St Paul Winter Carnival

Why Attend the St Paul Winter Carnival in 2024

Winter in Minnesota, you have two choices, stay in and hunker down, or get out and explore the season. The people of St Paul fall into the second category. The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is one of the coolest celebrations on earth.

It’s held All through January with the majority of the events starting January 25 – February 3, 2024. The carnival attractions are mostly free and are open from noon on Friday through noon on Sunday.

It’s a great way for families to get out of their homes for a bit and try something new without breaking the bank!

My first experience with the St Paul Winter Carnival was in College when I was interning at a local TV station. They need video coverage of the coordination. The hype of the Winter Carnival was like something I’d never seen before.

Since having kids of my own now, I’ve been slowly making my way to the different events. Because of the scale of the Winter Carnival, it’s hard to do it all at once.

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Saint Paul Winter Carnival

The St Paul Winter Carnival is one of the most popular winter events in the Twin Cities. As with any winter event, there are many things to do, from enjoying yourself to giving back to your community. The St Paul Winter Carnival’s activities are designed for all ages and abilities.

Whether you’re just visiting or have been a regular visitor since 1980, this annual gala is sure to entertain.

The carnival draws over 200,000 visitors annually and has become a community fixture in the Twin Cities with its popular family entertainment, firework displays, and food vendors. 

When was the first St Paul Winter Carnival?

The St Paul Winter Carnival has been a winter tradition since 1886. It is, in fact, the oldest winter festival in the United States. Working with the City of Montreal, businesses owners wanted to showcase the beauty of Minnesota.

We adapted elements from Montreal’s winter festival on our own and in 1886; they constructed the first Ice Castles, marking the start of the St Paul Winter Carnival. We even have our own royal court. 

See Related: The Enchanting Ice Castles in Minnesota | Inside New Brighton’s latest attraction + Tips

What to Do at Saint Paul Winter Carnival

From parades to puzzle content, the city celebrates some of what Minnesota loves to do during winter. Beard Growing Competition, Royal Coordination’s, Orchids Shows, Cat Shows, Golf on the Ice.

It all ends with a torchlight parade and fireworks in Rice Park. Below, I’ve got the scoop on some of the crowd’s favorite activities, and they are all free!

Snow Sculpture Competition

Stop in at Vulcan Snow Park to check out some of the great competition. This park is where all the snow activities are held. My favorite is seeing some of the great works of art created from snow.

Three-member teams from all over Minnesota transform 8′ x 8′ x 8′ blocks of snow into amazing works of art using only hand tools. Watch the sculptures transform and vote for your favorite sculpture.

Snow Sculpture Stitch at Winter Carnival

VulcanSnow Park

St Paul Winter Carnival’s Vulcan Snow Park is a winter wonderland. The park has a snow maze (with a lot of obstacles), snow sculptures.

They center the snow play area around five giant snow piles filled with fun activities for children of all ages!

While you are there, check out the breathtaking sculptures. Vulcan Snow Park is at 54 E Broadway St. in Saint Paul, MN 55102 on the State fairgrounds.

Snow Maze

The Winter Carnival Parade

The family’s favorite activities are always the King Boreas Grande Day Parade and Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade.

While both parades, they have two very different feels. Each has connections to the St Paul Winter Carnival Lore and their royal court. 

The King Boreas Grande Day Parade is the daytime parade. The procession is down West 7th Street featuring dozens of bands, floats, and, of course, the newly crowned King Boreas and his Royal Family.

For a different take on the parade, stay up for the Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade. The evening parade route starts at 5th and Wacouta, heads westbound down 5th Street to Washington St to 4th St, and ends at St. Peter by Rice Park.

After the parade, Vulcanus and his Krewe head to the library steps for the ever-dramatic Overthrow of King Boreas. A fantastic fireworks show will follow the production. 

Ice Sculptures

Rice Park is where all things ice happen. They have a Royal Throne made of ice, view the Ice Castle Sponsor Wall, live entertainment on the Rice Park stage, vendor booths, and other activities.

Similar to the Snow Sculpting Competition, you can also watch Ice Carving in action. Watch these expertly crafted works of art come alive. I am still blown away by what they can do with their hands.

The sculptures stay up long after they’re carved. Decide if you’d like to come while it’s taking shape or after to see what they’ve come up with. 

See Related: The Delightful Ice Palace Maze in Stillwater MN | The Largest Ice Maze in the USA

Ice Carving at the St Paul Winter Carnival
Fish Carving

Ice Fishing Tournament

The one activity that doesn’t require you to be in St. Paul. The Ice Fishing Tournament is a fan favorite. Done this year through the FishDonkey Mobile App, you can fish in any public water in Minnesota to take part.

The ice fishing tournament starts on January 1st – february 4th. There are multiple categories to enter. If you think you have what it takes, head over to the Winter Carnival’s site and find out more. 

St. Paul Scavenger Hunt

Do you love solving riddles? What about visiting different locations around St Paul?

The St Paul Winter Carnival has four different scavenger hunts running, each with its own set of clues and riddles to solve. They even have a category just for kids. Gather your team and get started.  

Food and Drink Options at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival

In most of the attractions, you’ll find opportunities to get a little Food Tuck favorites. Being in St. Paul, you can also get a bite to eat at nearby restaurants.

If you really want to live, breathe and eat the St Paul Carnival, there are some special dinners and other events.

Tips for Attending the Saint Paul Winter Carnival

Dress in Layers. Whenever you go out in winter, it’s better to have more on than less. I like to keep extra mittens and hats in the car, just in case. Remember, you can always unzip if you need to.

Have a plan of what you want to see. There is so much going on and it’s spread out everywhere. Look at the calendar and plan for one-two events a day to not wear yourself out. 

Bring some cash. While most of the events are free, there are always some extras, like a cup of hot cocoa to warm up with. Or fill up a Hydro Flask and bring your own. 

Last, get a carnival button. The button is your key to extra savings on parking and other events outside of the St Paul Winter Carnival.

Like you can save $15 on MN Ice Castles with their digital coupon, or show your button and get more coupons at St Paul businesses.

If you register your button, it puts you in drawings for more prizes. You can purchase the buttons at Cub Foods, Spire Credit Union, or City Credit Union.

How to Get to the St. Paul Winter Carnival

Most of the events are all held in Downtown St Paul. Thankfully, they already have 20,000 parking spaces, so you are bound to find public parking nearby. On-street parking is limited.

Parking fees can range between $10 and $20, especially near the Landmark Center. You’ll also have public transportation as an option. 

Is it really the “Coolest Celebration on Earth?”

The tagline for the St Paul Winter Carnival is that they are the Coolest Celebration on Earth. To take the crown of Coolest on Earth has some big expectations. As I haven’t been to everyone on earth, it’s hard for me to agree.

I think it’s a lot of fun. With so many fun things to do at the St Paul Winter Carnival, you’re bound to find something that is your cup of tea. I highly recommend you check out at least one event this year.  

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