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Things to do in December from Explore Minnesota: Holiday happenings

WCCO Digital Update: Morning of Dec. 5, 2022
WCCO Digital Update: Morning of Dec. 5, 2022 01:00

Holiday light displays

  • Bentleyville Tour of Lights (through Dec. 26): Every winter, Duluth's Bayfront Festival Park on Lake Superior transforms into "America's Largest Free Walk-Through Lighting Display," shining bright with four million lights. Admission is free, but charitable donations are encouraged.
  • Kiwanis Holiday Lights (through Dec. 31): Head south to Mankato to marvel at 1.5 million LED lights, animated displays, a skating rink, horse-drawn wagon rides, Santa Claus, live reindeer, ice sculptures and more. Admission is free, but charitable donations are encouraged.
  • Northern Lights Festival (Dec. 2-18) in Rochester is Minnesota's NEWEST indoor light park at the Mayo Civic Center. The 25,000 square foot display features a massive inflatable igloo, mini market, make and take experiences and more.
  • Mary's Light Tunnel (through March 1) in Moorhead features a 60-foot canopy lights up each night from dusk until dawn all winter long.
  • Winter Lights at the Minnesota Arboretum (through Jan. 1) enhances the beauty of the natural landscape with outdoor light displays featuring flowers and wintry nature on an accessible and stroller-friendly half-mile walk.
  • GLOW Holiday Festival at CHS Field in St. Paul (through Jan. 1) features more than 1 million lights, an ice palace and more.
  • Holidazzle (through Dec. 18) is back in downtown Minneapolis with free amusement rides, including a carousel and giant slide under the skyline, free Santa visits, Holidazzle Yeti, Santa, fireworks, festive food and drink, shopping from local small businesses, holiday lighting and more in Loring Park.
  • Drive thru displays: Hop in the car to see thousands of sparkling lights at drive-through displays at Sertoma Winter Wonderland in Baxter (through Dec. 31), Celebrate the Light of the World in Willmar (through Dec. 31) or Sever's Holiday Lights in Shakopee (through Jan. 1).

Holiday trains

  • The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will be rolling through Minnesota Dec. 11 – 16, with stops in more than two dozen Minnesota towns, including Winona, Wabasha, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Alexandria and Thief River Falls.
  • In Duluth, the Christmas City Express chugs along Lake Superior select weekends through Dec. 18, to and from the Duluth Depot, passing by Bentleyville along the way. While onboard, guests will enjoy carolers, hear a holiday story and visit Santa Claus.

Holiday markets and shopping

  • European Christmas Market at St. Paul's Union Depot (through  Dec. 18): Stroll through a European-style Christmas market to find unique gifts and holiday decorations, or sample European-inspired dishes.   
  • The Northern Express in Excelsior (Dec. 3 – 18) includes a holiday market, Santa Claus meet-and-greets, reindeer, Christmas llamas, festive food, drink and more.
  • StillwaterSqueeze in a visit through New Year's Eve to find carolers, horse-drawn wagonette rides, shopping deals, reindeer, etc.
  • Northfield's Winter Walk celebration (Dec. 8): The street is lined with luminaries and festively decorated shops offering holiday specials.
  • Mall of America always dazzles during the holiday season, including the Festival of Trees (through Jan. 4) walk-through winter wonderland of extraordinary trees, located on Level 3, Culinary on North. Display is free, but visitors are encouraged to purchase raffle tickets to win tree décor. All proceeds benefit Special Olympics Minnesota.

Historic home tours

  • Hubbard House (Mankato): While in town for Kiwanis Holiday Lights, swing over to the Hubbard House to see Victorian era holiday décor.
  • Glensheen (Duluth): See 25 decorated Christmas trees. Christmas Classic Tour (self-guided) or Christmas Candlelight Tours (at night).
  • Charles A. Lindbergh House and Museum (Little Falls): Experience the holidays during the World War I era.
  • James J. Hill House: Head to St. Paul to travel back in time to Christmas in 1910 for the Holidays on the Hill tour.
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