Top 10 Family Picks: December in the Twin Cities

December in the Twin Cities

Family Fun Twin Cities is counting down to the holiday and the new year with 10 hand-picked events for families in the month of December.


Thanks to ASI for being FFTC’s Seasonal Patron.

American Swedish InstituteJul love it! American Swedish Institute is the place for affordable family fun with Handmade Holidays,  decorated Mansion rooms and new Family Gallery. Don’t miss the monthly Kids and (new) Babies at the Castle gatherings.  Join in a musical story during the Julglädje “Christmas Joy” shows November 24-25. ASI’s Making Traditions weekends offer hands-on activities, Find-the-Tomte games and performances, while FIKA Café serves up tyke-sized bites. For more details, click here, call (612) 871-4907, or visit 2600 Park Ave.  Free parking!

1) Holidazzle | Loring Park, Minneapolis

All the ingredients for a perfect family holiday outing are right here in Loring Park: Santa’s taking visitors, the ice rink is stocked with free loaner skates, outdoor movies and fireworks are on display select evenings, and you can get your shopping list tackled among the many vendors. Holidazzle runs Fri-Sun through Dec 23. All activities are free of charge.

2) Santa’s Train Shop | Minnesota Transportation Museum, St Paul

Santa’s Train Shop is one of the more unique holiday events in the Twin Cities. What better place for a little (or big) trainiac to hand over their Christmas list? The museum is located in the historic Jackson Street Roundhouse and gives kids a chance to explore train cars, tinker with hands-on exhibits and take a real ride on a car decorated for Christmas. Sat & Sun only through 12/16/18, 10am-4pm. $5-$12/pp.

December in the Twin Cities

3) Grand Meander | Grand Avenue, St Paul

Begin the day with Santa at the free pancake breakfast at Tavern on Grand from 8:30 am-10:30 am. Enjoy carolers, reindeer, Santa visits, Red Balloon’s special storytime, trolley rides, and soup tasting at Grand Avenue restaurants. Top it all off at the Summit Ave Artisan Festival hosted by St. Paul’s United Church of Christ from 10 am-4 pm featuring local artists pottery, textiles, food vendors, bakery cafe and a silent auction. 12/1/18, 8:30am-5pm. FREE.

Find more holiday festivals here.

4) Sledding hills & skating rinks open for the season

December in the Twin Cities

Mid to late December is when the rinks are flooded and open for your own personal Ice Capades. Or for your little future Gretzkys, whatever the case may be. Colder temps and snowfall also bring optimal conditions for sledding and snow tubing. We’ve compiled a local rink-finder and a sledding hills guide so you can scout a new places to enjoy these classic winter pastimes.

December in the Twin Cities

5) A Christmas Carol | Guthrie Theater

It’s the classic tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s change of heart during the holiday season. When my 12-year-old son, who is reading the Dickens classic in school, asked if we’d take him to the show this year, I knew I needed to add this to the list. This story is something special if he’s making that kind of request. The Guthrie recommends the show for kids ages 8 & up; this could be a great date with your tween. Now through Dec 30. For more family theater options for all ages, check our guide to Christmas on the Stage.

December in the Twin Cities

6) Have yourself a historical little Christmas

Celebrate by discovering traditions that Minnesotans were enjoying around the turn of the twentieth century.

  • Folkways of the Holidays | The Landing, Shakopee | Dec weekends through 12/23/18 | $5-$8/pp | Live cultural entertainment in the town hall, decorated homes throughout the village and folk art demonstrations.
  • Christmas in the Village | Dakota City Heritage Village, Farmington | Dec weekends through 12/9/18, 1-8pm | $4-$7/pp | The village will be lit and decorated for the holiday. Make your way through the buildings to get a taste of holiday cooking, watch selections of A Christmas Carol, visit St Nick, take a horse-drawn trolley ride, and join in caroling.
  • Christmas Saturdays for Families | James J Hill House, St Paul | Saturdays in December through 12/29/18, 10am-5pm | $6-$10/pp | The grand mansion of the railroad magnate and his family is open and decorated for families to explore and make a special Christmas craft.

December in the Twin Cities

7) Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

Now arriving at the following Twin Cities-area stations: a decked-out holiday train and rockin’ live performances! This is a fun Christmas tradition for many local families and offers a chance to give back during the season. Food banks will be accepting donations at each site, click the above link for the train’s route and detailed station locations.

  • 12/9 – Hastings, arrives 8:30pm
  • 12/10 – Cottage Grove, 5:15pm
  • 12/10 – Union Depot, St. Paul, 6:45 pm
  • 12/11 – New Hope, 3:35pm
  • 12/11 – Golden Valley, 4:50pm
  • 12/11 – St. Louis Park, 6pm
  • 12/11 – Minneapolis, 7:55pm
December in the Twin Cities

Courtesy Canadian Pacific

8)  Handmade Holidays | American Swedish Institute

Kids in the Castle - Image courtesy American Swedish Institute. - December in the Twin Cities

Kids in the Castle – Image courtesy American Swedish Institute

This is your big chance to gawk free of charge at the Turnblad Mansion all dressed up for the holiday season. Handmade Holidays brings a new exhibit in the Family Gallery, crafts and musical theater performances. Through Jan13 13, 2019.

9) Winter Light Show | University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus

More than 250,000 lights decorate the courtyard of the Civil Engineering Building during this holiday time tradition. Students have designed a 15-minute show that has the lights dancing for onlookers at 5:30, 6 & 6:30pm, Dec 1 & 6-8, FREE. For our master list of holiday light shows and displays, click here. We have been working hard to ensure that all the entries are verified and as up-to-date as possible; we don’t want anyone left in the dark.

10) New Years Eve events

Ring in 2019 with one of these family-friendly Twin Cities New Years Eve events.

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