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Credit: Lew Ferty Vogel

What you need to know about the Saint Paul Winter Carnival’s drive-thru ice sculpture park

The “coolest celebration on Earth,” the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, does not stop for COVID-19.

The 135th edition of the Winter Carnival runs January 28 thru February 7, 2021. It is the oldest winter carnival in the United States.

The Winter Carnival’s typical ice sculpture display in downtown Saint Paul has moved to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for 2021, and in true coronavirus fashion, has turned into a drive-thru format.

Here’s what you need to know if your family wants to attend the Winter Carnival’s Drive-Thru Snow and Ice Sculpture Park at the Fairgrounds.

Winter Carnival ice sculpture
Credit: Lew Ferty Vogel

Saint Paul Winter Carnival’s 2021 Snow and Ice Sculpture Park


January 28 – February 7, 2021


Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Falcon Heights

Enter off of Como Avenue


Mondays – Thursdays, 4:00 – 9:30 pm

Fridays, 12:00 – 10:00 pm

Saturdays – Sundays, 9:00 am – 10:00 pm


General admission: $20 per vehicle

VIP packages: $35 per vehicle. You receive “front of the line” access, a Winter Carnival ice scraper, and if you go on a themed day, a special bag (keep reading)

Tickets have an additional $3.50 processing fee

You purchase tickets in advance for a specific timeslot

Order tickets here

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What you receive

It depends on the day you go. All attendees receive a swag bag from UCare or Xcel Energy. In addition, there are additional perks based on the day: 

  • January 29 & February 5: Northern Soda Days (receive a four-pack of Northern Soda, koozies, and twisty straws)
  • January 30: Crayola Experience Family Day (receive two passes to Crayola Experience at Mall of America and other goodies)
  • January 31: National Hot Chocolate Day (receive two mugs, hot chocolate mix and chocolate milk)
  • February 2: THE CROODS: A NEW AGE Day (receive a movie night swag bag, including snacks)
  • February 4: Saint Paul Saints Day (receive two Saints baseball caps)
  • February 6: Minnesota Twins Day (receive a Twins beanie)

Do I need to buy tickets in advance?

Yes. You buy your ticket for a specific time slot. Purchase your ticket here.

How long is the experience?

They’re saying it will take about 30 minutes to get through.

How many ice sculptures are there?

The Winter Carnival tells me you will see over 30 along the route.

How many people can I fit in my car?

The vehicle ticket price is a flat fee, meaning you can squeeze as many people as you’d like.

The Winter Carnival is planning a special day for buses, geared toward nursing homes and other COVID bubbles. Those groups must be pre-approved.

Do I need to show up in a motor vehicle?

Yes. Due to safety concerns, you must be inside a motor vehicle. You are not allowed to walk or bike the route.

Can my dog come?

Pets are not recommended, as they won’t be able to get out of the car. However, they’re not banned.

Should I go during the day or at night?

Colorful lights will showcase the displays at night. However, the Winter Carnvial’s website does state that this isn’t a lights show. My hunch is that this is going to be better during the day.

Will there be restrooms?

Yes. Restrooms are available at the beginning and end of the route, but not during.

Is there food, and are they State Fair vendors?

There is food. The Winter Carnival didn’t announce specific vendors, but mention mini donuts and kettle corn, which will be sold along the route. Food is ordered from the driver’s side of your car (make sure to bring a face covering).

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Will I be able to get out of my car to take pictures?

Nope. That kind of defeats the purpose of them turning this into a drive-thru experience, doesn’t it? You will not get out of your car to order food.

Are they going to cancel if it gets too cold or if there’s a blizzard?

They claim the event will go on no matter what. If they do have to cancel, those with tickets that day will be notified with alternatives.

So is there anything happening in downtown Saint Paul for the Winter Carnival?

Well, kind of. The annual Winter Carnival Puzzle Contest will take place socially distant inside Landmark Center on January 30. The more popular parades, along with Wells Fargo WinterSkate, are cancelled.

Well, wait a second. I used to go see these ice sculptures for free. Why does this cost $20?

The group that puts on the Winter Carnival had to cancel many of its fundraising events that keeps the organization afloat.

My question isn’t answered above. Where can I go?

Check out the Winter Carnival’s FAQ sheet. Or ask me by filling out the form below and I’ll ask them for you! 


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