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Best Free Winter Activities For Families In Minnesota

Minnesota winters are long and cold, to be sure. But they get a bad reputation from those warm-weather enthusiasts who aren't tough enough to handle them. There is plenty to do in the winter, and we take advantage of the weather to host festivals and events unlike anything else in the world. Spend your days sledding and building snow forts, definitely partake in at least one snowball fight and don't forget to put these amazing events on the calendar. Winter is a great time of year.
These activities more than prove that.

Saint Paul Winter Carnival

1st Place - St. Paul Winter Carnival Multi-Block Ice Carving Competition
(credit: Nemer Fieger)

75 W. 5th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 223-4700

Date: Jan. 22 - Feb. 1, 2015

In response to a negative review of winter in St. Paul, the city created this magnificent carnival in 1886. It's still going strong today, and is one of the best reasons to visit downtown St. Paul from January 22 through February 1. Rice Park comes alive with lights and the ice sculptures are nothing short of magical. If you're tough enough, bundle up and take part in the torchlight parade, a tradition that dates back to the Miracle on 34th Street days. The charm of this festival makes the cold of winter not only bearable, but worth having.

Holidazzle Village

The Final Target Holidazzle Parade - Dec. 21, 2013
(credit: CBS)

81 S. 9th St. #260
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 376-7669

Date: Nov. 28 - Dec. 24, 2014

The parade is no more, but don't shed frozen tears just yet. An illustrious, colorfully-lit village is planned in its place. Look for shops and stands in the winter market, warm up with plenty of hot chocolate, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the brisk winter air that brings us closer together. It's rumored that Santa and his reindeer will make an appearance as well. There is plenty to do at the Holidazzle Village.

700 Railroad St.
Duluth, MN 55802
(218) 740-3535

Date: Now through Dec. 27, 2014

Along majestic Lake Superior, Minnesota's frozen city of the north hosts one of the most dazzling light shows in the country. Actually it is America's largest free lighting display, so make the trek north (or south of if you're coming from the Iron Range) and check it out. It truly is a sight to behold, with thousands of lights bursting all around you, in different shapes and colors to make a glowing paradise that will swallow you whole.

Related:  Best Art Exhibits For Kids In Minnesota

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
Lake Nokomis
2401 E. Minnehaha Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55417
(612) 370-4923

Date: Jan. 15-18, 2015

This is the State of Hockey, after all. If you want some good old-fashioned puck action without shelling out for a Wild game, go and watch the 10th Annual Pong Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis. This is hockey how it should be played: outside, without the expensive concessions you'll find in a stadium, breathing cool air and listening to the classic sounds of sticks and skates. From January 15-18, you can bring your friends and family, grill up a brat and enjoy Minnesota's favorite sport the way it should be enjoyed.

Wells Fargo Winter Skate
75 5th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102
(612) 749-0435

Date: Nov. 29, 2014 - varies, date depends on the weather

In picturesque downtown St. Paul, you can skate for free if you have your own skates, which every Minnesotan should. It's a $2 fee to rent if you don't, which is practically free anyway. The Landmark Center looms overhead, the lights of Rice Park twinkle in the distance and the biting cold seems somehow diminished amidst the laughter and revelry of the skating rink. Amateur or pro, Winter Skate is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Related: Best Winter Getaways In America

Macy's Holiday Display
700 on The Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 375-2200

A holiday classic that has been charming families for 50 years, the holiday display on the 8th floor of Macy's in downtown Minneapolis is a free activity that everyone can enjoy. Wander through the Christmas village surrounded by reindeer and carolers, by giant trees decorated beautifully and by elves dancing. playing and, of course, working hard making presents for Christmas Day. The glowing scenery will transport you right to the North Pole; the colorful movements of the displays and scenes only get better year after year.

Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.

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