Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Christmas Lights in the Twin Cities

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Night Scenery Christmas Fair with Street Festive Light, Market Square. Holiday concept

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… But seriously, Christmas will be here before we know it. A favorite pastime of many families around Christmas is looking at Christmas light displays.

We all know the routine. Get the kids dressed warmly, load everyone in the car, hope for as few arguments as possible, drive around looking at lights, break up the fights you hoped wouldn’t happen, go home and rush your kids to bed (past their bedtime.)

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. While looking at Christmas light displays is making memories with your kids, it can feel like work to get through.

At Twin Cities Kids Club, we want to make your experience of looking at Christmas light displays as pleasant as possible. We want you to make memories, not go home, annoyed. Join our club for exclusive access to discounts and deals throughout the Twin Cities.

Path Blue Red Yellow Christmas Trees Lights

Tips for Enjoying the Trip

If you want to enjoy Christmas light displays with your kiddos, there are a few things you can do to increase the chances that everyone has a good night. Whether you are walking around your neighborhood, driving through an area known for fantastic displays, or going to a specific event, you will want to prepare properly.

Portrait of happy family drinking hot tea in winter forest, copy space

Bring Supplies

If there is one thing you can count on in Minnesota, it is that Christmas is cold. So it follows that looking at Christmas lights will be a chilly affair. Be prepared for the elements, whether you are on foot or in the car.

If you decide to walk around the block, ensure everyone has appropriate head-wear, footwear, gloves, and jackets. You don’t want to be a block away, and one of the kiddos can’t go on because they are too cold. Plus, is there anything cuter than a little Michelin-man kid covered head to toe in puffy outerwear?

If you are driving, you will still want warm clothing. Many houses will play music with their display, and you will want the windows down. Your kids might wish to roll the windows down, anyway. Warm clothing and blankets will be your friend.

If you are walking and have young kiddos, make sure your stroller or wagon is in working order. Likely small children won’t make it far on their own. Bonus, a stroller means you have to carry fewer items (and kids) yourself. 

Speaking of carrying things: bring hot cocoa! Whether you are driving or walking, hot cocoa will make any night more enjoyable. Bring some good travel mugs and a thermos full of hot cocoa to share. If you want to make it fun, bring some marshmallows, peppermint sticks, and whipped cream.

It is also smart to pack some snacks for the trip. Check out our list of healthy snacks kids love. Now is also an excellent time to ensure you are using the right car seat correctly. Check out our car seat reference.

portrait of happy girl in winter evenings on background of Christmas lights, outdoor

Make it Fun

If you want to make the trip extra fun for your kiddos, make a game out of it. One fantastic way to do this is to bring along a scavenger hunt.

Bring a list of items for everyone in the car to look for while looking at lights. If you have young kids, bring a list you can check off. If you have slightly older kids, make some bingo boards ahead of time and see who can get bingo first!

Some things to look for are:

  • An angel
  • Santa
  • Santa’s reindeer
  • Santa’s sleigh
  • Rudolph
  • Santa’s elves
  • A nativity scene
  • A cross
  • An inflatable
  • A large wreath
  • A snowman
  • The Grinch
  • A house with more than three inflatables
  • Christmas train
  • All white lights
  • All colored lights
  • Icicle lights
  • Lights flashing to music
  • Mickey and Minnie Mouse
  • Disney characters, like princesses
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Snoopy and the Peanuts gang
  • Penguins
  • A large mailbox
  • Anything else you can think of!

You can choose if you want a winner for the game. If you do have a winner, instead of offering candy, let them choose the next Christmas movie to watch or where to donate or offer volunteer time during the holidays.

Cheerful woman in long red winter coat holding in her hands cute little girl wearing white winter clothes, both looking at the camera. Bright lights of Christmas fair on background

Be Prepared

Finally, you will want to be prepared. Know where you are going and how you will get there. 

If you are staying close to your house and plan on walking, know which streets you want to walk down. Also, in what order you want to see the streets. You will likely know which houses will have the best Christmas light displays, so plan your route to include all of those houses with the least amount of walking or backtracking.

If you are driving, know what neighborhoods you want to go to and how you will get there. Some communities with fantastic lights are nearby, and others are somewhat spread out. If you know ahead of time which neighborhoods are your must-hits, you can plan your route to get to those first.

If you are going to a light display event, consider what the best time to visit is. Also, think about parking. Often these displays draw a large crowd, and parking can be an issue. Know where you plan to park and about how much walking you will be doing.

An outdoor Christmas display with a sleigh, wrapped presents, and lighted arches on a snowy December night

Where to See Lights

Lighting Ceremonies

  • November 23, Rice Park Tree Lighting in St. Paul. Start the holidays off right at Rice Park with thousands of lights, the Teddy Bear Band, and many other activities.
  • December 6, The Union Depot Tree Lighting in St. Paul. Check out their annual tree lighting and movie night showing both Elf and The Polar Express. Tree lighting at 6:30 pm.
  • December 7, The Grand Meander in St. Paul. Visit this historic district for shopping, fun, trolley rides, and Santa.
  • December 7-8, Seward Winter Frolic. Enjoy a weekend full of art, music, and culture kicking off the holiday season. Tree lighting Saturday at 5:00 pm
  • December 14, CSE Winter Light Show. Make the trip to the University of Minnesota Civil Engineering Courtyard for a fantastic 3D light show. Each show is around 20 minutes.

Local Favorites

  • Schultz Family Lights. This show is a local favorite found on York Ave in St. Paul. There will be a light show daily from dusk until about 10:00 pm. Please bring a canned good for donation. Multiple yards are participating, and the lights are synchronized. Tune into 91.5 for music.

If you know of some fantastic places for lights, let us know! The Twin Cities are known for going all out during the holidays. Are you one of those houses?

Be sure to join the Twin Cities Kids Club for access to deals and discounts. We also have advice along with tips and tricks for parenting in the Twin Cities.

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