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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Details:

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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

Albertville Lights
5669 Large Avenue
Albertville, MN 55301

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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

Andover

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

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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

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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

Blaine

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

Bloomington

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

Chaska

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!

Chaska

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

Duluth

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

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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

Duluth

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

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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

Duluth

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

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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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Eagan

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

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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

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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!
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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

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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

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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

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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

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  • 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

Strandlof
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

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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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Jordan

Trellis Lights
1135 Trellis Street
Jordan, MN 55352

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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

Kasson

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

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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

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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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Mankato

Kiwanis Holiday Lights
900 Mound Avenue
Mankato, MN 56001

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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

Minneapolis

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

Minneapolis

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

Montrose

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

Oakdale

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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Owatonna

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

Plainview

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

Plymouth

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.

Plymouth

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

Plymouth

Quantico Christmas
535 Quantico Lane N
Plymouth, MN 55447

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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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Ramsey

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

Rosemount

Kojak House
13826 Addison Avenue
Rosemount, MN 55068

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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

Shakopee

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

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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

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.

Waconia

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

Willmar

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

Woodbury

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

Woodbury

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.

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  • 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’

What you need to do to your phone before going to the Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair’s phone app is the must-have before you head out to the Great Minnesota Get Together.

I was on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live to explain what you will find on it.

The State Fair’s phone app is free to download for both iOS and Android devices. You can find it on the App Store or in Google Play.

 

Here’s a tailored brochure for the day you’re planning to go to the Minnesota State Fair

When I stopped by a Minnesota State Fair Information Booth, I asked the worker what was the number one question she gets. Her answer: what is going on today.

Well, the State Fair has a brochure for that.

Entertainment on the Fairgrounds changes daily. The theme in Dan Patch Park is different every day, the Grandstand show changes each night, and some things are only around for a limited time.

As you plan your trip to the Great Minnesota Get Together, you can see everything that’s happening the day you go.

There’s no need to print it, though. You can pick up a copy at an Information Booth.

2019 Brochures

Day 1: Thursday, August 22nd

Day 2: Friday, August 23rd

Day 3: Saturday, August 24th

Day 4: Sunday, August 25th

Day 5: Monday, August 26th

Day 6: Tuesday, August 27th

Day 7: Wednesday, August 28th

Day 8: Thursday, August 29th

Day 9: Friday, August 30th

Day 10: Saturday, August 31st

Day 11: Sunday, September 1st

Day 12: Monday, September 2nd

Minnesota State Fair Information Booths answer up to 180,000 questions a year. Here are the top 5.

There are 10 Information Booths strategically placed around the Minnesota State Fair. Fair officials tell me each booth will answer 1,200 to 1,500 questions per day. That’s up to 15,000 questions total and up to 180,000 questions over the 12 days of the State Fair.

That’s in addition to the 500 phone calls the State Fair will get each day during the Great Minnesota Get Together with questions. They also answer questions via email and on social media.

Here are answers to the top five questions asked by Fairgoers at Minnesota State Fair Information Booths:

1. Where can I rent a scooter?

There are five electric mobility scooter and wheelchair rental spots at the Fairgrounds, but if you know you need one, you can rent it before you even head out to the Fairgrounds.

The rentals are handled by HomeTown Mobility. You can call them at 877-928-5388 to reserve an electric scooter or a wheelchair for a full day rental.

The scooters are available for half day and full day rentals. They are first come, first served.

Full day: $65
Half day: $45 (from 7 am – 3 pm or 3 – 11 pm)

In addition to mobility scooters, you can rent wheelchairs, wagons for kiddos, single and double strollers.

All day prices:
Wheelchairs: $25
Wagons: $17
Single stroller: $15
Double stroller: $17

For more information about mobility on the Fairgrounds, click here.

2. Where is an ATM?

There are ATMs scattered about the Fairgrounds. To find the one closest to you, look on a map — they’re marked with a $.

Note that a $3 convenience fee is charged to all ATM transactions on the Fairgrounds. That’s in addition to any fee your banking institution may charge. Bottom line: bring plenty of cash.

There is a Bremer Bank at Visitors Plaza located at the middle of the Fairgrounds. It’s open from 7 am to 4 pm.

An increasing amount of places around the Fairgrounds take credit cards. You are able to buy admission tickets via credit card. You can also buy admission tickets in advance.

3. Where is the nearest Pronto Pup or corn dog?

I love Minnesotans.

4. Where is the nearest bathroom?

Sure, they’re marked on a map, but not all bathrooms are created equal.

In my opinion, the best bathrooms at the State Fair:

  1. North: near the North End along Murphy Avenue
  2. South: next to the International Bazaar
  3. East: just south of the Kidway on Cooper Street
  4. West: At the west end of the West End Market along Dan Patch Avenue

5. Where can I get breakfast?

The days of the dining halls at the State Fair have dwindled down immensely.

The Hamline Dining Hall is still going strong. When I asked the Minnesota State Fair’s Media Relations team what their favorite foods are, they mentioned the gluten-free muffins are top notch. Get their full list of hidden gem foods by clicking here. The Hamline Church Dining Hall in on Dan Patch Avenue between Underwood & Cooper.

Another food on that list is the Peg Muffin, available at The Peg, the State Fair’s only full service restaurant. The Peg Muffin is a sandwich with fried egg, sausage, tomato and cheese. The Peg is on the outside of the Agriculture Horticulture Building across from the International Bazaar.

 

Play Minnesota State Fair Bingo with this free template

The Minnesota State Fair’s website is a must-visit before you head out to the Great Minnesota Get Together. Watch my segment on KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live to learn about State Fair Bingo cards and how to create a custom list of what you want to see and eat at the Fair.

You’ll find the State Fair’s Bingo template here.

10 tips for planning a trip to the Minnesota State Fair

When you look at gross sales per day, you could say the Minnesota State Fair is the biggest restaurant in the world. In 2017, they brought in over $51 million in food and beverage sales in 12 days. In comparison, Tao in Las Vegas brings in $42 million in sales over an entire year.

Attendance during the State Fair is big, too. In 2019, over 2.1 million people walked onto the Fairgrounds, making it the most attended in the Fair’s history. Six daily attendance records were set.

I have worked at the State Fair for more than 15 years. Each year, I’m there at least 10 days. I have attended the Great Minnesota Get Together every year since 1990. I have seen (and eaten) a lot.

With that, here are my top tips:

  1. The day you go makes a big difference. If you don’t want to battle massive crowds, go on the Tuesday (day 6) or Wednesday (day 7) of the State Fair. Many kids are in school and historically, those days see the lowest number of people walk through the gates. I also recommend going the first Thursday (day 1), especially if you do your homework about what new foods you want to eat. The Fairgrounds are also clean. Get a list of my 10 favorite foods going into the 2020 State Fair.
  2. Don’t park at the Fairgrounds. It’s $15 to park at the Fairgrounds, which is the cost of an admission ticket (the cost of three Pronto Pups). Oh, and it’s cash only for parking. My best bet: use the park free, ride free service overseen by Metro Transit. To avoid being crammed on a Metro Transit bus with a bunch of people for 45 minutes, park at a park and ride site near the Fairgrounds. I really like the station on the University of Minnesota campus. The bus takes the U of M Transitway, which goes directly from the Fairgrounds to your car on a road not open to the public, making for a quick trip. See the full list of free park and ride spots here. The U of M lot is #14 on the map. Note that many of the lots fill up quickly; the State Fair does a great job updating which lots are full on their social media channels.

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    If you’re planning to attend a Grandstand show, taking a Lyft to get home is a best bet.
  3. Don’t overpay for tickets. You can purchase 2020 admission tickets on the State Fair’s website for $12, saving you $3 a ticket. Typically, on the first day of the Fair, adults will save $2 on every ticket at the gate. The State Fair offers discounts to kids and seniors on various days, including multiple days where kids and seniors will save up to $3 on tickets. Check out this page for details. Remember kids four and younger always get in free.

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    Whether your friends are made of butter or are actual human beings, take a picture of them when you enter the Fairgrounds. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair
  4. Take a photo of your group when you get inside the Fairgrounds. The Fair is massive. Some days, nearly a quarter-million people come through the gates. It can be easy to lose your little ones. Take a picture of those tiny Fairgoers right when you get in the gates. You’ll be able to show the photo to police and will know exactly what they’re wearing. Information booths also have free wristbands kids can wear so they can reunite with you quickly in case they get lost.
  5. If someone in your group needs a wheelchair or scooter, reserve it before you go. You can reserve a wheelchair or scooter online, even before the Fair begins. They must be made 24 hours in advance and are only good for full-day rentals. See the price breakdown, along with a link to reserve, here.
  6. Don’t pay for water. Backpacks, bags and coolers are allowed on the Fairgrounds, meaning you can pack water, pop and snacks for the kiddos. Just know that you’ll have to carry around whatever you bring with you — the Fair doesn’t have lockers or a bag check. You won’t be able to bring a cooler with you to a show at the Grandstand. No outside alcohol is allowed onto the Fairgrounds.
  7. If you have to buy water, don’t pay too much. Prices for bottled water can vary greatly on the Fairgrounds. The Coca-Cola booths are one of the worst spots to get hydrated. Please don’t pay more than $1.75 for 20 oz. Check out this article for spots you should circle on your map if you need H2O. Remember you can bring a water bottle on the Fairgrounds and water bottle filling stations are scattered about. I’m serious about this one. A great food vendor (they shall not be named) is charging nearly $4 for a 20 oz bottle of Dasani. It’s robbery.
  8. Speaking of beverages, start studying what you will drink. A list of the specialty beverages served only at the Fair is available online. The brochure will also be available in print form at information booths (you may have to ask for it, as it’s not always sitting on the counter).
  9. Don’t get stuck in the Food Building. The Food Building is one of the most congested places on the Fairgrounds. It’s also one of the most delicious. Two of my top 10 Fair foods come from that one spot. But don’t get stuck in the hot, sweaty mess. Check out my video tutorial on Food Building shortcuts which are rarely used.
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    One of the best parts of the Great Minnesota Get Together is the people watching. Photo courtesy: Minnesota State Fair
  10. Enjoy the people watching. All walks of life make their way to the Fairgrounds, and State Fair officials embrace that, offering a State Fair bingo card that’s free to download. The State Fair does not offer prizes for completed bingos.

If it’s your first time at the Minnesota State Fair, I recommend using this guide to make sure you taste the most iconic foods at the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Click here to see a feed with all of my Minnesota State Fair advice.

The 2020 Minnesota State Fair runs August 27th thru September 7th.

All photos courtesy Minnesota State Fair

The 17 best restaurants for breakfast in Minnesota

Breakfast becomes a passionate subject for many people. And for good reason.

For starters, it’s the most meaningful meal of the day. You need fuel to be productive.

It’s food people love, too: omelets, pancakes, French toast, hash browns.

Sitting down for breakfast is also the chance to connect with the people who mean a lot to you. Time and time again you hear about the senior mens’ groups who have coffee and chat about current events and what’s going on in their neighborhood. I’m guessing many of you reading this have a breakfast tradition you remember from when you were a kid, whether it be at home or at a restaurant on a weekend morning. Breakfast is more than food. It nourishes the soul.

I asked my Facebook fans, along with Twin Cities Live viewers, to tell me their favorite spot to get breakfast in Minnesota. Hundreds of entries came in. I visited the top five restaurants to meet with the owners and learn what you should order when you stop by.

I appeared on Twin Cities Live to share the top five spots:

1. Lindas’ Cafe

13575 Northdale Blvd, Suite 200
Rogers, 55374

Linda Frigaard and Linda Grady have been friends since third grade. A divorce kickstarted Linda Grady to call Linda Frigaard, who worked in the restaurant industry, to help her achieve a dream: to open a restaurant.

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Linda Frigaard and Linda Grady, owners of Lindas’ Cafe in Rogers.
  • The two opened Lindas’ Cafe on August 1st, 2006 in a strip mall off of I-94 in Rogers. The space used to be a video store.
  • You will find four generations working at Lindas’ Cafe. Linda Frigaard’s father is there, along with her daughter and grandchild.
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The Log Cabin Skillet.
  • Their skillets are the number one menu item. The Ranch Skillet, with eggs, green peppers, onion, cheese and meat, along with the Log Cabin Skillet, smothered in sausage country gravy and a country fried steak, are the most popular.
  • The Lindas tell me they’ll go through nearly 225,000 eggs a year. If you’re a fan of wild rice soup, get the Minnesota omelet — it has the soup inside.
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Lindas’ Cafe has the most traditional version of the pancake I had on my breakfast tour.
  • The pancake is worth ordering. The recipe belongs to the cook’s great great grandmother. The owners mentioned that customers drove from Edina to Rogers to get their pancakes. That’s nearly 60 miles roundtrip.
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The Lindas’ Stuffed, a homemade take on the McGriddle.
  • You don’t want to miss the Lindas’ Stuffed. I’m calling it a homemade take on the McDonald’s McGriddle. It’s two slices of French toast stuffed with Swiss cheese with your choice of ham or sausage. Pour some syrup on it and you got yourself a quality, homemade McGriddle without the guilt.
  • Lindas’ Cafe is not big — it’s only 88 seats. Make sure your whole party is there if you want to get seated.
  • Their entire menu, which does include broasted chicken and other lunch items, is available for take out.

2. Fat Nat’s Eggs

3 metro locations, including the location I attended:
2700 39th Avenue NE, Saint Anthony Village 55421

Jeff Nat, whose nickname was Fat Nat while playing hockey, started Fat Nat’s Eggs in 2002.

  • Jeff, who loves to cook, wanted to run restaurant like his grandma’s house with quality ingredients.
  • The original location in New Hope had 35 seats when it first opened. Today, it has more than 100. It previously was a Chinese restaurant.
    • Fans of my Facebook page say the New Hope location is best, although the menu is consistent at all three restaurants.
  • They expanded to Brooklyn Park in 2007 and opened a Saint Anthony Village restaurant in 2012. Jeff’s wife, Lisa, tells me another location could be in the cards.
  • Fat Nat’s Eggs is a family affair. Jeff, Lisa, and their sons, Michael and David, run the restaurants.
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Eggs Bacon Avocado Benedict with a can’t miss avocado verde.
  • The number one selling menu item is the Eggs Bacon Avocado Benedict, served on a toasted English muffin with a slice of tomato, bacon and an (AMAZING) spicy avocado verde. If you like spicy, you must order something with the avocado verde.
  • All of the salsas Fat Nat’s Eggs serves are made in-house. They have green chili, which you will find in New Mexico cuisine.
  • If you’re looking for an omelet, the owners say a hidden gem is the Jacob’s Omelette with carnitas, black beans, salsa verde, pepper jack cheese and homemade salsa on top.
  • Don’t pass up on the warm fruit fritter, which are made by Denny’s 5th Avenue Bakery in Bloomington.
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Fat Nat’s Eggs in Saint Anthony Village.
  • Fat Nat’s Eggs has counter seating at all three locations.
  • It gets busy, especially on the weekends. Owner Lisa says for the shortest wait time, come before 9:00 am or after 12:30 pm.

3. The Original Pancake House

4 metro locations, including the location I attended:
1661 County Road B2 West, Roseville 55113

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The Original Pancake House in Roseville.
  • I need to be honest: before my first trip to The Original Pancake House, I wasn’t thrilled about eating there, mostly because it’s a chain. But after learning their story, it’s definitely worthy of this list.
  • The four Minnesota locations are franchisees of the national The Original Pancake House brand. The locations in Edina, Eden Prairie, Roseville and Burnsville have the same owner, however, each location has a totally different look and each location has a different menu.
    • The Edina location is the original in the Twin Cities, opening in 1977. They started by serving pancakes in the morning, closing for a couple hours, then serving pizza for dinner. You won’t be able to miss the huge chandelier inside.
    • Eden Prairie opened in 2007 with a traditional restaurant vibe.
    • Roseville opened in 2013 and is very contemporary, having gone through a remodel in 2018.
    • The newest location in Burnsville has a Scandinavian feel.
  • None of their kitchen have microwaves.
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The 49er Flapjack.
  • Their most popular item is the 49er Flapjack, a thin pancake. The Potato Pancake and Buckwheat Pancakes are top-sellers, too.
  • A hidden gem are the Breakfast Ribs, which is like thick cut bacon.
  • On a busy day, one location will serve up 1,400 orders of bacon.
  • The hash browns at OPH are epic.
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The Original Pancake House does a great job accommodating food allergies.
  • I heard this from multiple people: The Original Pancake House does an extremely good job accommodating those with food allergies. Gluten-free food comes out on yellow plates and there’s no extra charge. Our gluten-full table tried a gluten-free peach crepe, and it was really good. They also can accommodate those who are dairy-free and who have soy or egg allergies.
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The coffee mugs at The Original Pancake House are made by a Saint Paul artist and are available for purchase.
  • The coffee mugs are made by a potter from Saint Paul. Some of the other OPH locations from around the nation have started to use her mugs as well. You are able to purchase them, too.

4. R.J. Riches Family Restaurant

2145 Highway Avenue, Mounds View 55112

R.J. Riches Family Restaurant in Mounds View originally was a Country Kitchen back in the 1970s. The owners who took over that space were named Royce and Janice (RJ) and they wanted to make ‘Riches’ — hence the name R.J. Riches. The current owners have operated the restaurant since 1992.

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This is just one regular sized pancake.
  • You need to watch other people’s food come out before you place your order. Food comes in HUGE portions. The chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes are not only the size of dinner plates, they’re also extremely thick. Think of it more like a cake than a pancake. You don’t need more than one for your table.
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The Country Fried Steak comes with all the things you see in this photo.
  • The number one menu item is the Country Fried Steak, which was really good. A thick gravy didn’t sit too heavy.
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The Gyro Omelet.
  • The second most popular menu item is my favorite. The Gyro Omelet was epic. First, it’s huge — it could be two, maybe three meals. It’s four eggs, with hash browns, cheese, and gyro meat inside. It’s served with Tzatziki sauce, too.
  • Owner Barb tells me that a lot of people overpass their Spicy Chicken Omelet, which has deep-fried, spicy chicken.
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I wouldn’t attempt to eat at R.J. Riches with more than 4 people at your table.
  • The restaurant isn’t huge, with only 120 seats. On a busy weekend day, you may have to wait 45 to 60 minutes to get a table. They’re the busiest between 8:30 am – 1:00 pm.
  • In addition to breakfast, R.J. Riches is open for dinner, serving all-you-can-eat meals.
  • Note that R.J. Riches is not set up for large parties. I would recommend that you keep your group to four or less (or be willing to split yourselves up). Most of the restaurant is booths.

5. Keys Cafe & Bakery

9 metro locations, including the original restaurant in Saint Paul:
767 Raymond Avenue, Saint Paul 55114

The first Keys Restaurant opened on Raymond Avenue in Saint Paul on November 1st, 1973 by Barbara Hunn. She took over a space called Mister D’s. Before that, it was called Slater’s.

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You will see Keys owner Barbara Hunn at the Raymond Avenue location 3 days a week.
  • Barbara had no restaurant management experience at the time. In fact, she was a licensed psychiatric nurse.
  • Barb and her late husband had four kids, all who would work in the restaurant. As kids, they would make hamburger buns.
  • About nine years in, they added a location in New Brighton. That’s when Keys started to sell more baked goods, which they’re known for today.
  • Today, Keys has nine locations around the Twin Cities. At one point, all 17 of Barbara’s grandchildren have worked at Keys.

Keys is known for large portions. The Beef Hash and Cajun Skillet are popular menu items and will fill you up.

  • Thick cut bacon is key at Keys. One pound is 13 slices. So if you eat 3 slices, you’ve eaten about a quarter of a pound of bacon.
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Probably one of the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had.
  • The Cinnamon and Pecan Rolls are amazing. Their number one baked good is the house chocolate cake.
  • Make sure to order toast and get their house-made strawberry rhubarb jam. I would drink it if it was socially acceptable.
  • Barb says that their oatmeal is an unsung hero on the menu at the Raymond Avenue Keys. It’s not instant. Make sure to add fruit and nuts.
  • All of Keys soups are made in house. Barb says to try the Tomato Basil, Chicken Noodle and Tomato Bisque.
  • You’ll still see Barbara at the Raymond Avenue Keys three days a week.
  • The catchphrase “Yummy!” that Keys uses in their radio commercials was inspired by Jim Carrey’s character in the 1994 movie, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”.

Did you conquer those breakfast spots that are Worth the Trip? Try these honorable mentions

6. Frieda’s Cafe, Willmar (warning: closed Sundays)
7. B&B Cafe, Albert Lea (warning: closed Sundays)
8. Oasis Cafe, Stillwater
9. Jensen’s Cafe, Burnsville
10. Carol’s Restaurant, Blaine
11. Al’s Breakfast, Minneapolis
12. Peg’s Countryside Cafe, Hamel
13. North Pole Restaurant, Newport
14. Windmill Cafe, Savage
15. Duluth Grill, Duluth
16. The Buttered Tin, Saint Paul
17. Hazel’s Northeast, Minneapolis

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