What you should know before visiting St. Paul

Give Me The Mike received promotional consideration from Visit Saint Paul

Saint Paul, Minnesota may be the smaller twin of the Twin Cities, but it has a whole lot of charm and plenty to do. Here’s some advice for planning a trip to Minnesota’s capital city.

Getting there and getting around.

From Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport, downtown Saint Paul is about a 10 minute Lyft or Uber ride away. You can take Metro Transit’s light rail (blue line to green line), but it would take you a really long time — like over an hour. It’s not worth it.

Once you’re in Saint Paul, Metro Transit’s green line can be really helpful. It runs from Union Depot in Lowertown all the way through Saint Paul into Minneapolis (it ends at Target Field on the west side of downtown Minneapolis). A non rush hour ride is only $2.

Metro Transit does operate a bus system, but you’re probably better off renting a car, especially if you want to explore the rest of the Twin Cities.

When to go.

Minnesota is cold about 9 months of the year.

So Saint Paul embraces it.

At the end of January, Saint Paul hosts a Winter Carnival. Every year, you can count on a big parade, ice sculptures and a snow park. The Winter Carnival has royalty and during some years, has built larger-than-life ice castles.

For multiple years, Saint Paul has also hosted Red Bull’s Crashed Ice, an extravagant course where professional dare devils go downhill skiing but on ice skates. It’s a spectacle.

I’m not a big fan of the cold and snow, but don’t automatically rule out a winter trip to Minnesota.

Now, there aren’t many places better than Minnesota in the summer. The sun stays up late and people know they need to embrace these summer nights. Downtown Saint Paul, in particular the area around Mears Park, has some great patios for dinner or a nightcap. Check out an evening baseball game at CHS Field since you’re in the neighborhood.

Where to stay.

Across from Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul is where you will find The Saint Paul Hotel. The luxurious hotel first opened in 1910 and offers top-notch amenities. Their restaurant, The St. Paul Grill, is great for brunch and is a popular spot before shows at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts or the Xcel Energy Center.

covington inn.jpg
Stay at a floating bed and breakfast on the Mississippi River!

I recently stayed at the Covington Inn, a floating bed and breakfast on the Mississippi River. The tug boat was converted into four rooms and is a perfect spot for a romantic getaway. It’s docked on Harriet Island, which is across the river from downtown Saint Paul. If you stay at the Covington in the winter, you definitely will want a car as it’s a considerable walk from downtown.

If you’re looking for something more conventional, hotels around Kellogg and West 7th Street will get you close to many bars and restaurants.

What to do.

Outside of downtown, here are some neighborhoods worth checking out:

  • Grand Avenue is full of restaurants and shops. On the first Sunday of June, they host Grand Old Day, a one-day street festival that draws upwards of 250,000 people. When you’re on Grand Avenue, check out accessory company J.W. Hulme.
  • Cathedral Hill is the area behind the Cathedral of Saint Paul, just west of downtown. It’s home to Moscow on the Hill, a spot voted as having one of the best patios in Minnesota.
Moscow on the Hill    Photo by Bre McGee
Moscow on the Hill has a hidden patio which happens to be one of the best in Minnesota. Photo by Bre McGee
  • Some may consider it downtown, but the West 7th neighborhood is definitely worth visiting. Starting at the edge of downtown Saint Paul, West 7th is full of bars, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s also home to Keg and Case West 7th Market, a collaboration of over two dozen Minnesota-based companies in an indoor market. It’s also home to In Bloom, an upscale restaurant without a conventional oven. Instead, they use wood fire to cook everything on their menu.

Here are other Saint Paul highlights:

Greetings from MN
The Minnesota History Center is well worth the visit, even if you’re not from Minnesota.

Top Saint Paul restaurants:

Two of the five restaurants voted as serving the best Mexican food in Minnesota are located about three blocks from one another.

Before you head to Minnesota, make sure you know how to talk like a Minnesotan. Brush up on your Minnesota slang with this guide.

Get a guide of what you need to know before visiting Minneapolis by clicking here.


Over 4 million Christmas lights on display just east of the Twin Cities

Sponsored content
Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour is a partner of Give Me The Mike

For Twin Cities residents who miss the now closed Holiday Lights in the Park at Lake Phalen in Saint Paul, I have an option you will love.


Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour is a walk-though and drive-through display with more than 4 million lights. Right before Thanksgiving, I visited Somerset, Wisconsin, to see what they have in store for the 2019 holiday season.

Although you just read Somerset, Wisconsin, don’t let the distance stop you from attending. It took me only 40 minutes during rush hour to get to Somerset from Saint Paul, and on the way home, my drive to downtown Minneapolis was only 45 minutes. If you take Highway 36, it’s a breeze. Once you’re at Stillwater, it’s less than 20 minutes. If you’re familiar with Somerset, Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour sits on the site of Float Rite Park, along the banks of the Apple River.

apple river.jpeg

Sam’s is open 7 nights a week from November 29th, 2019 through January 5th, 2020 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). On Monday and Tuesday nights, the half-mile route is drive-through only, giving people who may not want to or be able to walk through the display enjoy it. From Wednesday through Sunday, it is walk-through only and is closed off to cars. From my experience, it’s best as a walk-through experience, as there are a lot of photo opportunities along the route, including a large Christmas bulb you can stand inside.

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In addition to the typical lit trees, there’s a great light display dedication to the armed forces along with first responders.

The half-mile light display is just the beginning at Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, there will be a Christmas Market with beverages, treats and gifts for sale. It has the vibe of an adorable European Christmas market. Make sure to pay a visit to the Knoke’s Chocolates booth.

There’s also a large restaurant where you can warm up. General Sam’s Bar & Grill will be open, serving food and drinks.


If you’re heading up there with a group, you have the option of renting out a heated cabin for the evening for $99. It includes a s’mores kit, a visit from Santa and a private home base for your group.


I would love to hear what you think of Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour! Comment below or post on my Facebook page.


Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour
710 Spring Street
Somerset, WI 54025

  • Open November 29th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
    • Closed December 24th – 25th
  • Hours:
    • Sunday – Thursday: 5:00 – 9:00 pm
    • Friday – Saturday: 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Tickets: $10 ages 11-64, $8 ages 65 and better, $5 kids ages 4-10, free ages 3 and under
    • Half-price for members of the military (bring a military ID)
    • Cash, credit and debit cards are accepted
  • Monday – Tuesday are drive-through only
  • Wednesday – Sunday are walk-through only


Know before you go to Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour:

  • Wear snow boots and snow pants. You’ll be venturing into the snow to get the best photos. I went before snow fell and conquered some muddy spots along the dirt path.
  • No outside food or beverage is allowed.
  • If you’re coming from the Twin Cities, Highway 36 is definitely your best bet. You may want to look up the directions before you hop in the car, as Apple Maps had me a bit lost once I got into Somerset.
  • Dogs (on a leash) are allowed.

Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour is the presenting sponsor of Give Me The Mike’s 2019 holiday light display guide. Click here for over 50 locations to view lights in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Holiday Gift Guide: Stellar Stocking Stuffers

Originally published in Lavender Magazine, November 2019

Quality doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars. Here is a roundup of companies, including three based in Minnesota, who are making products anyone would love to receive this holiday season. And keep reading for some exclusive deals!

Wool Liner & Deerskin Choppers
Steller Handcrafted Goods

Minneapolis-based Steller Handcrafted Goods got its start eight years ago after owner Julie Steller purchased a pair of repurposed wool sweater mittens. She was determined to make another pair. Today, Steller’s team consists of 13 women who create mittens, hats, purses, coats and more using repurposed wool sweaters and leather clothing along with Nordic braid and vintage buttons.

These Wool Liner and Deerskin Choppers will help any Minnesotan get through a bitter winter. The outside layer is deerskin sourced from Minnesota and the inner layer is a high-quality repurposed wool sweater with polar fleece lining. The cuffs come up to your wrist, meaning that snow and ice won’t find their way in when you’re brushing snow off your car.

Exclusive deal: use promo code DEC2019 to get 10% off orders over $50 through December 31st, 2019.

Best Sellers Basket
Redhead Creamery

Redhead Creamery has been making cheese for just over five years on cheesemaker’s Alise Sjostrom’s parent dairy farm. She dreamed to be a part of her family’s business ever since she was 17 years old. They offer tours of the farm, located in Brooten, Minnesota, on Fridays and Saturdays.

Their Best Sellers Basket is sure to please. It includes Redhead’s Lucky Linda Clothbound Cheddar (named after Alise’s mom), Little Lucy Brie (named after Alise’s daughter), and a bag of Ridiculously Good Cheddar Cheese Curds.

This holiday season, give someone whiskey-flavored cheese! Redhead Creamery teams up with Panther Distillery, in nearby Osakis, to make the North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster, a limited-production cheese which uses Panther’s Minnesota 14 whiskey.

While you’re on their online store, I would definitely throw a jar of the Velvet Bees Honey Butter in your order. You can eat it with a spoon.

Exclusive deal: use promo code LAVENDER2019 to get 15% off all online orders through December 15th, 2019.

Magnetic Wood Bow Tie Box Set
photo credit: Lindsey Graham

I was introduced to Virginia-based SwitchWood a few years ago and immediately became obsessed with their bow ties. They are clip on, but what really blows everyone’s minds is that the wood pieces are magnetic, meaning you can switch out the grains with the fabric pieces to create different looks. It makes for a great conversation piece. These aren’t your ordinary bow ties.

I would recommend starting with a wood bow tie box set, which will get you one bow tie with two sets of grain, meaning you’ll have two different bow ties. In addition to bow ties, they make sunglasses, cuff links and more, all made of wood.

Exclusive deal: use promo code SWITCH to get 20% off everything on SwitchWood’s website through December 20th, 2019.

I Have a Big Heart On card
Bruno Press

Mary Bruno inherited her letterpress print shop from her father, who was an art professor at St. Cloud State University. He acquired old letterpress equipment in the late 80’s and early 90’s, which Mary is now putting to good use.

A self-proclaimed “professional cusser”, Bruno was placing swear words, along with edgy, irreverent sentiment, on cards before it was a thing. She’s been at it for nearly ten years.

Cards are the mainstay of Bruno Press, and there is a LGBT selection is available. They’re sold online and in the Twin Cities at Mitrebox Framing Studio, the Electric Fetus and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

In addition to cards, Bruno Press makes to-do lists, note cards, calendars, and coasters.

Exclusive deal: use promo code LAVENDER to get free shipping on all online orders through December 20th, 2019.

You will find the work from dozens of Minnesota makers at the following stores:

The Collective, Rockville

  • Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

Minnesota Makers, Robbinsdale

  • Open Tuesdays through Saturdays

Weathered Revivals, St. Joseph

  • Open Thursdays through Sundays


2019 Minnesota Holiday Lights Display Guide

Scroll below for more than 50 MN holiday light shows and displays. All of these holiday light displays are verified for 2019 by the organizers or homeowners — nothing is outdated!

Give Me The Mike’s 2019 holiday lights display guide is presented by Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour

sam's christmas village.png

Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour is home to more than 4 million Christmas lights! It’s located less than 20 minutes northeast of Stillwater in Somerset, Wisconsin. If you go on a Monday or Tuesday night, you are able to drive-through their display, making it more accessible for those who aren’t able to walk around the half-mile light tour. Between Wednesday and Sunday nights, Sam’s Christmas Village is closed off to vehicles and is a walk-through experience.

light bulb

Read more about my visit to Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour.

Sam’s Christmas Village & Light Tour
710 Spring Street
Somerset, WI 54025

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  • November 29th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020 (closed December 24th – 25th)
  • Tickets: $10 adults, $5 kids ages 4 – 10, free kids 3 and under
    • $8 for those 65 and older
    • $5 for members of the military (bring your military ID)
  • Parking is $10 Wednesday – Sunday nights
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 9:00 pm Monday and Tuesday, 5:00 – 9:00 pm Wednesday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday, 5:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday)
    • Monday & Tuesday are drive-through only
    • Wednesday – Sunday are walk-through only
  • Supporting the following non-profit organizations: The Pinky Swear Foundation, The Best Christmas Ever, Toys for Tots, and Somerset Community Food Pantry
  • Dogs are allowed!

Submit information about your holiday light display here.

View all of these light displays on an interactive map!

View 2019 Holiday Light Display Guide in a full screen map

Albert Lea

Carter Christmas Lights Show
1905 Brookside Drive
Albert Lea, MN 56007

Carter Xmas Main Picture 2019.jpg
The Carter Christmas Lights Show in Albert Lea loops every 10 minutes. Submitted photo.
  • November 23rd – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • The homeowner asks that you use Bayview Drive for optimal viewing and traffic flow. More information can be found here
  • The 2019 display has 4,000 more lights (38,000 total) and features four jumbo stockings, a mistletoe, along with Santa and his reindeer on the roof
  • Turn your radio to 93.5FM to hear music that goes with the synchronized light display
  • The light show runs every 10 minutes
  • 100% of donations will be donated to JDRF, an organization looking to find a cure for type 1 diabetes


Albertville Lights
5669 Large Avenue
Albertville, MN 55301

Albertville Lights.JPG
Sing, choir of (blow mold) angels! Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 6th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 12:00 am Friday – Saturday)
  • Stop by to see 20,000 lights and “too many blow mold figurines to count”
  • Weather permitting, see 20 foot tall inflatables, too
  • Turn your radio to 89.1FM to hear synchronized music


Cairl Family Christmas Lights
2342 145th Avenue Northwest
Andover, MN 55304

Check out a 20′ tree at this display in Andover. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 4th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:30 – 9:30 pm
  • Includes 54,000 LED and flood lights synchronized to music. Tune in to 99.1FM
  • New this year: a 20 foot pixel mega tree
  • The display raises awareness and money for the 23rd Veteran, a non-profit dedicated to providing happier, healthier lives for veterans living with trauma

Apple Valley

Lights on Flagstaff
13452 Flagstaff Avenue
Apple Valley, MN 55124

lights on flagstaff.jpg
Lights on Flagstaff has over 100 blow mold figurines. Photo credit Lights on Flagstaff/Facebook.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 9:30 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • The display includes more than 100 figurines on the lawn
  • The owners are using their display to raise awareness for Lyme disease. After being misdiagnosed several times, the owner received a diagnosis about two years ago

Apple Valley

Porter’s Holiday Light Show
13596 Hollins Court
Apple Valley, MN 55124

  • November 28th – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights at week (5:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • See more than 20,000 lights and a 20 foot tall mega pixel tree
  • Turn your car radio to 88.9FM to hear 27 songs synchronized to the lights
  • Reminder to avoid blocking driveways and to turn off your car’s lights when you approach the display


Durrant Family Lights
1750 130th Avenue Northeast
Blaine, MN 55449

  • November 29th, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 9:30 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:30 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Features more than 10,000 lights
  • Tune in to 87.9FM to hear tunes


Dancing Trees
10201 Rich Road
Bloomington, MN 55437

  • November 30th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Includes 10,000 lights


Christmas on Savanna
4441 Savanna Trail
Chaska, MN 55318

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A 20′ nutcracker is a highlight at this holiday display in Chaska. Submitted photo.
  • November 22nd – December 25th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (6:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 9:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Display includes 20,000 lights
  • Tune your car radio to 91.1FM to hear music synchronized to lights
  • You won’t be able to miss the 20 foot inflatable nutcracker!


Winter Lights at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive
Chaska, MN 55318

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Indoor and outdoor light displays await for you at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Submitted photo.
  • Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays November 22nd, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
    • Also open Monday, December 23rd and daily from December 26th, 2019 – January 2nd, 2020
  • 5:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Tickets: $15 for those 16 and older, free for those 15 and under
    • Members of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum are free
  • Stroll through eight miles of lights
  • Buy a s’mores kit to roast over a roaring fire, warm up with hot cocoa in the Visitor’s Center, and take a photo in front of the Arboretum’s 25 foot poinsettia tree
  • A free shuttle is available on Friday and Saturday nights. Learn more here
  • Parking at the Arboretum is free with admission

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Circle Pines

Barno Family Lights
4102 88th Lane NE
Circle Pines, MN 55014

  • November 29th, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (6:30 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 6:30 – 11:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes 30,000 lights
  • Turn your car radio to 106.7FM to hear synchronized music
  • The family is collecting donations for the Ronald McDonald House Charities


Bentleyville “Tour of Lights”
Bayfront Festival Park
700 Railroad Street
Duluth, MN 55802

Bentleyville, located on the shores of Lake Superior, is the country’s largest free walk-through light display. Submitted photo.
  • November 23rd – December 28th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • With 5 million lights, Bentleyville is America’s largest free walk-through lighting display
  • It’s located at Bayfront Festival Park, a 20-acre park located on the shores of Lake Superior
  • Complimentary hot cocoa, cookies, popcorn and roasted marshmallows are provided
  • Get your photo taken with reindeer
  • Kids 10 and under who visit Santa receive a knit hat
  • Bentleyville is an official collection site for the Salvation Army. Bring a non-perishable food item or new, unwrapped toy when you visit. Donations are distributed to Salvation Army Corps in Duluth, Cloquet, Virginia, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, International Falls, and Superior, WI


Exhibition Drive Holiday Sound and Light Show
2725 Exhibition Drive
Duluth, MN 55811

exhibition drive.jpg
This home has won Duluth’s lighting contest every year since 2013. Submitted photo.
  • December 1st – 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 11:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • They have won Duluth’s lighting contest every year since 2013
  • Includes 10,000 lights
  • Tune your car radio to 99.9FM as you pull up


Spirit of the Lights at Glensheen
3300 London Road
Duluth, MN 55804

The Spirit of the Lights now has a new home at Glensheen in Duluth. Submitted photo.
  • December 10th – 28th, 2019 (closed December 24th – 25th)
  • 4:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Spirt of the Lights is an outdoor light display that was previously located at Park Point in Duluth. It now has a new home at Glensheen
  • Includes 300,000 lights
  • Admission to the grounds of Glensheen is free

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Cinnamon Ridge Circle Lights
4462 Cinnamon Ridge Circle
Eagan, MN 55122

Cinnamon Ridge
This lawn is full with more than 100 blow molds and 25 inflatables. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 10:00 pm Monday – Thursday, 5:00 – 11:00 pm Friday – Sunday)
  • Includes more than 100 blow mold figurines, 25 inflatables and 4,000 lights

East Bethel

Manners Magnificent Lights
19509 Rochester Street NE
East Bethel, MN 55011

Check out this display of 20,000 lights in East Bethel. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th – December 30th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Includes 20,000 lights
  • Turn your radio to 90.9FM to hear synchronized music

Eden Prairie

Christmas Lights at Sunrise
15482 W Sunrise Circle
Eden Prairie, MN 55347

  • November 28th, 2019 – January 6th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
  • Includes a show of 10,000 lights designed by the homeowner’s son who designs the circuit boards and enhanced by his dad who welds the trees on display
  • Turn your car’s radio to 89.7FM

Elk River

Warnke Christmas Lights
17978 Fresno Street NW
Elk River, MN 55330

  • Thru January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:30 pm
  • More than 3,500 red and white LED lights synchronized to music

Ham Lake

Mellem Family Christmas Lights
17438 5th Street NE*
Ham Lake, MN 55304

60,000 lights are on display at this home in Ham Lake. Submitted photo.
  • November 30th – December 26th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 9:00 pm
  • * = This house is in a new development and Google Maps does not recognize a new road built. See the below image for directions. Do not rely on Google Maps!
Mellem map.jpg
The blue line is a brand new road (173rd Lane NE) that does not exist on any maps program yet. It can be accessed from 175th Avenue NE or 175th Lane NW. You can also search 599 175th Avenue NE, Ham Lake, MN 55304 in Google Maps and it will take you to the entrance of the neighborhood. Submitted photo.
  • Includes 60,000 lights synchronized to music; set your radio to 88.1FM
  • Raises awareness and funds for HOPE 4 Youth

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Inver Grove Heights

Doocy’s Winter Wonderland
8020 Claymore Avenue
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

Check out Santa’s Workshop and Disney characters in Inver Grove Heights! Submitted photo.
  • Until December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Stop by to see many Disney characters, Santa’s workshop and upwards of 5,000 lights!

Inver Grove Heights

Lundell’s Lights
3892 72nd Street E
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

lundells lights.jpg
View 6,500 lights on display outside of this home in Inver Grove Heights. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 pm – approximately 10:00 until mid December, then 5:00 pm – dawn until January 5th)
  • Includes 6,500 lights

Inver Grove Heights

Radant Xmas Display
8160 Carmen Avenue
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

Radant Xmas.jpeg
This is one of many homes with bright lights in Inver Grove Heights. Submitted photo.
  • November 27th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 6:00 – 10:30 pm
  • Includes more than 5,000 lights
  • Santa makes an appearance on the weekends
  • The homeowners collect donations for Toys for Tots

Inver Grove Heights

Soldier’s 6 Christmas Light and Santa Display
8238 Copland Way
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

soldiers 6.jpeg

  • Through January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from dark until 11:00 pm
  • Appearances by Santa and a special reindeer on select dates
  • Includes 2 18′ inflatables and 2 15′ inflatables
  • Raises awareness for Soldier’s 6, an organization providing service dogs to police officers, military vets, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, corrections officers and EMS at no cost
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Support Solider’s 6 at a Breakfast with Santa on December 8th.

Inver Grove Heights

Strandlof’s Christmas Lights
7050 Blaine Avenue
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076

There’s a 19-foot ferris wheel at this home in Inver Grove Heights. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • You can’t miss a 19′ ferris wheel!
  • Display includes over 10,000 lights
  • Turn your car radio to 87.9FM to hear synchronized music

Inver Grove Heights

Waldhauser’s Christmas Lights
2005 67th Street East
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55077

Lights actually cross the road at this display in Inver Grove Heights. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 2nd, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Includes 5,000 lights

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Trellis Lights
1135 Trellis Street
Jordan, MN 55352

7,000 lights are synchronized to music outside of this home in Jordan. Submitted photo.
  • November 29th – December 25th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 6:30 – 9:30 pm
  • Includes 7,000 lights
  • Tune in to 87.9FM to hear synchronized music


Nevala Family Christmas Light Show
406 Sixth Street Court NE
Kasson, MN 55944

The Nevala family hosts a kids coloring contest when their light display is up. Two lucky winners get bicycles! Submitted photo.
  • November 22nd – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Includes 32,000 lights
  • Turn your car radio to 88.1FM to hear Christmas tunes synchronized to the lights
  • The family will collect donations for Kasson Fire & Rescue
  • Kids can participate in a coloring contest with two winners receiving new bicycles!

Lake Elmo

Rockpoint’s Valley Lights
5825 Kelvin Avenue N
Lake Elmo, MN 55045

valley lights.jpg
Valley Lights at Rockpoint Church has 100,000 lights along with free wagon rides on select dates in December. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Free to attend
  • Includes 100,000 lights!
  • Tune your radio on 97.9FM to listen to music synchronized to the lights
  • Check out free wagon rides on December 6th, 7th, 13th and 14th from 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Lino Lakes

Cinnamon Teal Holiday Lights
7188 Cinnamon Teal Court
Lino Lakes, MN 55014

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Cinnamon Teal Holiday Lights in Lino Lakes will get a visit by Santa every Friday and Saturday night between November 29th and December 21st. Submitted photo.
  • November 22nd – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 6:00 pm – 1:00 am
  • Includes 15,000 lights
  • Collecting donations for the Centennial Food Shelf along with toys for local churches
  • Santa will make an appearance on Friday and Saturday nights from 6:00 – 9:00 pm November 29th – December 21st

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Kiwanis Holiday Lights
900 Mound Avenue
Mankato, MN 56001

kiwanis holiday lights.jpg
Over 1 million lights along with a skating rink, horse drawn wagon rides and live reindeer await at Kiwanis Holiday Lights in Mankato. Submitted photo.
  • November 29th – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights at week (5:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Features 1.8 million lights!
  • Upon entering Sibley Park, turn your car radio to 88.1FM to learn about Kiwanis Holiday Lights and listen to holiday music. Once you’re in the loop, flip over to 90.1FM
  • For more information on how to get to Kiwanis Holiday Lights, click here
  • Admission is free for all vehicles. You can also walk through the display
  • In addition to all the lights, stop by for a skating rink, horse drawn wagon rides, live reindeer, and Santa Claus


CSE Winter Light Show at the University of Minnesota
Civil Engineering Building Courtyard
500 Pillsbury Drive SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

UMN CSE LightShow
Students of the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering design and program a show with 250,000 lights on select dates in early December. Submitted photo.
  • Select dates: Thursday, December 5th, Friday, December 6th, Saturday, December 7th and Saturday, December 14th, 2019
  • 5:30, 6:00 and 6:30 pm on nights listed above
  • The students of the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering design and program a winter light show featuring 250,000 lights. If you’re seeing this in time, it’s a must-see
  • The shows are free and open to the public. No ticket necessary
  • On Friday, December 6th from 5:00 – 6:30 pm, they are hosting a premiere party in the Civil Engineering Building on the second floor. Stop by for free hot chocolate and cookies


House on Howard
2418 Howard Street NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

  • November 29th – December 29th, 2019
  • Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Includes more than 11,000 lights


Mindy Lane Holiday Display
135 Mindy Lane
Montrose, MN 55363

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30,000 lights are used for this display in Montrose, located off of Highway 12 in the west metro. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 11:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes 30,000 lights
  • Tune your car radio to 105.9FM to hear music synchronized to lights on display

New Hope

Larson’s Lights
3549 Ensign Avenue North
New Hope, MN 55427

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Enjoy this New Hope light display by foot — with outdoor music speakers — or in your car. Submitted photo.
  • November 29th, 2019 – January 3rd, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (4:30 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 4:30 – 11:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes more than 25,000 lights
  • Outdoor speakers will stay on until 9:00 pm. You can also listen to music on 87.9FM
  • The homeowner tells Give Me The Mike they will not run the show in the rain. Check their Facebook page before you go to see if the show is canceled the night you would like to go

North Mankato

Omega Ct Christmas Lights Display
14 Omega Court
North Mankato, MN 56003

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The homeowners at this light display are collecting toys to be donated to a hospital pediatric ward on December 19th. Submitted photo.
  • November 26th, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Includes 100,000 lights
  • Turn your radio to 88.1FM to hear the 11 minute loop of music synchronized to the lights. There are also outdoor speakers if you decide to hop out of your car
  • The homeowners are collecting unopened toys (no plush toys, please), which will be donated to the pediatric ward of a local hospital on December 19th


Christmas Fantasy
6953 26th Street Court N
Oakdale, MN 55128

  • December 2nd – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 4:30 – 10:00 pm
  • Check out 27 hand painted wood signs on a 60 foot fence along Stillwater Boulevard near Hadley Avenue
  • A Nativity scene and hand painted figurines are in the front yard, along with 10,000 lights
  • Word is that Santa stops by occasionally

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Murray Street Lights
1014 Lincoln Avenue
Owatonna, MN 55060

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This is one of three homes in a close proximity that goes bright for the holidays. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 11:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes three homes! One on Lincoln Avenue and two around the corner on Murray Street
  • The radio station for the home on Murray Street is 94.7FM


Hanson Family Christmas Lights
315 Fifth Street W
Plainview, MN 55964

  • December 1st, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 9:30 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:30 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes 400,000 lights synchronized to music
  • Turn your car radio to 88.1FM


PD Shimmers
4120 Juneau Lane
Plymouth, MN 55446

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PD Shimmers has a light for every person in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson’s this year. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th – December 28th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • The show contains window displays from the old Dayton’s store in downtown Minneapolis
  • Tune your car radio to 97.9 FM to hear music synchronized to the lights
  • Display includes more than 60,000 lights — one for each person in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2019. The display raises money for the Mike Justak Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease.


Joy of the Season
4810 Orchid Lane North
Plymouth, MN 55446

  • November 27th, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 6:00 pm – 12:00 am
  • The show of 5,000 lights lasts about 15-20 minutes
  • Raises awareness and funds for the Animal Humane Society


Quantico Christmas
535 Quantico Lane N
Plymouth, MN 55447

11,000 lights are on display at this house in Plymouth. Submitted photo.
  • November 26th, 2019 – January 2nd, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 4:30 – 10:00 pm
  • Santa and his reindeer make an appearance on the roof every night!
  • Your kids can leave letters for Santa
  • Display includes 11,000 lights and 10 blow up displays

Prior Lake

Ken’s Kreation
16424 Fillmore Avenue SE
Prior Lake, MN 55372

  • Thru January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (4:30 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday,  4:30 pm – 12:00 am Friday – Saturday)
  • Display also on from 4:00 – 8:00 am 7 days a week
  • Includes more than 6,000 lights

Prior Lake

Lights at the Cove
3490 Cove Point Circle NW
Prior Lake, MN 55372

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  • November 28th – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 11:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes 5,000 lights
  • Listen to music synchronized to light show on 91.9FM

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Sedok House
5716 162nd Crossing NW
Ramsey, MN 55303

  • December 7th – 28th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 6:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Stop by to watch a 25 minute projection video featuring Rudolph, Frosty, Elsa, Christmas Vacation, Trans Siberian Orchestra and the Nativity story.
  • The whole show is set to music — tune your radio to 98.7FM
  • Candy and small toys will be handed out to those who stop by


Kojak House
13826 Addison Avenue
Rosemount, MN 55068

Over 25,000 lights are on display outside of this home in Rosemount. Submitted photo.
  • November 23rd, 2019 – January 2nd, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 4:30 – 10:30 pm
  • The homeowners lost count at 25,000 lights
  • They do have a drop box for Toys for Tots donations

Saint Michael

Holiday Lights on 20th Street
11594 20th Street NE
Saint Michael, MN 55376

holiday lights on 20th
If you visit this display in Saint Michael on the weekend, bring a non-perishable food donation for the Hanover Food Shelf. Submitted photo.
  • November 29th – December 29th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:30 – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:30 – 9:30 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes 25,000 lights
  • Turn your radio to 99.3FM to hear synchronized music
  • If you go on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, bring a donation for the Hanover Food Shelf

Saint Paul

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train at Union Depot
214 Fourth Street E
Saint Paul, MN 55101

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The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train rolls into Union Depot on Tuesday, December 10th with a free concert at 7:00 pm. Submitted photo.
  • Tuesday, December 10th from 6:45 – 7:30 pm
  • Stop by to see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train and enjoy a free concert from 7:00 – 7:30 pm
  • VIP tickets are $10 and get ticketholders access closest to the stage. Click here to purchase
  • Those attending are encouraged to bring a cash or heart-healthy food donations for Merrick Community Services

Saint Paul

Holiday Lights on York Avenue
1526 York Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55106

  • November 29th – December 31st, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Includes 65,000 lights
  • Tune your car radio to 91.5FM
  • Bring a non-perishable donation for Merrick Food Shelf

Saint Paul

Illumination at the Science Museum of Minnesota
120 W. Kellogg Boulevard
Saint Paul, MN 55102

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The Science Museum of Minnesota has a whole new take on a light show with Illumination. Submitted photo.
  • November 29th – December 28th, 2019
  • Friday – Saturday nights from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • It’s a holiday “light” show in a new sense. Experience large-scale and hands-on experiences, glow-in-the dark cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, a puppet shadow room, and more
  • Illumination is included in the cost of admission to the Science Museum of Minnesota ($19.95 adults, $13.95 ages 4 – 12 and seniors). You can buy tickets in advance online

Saint Paul

Rice Park powered by Xcel Energy
At Rice Park
109 W 4th Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102

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The lighting of the holiday tree in Rice Park is accompanied by a fireworks show. Photo credit Visit Saint Paul.
  • Holiday tree: November 23rd, 2019 – February 9th, 2020
  • Lighted trees: November 23rd, 2019 – March 17th, 2020
  • 7 days a week from 6:00 – 8:00 am and 4:00 pm – 12:00 am
  • The holiday tree has 15,000 lights


Sever’s Holiday Lights
3121 50th Street West
Shakopee, MN 55379

Sever’s Holiday Lights is new in 2019. Submitted photo.
  • November 8th, 2019 – January 5th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Drive through a display with more than 1 million lights synchronized to holiday tunes
  • $5 per person, $20 per car maximum (tax not included)
  • Vehicles with more than 8 people are charged $35 (tax not included)
  • The route is a half mile
  • Plus, enjoy hot cocoa, mini donuts, caramel popcorn from Drew’s Concessions and more


Shakopee Winter Wonderland
921 Shakopee Avenue East
Shakopee, MN 55379

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A ferris wheel of light! Photo credit Shakopee Winter Wonderland/Facebook.
  • December 1st – 25th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week from 6:00 – 9:30 or 10:00 pm
  • Stop by between December 13th – 24th for crafts, cookies, hot cocoa and Santa

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Sleepy Eye

Sleepy Eye Holiday Lights in Motion
Sportmens Park
West side of State Highway 4 (northwest side of Sleepy Eye and the north side of Sleepy Eye Lake)

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Sleepy Eye Holiday Lights in Motion. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Includes more than 300,000 lights
  • You can drive through the park to enjoy the lights. Tune your car’s radio to 89.1 FM to hear synchronized music. The music is also broadcast throughout the park if you want to get out of your car to see things up close.
  • Everything is free! That includes wagon rides, free concessions, and free horse drawn carriage rides on December 14th and 21st. Donations are accepted.


The Spirit of Winter at Sovereign Estate
The Winery at Sovereign Estate
9950 North Shore Road
Waconia, MN 55387

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Over 20 miles of lights are on display at this winery in Waconia. Submitted photo.
  • November 21st, 2019 – January 5th, 2020
  • Friday – Sunday nights plus Monday, December 23rd
    • 4:00 – 9:00 pm Friday – Saturday
    • 4:00 – 8:00 pm Sunday
  • Over 20 miles of lights on display!
  • View lights and see Santa, play boot hockey, and sip on wine
  • Tickets are $5 for ages 3 and older. You can buy them online or at the door (cash only at the door)
  • The Winery at Sovereign Estate donates tickets so kids can attend on Thursday nights

White Bear Lake

Our Last Holiday Light Show
5590 West Bald Eagle Lake Boulevard
White Bear Lake, MN 55110

  • Until January 9th, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 6:00 – 10:00 pm
  • The homeowner trimmed down the light display, but it still includes 100,000 lights


Celebrate the Light of the World
Robbins Island Regional Park
Highway 71 North
Willmar, MN 56201

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Celebrate the Light of the World is ranked as one of the 5 best holiday light displays in Minnesota. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th, 2019 – January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Celebrate the Light of the World is a free, drive-through display featuring 800,000 lights
  • When you drive-through, turn your car radio to either 88.7FM or 90.3FM to hear music
  • Freewill donations will be collected for the Salvation Army of Willmar, Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota, Kandiyohi County Food Shelf and The Link


Crazy Christmas Display
7401 Wyndham Way
Woodbury, MN 55125

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150 pieces line the lawn of a Crazy Christmas Display in Woodbury. Submitted photo.
  • November 28th – December 30th, 2019
  • 7 nights a week (dusk – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, dusk – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Includes 10,000 lights and 150 pieces on the lawn


Holiday Lights of Woodbury
8846 Glacier Road
Woodbury, MN 55125

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You can’t miss this bright yard in Woodbury. Submitted photo.
  • Through January 1st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week (5:00 – 10:00 pm Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 11:00 pm Friday – Saturday)
  • Tune your radio to 97.9FM to hear synchronized music

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The 5 best bakeries in Minnesota

I tallied your votes for the best bakeries in Minnesota. Most of them are outside of the immediate metro (none are in Minneapolis or Saint Paul) and they all have been around for generations.

I was on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live to share their stories.

Hanisch Bakery & Coffee Shop, Red Wing

  • Originally opened at Quandt’s Bakery in the 1920s
  • The white bread recipe they are currently using goes back to the owners from the 1970s
  • Hanisch has 70 kinds of pastries and donuts
    • They sell over 50 dozen raised donuts a day, with twice that amount on the weekend
  • They’re known for their Presidential Cookie Poll
    • On a Presidential Election Day, Hanisch will sell cookies for the main party candidates
    • They have correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote based off cookie sales since 1984

Emily’s Bakery & Deli, Hastings

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  • Family-owned since 1946 when it was Pitz Bakery
  • Steve and his sister, Norine, own the bakery and both have worked there for over 35 years
  • The shop is named after their grandmother, Emily
  • Their Prison Bars are Emily Bakery’s version of the Scotcharoo. The recipe came from a woman who used to volunteer at a prison and always brought the bars with her for the inmates.
  • The Almond Tarts are a signature item. It’s a butter rich tart that’s filled with an almond paste. It’s one of the best things I had on my tour of all these bakeries.
  • Don’t pass on the Coconut Macaroons. They are also gluten-free.

Hans’ Bakery, Anoka & Blaine

  • Original location in Anoka, satellite location in Blaine
  • The original owner, Hans, passed away from cancer in 1997, just two months after being diagnosed
  • The bakery exchanged hands multiple times and eventually went into foreclosure
  • When the current owner, Kelly Olsen, bought it, it had sat vacant for 4 years. She says “everything needed help”.
  • The community rallied behind the new ownership to help Hans’ Bakery reopen in February 2014. The Food Network caught wind of the buzz and featured them before they opened. On their first day, they sold out of everything they had in the store.
  • The Texas Donuts are the size of your head. And they cost only $5.


  • The Beehive, and the smaller Beesting, are eye-catchers. The sweet dough pasty is filled with Bavarian cream, topped with candied almonds and dusted with powdered sugar. If you’re really hungry, order it as a cake.

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  • The Whipped Cheesecake is a hidden gem.

Cold Spring Bakery, Cold Spring & Waite Park

  • Original location in Cold Spring, satellite location in Waite Park
  • The original owner, Mel, learned how to bake on a Navy ship
  • After World War II, he found a bakery for sale in the city of Cold Spring
  • Soon it will be passed on to the third generation, as Mel’s granddaughter will take over as head baker
  • Cold Spring Bakery delivers throughout central Minnesota, including many meat markets
  • They will handle 25 to 30 wedding orders per weekend. And that’s not just cakes. Many couples are opting for cupcakes and donut walls now.
  • Their Raspberry White Chocolate Chip Cookie is a soft, tender cookie with raspberries, cream cheese and white chocolate chips. It’s incredible.
  • Their Cashew Brittle is special. It’s not hard like peanut brittle, and tastes a bit like Chex Mix. It’s perfect to bring to a holiday gathering.
  • Kolachies are a tender, flaky pasty baked with a fruit or poppyseed filling. They have a streusel topping and a Danish icing. Think of it like a really good Toaster Strudel.
  • Don’t pass on the Oatmeal Date Filled Cookies.

Benson Bakery, Benson

  • Benson is northwest of Willmar, about 2.5 hours from Saint Paul
  • The building the bakery is in dates back to 1900. It originally opened as a bakery, cafe and hotel.
  • It’s now owned by the third generation of the Johannessen family.
  • There are deep Norwegian roots here.
  • The Peanut Squares are something special. Some refer them as Mocha Bars. It’s a combination of frosting, cake and peanut meal.
  • Don’t miss out on their Sour Cream Raisin and Salted Nut Bars. There are eight to 10 different bars available daily.
  • The Angel Food Cake recipe has been handed down for over 80 years and can be ordered in a variety of flavors. The most popular is lemon.

Check out my other roundups of what’s ‘Worth the Trip’

The top 10 foods to start the 2020 Minnesota State Fair

From alligator to milkshakes to deep-fried Twinkies, there are hundreds of foods available at the Minnesota State Fair.

And there are just as many guides to help you navigate your way around: a guide for new foods, a list of foods for first-timers, and another rattling off underrated foods. There’s even a guide with foods that the State Fair staff recommend.

It’s tradition for me to publish a list of the 10 foods you need to have at the Great Minnesota Get Together. It does change each year, and your feedback makes an impact. Don’t bother suggesting cookies or corn, though. Sure, they’re good, but they’re too basic. And gosh, those cookies are way overrated.

The countdown to the 2020 Minnesota State Fair is on! Set an alarm for 6 am on August 27, 2020 when the 12 days of fun start again.

The top 10 foods to start the 2020 Minnesota State Fair

Wild Rice Cheeseburger

Wild Rice Specialities, Food Building

Once again, the Wild Rice Cheeseburger is my number one food at the Minnesota State Fair. It’s a hamburger patty with wild rice mixed inside. There’s a thin, melty slice of cheese on top. I get it with onions, but you can opt out of those if you want. The bun is buttery and perfect.

In 2019, I had multiple people contact me on Twitter after they tried this burger because they wanted to thank me for the recommendation.

This cheeseburger needs to be in your life. If you have a Blue Ribbon Bargain book, Wild Rice Specialities typically runs a deal for $1 off.

2019 Cost: $8.

Deep-fried Cookie Dough


Sonny’s Fair Food, Food Building

Put down the bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies and venture into the Food Building for Deep-fried Cookie Dough. One order comes with three generous portions that are skewered on a stick and topped with powdered sugar. It’s rich, so you’ll be good after eating just one ball.

In 2019, there was a new vendor serving deep-fried cookie dough. It doesn’t even come close to what they’re doing at Sonny’s.

2019 Cost: $8.

Australian Potatoes


Australian Potatoes, Judson Avenue across from Coliseum

I asked Twin Cities Live Facebook fans what they feel are the most underrated foods at the Minnesota State Fair, and the Australian Potatoes came in number one. I can see why. They’re hot, thinly sliced potatoes that are deep-fried and covered in ranch, chipotle, sweet chili, and cheese.

You will not be able to eat an order of these on your own. They’re incredibly filling. If you go with a group of folks, splitting an order of these turns into one of the most cost-friendly foods you can find on the Fairgrounds.

The owner tells me that the ranch/bacon/cheese option and the spicy chipotle flavors are the most popular. The booth has been at the Fairgrounds for nearly 30 years.

2019 Cost: $11 – 13.

Onion Rings


Danielson’s & Daughters, outside the south side of the Food Building

The Onion Rings from Danielson’s and Daughters is another underrated food Twin Cities Live viewers tipped me off about. They’re thin and light, and when you bite down on them, the whole onion doesn’t come out from the batter.

They typically have a coupon for these in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book as well.

2019 Cost: $6.50.

Blueberry Key Lime Pie


Farmers Union, on Dan Patch Avenue near the main gate

From the list of new foods from 2019, the Blueberry Key Lime Pie hands down took the blue ribbon. It had the perfect blend of sweet and tangy and the graham cracker crust was delectable.

It was the right size to share with one other person, and it was priced right, too. I can’t say the same for the BLT from the Farmers Union, which clocks in at $13. That’s pretty steep, even for State Fair standards.

2019 Cost: $8.

First Kiss Apple & Cider Popsicle

Minnesota Apples, in the Agriculture Horticulture Building

You need a break from the deep-fried goodness while you’re out at the State Fair, and one of the best spots to visit is the Minnesota Apples booth in the Agriculture Horticulture (Ag Hort) Building.

The First Kiss apple is developed by the University of Minnesota and is tangy and super juicy. The name comes from the fact that it is one of the first apples to come from the season’s harvest. In 2019, the Minnesota Apples staff were afraid they would run out by the end of the Fair. Fortunately, they made it. However, don’t run the risk in 2020.

While you’re at their booth, make sure to get a cider popsicle. It’s an inexpensive treat that will cool you down.

Make sure you know there are three counters to order from at their booth, not just one. Every time I stopped by in 2019, people would stand for the “register” closest to the middle of the building. There’s no need to stand in that line. You can walk right up to any of the windows and pick out your apples. All windows sell the exact same menu items.

2019 Costs: First Kiss Apple $3, Apple Cider Popsicle $1.50.

Peg Muffin & Boss Hog

The Peg, outside of the Agriculture Horticulture Building

The Peg is the State Fair’s only full-service, sit down restaurant. It’s like a Perkins, but the food is oh-so-much-more better. They have been on the Fairgrounds for over four decades.

If you’re going in the morning, you should stop by for Peg Muffin. It’s a sausage patty, fried egg, cheese and tomato on an English muffin. Epic good. The only issue: The Peg only serves breakfast until 11:30 am.

If you’re not an early bird and are a carnivore, you need to order the Boss Hog. The sandwich, new in 2019, is a meat lover’s dream, with smoked ham, bacon, barbecue pork, pepper jack cheese, coleslaw, chipotle and mayo on a bun.

2019 Costs: Peg Muffin $6, Boss Hog $12.

Fresh French Fries


2 locations, including Judson Avenue by the Dairy Building and by the Midway

Not all French fries are created equal. There is something about these fries that make them stand out. It could be potato, it could be how their fried, or it could be the salt. But there are no better French fries on the Fairgrounds than from this specific booth.

2019 Cost: $6.50 – $13.

Pickle Dog


Pickle Dog, Carnes Avenue near the Midway

I will admit it: it’s incredibly easy to make a pickle dog, or as some will call it, a pickle roll up. It’s pastrami with a healthy spread of cream cheese with a pickle spear, which is rolled up. But there is something special about eating one of these at the State Fair.

The Pickle Dog is the classic. The Fire Dog has jalapeños and the Reuben Dog has sauerkraut. You’re good no matter the choice.

2019 Cost: $7.

Mini Donut Beer


Ball Park Cafe, Underwood Street near The Garden

You need something to wash all this food down, and a Mini Donut Beer is a great choice. Made by Stillwater-based Lift Bridge Brewery, the beer isn’t as sweet as you would expect. It’s best without the sugar rim.

2019 Cost: $5.50 – $9.50.

Honorable mention

Pig Wings

Mancini’s al Fresco, Carnes Avenue near Ye Old Mill

Egg Roll On-a-Stick

Que Viet, Cooper Street near Bandshell

Vanilla Malt

Sadie’s Frozen Custard, near Miracle of Birth Center

Frozen Grain Belt Blu Beer

Schell’s, West End Market

The most underrated foods at the Minnesota State Fair

You hear about new Minnesota State Fair foods and classic Fair fare, but what is a bit off the beaten path and worth the cash? I asked Twin Cities Live Facebook fans for their suggestions and presented the top picks on KSTP-TV.


Australian Potatoes

  • From Australian Potatoes, on Judson Avenue between Liggett and Clough near the Coliseum
  • Battered and deep-fried sliced potatoes, topped with your choice of cheese, ranch, spicy chipotle sauce, sweet chili sour cream and bacon
  • Cost $11 – 13
  • You won’t want to eat more than a couple potatoes, so you’ll want to split an order with a few people


Cheese On-a-Stick

  • 3 locations on the Fairgrounds, including next to the Carrousel
  • Melted Swiss cheese, deep-fried and on-a-stick
  • Also available with pepper jack cheese
  • The booths have different owners, and they use different batters


London Broil

  • From Butcher Boys London Broil, on Dan Patch just east of the Grandstand
  • Sliced steak served on a hoagie bun with cheese sauce and banana peppers


Onion Rings

  • From Danielson’s & Daughters, located outside the south side of the Food Building
  • Thin onion rings are deep-fried, making them not too heavy and not too potent

Fried Ravioli

  • From Vescio’s, located in front of the Grandstand
  • Available in sausage, beef, cheese and jalapeno, spinach and artichoke, and cheese flavors
  • Vescio’s has been at the State Fair since 1974


Other ways to get to the Minnesota State Fair besides a free Park and Ride lot or parking there

Parking at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds is a headache. Don’t do it.

And in 2019, Metro Transit’s free Park and Ride shuttle lots have filled up quickly, some days before 11 am.

So how the heck do you get to the Great Minnesota Get Together? Here are some out-of-the-box options:

  1. Metro Transit’s Express service lots from the suburbs have much more parking. However, your trip to the Fairgrounds will be a lot longer. If you buy your ticket when you board, it’s $6. If you purchase them on Metro Transit’s app, it’s $5. Get a list of the Express lots here. For the 2019 State Fair, Lyft is offering a discount to get you to an Express service lot. Get the discount code here.
  2. There are a couple regular Metro Transit routes worth looking into. First is route 960. It goes from downtown Minneapolis right to the Fairgrounds, and the trip will take 25 minutes. The other option would be to take the Green Line Light Rail to Metro Transit’s A Line rapid bus line, which goes up and down Snelling Avenue. You can leave your car along University Avenue and take the train to the Snelling Avenue station. The bus will drop you off right at the main gate.
  3. Take a taxi! There is a taxi stand outside of gate 9 at the south end of the Fairgrounds. That’s the gate I walk out of each day, and I see a slew of taxi drivers ready to take Fairgoers home.
  4. Take a motorcycle to the Fairgrounds. The State Fair has a motorcycle parking lot of south of Como Avenue where parking is $9. Motorcycles can park in any State Fair lot, but the $9 rate is only valid in the motorcycle lot; otherwise it is $15 to park.
  5. Stay at a hotel and have them drive you to the State Fair. Make it a fun weekend and book a hotel room that offers a shuttle to the Fairgrounds. They’ll drop you off at Gate 9 at the south end. The State Fair has a list of area visitors bureaus posted here.

If you would like to stick with the free Park and Ride option, know that you can get dropped off at a Park and Ride, even if the lot is full. The buses run to the lots, even if they’re full. People on my Facebook page warned folks that you need to be careful parking in neighborhoods around Park and Ride lots as some have received parking tickets.

The cheapest beer, pop and water at the Minnesota State Fair

Don’t overspend on beer, pop and water at the Minnesota State Fair!

I was on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live with the insider advice on who has the best deals.



  • Midway Mens Club
  • Underwood Street behind Visitor’s Plaza and across from the Butterfly House
  • $6.50 20 ounce taps and $4.00 12 ounce taps of Miller Lite, Coors Lite, Michelob Golden Light and Grain Belt


  • 12 ounce tap of Summit or Grain Belt Blu is $5
  • $5 Corona, Blue Moon, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, White Claw and others



  • Coca-Cola at Mac’s Grill in Food Building
    • 33 ounces for $3


  • Root Beer at Root Beer Barrels (4 locations)
    • 33 ounces for $3


  • RC Cola, Sunkist, 7 UP and Dr. Pepper at RC Cola Booth near Visitor’s Plaza
    • 20 ounces for $1.50 with coupon in Blue Ribbon Bargain Book
    • The 33 ounces is not the good deal here
  • Note: You can bring pop with you to the Fairgrounds


  • You can bring a filled water bottle with you onto the Fairgrounds
  • The Fair has water bottle filling stations
  • There are water stations around the Fairgrounds, including KSTP TV


  • If you are to buy water, purchase it at Rice Kristie Bars on Carnes near Ye Old Mill
    • 2 bottles for $3.50 or 1 for $1.95
    • They also sell 16 ounces of pop for $1, which is a good deal

Go on a private tour of the Minnesota State Fair’s Creative Activities Building

Every year, 6,000 entries make their way into the Creative Activities Building at the Minnesota State Fair. From wheat bread making to garments, the division covers a lot of work done by Minnesotans.


Creative Activities Superintendent Curt Pederson has been involved with the State Fair for 43 years. I had the honor of walking through the Creative Activities Building with him.

Creative Activities got it start in 1895, although it hasn’t always gone by that name. Curt tells me that Fairgoers in the early 1900s would dress up to attend the State Fair, a far cry from how we dress for the State Fair today.

Quilts have been a part of Creative Activities since the beginning. Years ago, people would gasp when someone would submit a quilt made by a sewing machine. Now, you might hear more gasps when you see a hand-stitched quilt.

Pederson tells me weaving is another popular division that stays popular.


One division that is on the rise: painting porcelain. There aren’t an abundance of entries — they’re only in one cabinet — but Curt says he’s surprised by the number of people who enter.

As for divisions that are on the decline, the number of Minnesotans sewing garments is down significantly. Curt pointed out that since sewing isn’t taught in schools as much anymore, less people know how to sew.

Another division that is down is scrapbooking. Curt isn’t quite sure why.

Creative Activities oversees the pies, breads, cakes and canned items Minnesotans submit, too. Curt says the breads are the hardest category to judge. Get this: the judges rarely will taste the bread. Most of the judging is done by smell or touch.


Canning is another very competitive division. It’s extremely scientific and one alternation can make a world of difference.


When you’re near the baked goods, check out the Heirloom Recipe Contest display. The recipes entered in that division must be from before 1950 and be from a family member of the person entering. Curt tells me many recipes pre-1950 are simple because they have less than six ingredients.

In the back of the building, make sure you visit the work submitted by Minnesota’s senior citizens, many of which are extremely cool.

Inside the Creative Activities Building, you’ll also find the Cambria Kitchen, which has cooking demonstrations throughout the Fair from blue ribbon winners.

The Creative Activities categories are open to residents of Minnesota. You must be an amateur to enter, which is why you will not see items from blue ribbon baker Marjorie Johnson in this building. She has a baking cookbook, so she is considered a professional baker.

The Creative Activities Building is at Cosgrove and Dan Patch, right next to the main entrance to the Fairgrounds. It’s open from 9 am to 9 pm. Click here to learn about the categories.