We wanted to give you a heads up to some of the most exciting Twin Cities Christmas experiences happening this year. Get out your calendar; here are our Top Ten that you won’t want to miss! For more holiday happenings, check our 2019 Christmas & Holiday Guide. It’s chock full of Santa sightings, festivals, theater and musical performances, Christmas lights displays, and Christmas shopping tips.
1) Christmas Trains
Night Trains | Twin City Model Railroad Museum, St Paul
Visit the imaginary town of Matlin. It has been buried in a blizzard, but the Night Trains are still running. The model railroad museum turns the lights down for this Christmas event so you can enjoy the soft warm glow of the buildings and street lights and the specially lighted models of vintage passenger trains. Saturdays, Nov 2-Feb 29 2020, 6 pm-9 pm. $15/pp (discounts for families).
North Pole Express | Union Depot, St Paul
Take a one-mile train ride to the North Pole and write your letter to Santa on the way. Santa will board the train and ride back to the Union Depot, greeting kids and collecting letters with treats and other activities following. (This event historically sells out fast. Tickets are on sale now) Dec 6-8 & Dec 12-15. $19.95-$23.95, kids 3 and under free.
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
Catch the Christmas train pulling into a Twin Cities station near you Dec 9-12! Details can be found on our Christmas in the Twin Cities: Planes Trains & Sleighs post.
2) Christmas & Holiday Markets – Twin Cities Christmas Experiences
Holidazzle | Loring Park, Minneapolis
Minneapolis Craft Market brings in more than 20 vendors each weekend to Holidazzle. Shop local artists selling handmade treasures, then enjoy food & beverages, free ice skating, outdoor movies, visits with Santa, fireworks and lots more fun. Thurs-Sun, Nov 29-Dec 22, 2019. FREE admission and activities.
European Christmas Market | Union Depot, St Paul
Shop booths decorated for Christmas and modeled after those found in Munich and other Christkindlmarkts. The market kicks off with the Union Depot Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec 6. Stay for fireworks and a movie night double feature. Fri-Sun, Dec 6-22.
Grand Meander | Grand Ave, St. Paul
Wander the length of Grand Avenue, explore the shops for holiday gifts, sample soups, visit Santa, listen for the roving carolers and more to get you in the spirit. One day only! Dec 7, 9am-5pm.
Reindeer Day | Linden Hills, Minneapolis
Shop the 43rd and Upton merchants, then roast marshmallows over the bonfire, visit Santa, and meet his reindeer. Dec 7.
Find more holiday shopping events on our Twin Cities Holiday Festival Calendar.
3) The Nutcracker – A Holiday Stage Tradition
Nothing says a Christmas performance like The Nutcracker ballet, and the Twin Cities is full of opportunities to experience this Christmas tradition. Here’s a sampling of where some of the family-friendliest stages if you’re considering bringing kids to the ballet:
Nov 23: Nutcracker Ballet by Pas de Deux Dance Studio | St Paul U of M
The classic story with a few special twists, presented at the St Paul Student Union Theater. Shows at 1:30 & 4pm. Ages 4 & up only, $15/advance, $20/door.
Dec 13-15: The Classic Nutcracker by Ballet Minnesota | O’Shaugnessy, St Paul
Dec 21: A Nutcracker Story by St Paul Ballet | The O’Shaugnessy, St Paul
Jump over to our complete listing of Nutcracker and other holiday performances: The Nutcracker and Beyond: 2019’s Best Christmas Shows Ever!
Family Fun Twin Cities Holiday Shop on Amazon
If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, we can help you with our Holiday Shop on Amazon. We have carefully selected gift ideas to help you get a super fun gift for the littler ones in your life.
Amazon links are affiliate links and Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on sales through our site.
4) Swedish Christmas Traditions at American Swedish Institute
An annual tradition, hosted by Ross Sutter, who plays an energetic variety of American and Swedish tunes. This is an affordable experience for the whole family to enjoy.
Sat, Nov 30 – Sun, Dec 1 1pm & Sat, Dec 27 – Sun, Dec 28 1pm; Tickets $5-$12/pp includes museum admission (advanced tickets recommended).
Gingerbread House Workshop
The fun of decorating your family’s gingerbread house without all the clean up? Yes, please! Bring it home and your own home will be instantly transformed for the Christmas season. Nov 23, 1 pm. $35/house (up to 5 family members can decorate one house).
Music and Family Craft
Enjoy the holidays together at the American Swedish Institute by making crafts, listening to music and exploring the Christmas mansion. Some craft days take place during the Julmarknad Christmas Market festival. Nov. 30, Dec 1, 7, 8, 15 & 22. $6-$12/pp.
5) Holiday Theatre
- Cinderella | Children’s Theatre Company | Nov 3, 2019-Jan 5, 2020
- Elf The Musical, Jr. | Stages Theatre | Nov 22-Dec 28, 2019
- Annie Jr. | Steppingstone Theatre | Nov 22-Dec 22, 2018
- The Holiday Pageant | Open Eye Figure Theatre | Dec 6-Dec 22, 2019
6) Santa Sightings
Santa Claus has headed full speed into his busy public appearance time of year. That jolly old guy sure can get around! This is a sampling of some of the best places to run into the guy: Twin Cities Santa Finder – Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!
7) Old Fashioned Holidays
Experience Christmas in the 19th century by celebrating the rich holiday traditions of the earliest settlers of Minnesota. Some of our favorite historical holiday events are make perfect outings for families:
Begins Nov 29: A Victorian Christmas | Alexander Ramsey House
See, hear and taste a Victorian Christmas during this holiday guided tour. Homemade cookies in the kitchen, holiday music of the era on the piano, and original family decorations. Thru Dec 29, $8-$12/pp.
Begins Nov 30: Christmas Saturdays for Families | James J Hill House, St Paul
Take a self-guided Christmas tour of the historic mansion. May be the better option for families with kids who’d like to tour at their own pace. 10am-5pm. $6-$10/pp.
Dec 7-8 & 14-15: Christmas in the Village | Dakota City Heritage Village, Farmington
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol comes to life in the village with a horse-drawn trolley, caroling, holiday cooking, demonstrations, a visit with St. Nicholas and other turn-of-the-century traditions. 1-8pm, Sat & Sun. $4-$7/pp.
See our complete listing of Ye Old Holidays at Twin Cities Museums & Historic Sites.
8) Holiday Music – Twin Cities Christmas Experiences
The sound of Christmas gets you into the seasonal mood quickly. It’s a super fun time to introduce your family to the orchestra! Here are some ideas to get you started:
Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies Holiday Concerts
Check the link for concert listings, times and ticket information. Holiday concerts are FREE and open to the public. Dec 7 (Minnetonka) at 2pm & Dec 8 (Roseville), at 4 pm.
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Handel’s Messiah
Dec 19-20: Basilica, Minneapolis & Dec 21-22: Ordway, St Paul. $5-$30/pp.
9) Holiday Carols and Sing-A-Longs
Winter Wonder | Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis
This is the perfect concert for your whole family – including teddy bears! Guests are invited to sit up close to the singers and join in familiar carols. 12/14/19, 9am & 11am. $15/adult; Free Ages 0-17 (with purchase of adult tickets).
10) Festive Lights
For our master list of Christmas lights and holiday displays, look no further than here. Also includes community Christmas Tree lightings!