Chill out with art festivals, crafts, food and wine — and alpacas – Twin Cities

String lights are going up; snow is coming down — and throughout the holiday season, there’s plenty to keep us busy around St. Paul. Craft markets and mulled wine, of course, but also train rides, music, art, movies, food and quite a few alpacas.

There’s plenty to look forward to later in the winter, too — like the Winter Carnival and Great Northern Festival, in January and February — but until then, here are just a few of the many festivals, functions and family fun you can enjoy through the end of the year.

Hub for the Holidays

Union Depot’s Christmas central is back. Catch the North Pole Express, holiday bake sale, Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, and more throughout the holiday season.

Union Depot: 240 E. Kellogg Blvd; some events are ticketed;

A couple specific highlights:

Tree Lighting/Movie Night: The evening of Dec. 3 is a busy one at Union Depot: An anniversary celebration of the building’s restoration begins at 3 p.m., and the St. Paul Winter Carnival buttons will be revealed by the Royal Family, Vulcan Krewe and Klondike Kates at 5 p.m. Then, The Mistletones will perform, and at 7 p.m., the holiday tree will be officially lit. Close out the night by watching “Elf,” which starts at 7:30.

People in colorful winter coats visit food stalls under star-shaped lights
The European Christmas Market expands to four weekends in St. Paul., starting on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Photo by Mike Krivit)

European Christmas Market: The popular holiday village at Union Depot is back for its 9th year, with 60 vendors including food, hot mulled wine, live entertainment and crafts and activities for kids. Santa will show up periodically, and the furry Minnesota Krampus characters will be around on two Friday evenings. Notable: Last year, attendance hit 95,000, and this year’s market is more spacious. The market began on Nov. 25 and runs weekends through Dec. 18; hours are 4 – 9 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sundays. Free admission; full list of vendors and activities at


Crowds of people gather in small groups under lit trees with a massive yeti visible in the background
Holidazzle attendees enjoy the winter festival in Minneapolis’s Loring Park in 2019. (Photo courtesy Holidazzle)

The retooled winter festival is back in Loring Park, in Minneapolis, this year, spanning four weekends from Nov. 25 through Dec. 18. The craft market, rides, art and beer garden are in full force; roller skating from 5 – 9 p.m. each Friday and Saturday is new this year. Look alive, alpaca fans: The furry animals will be hanging out during the festival’s final two weekends. Fireworks go off at 7:15 p.m. every Saturday; hours: 5 – 9 p.m. Fridays, 12 – 9 p.m. Saturdays and 12 – 6 p.m. Sundays.

Holidazzle: Loring Park, Minneapolis; free admission;

GLOW Festival

Last year, the million-plus light installation took over the State Fairgrounds; now, the festival is lighting up CHS Field. Besides illuminated trees and interactive light displays, food and drinks will be on offer as well. The festival is open most days between Nov. 23 and Jan. 1, with a few exceptions. Timed tickets are required.

CHS Field: 360 N. Broadway Street; tickets: $12.75 for kids 4–12, $20.75 for adults;

Model train cars sit on display at the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum's new location on Transfer Rd. in St. Paul on Sunday, Oct. 30. (Pioneer Press: Liam James Doyle)
Model train cars sit on display at the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum’s new location on Transfer Rd. in St. Paul on Sunday, Oct. 30. (Pioneer Press: Liam James Doyle)

The Magic of Night Trains

At the Twin City Model Railroad Museum, the main lights go down and street lamps glow in the miniature villages, decorated with snow and holiday decor, as vintage model trains run through the carefully crafted cities. You can’t ride the trains — unless you’re the size of a model-train passenger, I suppose — but you can admire them from 3 – 7 p.m. every Saturday, plus special dates of Dec. 19, 21, 23, 26, 29 and 30.

Twin City Model Railroad Museum: 668 Transfer Road; tickets: $15 per person, free for members and those under 4;

2 Galleries, 20 Artists

The Friedli and Viewpoint galleries are teaming up for a dual-location holiday art show featuring small works (under 18×24) for sale. The show begins on Dec. 2 with a simultaneous opening reception at both studios, from 5 – 9 p.m., with refreshments provided. The sale runs at Friedli through Dec. 25 and at Viewpoint through Jan. 14.

Friedli Gallery and Studio: 943 W 7th St;

Viewpoint Gallery: 591 Hamline Ave N.;

Julmarknad Handcraft Market & Festival

American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. (Courtesy photo)
American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. (Courtesy photo)

Over at the American Swedish Institute, catch one of the area’s largest craft markets focusing on all things Scandinavian. Plus, they’ll have pop-up musical performances, crafts, foods, and kicksleds. Runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, with registration required in advance.

American Swedish Institute: 2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis; tickets: $15, or $10 for members;

Christmas in Germany

Formerly called Open Haus, the holiday market at Cathedral Hill’s Germanic-American Institute is back from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 3 and 4. On both days, find plenty of beer, wine, pretzels, sausage, crafts, an alpaca petting zoo and more. St. Nikolaus will be around, and the Minnesänger Chorus and 4Winds early music quartet will perform. The event is indoor/outdoor.

Germanic-American Institute: 301 Summit Avenue; free admission;

Plus: Join GAI’s Christmas dinner catered by Lake Elmo Inn, along with traditional German music. Note: The dinner is in the GAI Haus, which is not ADA accessible. The meal and associated holiday programming begins at 5 p.m. Dec. 10; tickets are $80 per person and must be purchased by Dec. 5.

“East-West / North-South”

The St. Paul Civic Symphony, conducted by Jeffrey Stirling, stages a concert of music from around the globe. “China Dreams” by Bright Sheng symbolizes east, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 symbolizes west, “Reedbird” by Emilie Doolittle symbolizes north and “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4” by Heitor Villa-Lobos symbolizes south. One show: 3 p.m. on Dec. 4.

St. Matthews Catholic Church: 510 Hall Ave; tickets: free;

Interactive Holiday Workshops at the Mia

Inspired by the special exhibition “Botticelli and Renaissance Florence: Masterworks from the Uffizi,” the Minneapolis Institute of Art is hosting two special afternoon workshops. Start with a private guided tour of the exhibition — which features art that rarely leaves Italy — and continue with your choice of one of the following: Pasta making with Alex Dayton of Aliment; wine pairing with sommelier Bill Summerville; charcuterie board styling with Mary Jo Hoffman of Still; or table styling with Jason Berke of Warmhouse Story. It’ll be hands-on, as each workshop is capped at 15 participants. Conclude with a meal courtesy of acclaimed chef Jamie Malone, with Summerville’s wine pairings. The experience runs from 3 – 8 p.m. on either Dec. 4 or Dec. 10, and your ticket price is also a fundraiser for the museum.

Minneapolis Institute of Art: 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis; tickets: $260 per person;

Circus Juventas’ Solstice

One circus performer, suspended by a silk band, holds up another by locking hands behind her neck
Two Circus Juventas student performers pull off an aerial stunt during a previous performance in this undated photo. The Saint Paul circus arts school is holding its third annual holiday show in December 2022. (Photo courtesy Dan Norman / Circus Juventas)

Holiday shows are a relatively new addition to the St. Paul circus school’s calendar. This year — their third annual — the students are presenting Solstice, which focuses on forest creatures’ quest to rescue Jack Frost and save winter. Seven shows from Dec. 9–18.

Circus Juventas: 1270 Montreal Ave; tickets: $25 for kids/seniors/military, $35 for adults;

Manure and Poetry #3: An Evening with Labor Camp Orchestra

Local artist Piotr Szyhalski, whose exhibition “We Are Working All the Time!” is on view at the Weisman Art Museum through Dec. 31, is staging a sound-based evening of “vignettes that revisit and build on the expanded palette of performative works that were developed over the decades.” The performance plus artist dialogue begins at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 14.

Weisman Art Museum: 333 E River Road, Minneapolis; tickets: required, but pay as you wish;

Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy

Members of the Minnesota Dance Theater dance to the Waltz of the Snowflakes from the Loyce Houlton's Nutcracker Fantacy during the 2022 St. Paul Winter Carnival Royal Coronation at the Saint Paul RiverCentre on Friday, January 28, 2022.
Members of the Minnesota Dance Theater dance to the Waltz of the Snowflakes from the Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantacy during the 2022 St. Paul Winter Carnival Royal Coronation at the St. Paul RiverCentre on Friday, January 28, 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Once again, Minnesota Dance Theater is presenting its annual rendition of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, with choreography by the late company founder Loyce Houlton and music by a 44-piece orchestra conducted by Philip Brunelle. Six performances from Dec. 16 to Dec. 23, including matinees.

State Theatre: 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; tickets: $19–129 at the box office or Ticketmaster;

Plus: Meet the characters and enjoy tea and savory/sweet snacks at the Festivi-Tea, a party at the Minneapolis Club from 12:30 to 2 p.m. before the Dec. 23 matinee performance. Tickets run $50–$60; admission to the show must be purchased separately. Buy tickets online only at

The Classic Nutcracker

One ballet dancer suspends another, with a pair of crossed candy canes visible in the background
Dancers in Ballet Minnesota participate in The Nutcracker, an annual tradition for the local ballet company. The 2022 season marks their 34th year of performing The Nutcracker. (Photo credit Tim Rummelhof / Ballet Minnesota)

More cracking going on over at Ballet Minnesota, along with special guests from American Ballet Theatre. This is the local company’s 34th year staging the classic ballet, and once again, they’ll be at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University. Three performances, Dec. 16–18.

The O’Shaughnessy: 2004 Randolph Ave; tickets: $19–$45;

Christmas Alpaca Open House

Whispering Oaks Alpacas, a farm in Prior Lake, is making alpaca lovers’ dreams come true with a two-day alpaca-stravaganza. You can visit the farm, grab any last-minute gifts and baked goods, and, for $10, take an alpaca for a snowy walk. Stop by from 12 – 4 p.m. on Dec. 17 or 18, weather permitting.

Whispering Oaks Alpacas: 21851 Calmor Ave., Prior Lake; free entry; more information on the farm’s Facebook page

Winter Solstice Celebration

Despite how the world looks out the window, winter does not technically begin until nearly the end of December — the 21st — which also happens to be the shortest day of the year. Warm up at FIKA Cafe at the American Swedish Institute from 5 – 9 p.m. on Dec. 21 with a special menu and warm mulled wine.

American Swedish Institute: 2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis; tickets: $15, or $10 for members;

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