Last updated on November 9th, 2019
Ok, I know what you are thinking, “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I’m already talking about Christmas Lights!” Well in my neighborhood that hasn’t stopped anyone yet from putting out their lights. A lot of cities would agree based on the number of displays of Christmas lights in MN going up around town. Because of that, I wanted to make sure you had plenty of opportunities to plan your fun. Here is your guide to all the Winter Wonderlands, Tree Lighting Celebrations Festivals and Parades.
Winter Wonderlands and Christmas Lights in MN
Bentleyville Tour of the Lights, Duluth
November 23rd – December 28th
The Bentleyville Tour of lights enjoys 20 acres of free lighted displays. This is the largest Holiday Light Display in MN, and it’s right next to the waterfront. Weekends are the busiest, so be prepared. Also, hotels fill up fast so make sure to book one as soon as possible.
Kiwanis Holiday Lights, Mankato
November 29th – December 31st
Every year, Mankato’s Sibley Park transforms itself into a winter wonderland. Bring your own ice-skates in the lights, take a Horse-Drawn Wagon Ride or visit Santa. If you are looking for something to take your kids to or even for a date, check out what my DayTripper correspondent had to stay about her experience: Date Night at Kiwanis Holiday Lights.
Thursday – Sunday, Nov 29rd – Dec 22rd
Minneapolis Holidazzle Celebration is held in Loring Park. The celebration brings together people from all over the metro area. Take part in Movies in the Park, Lighted Displays, Games, Food and Minnesota centric shopping. In addition, if you go to their website, you can download a free ride pass on the light rail or bus.
Making Spirits Bright
Nov. 22 to Jan. 5th, 2019
Making Spirits Bright at the Landscape Arboretum is back again for the second year now. They have decorated the full front portion of the grounds with hundreds of thousands of lights. What I love about this lighted display is the ability to get up close to everything. They also have smores and other treats in the main building. Making Spirits Brighter at the MN Landscape Arboretum
Sleepy Eye Holiday Lights in Motion
Nov. 30 5-7pm
This lighted display is a true winter wonderland. Synchronized to music, guests can take a free horse-drawn carriage ride through the park to view more than 100,000 lights. In addition, there were concession stands and bonfires to warm up at.
Lighting Festival, Taylor’s Falls
The town of Taylor’s Falls comes alive during Thanksgiving weekend. Filled with all kinds of wonderful activities including parades, music, theater, and even some Irish Dancing. While in Taylors falls, make sure to check out some of the other great things to do with my weekend itinerary.
CSE Winter Show
Dec 5th, 6th, 7th and 14th.
Tesla Works and Collect of Science and Engineering at the U of M, 500 Pillsbury Dr. SE, Mpls
The University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering is hosting a high tech light show for two weekends in December. 250,000 LED Lights are set to music written and recorded by the University of Minnesota Students. This is a free event open to the public. Three shows a night, 5:30, 6 and 6:30.
The Spirit of Winter – Festival of Lights
Friday, Nov 22 – Jan 5
Sovereign Estates Wine in Waconia
The winery at Sovereign Estates has a spectacular winter light show to synchronized musical lights though their 10 acres of property. Enjoy wine or hot cholate while walking through their winter wonderland. The Holly Troll Tractor will be giving rides through the vineyard. They have s’mores, hot dogs and kid treats too. You can pet a llama while you are there or get family photos on a Sleigh. $5 admission.
Starts Friday, Nov 22 and runs weekends through January 5th, 4-9pm.
Christmas Parades and Festivals in MN
Getting the holiday season off to a great start. These towns put on an excellent show for lighting up their streets, complete with parades, Santa’s and everything else. Check out some of the best festivals.
Tree Lighting Celebration, Anoka
Come to Anoka as they light-up the official City Christmas Tree. There will be free horse-drawn trolley rides, holiday music, and bonfires reminiscent of an old fashion Christmas. The kids will love getting to visit with Santa & Mrs. Claus in the Santa Shack! It all takes place in front of Anoka City Hall Plaza-2015 2nd Avenue North in historic downtown Anoka.
Afton Village Holiday Weekend
This winter wonderland is only a few minutes away from the Twin Cities. They host Horse-Drawn wagon rides, Carolers, an Artist Gift market, kids craft opportunities and more. The Candlelight Night is on Friday, November 30th from 5-9 pm and Family day is on Saturday, Dec 1st from 9-4 pm.
Deck the Halls, Buffalo
Celebrate the season with carolers, horse-drawn wagon rides a visit from Santa and some hot chocolate. They light up the Christmas tree at 5 pm. If you haven’t been to Buffalo before, it’s a great town with lots of fun things to do. Check out What to do in Buffalo Minnesota.
Nov 29th – Dec1st
The City of Excelsior is all hands on deck with this weekend event. It all starts with a grand opening parade on Friday morning at 10 am. Followed up with Shopping, a North Pole Trolley with Father Christmas all weekend long. On Saturday, the kids have their own parade at 5. The St. Martin Children’s Parade as they sing Christmas Carols.
Kiwanis Holiday Lights Parade
Friday, November 29th, 6 pm
Before they can officially open up the winter wonderland, they open up the festivities with a brightly lit holiday parade. Bring your lawn chairs and blanked along this parade route. Date Night at Kiwanis Holiday Lights
Fairmont Glows Festival
Friday, November 22nd, 6 pm
Kicking off the festival with a Parade at the Down Town Plazas, Fairmont comes alive with floats, thousands of lights and of course Santa. This is the 29th anniversary of the festival.
Parade Of Lights, New Ulm
November 29th at 6 pm
60 different floats decorated in thousands of lights make their way down historic downtown. After the parade, the official Christmas tree lighting starts. New Ulm has so much going on all season long, including a Christmas Candle Light Wine tasting at Morgan Creek Vineyards, the Shell’s Brewery set up Christmas Luminaries on December 24th and 25th. And of course, there is plenty of shopping all over.
Holiday Fest, Shakopee MN
December 6th from 6-8pm
Shakopee puts on a fabulous home town celebration, including fireworks, lighted parade, hot chocolates and of course Santa and his reindeer. This is a great way to get into the holiday spirit without having to deal with some of the craziness of the bigger events.
I hope some of these great Christmas traditions bring your family into the Holiday spirits a little more this year. For more great events and things to do this winter don’t forget to check out 28 Things to do in Winter in MN.