When in Minneapolis or St. Paul on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there's plenty to do and much of it is outdoors. Many of these fun things to do are ideal for families—something parents or the whole family can do without breaking the bank.
Head for the slopes and go tubing, hit the ice rink or take a hike. Winter shouldn't keep you indoors. For plenty of Christmas spirit, tour the lights in Phalen Park in St. Paul or take part in a 5K Christmas fun run. To warm up, enjoy a holiday meal at a local restaurant, or stop for a drink at O'Gara's Garage in St. Paul during their annual Christmas party.
If you found new snow sports gear under the Christmas tree, you may want to try it out right away.
Snow conditions permitting, ski resorts that are usually open over the holidays include:
- Afton Alps: Located in the scenic St. Croix River Valley just outside Minneapolis and St. Paul, the resort installed a powerful state-of-the-art snowmaking system to keep the 300 skiable acres, and slopes open—there is enough terrain to keep both beginners and experts happy.
- Buck Hill: With over 16 runs and a hill for tubing, and several dining options, Buck Hill, in Burnsville, is a fun place to go.
- Wild Mountain: Located in Taylors Falls, Wild Mountain has facilities for skiing, boarding, and tubing.
- And in Wisconsin, try Trollhaugen with lots of family activities including boarding, skiing, and tubing.
Welch Village and Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area in Bloomington are reliable treats on other days during Christmas week.
This popular attraction is open 365 days every year, and Christmas Day is no exception. Both the zoo and conservatory will be open on Christmas Day during regular hours. Visit penguins and polar bears on Christmas Day and if you're lucky, see the gardens and conservatory blanketed in snow.
Go For a Walk or Hike in a Park
Depending on how much it snows, you could be either hiking or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Places like Minnehaha Park and the fantastical frozen Minnehaha Falls make an ideal holiday destination. Get some exercise by going snowshoeing at Fort Snelling State Park or walk the trails and watch for winter birds and other wildlife at the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area.
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is open daily from 6 a.m. until midnight. Its centerpiece, the colossal "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture, is one of the icons of Minneapolis and a great place for photos with out-of-town visitors. The giant spoon keeps company with some 40 other works. If you are interested in photography, then the shapely sculptures, many with stark lines or bold colors, take on new meaning against the white snow.
Movie theaters are traditionally busy on Christmas Day. See a long-anticipated special feature and make you and your family happy.
Some movie theaters may just be screening the blockbusters at Christmastime; some screen classic Christmas movies. For instance, the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis usually shows Christmas movies in the run-up to Christmas day, and prices are bargain-basement.
Dine out on Christmas Day
Many bars are open on Christmas Day, and several metro-area restaurants are open for Christmas lunch and dinner. Treat yourself to a fancy meal for the holiday at places like the Radisson Blue where both the downtown and Mall of America locations usually serve traditional foods like prime rib and glazed ham on Christmas Day. Monello, serving contemporary Italian cuisine in an elegant dining room at the Hotel Ivy is usually open for Christmas day dinner.
Most outdoor rinks in local parks are open for skating every day and others may be open either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve—check their websites. The city of St. Paul maintains 14 ice rinks in parks across the city, including four refrigerated rinks. In addition, the city of Bloomington has 14 outdoor winter ice rinks, and the Bloomington Ice Garden hosts three rinks that are open year-round.
Bars and Clubs
As with restaurants, some bars and clubs are open, and some are closed on Christmas Day. CC Club, Minneapolis’ iconic dive bar is usually open Christmas day with some affordable breakfast or bar food and to go with their traditional drinks. The cozy Mercy Bar and Dining Room is usually open on Christmas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and often has Christmas specials.
Give something to the community and help out with one of the many organizations and nonprofits that help the needy in the Twin Cities. There's lots to help out with, including serving Christmas dinner to the homeless.
To help carry out a holiday tradition, consider volunteering with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is one of the most visible non-profit organizations during the holidays, and they need plenty of people to help. You don't need any experience to do most of the tasks except the willingness to help out. The Salvation Army needs people to prepare and serve holiday meals, help get toys to needy children, be a bell-ringer, and much more.
Every holiday season, Phalen Park in St. Paul is decked out in thousands of holiday lights. You can drive through to see the displays any evening, Christmas included, until January 1. Or, you could drive (or ride along on a tour) through the center of Minneapolis to see the store lights and street decorations.
Charities Challenge organizes an annual Christmas Day 5K race at Lake Como in St. Paul that normally begins at 10 a.m. Participants are invited to run or walk, and families are welcome— you can even wear holiday costumes or get out your red and green running gear. It's a great way to preemptively run or walk off those Christmas calories.
Also, read about the best apple orchards near Minneapolis-Saint Paul.