Don’t miss these perennial Twin Cities holiday events picked by locals, for locals and visitors alike

By Tammy Galvin

Even for the most devout of Scrooges, it’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of the holidays. Twinkling lights cast an aura of joy on otherwise dark and oftentimes damp evenings courtesy of Mother Nature this time of year. Radio stations find clever ways to intermingle holiday songs across all genres whether it’s Bruce Sprinsteen’s rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” or the myriad takes on your grandma getting run over by a reindeer. No matter our chances of having a snowy white holiday season—although I, for one, would love to have a few feet of snow by then—these quintessential Twin Cities holiday events will have you mindlessly humming along to whatever holiday classic is playing nearby.

Best Of The Twin Cities Holiday Events: ChristKindlsmarkts

Nov. 25-27

Located in the charming western suburb that bears its name, the Excelsior ChristKindlsmarkt is a three-day festival that truly celebrates the holiday season with activities for the whole family. Featuring a Grande Parade and an open-air with Greman Christmas traditions, delicious treats, unique gifts and, of course, the ever-popular Biergarten, the markt [sic] is held in and around the parking lot behind Excelsior Brewing Co.

 Dec. 1 – Dec. 11

The European Christmas Market in St. Paul is based on the traditional, charming and festive open air ChristKindlsmarkts that abound in Germany, Austria and other countries during the Advent season. Shop for unique, handmade holiday gifts and decorations from local vendors, drink Gluhwein (spiced mulled wine) and taste European-inspired food and delicacies.

Best Of The Twin Cities Holiday Events: Museums Magically Transformed

Nov. 3 – Jan. 13

The Nordic Christmas rooms at the American Swedish Institute have become a holiday destination for many visitors and locals alike. Five galleries on the first and second floors of the historic Turnblad Mansion are decorated for the holidays, representing the traditions of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. This year’s theme is “A Royal Christmas,” and each Christmas Room highlights its country’s royalty or head of state in photos and text.

 Nov. 25 – Jan. 1

Experience the sights, sounds and tastes of a Victorian Christmas in 1875. During this guided tour of the impeccably appointed Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul, guests can taste homemade cookies fresh from the wood burning stove, listen to popular holiday music of the era played on the Ramsey family’s Steinway piano, and view original family ornaments and Christmas gifts. Discover how the Ramsey family and their friends, neighbors and servants prepared for and celebrated the Christmas season. Shop in the Carriage House gift store for replica Victorian ornaments and holiday items. The 60-minute guided tours start every half hour and run Wednesdays through Sundays.

Best Of The Twin Cities Holiday Events: Holiday Lights Galore

Nov. – Jan. 1

The Holiday Light Show at Nickelodeon Universe in the heart of the Mall of America is a unique twist on the amusement park’s nightly Universe of Light Show. Celebrate the holiday spirit with a magical display of lights, festive music and a breathtaking grand finale. Shown nightly at 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30pm (Sundays: 5, 6 and 7pm), the multi-media experience will take you on an emotional journey through light and sound. Universe of Light combines cutting-edge production with the fun, playful ambiance of Nickelodeon Universe. Laser strobe lights, music and smoke effects transform the air space into a Technicolor dream sure to excite and engage adults and kids alike.

Nov. 17 – Jan. 29 (Thursdays-Sundays)

Don’t miss the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s premiere large-scale light installation this winter. The Arb, which usually closes at nightfall, is hosting Winter Lights at the Arboretum. This truly one-of-a-kind experience illuminates the Minnesota landscape after dark with miles of fiber-optic cables from international artist Bruce Munro’s five outdoor and two indoor installations. This ticketed exhibit includes a self-guided walking tour of the thousands of radiant lights, pulsating animations and sounds.

Best Of The Twin Cities Holiday Events: Dine with Santa

Nov. 27 – Dec. 18 (Saturdays & Sundays)

From breakfast to lunch and yes, even dinner, there are several opportunities for you and your youngsters to spend some quality time sharing a meal with Santa. Throughout the Twin Cities in the majority of our many malls, you can reserve your meal with Santa at Macy’s locations.

Best Of The Twin Cities Holiday Events: Free (Yes, FREE!) Pictures With Santa

Dec. 3, 10, & 17

December is a great time to visit the Minnesota Zoo for Santa Saturdays. If you’re looking for that perfect holiday photo, bring your family and camera to the Zoo on Saturdays in December. The jolly old man is available for photos from 11:30am- 1:00pm.

Best Of The Twin Cities Holiday Events: Unique Holiday Shows

Dec. 1-4, 8-11

Get ready to crank your holiday spirit all the way up and be thoroughly surprised and delighted by the Rock & Roll Christmas Show, a multimedia, musical extravaganza at the ever-popular Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Returning for the third time, this hugely popular rockin’ event mixes rock hits of the ’70s to today with hilarious stories and parodies. Join an 8-piece all-star cast of musicians as they uniquely rock their way through Christmas classics in the most imaginative way possible.

Dec. 8 – 24 (showtimes vary)

For the 11th consecutive season, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play combines with exceptional food at The Saint Paul Hotel for a truly memorable take on the classic 1946 Frank Capra film. Each show is accompanied by a three-course luncheon for afternoon performances and a three-course dinner for evening shows.

Best Of The Twin Cities Holiday Event: Honorable Mentions

Mid-Nov.-Mid-Dec. (store hours)

Since 1963, Macy’s 8th Floor Holiday Display has enchanted visitors of all ages with animated displays taking over nearly the entire floor of this downtown location, previously home to Dayton’s. Visitors meander through elaborately decorated and highly animated scenes offering a glimpse into the “Life of an Elf.” Even locals return year after year (the display used to change annually) to see the mischievous elves in action. There is truly something new to see every time you visit…that’s the level of detail and intricacy that goes into each live-action scene. Of course, the jolly old man himself is waiting at the end for photo-ops, and there are ample mailboxes for youngsters to drop those very real letters to Santa.

Dec. 3-Jan. 2

The Holiday Flower Show tradition began in 1925 and continues to be the most anticipated and visited flower attraction in the Sunken Gardens at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park Zoo. The holiday show features new Poinsettia Gold Rush, a beautiful gold colored Poinsettia, just hitting the market this year, supplemented with orange and red Poinsettias, and beautiful rusty orange Philodendrons.


City Secrets

Be sure to come back soon and visit as we continue to add holiday must-do lists as their start dates draw near. Soon to be added: Holidazzle, Holiday Outdoor Events, Mall of America Events in the Rotunda, Light Tours, Holiday Shopping Guide, The Holiday Train and more!


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