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A Guide To Family Holiday Activities In The Twin Cities

Despite the chance of bitter cold and snow or maybe because of it, the twinkling holiday lights, the glittering decorations, festive music and activities of downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul warm the soul and make the spirit, well, bright. The winter holiday season in the Twin Cities is special and full of fun and surprises, especially for families. There are a host of holiday activities in the centers of both of the twin cities.

And as you go to and from each festive event be sure to take time to check out the decorative window displays, especially at Macy's, and other holiday happenings or exhibits along the way. Sometimes the journey is as eventful as the destination.

Decorated Metro Transit Bus
(credit: CBS)

Target Holidazzle Parade
Nicollet Mall from 12th St to 4th St.
Downtown Minneapolis
Friday, November 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Continuing Thursday through Sundays nights through December 18th
Cost: Free

This is a great family tradition, and it's free. Be sure to bundle up and come on down for a winter parade complete with Santa Claus in his sleigh. The dazzling lights on each float and costumed person and the marching bands make this a hit with the kids, even if they're toes and finger tips are frozen. There are plenty of warm food and drink vendors along the parade route, as well as restaurants and coffee shops, if you need to warm up after the parade.

Macy's Display - A Day In The Life Of An Elf
(credit: CBS)

Macy's Santaland
8th Floor Holiday Exhibit
700 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN
Friday, November 25 – Saturday, December 31
Cost: Free

The holiday display is another fun and free family tradition. It's open every day of the week, but on Holidazzle nights, the line stretches all the way down to the first floor of Macy's. Our family's secret is to go on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday evening, when there is no Holidazzle. There is also no line for the 8th Floor exhibit. Sometimes we've even gone through it twice with the kids. At the end of the exhibit, you can choose to go see Santa and have photos taken for purchase. Another family tradition is to get a gingerbread cookie from Mrs. Claus' Bakery, also at the end of the exhibit.

Orchestra Hall christmas
(credit: Orchestra Hall)

A Scandinavian Christmas with the Minnesota Orchestra
Orchestra Hall
1111 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN
Saturday, December 17 and Sunday, December 18, 2011: 2:00 p.m.
Cost: $22 - $60

The Minnesota Orchestra presents this very special holiday concert celebrating the Yuletide. Some of Scandinavia's most beautiful Christmas songs will be played. "The lights will be hung and the hall will be aglow with the magic of Santa Lucia, complete with a candlelight procession." The Minnesota Orchestra is always a treat, but they promise "a feast of sweet surprises" at this concert for the whole family.

(credit: Guthrie Theater)

A Christmas Carol
Guthrie Theater
818 South 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN
November 19 – December 30
Ticket Prices: $29 - $73

For the past 37 years A Christmas Carol has been a holiday tradition at the Guthrie. Always a marvelous idea to see a production of A Christmas Carol during the winter holidays, it's an even better idea if this production is at the Guthrie. Everything about the Guthrie is a class act. In 2010, Crispin Whittell provided a new adaptation for this Christmas classic, and the Guthrie provided a fabulous new set and costumes, magical aerial effects and beautiful music.

Children's Candy Cane Tea
St. Paul Hotel
350 Market St.
Downtown St. Paul, MN
Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Cost: $35 per person

A tea at the St. Paul Hotel is one of my favorite splurges. This holiday tea is especially geared toward children and a parent or grandparent or other special adult to enjoy together. The St. Paul Hotel is always lovely, but it's especially beautiful during the holidays. This is a unique holiday experience for any family. The Candy Cane Tea's menu is designed with kids in mind and is served in a banquet room. The surrounding area outside of the St. Paul Hotel is adorned with festive decorations and is worth a stroll through the Landmark Center and Rice Park. Hurry, this event gets booked up fast!

Ordway Center
(credit: Wikipedia)

Rodger's & Hammerstein's Cinderella
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Ordway Music Theater
345 Washington St.
St. Paul, MN
December 13, 2011 – January 1, 2012
Cost: $27 - $88

Just across Rice Park from the St. Paul Hotel is the Ordway Center where Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella will be performed during the holidays. What a fantastical and magical experience for the whole family. The Ordway's programming is always top quality and is sure to impress.

IBEW Holiday Lights In The Park
(credit: Padilla Speer Beardsley)

Holiday Lights in the Park
Lake Phalen
Phalen Park, 1615 Phalen Dr. E.
St. Paul, MN
November 22, 2011 – January 1, 2012, 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. nightly
Cost: $10 per vehicle; $8 per vehicle on value nights (Sunday – Thursday); $45 per Coach Bus; and $15 per Limousine/Mini Bus/Passenger Van

The park is "transformed into a fantasy of lights and color" during the holidays for this all -volunteer, charity event. If it's cold outside, no worries, you stay in your warm vehicle for this activity. The drive through the park will take you by more the 50 larger-than-life sculptures and animated displays. New displays and old favorites combine, making this a wonderful holiday tradition. The largest display measures 60 feet and is an animated pirate ship. The proceeds go to local charities whose focus is on fundamental community needs such as food, shelter, education and environment. Check the website for more information.

Anna Berend is an attorney and the author of Motherly Law Blog. On Motherly Law, Anna writes about legal issues that affect families and offers tips and resources that pertain to those legal topics. On occasion, inspiration strikes and Anna writes about something totally unrelated to the law.You can find Anna at, on Facebook at Motherly Law and on Twitter @MotherlyLaw.

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