Free Twin Cities Events That'll Rescue Your Christmas Budget

Go see Santa, a parade, a tree lighting or a flower show—all for free

St. Paul city view
Saibal / Getty Images

The holidays are expensive enough. Here are several holiday events and pastimes that will help you shave a few dollars from your expenses and keep the holiday cheer flowing. 

  • 01 of 08

    The flagship Macy's store on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis creates a wonderland of animated holiday characters for the annual Santaland holiday display. Macy's has been doing this nearly 50 years, and it's free. Open every day from November 23–December 24, except ​​Thanksgiving Day.​

  • 02 of 08

    Another annual holiday tradition in Minneapolis, the Holidazzle Parade season starts on November 29, and there is a parade every Friday and Saturday evening until December 21 on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

    The parade is truly dazzling, with thousands of lights on floats, vehicles, marchers, dancers and more. Brave the cold and wind chill to see the show, or get there early and snag a spot in a skyway above Nicollet Mall.

    In addition to this mega event, many smaller communities hold their own smaller-scale holiday parades in late November and early December.

  • 03 of 08

    Downtown St. Paul gets its own outdoor ice rink every winter from the end of November to early February. The Winterskate rink is next to the Landmark Center and Rice Park, so it's surrounded by holiday lights and the city lights of downtown St. Paul. The rink is open every day and until late on the weekend.

    You can skate free if you have your own ice skates, or you can rent skates for a couple of dollars.

  • 04 of 08

    Try some pure nostalgia for your holiday entertainment. How about loading the family and a flask of hot chocolate into the car for a leisurely ride around your neighborhood to see the holiday lights? Or go see one of those Twin Cities neighborhoods or houses known for spectacular holiday lighting displays.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Several local colleges' present free holiday concerts and services, usually in early December. 

    There's also the Minnesota Boychoir, which gives unmatched annual holiday concerts every December. All shows are free, but a donation is requested.

  • 06 of 08

    Grand Avenue, St. Paul's largest shopping district, starts the holiday season in early December with a day of entertainment and special events, carols, hot soup, Santa and his reindeer, free samples and specials at stores on Grand Avenue and the Grand Avenue Christmas Tree Lighting. Sounds like an amazing day for the family.

  • 07 of 08

    The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park offers a respite from the cold and snow December–early January with the annual Holiday Flower Show, featuring thousands of blooms. The flower show is open every day, including Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

    The conservatory and the whole of Como Park and Como Zoo are free to visit, but donations are welcome.

  • 08 of 08

    The Minnesota Governor's Mansion offers free public tours during the month of December to see the official holiday decorations and Christmas tree.