December in Minnesota essentially guarantees a white Christmas.
For the other necessities during the holidays, you'll have to provide for yourself. Here's a comprehensive guide to shopping, food, Christmas trees, volunteering, holiday light shows, and other Christmas events in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.
Malls and Shopping Centers
Minnesotans are blessed with the largest mall in the country, and plenty of other malls too. Brave the Mall of America—which starts getting busier and busier starting around Thanksgiving— or try one of the several large malls located all around the Twin Cities like Midtown Global Market or Gaviidae Common.
For bargain Christmas shopping, try one of the local outlet malls, a handful of which are only a short drive out of the Twin Cities. And in town, there are several designer outlet stores, featuring brands like Nordstrom Rack and Neiman Marcus, in and around Minneapolis.
Shopping Streets and Neighborhoods
If braving the crowds at the mall isn't appealing, there are several shopping districts that have independent stores mixed in with some chain stores. Edina and Grand avenues in St. Paul are the best known, but there are several more places. Downtown Stillwater is great for antiques and collectibles, there are art galleries galore in St. Anthony, and Linden Hills holds several cute boutique shops. All of the locations are ideal to spend an afternoon shopping for Christmas gifts in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and around the Twin Cities.
Volunteering for the Holidays
One of the best gifts to give this year is time helping out a local non-profit. A multitude of programs for assisting the less fortunate exists, providing help like buying Christmas gifts for a needy family or supplying their holiday meal. Most community organizations and churches appreciate volunteers during the holidays. Additionally, aid is needed to accompany senior citizens on holiday shopping trips, act as an usher for local choral group VocalEssence's holiday performances, and serve meals at the People Serving People homeless shelter.
Popular volunteer opportunities fill up fast—so if what you want to do is already covered, make a resolution to volunteer in the new year when volunteers are also needed.
Christmas tree lots spring up all over the city every year. Whether you want an affordable Christmas tree, or maybe spend a little more and get a sustainably grown tree, there are vendors available in most neighborhoods.
For a memorable activity, consider cutting your own Christmas tree at a farm around the Twin Cities. Places like Covered Bridge Tree Farm in Forest Lake, Hansen Tree Farm in Ramsey, and Log Cabin Pines in Elco typically offer extras like hot chocolate, cookies, wagon rides, and baked goods to make it an unforgettable family day out.
A gift of tickets to a holiday show will create fond memories for your loved ones. Many of the shows are geared for kids, but there's something for everyone: big productions, college performances, and free shows. Standouts include the Metropolitan Ballet's annual performance of "The Nutcracker" and "A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater.
Free Holiday Events
Catch a break from all the expenses of the holidays with free activities around the city. The annual Holiday Flower Show provides a respite from the cold weather and thousands of stunning bulbs to walk past.
The family-friendly Holidazzle parade showcases seasonal floats, marchers, and dancers at Loring Park every Friday and Saturday evening. For a bit of decoration inspiration, check out the Minnesota Governor's Residence. The home offers free public tours and is fully decked out with holiday decorations and a gigantic Christmas tree.
Making the season bright get literal with the many holiday light displays around town. Options include seeing Grand Meander's colossal light show with reindeer and carolers, driving past local neighborhood houses famous for their Christmas light displays, catching the Governor of Minnesota's Holiday lights, or taking in one of the indoor light shows around the Twin Cities.
Things to Do on Christmas Day
After opening the gifts, some may get a bit stir crazy staying inside all day. For those not on the hook to cook Christmas dinner, Minneapolis offers many activities that are open on the holiday. Why not run to work off all that pie with Charities Challenge Christmas Day Joyful 5k race, go ice skating at a local rink, or educate the kids about animals at Como Park's interactive Leonard Wilkening Children’s Gallery.