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Minnesota Festivals
Winter Celebrations 

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Saint Paul Winter Carnival

Minnesota festivals winter

For Minnesota festivals, winter is one of our primary seasons of celebration! There is no hiding from winter...we get out and play. When you plan a Minnesota vacation for this season, be sure to come for one of our festivals.

Most family vacation destinations in Minnesota include beautiful family vacation resorts, cabins, and dozens of state parks and many other top family vacations spots.

The most well-known of these festivals is the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. The carnival is promoted as "The Coolest Celebration on Earth!

Most of the events take place in and around downtown Saint Paul. Many of these events are free or are discounted with a Saint Paul Winter Carnival Button.

Here is just a partial list of the fun at the St. Paul Winter Carnival:

  • Snow Sculpture and Ice Carving Competitions
  • Winter Carnival Medallion Treasure Hunt
  • King Boreas Grande Day Parade
  • Torchlight Parade
  • Klondike Kate Competition
  • Winter Carnival Blues Festival
  • Vulcan Coming Out Party
  • Red Bull Crashed Ice

See some great photos and learn more about the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

The City of Lakes Loppet is another popular annual winter festival featuring cross country skiing and other winter activities. The Loppet takes place in early February. Registration information and schedule of events can be found at their website: City of Lakes Loppet

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Ely Winter Festival

Ely Winter Festival: The first two weeks of February mark Ely's Winter Festival. Enjoy the snow sculptures that are part of the International Snow Sculpture Symposium. Explore a Voyageur encampment and visit the downtown Ely ArtWalk. Other attractions include a fish fry, dog sled rides and an ice fishing contest.

Detroit Lakes Polar Fest

Polar Fest: The second two weekends in February, Detroit Lakes Polar Fest claims to make winter “cool.” Take an icy polar plunge into Detroit Lake. Other activities include snowmobiling, a Freeze Your Buns 5K run, a youth ice fishing competition and a winter fireworks display.

Winter Tracks Festival

Winter Tracks Festival in Cook County: This North Shore winter festival happens the first 10 days of February and features family Olympic races at Lutsen Mountains, snowshoe hikes, snowmobiling along more than 450 miles of trails, dog sled rides, horse-drawn sleigh rides and candlelight skiing.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

Experience the magic of over 3 million lights illuminating Bayfront Festival Park on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth during Bentleyville "Tour of Lights". America's largest free walk through lighting display comes to life every evening from late November until the end of December. Bentleyville will be open from 5:00-10:00 PM Fridays and Saturdays and 5:00-9:00 PM Sundays -Thursdays. Admission is free.

Minnesota Winter Festivals

Christmas Festival of Light

New displays include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys, Sesame Street, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Visitors will be greeted by the spectacular Bentleyville castle which stands 24 feet high and 78 feet long and the Cookie House. Visitors are welcome to complimentary hot chocolate, coffee and cookies as they stroll through the park.

A dazzling 500 foot lighted tunnel leads you to Santa, 15 fire pits for roasting marshmallows and the Polar Popcorn Hut. Everyone will be amazed at the local displays of the Aerial Lift Bridge, Tall Ships, a replicate of a thousand foot ore boat and Enger Tower.

Lights in the Park at Phalen

Drive through an amazing light display in Phalen Park on Saint Paul's east side. The charge is $10.00 per car on week ends and $8.00 per car on week nights.

Minnesota Winter Festivals

John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon 

minnesota winter sleddog

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Race is run along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The race celebrates the vital role of John Beargrease in the early history of the area. John Beargrease was the son of an Anishinabe Chief. He and his brothers delivered mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais using a variety of methods to transport the mail including dogsled, canoes, horses and large boats.  

Some features of the race:

  • One of the most prestigious sled dog races in the lower 48 States
  • Mushers and spectators attend and participate from around the world.
  • Rugged 390-mile race along the North Shore of Lake Superior.
  • Race week events include: Cutest Puppy Contest, Opening Ceremonies and 'Meet the Mushers' at the race start.

WinterFest in Spicer

WinterFest in Spicer, Minnesota features:

  • A breathtaking ice structure and slide, which is visible day and night.
  • Snowmobile runs
  • Ice Fishing tournaments
  • Polar Plunge and Hot Tub Party
  • Fireworks

More about Winterfest

Icebox Days in International Falls

Icebox Days is International Falls annual celebration of winter This four-day fun and wacky event has something for all ages. This winter festival takes place the third weekend in January.

Some of the featured chilly events include:

  • Freeze yer Gizzard Blizzard 5k & 10k Runs
  • Candlelight skiing in Voyageurs National Park
  • Snow sculpting
  • Frozen turkey bowling
  • Smoosh races

Grumpy Old Men Festival in Wabasha

Minnesota Winter Festivals

Wabasha is the Minnesota town that inspired the Grumpy Old Men movie. Wabasha continues to celebrate the movie, and winter, with the Grumpy Old Men Festival.

Some of the fun includes:

  • Grumpy old mens' pastime: ice fishing and an ice fishing contest
  • An ice shack contest
  • Frisbee games
  • Softball and golf tournaments and hoop shoots
  • Birdwatching
  • A spaghetti dinner and dance

More about the Grumpy Old Men Festival

Ice Fishing Extravaganza in Brainerd

Brainerd celebrates winter with its annual ice fishing contest. Their web site promotes this extravaganza as "The world's largest live-release ice fishing contest."

The ice fishing contest is held on Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay. More than $150,000 in prizes are offered.

The Brainerd Jaycees sponsor the ice fishing contest.

More about the Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza

Fish House Parade in Aitken in November

The annual Fish House Parade in Aitkin is just one of many quirky events that happen every year in Minnesota.

From the Aitkin Minnesota web site:

Aitkin's World Famous Fish House Parade will be celebrating another year in the North Country at this unusual parade of decorated fish houses The display travels though the downtown retail district so you can see it all! The parade has been shown nationally on the Comedy Central network, HGTV and A&E."

Date: November
Check out the Aitken Minnesota web site

Holidazzle Village in Minneapolis

Minnesota Winter Festivals

The Holidazzle Vilage in Minneapolis is becoming a new Midwest tradition.

This yearly event replaces the Holidazzle Parade as a celebration of winter and Christmas. Thousands of people gather on the Nicollet Mall to participate in the festivities. The Minneapolis Tribune says: "Enjoy entertainment like fireworks, glass blowing, ice skating, and dog sled exhibitions. You can also take part in photo opportunities with iconic Holidazzle figures like the light bulbs."  The attractions include a carousel and 30 huts featuring local and international vendors.

Come for Holidazzle Village; stay to celebrate Christmas in Minnesota

Minnesota festival winter
The Moon Minnesota Handbook by Tricia Cornell is the guidebook to Minnesota that we keep with us wherever we travel in the state.

Read reviews of all of the best things to see and do in any season on a Minnesota winter vacation.

10 Best Winter Vacation Spots are Minnesota destinations for those who love to celebrate winter.

Related Pages:

Winter Blizzards

Winter Driving Safety Tips

Winter Poems

Winter Weather Predictions

First Day of Winter

Minnesota Winter Activities

List of Winter Sports

Winter Vacation Ideas

Back to Minnesota Winter

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