If you're traveling to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota during the 2018 holiday season and are looking for some great places to check out Christmas lights and holiday events, Minneapolis-Saint Paul has several great venues full of seasonal cheer and decorations—from Downtown St. Paul's Wells Fargo Winterskate at Rice Park to the Bentleyville Tour of Lights in the northern city of Duluth. There are some individual homes and neighborhoods full of the Christmas spirit too.
Whether you're arriving early in the season or just coming in for the holidays themselves, there's plenty to see and explore on your winter adventure to the Twin Cities in 2018.
Rice Park is home to downtown St. Paul's Christmas tree and the whole park area is draped with twinkling lights from mid-November 2018 through mid-March 2019. Here, you'll find the Wells Fargo Winterskate outdoor ice skating rink, the historic Landmark Center, which hosts several holiday events throughout the month, and a ton of Christmas decor throughout the month of December.
Visiting the Christmas tree and holiday lights in Downtown St. Paul makes for a classic Christmas tradition for residents and visitors alike.
The Rice Park tree lighting and WinterSkate ribbon-cutting will take place at Landmark Plaza starting at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 17, 2018, and include fireworks at 6:45 p.m. Free skating will be open through mid-February.
Rice Park has been undergoing a renovation with new sod so the lights will be on the perimeter. The $2.42 million makeover of the 1.6-acre park began this summer and will feature expanded gardens, new walkways, and lighting.
Minneapolis's Loring Park hosts the annual Holidazzle market, which will feature local vendors, an ice skating rink, light displays, and visits from Santa himself, all free of charge, on Thursdays to Sunday between November 23 and December 23, 2018.
Along with a dazzling display of thousands of lights, Holidazzle in 2018 features stories that highlight local influencers, products, and places that showcase the food, art, and sports culture of the Twin Cities. Local entertainers, food and art vendors, and community groups will each provide programming throughout the month, so make sure to head over to the official website for a full list of winter events.
Entrance points to Holidazzle include the walking paths near the intersections of Harmon Place; Maple Street, Willow Street; Grant Street, and the pedestrian bridge near Oak Grove Street.
The cute-as-a-button town of Taylor's Falls, about an hour north of the Twin Cities, holds an annual, three-day Lighting Festival on Thanksgiving Weekend, November 23 to 24, 2018, with parades, reindeer, music, food, and entertainment. Historic houses in the town get dressed up for the season and welcome visitors to experience the atmosphere of a Victorian Christmas, and the town's several independent stores and boutiques have events and sales that extend through much of the month of December.
After the Lighting Festival is over, the lights will stay up until Christmas, making Taylor's Falls a pleasant day trip from the Metro area.
Grand Avenue's Grand Meander and Holiday Lights
Grand Avenue welcomes shoppers all season long, but the Grand Meander is a great way to usher in the holiday season on December 1, 2018. The day will start off with Breakfast with Santa, before featuring reindeer, fire truck rides, entertainment from carolers, and local art on display and for purchase.
However, if you miss the celebration at the Grand Meander, visiting the Grand Avenue shopping district is the perfect way to spend a chilly winter day in St. Paul while browsing for some last-minute Christmas items and taking in all the gorgeous lighting displays and holiday installations.
The city of South St. Paul holds the annual Holidaze Celebration, with a parade, music, carols, Santa, a mitten and hat drive, and the city's tree lighting ceremony on November 17 in 2018, but Christmas lights and special events remain throughout the month of December.
South St. Paul is another good place to drive around and check out holiday light displays on homes, so even if you miss the Holidaze Festival, you can still check out some of the gorgeously-lit large homes from the comfort of a warm vehicle.
Summit Avenue Christmas Lights
Summit Avenue is where some of the grandest Victorian homes in the Twin Cities were built, and homeowners along the avenue often decorate with classic Victorian style Christmas lights—though some go all-out tacky. The Governor's official home and Christmas Tree is at 1006 Summit Avenue, with a competing, equally large, Christmas tree directly opposite.
The Governor's Residence is open for free public tours throughout the holiday season to display holiday decorations in the mansion, but you can also wander through the historic James J. Hill House on one of the holiday tours offered throughout the month of December to see some truly elegant Christmas decorations.
The owners of 16700 33rd Ave North, in the suburb of Plymouth, love Christmas, Christmas lights, and Christmas music so much that they've created one of the most legendary holiday light displays in the Twin Cities.
The Fischer family's house has thousands of lights timed to flash and dance with Christmas music, which is broadcast on an FM transmitter (103.3 FM) so only you and the other spectators get to hear it via a car radio, and not the Fischer's neighbors. The display is on from the beginning of December until New Year's Eve.
This event is not in the Twin Cities, but if you are heading north this holiday season, stop by Bentleyville in Duluth, Minnesota. This free attraction recently moved from Nathan Bentley's home in Cloquet to the Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth, where there is much more room for the hundreds of thousands of lights, fire pits for roasting marshmallows, live music on the weekends, and Santa—and it's all free!
Bentleyville is open starting at 5 p.m. (to either 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., depending on the day) from November 17 to December 26, 2018, and the huge animatronic Santaland display that was in Macy's on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis for more than 50 years was donated in 2016 before the store's closing. Check with the above link to ensure it is being used for the 2018 season if this is your sole reason for making the visit.