Everything You Must Do in the Twin Cities This Holiday Season
It seems the holidays sneak up on us faster and faster each year. Not to mention, Thanksgiving is almost a week later than normal in 2019. The short window of time between carving the turkey and ringing in the new year is bound to fly by, so we’ve rounded up the best events in the Twin Cities that will bring out the kid in you -- or that you can bring your kids to. And, if what you’re really seeking is a break from family time, there are nontraditional options as well. We’ve made a list -- and checked it twice -- to make sure there’s something for everyone, no matter how you celebrate the season.
Through December 22
The popular Linden Hills Holiday Market is back. But this year, it has a new name (Plate & Parcel Holiday Market) and it’s moving from Sunnyside Gardens to Wagner Garden Centers in favor of more space. You’ll still find more than 60 local vendors including ready-to-eat and ready-to-gift food, crafts, jewelry, and clothing. The garden center next door will also sell festive wreaths, home decor, and Christmas trees.
Through December 29
A night out at The Guthrie is always worth dressing up for, and every year A Christmas Carol draws a well-heeled crowd. The cast is awesome -- and the first woman ever to play Scrooge at the Guthrie, Charity Jones, is back for the 2019 season. It’s always the fastest-going ticket in town, so plan accordingly.
Cost: $29 and up
November 21 - December 22
Black Nativity, by legendary poet and playwright Langston Hughes, returns to St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre once again -- featuring the Kingdom Life Church Choir. The holiday tradition is an inspirational story of faith, healing, and family. The show is designed for kids age 10 and older.
Cost: $15 and up
November 22 - January 5
If you want to see magical decked-out trees and winter lights, look no further than the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. With both indoor and outdoor displays, they have evergreens, 25-foot poinsettia trees, and lots of bulbs. Warm up with hot cocoa and grab a s’mores kit to use over the bonfire with your group.
Cost: Members are free; $15 adults, under 16 free
November 29 - December 22
If you’re a parent, thank your lucky stars the Holidazzle Parade along Nicollet Mall is no more and has is now a holiday celebration in Loring Park. There's ample room to seek shelter if it’s freezing and there’s always great food. You can see Santa, listen to carolers, shop local clothes and crafts, go ice-skating, watch movies, and catch fireworks -- all without leaving the park.
November 30 - December 28
‘Tis the season to be merry! And what could be merrier than hopping on a bus with a bunch of strangers and hitting up some Minnesota breweries? The Brews & Bulbs tour includes stops at Saint Paul Brewing, Stacked Deck, and Bad Weather. In between downing suds, you’ll see the city’s best holiday lights and make a stop in Rice Park. For a chance to win an extra pint, wear a festive outfit or ugly holiday sweater.
If your holiday season calls for multi-tasking, check out the Minneapolis Craft Market at Modist Brewing Company. You can sip local craft beers while also perusing more than 35 vendors for one-of-a-kind presents. Modist’s taproom and warehouse space will have handmade candles, baby clothes, soaps, jewelry, winter accessories, and even gifts for your four-legged friends.
If you need a break from holiday tradition, catch contestants from VH1’s reality TV show strutting their stuff to Christmas classics onstage at Pantages Theatre. Featuring tons of glitter, A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour is an adult-centered, hilarious evening of inappropriate fun.
Cost: $43 and up
Drink up, grinches! The largest holiday bar crawl by far, 12 Bars of Christmas returns this year for its 16th season. Hordes of people wearing matching shirts, Santa costumes, and reindeer onesies will take over the Warehouse District spreading Christmas cheer (sometimes in excess.) Either a pre-ordered shirt or wristband gets crawlers free cover and drink specials, but both sell out, so hop to it.
Cost: $25 and up
December 6 - 22
Still a transit hub, Union Depot also bills itself as St. Paul’s “Hub for the Holidays.” The season kicks off December 6 with a tree-lighting ceremony and fireworks, and continues with the European Christmas Market on the East Plaza. Throughout the season, there will also be special visits by the North Pole Express (December 6-8; 12-15) and Canadian Pacific (December 10) holiday trains.
December 6 - 22
The family-friendly play Hanukkah Lights in the Big Sky is a great opportunity to celebrate and/or teach kids about Hanukkah. The play is appropriate for those 6 and up and is based on a true story that teaches tolerance and peace. Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company also offers school field trip performances.
Stroll, shop, and snack along St. Paul’s historic Grand Avenue -- and cross everyone off your gift list at once during the annual Grand Meander. There will be carolers, trolley rides, photo ops with Santa, food and drinks, a petting zoo, and more. This family-friendly day is a great way to kick off the holiday season if you live in the east metro.
December 7 - 8
You’re probably not shocked to learn Minnesota is the state with the highest percentage of Scandanavian-Americans, and if your family celebrates any Nordic/Swedish/Danish traditions, the Swedish Institute’s got you covered. Julmarknad -- its holiday market and festival -- will have over 55 local artisans, crafts for the kids, and a bake sale by their restaurant FIKA. There’s no better place to experience a true Nordic Christmas.
Cost: $15 adults; $6 kids
December 7 - 8
Best described as kitschy and quirky, Betty’s Danger takes the holiday market to a whole 'notha level with “Betty’s Bizarre Bazaar.” Not the craft sale of your youth held in an elementary school, the fourth annual bazaar serves up strong cocktails as you shop local vendors selling jewelry, clothes, accessories, and art. When you’re done, don’t miss riding Betty’s outdoor ferris wheel in the parking lot.
December 7 - 21
Some of the best holiday lights around can be seen along Lake Minnetonka, so pack up the car, grab the kids, and head to “Christmas in Excelsior.” After looping around the bays and checking out massive, decked-out homes, head to see Santa at the Masonic Lodge and hit up the hot cocoa bar.
Every year, Top 40 station KDWB brings a star-studded show to Xcel Energy Center, which that may or may not feature the performers belting out holiday hits. This year’s lineup is led by Katy Perry and also features Camila Cabello, 5 Seconds of Summer, and more. Expect a lot of the crowd to be under 18. (But if you have teens, it’s a show you can both enjoy.)
Cost: $36 and up
December 13 - 23
A classic holiday experience, Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy promises larger-than-life props, a 60-foot Christmas tree, and the best ballerinas. Even if your partner isn’t really into ballet, Nutcracker Fantasy is more of a theatrical production than anything. If you promise a pre-performance dinner, your odds of success may also increase.
Cost: $30 and up
As the popular Tattersall Distillery points out, going to its holiday market is a thousand times better than going to the mall. What could be more fun than drinking bourbon while buying gifts from more than 40 unique local vendors? Plan on pop-up bars, drink collaborations, foodie-centric finds, and lots of people in the, ahem, holiday spirit.
Feeling guilty about all the Christmas cookies you’ve been eating? The annual Reindeer Run around Lake Harriet is the perfect chance to torch some calories. Sign up for the 5K, 10K, or “Yukon Challenge” 15K. All runners receive a race medal and long-sleeve performance shirt.
December 21 - 22
We can’t think of anything more heartwarming than watching the classic It’s a Wonderful Life with live accompaniment from the Minnesota Orchestra. Talented musicians will play the musical score right along with the movie as you’re reminded what the holidays are truly about. Bring Kleenex if George Bailey’s revelations make you shed a tear.
Cost: Tickets start at $40
The holidays don’t get much more traditional than catching the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s holiday tour. Even though this year they’re passing through town after Christmas, the classics are always in season. Also, a portion of ticket sales go to charity so you can feel good about giving back.
Cost: Tickets start at $36
As we cross over into a new decade, Minnesota’s most iconic music venue is traveling back in time with “Hindsight 2020: A 90’s vs. 00’s New Year’s Eve.” The night will kick off with the best jams from the ’90s -- think Backstreet Boys, No Doubt, and Spice Girls -- and then segue into the early aughts with Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas, and Gaga. First Avenue knows how to throw down -- and this New Year’s eve sounds like one for the ages.
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