The holidays are expensive, especially if you're traveling with family or taking a Christmas vacation. Fortunately, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, are home to some great free events, festivals, and attractions perfect to put you in the holiday spirit this year. From creative displays of Christmas cheer to annual events and parades, you're sure to find something you enjoy in the Twin Cities without having to break the bank.
In 2018, the 53rd Annual Macy's Minneapolis SantaLand will be open every day between November 21 and December 24, except Thanksgiving Day. The attraction and visits with Santa Claus are free to enjoy, but you'll have to pay full price if you'd like to purchase a picture of your kids sitting on Santa's lap.
Another annual holiday tradition in Minneapolis, the Holidazzle, brings holiday cheer to Loring Park from November 23 to December 23, 2018, with events throughout the month.
Holidazzle includes movie nights on select Thursday, Friday, and Sunday evenings; fireworks at 7 p.m. on November 23 and December 1, 8, 15, and 22; ice skating at the Wells Fargo Minneapolis WinterSkate; visits with Santa on weekends; and the Interactive Illuminated Art Installations.
In addition to this mega event, many local communities hold their own smaller-scale holiday parades in late November and early December.
On the other side of the river, Downtown St. Paul gets its own outdoor ice rink every winter from the end of November to early February, too. Located in the heart of the city next to the Landmark Center and Rice Park, the Wells Fargo WinterSkate rink is surrounded by holiday lights of the city.
You can skate free if you have your own ice skates or can rent skates for a few dollars, and Wells Fargo cardholders can get one free skate rental by presenting their check or credit card at the kiosk. Although the WinterSkate rink doesn't host any events of its own for the holidays, several corporate events, youth hockey scrimmages, and family open skate nights will take place throughout the season.
No matter where you're going in the United States, driving around looking at Christmas lights is a great way to get into the holiday spirit without spending any money, and the Twin Cities provide ample opportunities each year to see some great holiday lighting displays.
Downtown St. Paul's Christmas tree in Rice Park—located adjacent to the WinterSkate rink—is a great place to start your Christmas light tour after a day on the ice, or you could head a bit further south to the Holidaze Celebration in South Saint Paul. For a special treat, you can drive down Summit Avenue where Victorian-style homes lining the street—including the Governor's Residence—are decorated in classic white lights for the holidays.
Each year, several local colleges, organizations, and music groups—including the Minnesota Boychoir—present free holiday concerts and services throughout the holiday season in the Twin Cities.
In 2018, Augsburg University in Minneapolis will present Advent Vespers Services on November 30 at 8 p.m. and December 1 at 2 and 5 p.m. Meanwhile, Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato will present several concerts from December 6 to 9 in the college's Trinity Chapel and Bethel University in St. Paul will present a Festival of Christmas from November 29 to December 2 in the Benson Great Hall.
Grand Avenue, St. Paul's largest shopping district, starts the holiday season in early December with a day of entertainment and special events that culminates in the annual Grand Avenue Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
You can stop by Grand Avenue on December 1, 2018, for this annual event, which is called The Grand Meander this year. Event highlights include carolers, free hot soup, visits with Santa and his reindeer, free samples and discount specials at stores along Grand Avenues, and appearances from local representatives and celebrities before the lights turn on for the first time of the year.
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park offers a respite from the cold and snow from December through early January with the annual Holiday Flower Show, which features thousands of blooms and blossoms.
The flower show is open every day, including Christmas and New Year's Day, from December 1, 2018, through January 6, 2019. The conservatory and the whole of Como Park and Como Zoo are free to visit, but donations are welcome and go to support the Conservatory's day-to-day operating costs.
This year's Holiday Flower Shower has a Victorian theme and will focus on all red poinsettias as well as purple salvia, lavender, and scented geraniums.
The Minnesota Governor's Residence offers free public tours during the month of December to see the official holiday decorations and Christmas tree each year.
Guests can tour the interior of this Victorian-style mansion, which will be decorated by local designers who donated their time and materials to create signature looks throughout the Residence, and volunteer docents from the Women's Auxiliary of the Minnesota Historical Society will be available to answer questions about each room on the first two floors of the mansion. Each tour will also feature a selection of merchandise for sale to benefit and support the continued preservation of the historic Governor's Residence.
Tours are available on Tuesday, December 4, 11, and 18, 2018. In addition to the regular attractions of the Resident, this year will also feature a special performer or group each day of the tour: Armstrong Chamber Singers on December 4; pianist Paulette Day on December 11; and South St. Paul Secondary Choir on December 18.