroll, everything is imbued with the magic of the season. Free family friendly events include the pancake feast, movie screenings, live ice sculpture carvings, visits from Santa, vintage snowmobiles and cookie decorating. If that doesn’t sound entertaining enough, then consider the fire dancers, live music, parade and baby reindeer that will be there, too.

Kiwanis Holiday Lights, Mankato

Nov. 24-Dec. 31, 2017; 84 miles southwest

With an opening parade, ice sculpting contests, live reindeer, ice skating, a Snowy 5K and more, it’s hard to believe none of these are the center of the Kiwanis Holiday Lights. The massive, 1.5-million LED light display is. Walk through it all (approximate at least half an hour) or stay warm inside your car and tune into a specific radio station to see the lights “dance” to the programmed music. While the holiday lights are free, consider giving financial support or a food item to the local food shelf.

Arli-Dazzle, Arlington

Dec. 2, 2017; 63 miles southwest

Arli-Dazzle has all of the festival staples, like a holiday market and a visit from Santa and his real life reindeer, but it also adds on a few of its own charms. Sign up for the ice fishing derby, watch the Arli-Dazzle night parade go by, and get a free ticket to the Bethlehem Express, a walking activity tour in St. Paul Lutheran Church featuring carolers, crafts, refreshments and the Christmas story.

Duluth Winter Village, Duluth

Dec. 2 & 3, 2017; 156 miles north

We know the Duluth Winter Village is a bit farther to travel, but trust us, it’s worth it. The free winter market by local Duluth vendors is fantastic, but really, that’s just an added incentive to tour the market’s site, Glensheen, which is the 27,000-square-foot and 39-room mansion completed in 1908 by the Congdon family. For $15 per adult ($45 per family) and other discounts, tour the mansion in its holiday splendor with more than 25 Christmas trees and hundreds of yards of garland.

100 Miles of Christmas, Lake Pepin Area

Dec. 2 & 3, 2017; 63 miles southeast

Journey along the Mississippi River for 100 Miles of Christmas where you’ll pass through small towns that all know how to celebrate holidays the old fashioned way. Meet artisans, enjoy live music, get a trolley light tour and more.

Christmas in the Village, Farmington

Dec. 2 & 3, 9 & 10, 2017; 24 miles south

It’s difficult not to fall in love with the holiday traditions of Christmas in the Village. Sure, you could simply drive past this Dakota City Heritage Village to see the lights, or you could pay a small ticket price ($7 for adults, $4 ages 3-12, free for children under 3) and take in a cornucopia of activities as the village prepares for Christmas in the year 1900. Horse drawn trolleys, woodworking demonstrations and carolers make up part of the merriment, but an abridged version of “A Christmas Carol” awaits as do old fashioned crafts, storytelling and writing letters to Santa. He might even write back!

Winter Walk, Northfield

Dec. 7, 2017; 45 miles south

Stroll through downtown Northfield with your path lit up with hundreds of candles shining in the night. Northfield’s Winter Walk is full with carolers, horse carriage rides, visits from Santa and Rudolph, storytelling, and decorated storefronts in addition to the boutiques and dining options Northfield already has.


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