Top 10 Family Picks: December in the Twin Cities

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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.

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. Dec 9-10 & Dec 16-17, 10am-4pm. $5-$12/pp.

December in the Twin Cities

3) Brookview Backyard – a new indoor playground now open in Golden Valley

The West Metro just welcomed a brand new, 3,000-square foot offering to its arsenal of indoor playgrounds. Brookview Backyard is located within the completely made-over Brookview Golden Valley (formerly Brookview Community Center) and is one more option this winter for your kids to stay active. Highlights include a 3-story play structure, a separate area for the youngest visitors and dining options. If traveling to the West Metro is a stretch for you, we have more suggestions in our Guide to Twin Cities Indoor Playgrounds.

December in the Twin Cities

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 | $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 9-10, 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, 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.

  • 12/8/17: Hastings, 8:30pm
  • 12/9/17: Cottage Grove, 5:15pm
  • 12/9/17: Minneapolis, 7:45pm
  • 12/10/17: New Hope, 3:35pm
  • 12/10/17: Golden Valley, 4:50pm
  • 12/10/17: St Louis Park, 6pm
December in the Twin Cities

Courtesy Canadian Pacific

8)  Holiday Open House | 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. Fest! Merry Mansion – Nordic Holidays brings a new exhibit in the Family Gallery, crafts and musical theater performances. Dec 13, 5-8pm. Fest! Merry Mansion runs through Jan 7, 2018.

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 7-9, 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 2018 with one of these family-friendly Twin Cities New Years Eve events.

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About the author

Anne Kingston

If we left it up to Anne to write her own bio, it would never get posted. She doesn't enjoy talking about herself, but Anne does love exploring the Twin Cities with her family and sharing her finds here. She, her husband and their four kids are lifelong residents of St. Paul.

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