Celebrate Winter Solstice 2023 in the Twin Cities

Winter Solstice

December 21st is the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. In 2023, the sun will set at 4:34pm on December 21st and sunrise occurs at 7:48am on the 22nd. On the bright side, it is not even Christmas yet and we can consider this the turning point. We’re officially heading back toward spring after this! While we tend to celebrate rebirth in the spring, it really begins at this time of year. In the Twin Cities we love to celebrate with night hikes, Tomte and stargazing. Sign your family up for one of these fun events:

2023 Solstice Events for Families and Kids

I’ve learned that if I can get the family out on the darkest day and again on the coldest day (but for a very short time if it is dangerously cold), my winter will be better.

Tomte Solstice Magic

Gale Woods Farm, 7210 County Rd 110 W, Minnetrista, MN 55364
Date: December 15, 2023; 4:30-7:30 half-hour time slots.
Celebrate the solstice with the Scandinavian Tomte, visit the barn animals, take a luminary walk (or snowshoe), then listen to stories and music while you roast s’mores. • All Ages • $8/pp. Event #1GAL11oo  is FULL (but you can add to your Wishlist in case openings occur.

Free Family Fun Day: Little Luminaries

Eastman Nature Center, 13351 Elm Creek Rd, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Date: December 17, 2023; 1-3pm.
Families will help prepare Thursday’s luminary lit trail by decorating a luminary bag. All equipment will be provided.  •  FREE. Drop In Family Event.

My Preschooler & Me: Bookworms By the Bonfire – Sunshine and Solstice

Eastman Nature Center, 13351 Elm Creek Rd, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Date: December 19, 2023; 10-11:30am.
Families are welcome to stay in their pajamas for this celebration of the shortest day of the year (a couple days early). Activities include a story around the fire, a walk on the trail and a solstice craft. • Ages 0-6 with parent • $6/pp. Pre-Register for Event #1ENC1000.

Winter Solstice

American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis, MN
Date: December 20, 2023; 5pm-9pm
Celebrate the longest night of the year like Scandinavians at ASI’s popular Winter Solstice Celebration. FIKA Café serves a special festival menu, including small plates and warm drinks. Shop for last minute gifts at the ASI Museum Store and Jul Shop. • All Ages • Ticket Prices: $18/adult; $6/child. SOLD OUT.

Solstice Snowshoe

Baker Outdoor Learning Center, 4001 County Road 24, Maple Plain, MN, 55359
Date: December 21, 2023; 6-7:30pm.
A snowshoe hike (or walking hike if no snow) through the woods on the longest night of the year. Snowshoes provided. . • Ages 5+ • $6/pp. Reservations for Event #1BLC1200 required by December 19th.

Winter Solstice Celebration

Cleary Lake Regional Park, 18106 Texas Ave, Prior Lake, MN 55372
Date/Time: December 21, 2023; 4-7pm.
Celebrate the shortest day and the longest night of the ear with outdoor activities, including lantern-making, reflection stations and roasting marshmallows around a fire. • All Ages • FREE – Pre-Registration Available & Encouraged Event #1SCT1310.

Winter Solstice Luminary Trail

Eastman Nature Center, 13351 Elm Creek Rd, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Date: December 21, 2023; 5pm-8pm.
Walk a luminary lit trail any time between 5:00 and 8:00pm. Accepting donations of personal hygiene items to donate to the CROSS Foodshelf • All Ages •  FREE. Drop In. Event #1ENC1300. Learn more here.

Winter Solstice Celebration

North Mississippi Regional Park, 4900 Mississippi Court, Minneapolis, MM 55430
Date/Time: December 21, 2023; 5-9pm.
Join a celebration of the longest night and the longer days to come with a glowing trail walk, make-and-take luminary crafts, games, and a bonfire. • All Ages • FREE. Unlimited Openings. Event #1275.

Winter Solstice Bonfire

Dodge Nature Center, 365 Marie Avenue W, West Saint Paul, MN 55118
Date/Time: December 21, 2023; 6-7:30pm.
Celebrate the shortest day of the year on a guided hike with Dodge naturalists through the wintery woods then warm up around a bonfire. • All Ages • $8/pp – Pre-Registration Required.

Be The Light Winter Solstice Walk

Westwood Hills Nature Center, 8300 W. Franklin Ave., St. Louis Park, Minnesota 55426
: December 21, 2023; 6:30-8pm
Walk the self-guided luminary trail and make your own luminary. These event was created to remember those suffering from depression, mental illness or difficult situations. • All Ages • FREE. Registration Required.


Make Your Own Winter Solstice Tradition:

On this shortest day of the year, enjoy the long evening with your own family ritual.

  1. This would be a great night to check out nearby Holiday Light Displays.
  2. Break out the flashlights, hot cocoa and s’mores and play these outdoor games in the backyard. Why wait until summer?
  3. A Winter Solstice Walk. Tinkergarten has ideas for making a winter solstice walk fun for your littlest kids by gathering things to decorate for the holiday. The only holly native to Minnesota is Winterberry, but pinecones and twigs are plentiful or try snowshoeing along snow-covered or unpaved trails.
  4. Read Christmas Stories or Winter Solstice Books by candlelight or toss on a yule log on the fireplace and curl up with a good book (if you are lucky enough to have a fire place).
  5. Wait to Put Up Your Tree Until the Solstice. If the season tends to overwhelm you, don’t feel guilty, make it a tradition. If the tree goes up on the Solstice and down on Epiphany, you can enjoy it for 15 beautiful days. Need decorations? Check out these 90 Ornaments Kids Can Make from our friends at Non-Toy Gifts.
  6. Decorate your own yard with luminaries and winter solstice lanterns. I really want to try these colorful Ice Bowls (also by Non-Toy Gifts), which could be used as ice lanterns if you add a candle or tealight.
  7. Roast marshmallows in a backyard firepit. We particularly love locally-made North Mallow marshmallows.
  8. Plan a Winter Solstice Feast of all your favorite cold-weather comfort foods. Light candles to chase the dark away and bless the meal with a prayer of thanksgiving or a winter poem.
  9. View Night Trains at the Model Railroad Museum.
  10. Visit Como Zoo to wish the reindeer well on their upcoming night-flight! Como is open from 10am-4pm. Admission is still Free, but reservations are required.
  11. Go for a Hike Under the Lights at 4 Three Rivers Parks:
All Aboard for Night Trains at the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Photo Credit: Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum

How Winter Solstice is Celebrated Around the World


Visitors to Stonehenge in England can watch the sun set in the center of the three great stones of the Trilithon. Learn more at EarthSky.org.

At Home Family Fun Idea: Build your own Stonehenge replica. Can you get a flashlight “sun” to set in the center?

The North Pole

While we get six measly hours of daylight on December 21st, Santa doesn’t get any sun. I guess he and his elves will have to use big floodlights to get the job done in the next couple days.

The South Pole

On the flip side Antarctica will experience its longest day of the year and get 24 hours of daylight.


As we are reaching our darkest coldest time, the southern hemisphere is reaching its summer solstice and will celebrate the winter solstice in June. I learned, when researching this article, that Australia has its own Standing Stones where Celtic decedents celebrate the solstice. Learn more here.

Winter Solstice

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