11 Best Things to Do on Christmas in Minneapolis-St. Paul

minneapolis nicollet mall christmas
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There's plenty to do in Minneapolis or St. Paul on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and much of it is outdoors. Many of these fun things 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.

01 of 11

Go Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snowtubing

Snowboarder cranks turn on mountain slope
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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 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 many 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.

02 of 11

Visit Como Park and Como Zoo

Baby Gorilla Arlene

Como Zoo

This popular attraction is open 365 days yearly, 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 lucky, see the gardens and conservatory blanketed in snow.

03 of 11

Go For a Walk or Hike in a Park

Minnehaha falls frozen
Albert Leung / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Depending on how much it snows, you could be either hiking or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Places like ​Minnehaha Park and the unbelievably frozen Minnehaha Falls make an ideal holiday destination. Get some exercise by snowshoeing at Fort Snelling State Park or walking the trails and watching winter birds and other wildlife at the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area.

04 of 11

See the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
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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, the shapely sculptures, many with stark lines or bold colors, take on new meaning against the white snow.

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05 of 11

See a Movie

Riverview Theater Minneapolis
Dan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

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, with bargain-basement prices.

06 of 11

Dine Out on Christmas Day

Christmas Dinner
Ariel Skelly/Getty Images

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.

07 of 11

Go Ice Skating on Christmas Day

Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel The Depot

Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel

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. 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 open year-round. 

08 of 11

Have a Drink at a Local Bar

Mercy Bar & Restaurant

Mercy

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 to go with their traditional drinks. The cozy Mercy Bar and Dining Room is generally open on Christmas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and often has Christmas specials.

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09 of 11

Volunteer for the Holidays

Young Hispanic family volunteering to serve food in soup kitchen
Steve Debenport / Getty Images

Give something to the community and help out with one of the many organizations and non-profits 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 needs plenty of people to help. You don't need experience to do most of the tasks except the willingness to help. The Salvation Army needs people to prepare and serve holiday meals, help get toys to needy children, be a bell-ringer, and much more.

10 of 11

Tour Holiday Lights in the Park

Holiday lights in Rice Park, St. Paul
Doug Wallick / Getty Images

Phalen Park in St. Paul is decked out in thousands of holiday lights every holiday season. You can drive through to see the displays any evening, Christmas included, until Jan. 1. Or, you could drive (or ride along on a tour) through the center of Minneapolis to see the store lights and street decorations.

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Run the Christmas Day Joyful 5K

Christmas Day 5K race

charitieschallenge.org

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.