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Wander Minnesota: Thanksgiving Weekend Alternatives

You've slept off the turkey, you're not interested in battling crowds on Black Friday, but you have free time and possibly family and friends to entertain. What is there to do this weekend? Plenty. Here is just a sampling of events taking place around the state in the days after Thanksgiving.

The Minnesota History Center has its own take on Black Friday this year. Doors open at 6 a.m., and while you can certainly shop (the History Center's stores are jam-packed with all things Minnesota), the History Center will be giving visitors a few things too, including free memberships, special deals in the gift shop, and the all-important donuts and coffee. Bonus: free admission and parking through 9 a.m.

The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts is celebrating Black Friday as well, opening at 6 a.m. and offering free admission to its current exhibit, The Audacious Eye, with treats and special deals for the earliest arrivers.

Holidazzle kicks off Friday night in Minneapolis and will run Fridays and Saturdays through 12/21. The parade starts at 6:30, but come early for a good spot to watch, and stay after for dinner. Note: This may be the final season for this tradition, so don't put it off until next year.

There are a number of other communities across the state that host parades of lights this Friday night, among them: The Night We Light, a parade and tree-lighting ceremony with a visit from Santa and sleigh rides; New Ulm has its Parade of Lights along with its annual Christkindlmarkt; and International Falls hosts the Twas the Lights Before Christmas Parade.

On Friday in Aitkin, there's a different kind of parade: the annual World Famous Fish House Parade. This is your best—and likely only—opportunity to stand in one spot and see a huge contingent of decorated fish houses float by.

In Rochester, the historic Mayowood Mansion is decorated for the holidays and open for tours. This was the home of Dr. Charles Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic.

Saturday marks the opening of the annual Wells Fargo WinterSkate at Rice Park in St. Paul. A grand opening celebration starts at 5 p.m. Bring your own skates, or rent them for $2 (free rental for Wells Fargo credit or check card holders).

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum kicks off its annual holiday extravaganza with Making Spirits Bright, a lavish display in the Great Hall and the nearby grounds. The exhibit opens 11/29, and the weekend features a number of special events and live music. The holiday teas kick off on 11/30—these are very popular, so call for reservations (612-626-3951).

On Saturday, the Charles Lindbergh Home in Little Falls will host a Christmas with the Lindberghs. Costumed guides will give tours of the home and provide information about the famous family.

If you're in Duluth, take a ride on the Christmas City Express. The brightly lit train will take you down the lakewalk to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum for a reading of the new Christmas City Express story and a visit with Santa before returning to Fitgers for hot cocoa and a campfire. The Christmas City Express runs Friday-Sunday through 12/22.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Tuesday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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