Guide to Christmas in Minneapolis and St. Paul: Free Events and Ice Skating

St. Paul city view
Saibal / Getty Images

There may be a lot of deals at the shopping malls, but everyone knows that between the presents and the travel costs, the holidays can be expensive–and that doesn't leave much left in the monthly budget for festive events! 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'll be sure to find something you enjoy in the Twin Cities without having to break the bank.

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54th Annual Macy's Minneapolis SantaLand

Macy's Santaland

 jpellgen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) / Flickr

Each year since 1965, the flagship Macy's store on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis has created a wonderland of animated holiday characters for the annual SantaLand holiday display.

In 2019, the 54th Annual Macy's Minneapolis SantaLand will be open every day between November 22 and December 24. 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.

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Holidazzle in Minneapolis

Holidazzle Festival

 Dusty Hoskovec

Another annual holiday tradition in Minneapolis, the Holidazzle, brings holiday cheer and fun free events to Loring Park from November 29 to December 22, 2019. Throughout the month, Holidazzle includes movie nights on select Thursday, Friday, and Sunday evenings; fireworks; ice skating at the Wells Fargo Minneapolis WinterSkate; visits with Santa on weekends; and 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 that are worth keeping an eye out for.

03 of 08

Wells Fargo WinterSkate in St. Paul

Wells Fargo WinterSkate in St. Paul

 Teresa Boardman

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 for free if you have your own ice skates or rent skates for a few dollars. Wells Fargo cardholders can even 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.

04 of 08

See the Holiday Lights in the Twin Cities

Christmas tree in St. Paul

Visit Saint Paul 

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 the Victorian-style homes lining the street—including the Governor's Residence—will be decorated in classy white lights for the holidays.

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05 of 08

Attend Free Holiday Shows and Concerts

Performance by the Minnesota BoyChoir

 Minnesota Boychoir

Each year, several local colleges, organizations, and music groups present free holiday concerts and services throughout the holiday season in the Twin Cities. In 2019, you can catch the holiday classic A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theatre or The Nutcracker at the Metropolitan Ballet. For something even more local, don't miss a chance to see the Minnesota BoyChoir perform one of their holiday show or one of the original holiday-themed plays put on by the Actors Theatre of Minnesota.

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Grand Avenue Christmas Tree Lighting in St. Paul

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 to take part in the Grand Meander, which takes place on December 7, 2019. Event highlights include carolers, free hot soup, visits with Santa and his reindeer, free samples, sales at the stores along Grand Avenue, and appearances from local celebrities. At the end of the night, the lights will be turned on for the first time to welcome the Christmas season.

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Como Park Holiday Flower Show

Como Park Holiday Flower Show

 Jackie Scherer

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 7, 2019, through early January. 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.

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Take a Tour of the Governor's Mansion

Every year, the Minnesota Governor's Residence offers free public tours during the month of December to see the official holiday decorations and Christmas tree.

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. Volunteers from the Women's Auxiliary of the Minnesota Historical Society will be available to answer questions about the mansion.