Hometown Christmas in the Twin Cities

Interior of Glensheen Mansion in Duluth Minnesota decorated for Christmas, with a Christmas tree and wreath.

Is it even possible to have a hometown Christmas in the middle of Twin Cities?  You better believe it.  If you can’t get home for Christmas, find some hometown love in these metro-area towns and cities. And if you are looking for that small midwestern town feel, we have a couple road trips for you to consider, too.

Many of these places have their local Christmas celebrations on the first two weekends of December.  If you end up missing the festivals, you will still get that Hallmark Christmas movie, hometown vibe just by choosing to shop in these quaint communities.

Have a fun family day outside the mall, and enjoy the Holiday spirit on the hamlet streets, whether you have big plans for a jam-packed festival or just want some feelings of nostalgia for your childhood home as you shop, you can pack a lifetime of fun things and great memories into an afternoon in these fun Christmas towns.

Hometown Christmas in the Twin Cities

Chaska

The annual Hometown Holiday Celebration in City Square Park includes a Santa visit, a Christmas llama, music, and old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage rides. There will be a tree lighting ceremony at 5pm. December 4, 2021.

Family Fun Ideas:

  • Chaska is a perfect choice to cozy up in your car for a Christmas lights drive. Cruise by the Snook Family Lights (1188 Wildwood Way) and Christmas on Savanna (4441 Savanna Trail). Both homes synchronize their lights to music on FM91.9.
  • For a special treat, drive through Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Winter Lights. ($15/adults; children are free). Make sure to buy your passes online in advance, this attraction is known for sold-out tours at peak times.
  • Learn more about all of these sites in our Holiday Lights Guide.

Excelsior

Not only does this sweet village host their annual weekend Christkindlsmarkt, but the town is cram-packed with lots of fun shopping and decorations throughout the season to add to the joy of Christmas. To learn more about Excelsior’s Christkindlsmarkt what what it offers, click here.

Family Fun Ideas:

  • Visit Excelsior Bay Books to count the Christmas Mice in the amazing holiday display window. Then go inside and tell the clerk how many you’ve counted to win a prize. Don’t forget that getting a book is equivalent to a warm hug. So buy some forclose friends and family members.
  • A new attractionNorthern Express Christmas Village will operate in Camp Tanadoona on weekends in December. Experience the magic of Christmas with Santa visits, entertainment, live llamas and reindeers, winter activities and so much more. Tickets are $15-$22/pp.
Christmas Mouse in the window of Excelsior Bay Books in Excelsior, Minnesota
FIND THE MICE!

Lindstrom

Lindstrom is full of shops to enjoy as well as beautifully decorated for the holidays. I grew up in a very happy-to-be-Swedish family (and some Norwegian, too), so the Scandinavian Christmas decorations are especially nostalgic for me.

Lindstrom hosts its Holiday Craft Fair and Tree Lighting Ceremony this year on December 4, 2021, but if you can’t make it then, you won’t be disappointed in the local shopping later in the month.  Click here to learn more about the Craft Fair. 

Water tower in Lindstrom, Minnesota with shadow of Santa and sleigh behind it. "Velkommen to Lindstrom"
It’s kind of hazy, but I think Anne caught Santa in the background of this picture.

Stillwater 

Stillwater is a favorite any time of the year, but this beloved tradition holds a special place in my heart around Christmas because that’s when my kids and I chased Santa Claus around town.  Stillwater’s Hometown for the Holidays gathering lasts the entire month of December. It includes carolers strolling the sidewalks and singing Christmas songs, elves hiding around corners, and all of Stillwater’s cute shops decorated up for the Holiday. Downtown Stillwater is the perfect place to shop for antiques and Christmas shop. So, you will find something happening every time you step out of a local shop.

Family Fun Ideas:

  • If you want to cruise for Christmas lights, options include:
    1. The Twinkle Parade & Tree Lighting on the first Saturday of December
    2. Snowflake décor throughout Main Street that will stay up through mid-March
    3. The Lowell Park Christmas Tree
    4. An LED light show set to music on Chestnut Street. This will run every night from 5-10pm through the first day of Spring.
    5. The Historic Lift Bridge, lit up with Hollywood-style lights.

Learn all about the Stillwater activities throughout the season, click here.

Santa walking away down the road in Stillwater, Minnesota
Santa in Stillwater. Catch him before it’s too late!

Union Depot 

The most authentic European Christmas Market in Minnesota is located at Union Depot each year featuring family-friendly entertainment & intercultural activities. Families can have a slow-paced, small-town shopping experience in the middle of the big city. Opening Day: Black Friday, November 26, 2021 and runs Friday-Sunday until Sunday, December 19, 2021 | Friday Hours: 4 PM – 9 PM, Saturday Hours: 10 AM – 8 PM, Sunday Hours: 11 AM – 6 PM

Some Saturdays they host other events at the same time like a bake sale or a community movie.  To find out more about this European Christmas Market click here.

Family Fun Ideas:

  • Holiday Tree Lighting on Saturday, December 4 at 6:30pm, followed by the classic holiday movie, Elf.
  • Holiday Bake Sale on Saturday, December 11 from 10am-5pm.
  • North Pole Express rides.
  • Frozen II Movie Night on Saturday, December 18th. Activities start at 3pm; movie at 5pm.
Tree Lighting Ceremony at Union Depot in Saint Paul Minnesota 2014
Image courtesy of Union Depot. Credit: Art in the Sky Photography

White Bear Lake

This year, I did all most extended family shopping right here. I spent time in GoodKids, and I visited Bamboo Switch.  I popped into Sheepy Yarn and went into Sweetlane Life and Koselig Candle Company.  I ended my day with a stroll through Lake Country Booksellers. Oh, and I can’t forget my coffee break in Anchor Coffee. Seriously, I had the best time Christmas shopping for our family get-togethers.  And not only is it a fun place to shop, throughout December they have special Christmas activities. To learn more about Downtown White Bear Lake’s holiday events, click here.

Family Fun Ideas:

  • Every Hometown Christmas movie includes a visit to the town’s live Nativity.  Stop by the Living Nativity at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church with music and live animals. It is FREE for the whole family on Saturday, December 18, 2021 from 4:30pm-8pm.
  • The White Bear Lake Historical Society decorates the pine tree in front of the historic Fillebrown House each year. Drive or stroll by after dusk during your visit.
  • Another Hallmark moment must is ice skating. If weather permits, White Bear Lake maintains outdoor ice rinks at three parks:
    • Podvin Park, 1700 9th Street, White Bear Lake, MN 55110
    • Ramaley Park, 1883 Park Street, White Bear Lake, MN 55110
    • Spruce Park, 3653 McKnight Road, White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Members of the White Bear Lake Historical Society decorating the tree in front of the Fillebrown House in White Bear Lake Minnesota
Image courtesy of the White Bear Lake Historical Society.

Hometown Christmas Roadtrips

Duluth 

There is so much to do and see in Duluth during the winter, especially during the holidays.  You won’t be disappointed by the festive holiday lights including but not limited to Bentleyville.  Glensheen is the new home of Spirit of the Lights – a holiday lights display that decorated a private residence on Duluth’s Park Point for many years.

Find out more about what Duluth offers during the Christmas holidays by clicking here.

Family Fun Ideas:

fitgers in duluth
Fitgers in Duluth

Rochester 

If you need an excuse to go to Rochester, I have just the thing.  The only place we have found this year playing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is in Rochester.

Head down there early and get some fun shopping done as well, because Rochester is a really fun place to explore. During the holidays, there are markets popping up around town you don’t want to miss. Click here to get more information about Rochester’s holiday season.

Family Fun Ideas:

  • Peace Plaza is lit up for Christmas beginning Thanksgiving weekend, when Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus arrive each year. You can view the beautiful plaza anytime in December.
Mrs. Santa admiring art at the Here Comes Santa Claus event in downtown Rochester Minnesota
Image courtesy of Rochester Downtown Alliance 

 

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