Looking for a little magic to brighten up these gray and frigid days? You can find amazing light displays and tree lightings all across Minnesota to bring a little warmth to our cold holiday season. If we have to freeze our toes trudging through the snow, it might as well be beautiful, right? As whimsical as a European holiday market? Whether you’re up north in Duluth, or right here in the Twin Cities, these spectacular light displays are an important piece of our holiday tradition.
The engineering students at the University of Minnesota are back at it again, bringing us an amazing free 3D outdoor light show. Now in its eighth year, the students are attempting to outdo themselves by using over 250,000 LED lights set to music which has been written and recorded by the students. And you won’t have to worry about standing in the cold for too long as the shows are about 15 minutes. Plus, on premiere night they will serve free hot chocolate to keep you toasty warm.
Light Show Dates:
Friday, Nov. 30—5:30pm
Saturday, Dec. 1—5:30, 6 and 6:30pm
Thursday, Dec. 6—5:30, 6 and 6:30pm
Friday, Dec. 7—5:30, 6 and 6:30pm
Saturday, Dec. 8—5:30, 6 and 6:30pm
The Union Depot will host their annual free tree lighting and movie night tradition. This year the festivities will begin with a live holiday performance by local artist Keri Noble and the chance to shop at the European Christmas Market where you’ll find local vendors and European-inspired food and drink. The entertainment then continues at 7pm as everyone moves outside for the tree lighting and a short and stunning fireworks display. After the lighting, head back inside and settle in to watch the movie Elf. You may want to bring your own chairs and blankets for guaranteed seating.
Light Show Date:
Friday, Nov. 30: 5:30—9:30pm
This favorite St. Paul tradition is a little different this year. Because of renovations at Rice Park, only the exterior of the park is lit and the tree lighting was moved to Hamm Plaza just a block away. And although the tree lighting party has already passed, you can still go and enjoy the lights at both Hamm Plaza and Rice Park and even go for a skate on the open rink at Landmark Plaza.
For one day Grand Avenue in St. Paul turns into an enchanting winter village with carolers, local art fairs, vintage trolley rides, soup contests, a chance to meet Santa, and a mini petting zoo. And of course, all the decorations. Businesses along Grand Avenue will compete in this year’s Holiday Window Decorating Contest and transform their store windows into a wintery holiday scene with snow-covered glass, lights, and festive displays.
Holiday Displays Date:
Saturday, Dec. 1: 8:30am—5pm
Head down Summit Avenue where you can not only see all the lights draped across the old, historic mansions, but be sure to stop off at the Governor’s Residence to tour the beautifully decorated mansion. Local designers decorated the outside with thousands of lights and more than 400 feet of garland while the interior boasts several enormous trees decorated with over 14,000 LED lights.
Holiday Tour Dates:
Tuesdays during the month of December, check the website for times.
Considered America’s largest free walk-through lighting display, the Bentleyville Tour of Lights spans over 20 acres and uses over 5 million lights. While Bentleyville is located up in Duluth, it is definitely worth the road trip from the Twin Cities. Take in the spectacular light display on the shores of Lake Superior and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate, cookies, marshmallows, and popcorn. The kids can meet Santa and his reindeer and those under 10 years will receive a free knit hat.
Light Show Dates:
Saturday Nov. 17—Wednesday Dec. 26: Sun—Thurs from 5—9pm and Fri—Sat from 5—10pm
Get decked out in all of the lights at Stillwater’s holiday light festival. They will be handing out 1200 twinkle lights that are free for kids 12 and under and will have lights for purchase. However, you’re also encouraged to come dressed in your own twinkle light best with battery-powered lights from home. Watch the annual Stillwater tree lighting while enjoying music from the Teddy Bear Band with free cookies, coffee, hot chocolate, and trolley rides. And if you thought there weren’t enough lights, after the tree lighting you’ll be treated to a stunning fireworks display by the water.
Light Show Date:
Saturday Dec. 1: Festivities begin at 4pm with the tree lighting around 5:30pm
Wander through the beautiful twinkling light displays at Holidazzle. This year Holidazzle will light up Loring Park with thousands of lights strung along the trees where you will also be able to walk inside giant glittering snow globes and enjoy the amazing, huge Illuminated Art Installations. And on each Saturday through December 22, you can also enjoy a spectacular fireworks display. Not to worry, Holidazzle runs through Sunday December 23 so you’ll have plenty of time to drink in all of the stunning lights.
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