Feelin' Festive

There’s no place like here for the holidays and we’ve got the activities, restaurants, concerts, shops and plays to prove it. Seek shelter from the snow or enjoy the cool temps with these recommendations and you’ll catch the spirit of the season.

EVENT

Everyone Loves a Parade

More than 300,000 people make their way to downtown Minneapolis between Thanksgiving and Christmas to wonder at the magic of the Target Holidazzle Parade. Kids are bundled, couples are cozy, hot cocoa is sipped and all eyes follow the lighted floats and costumed characters. Formed in an effort to attract people downtown during the holiday season—instead of everyone heading to suburban malls—the Holidazzle first paraded in 1992. Some 12 fairytale floats and 250 characters, from Captain Hook to Princess and the Pea, are covered in hundreds of twinkling lights and manned by volunteer citizens. Now in its 18th season, the parade once again rolls the nine blocks, stopping for traffic lights along the way, and puts some warmth back in our winter. Thursdays through Sundays, 6:30 p.m., closes Dec. 20. Nicollet Mall, 12th to Fourth streets, Minneapolis, www.holidazzle.com
 

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Sounds of the Season

The Minnesota Orchestra performs and hosts some spectacular classical events this December. Complete with giant puppets, cast and sets, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel (Dec. 2-5) comes to life on stage. The Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale present the famous tradition, Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 13). The orchestra’s original A Scandinavian Christmas (Dec. 11-12 & 19) highlights some of Scandinavia’s most lovely Christmas songs (perhaps with an Ole and Lena joke thrown in, too). A local favorite and must-see show, Jingle Bell Doc (Dec. 19-20), featuring the great Doc Severinsen playing trumpet and wielding the conductor’s baton, celebrates the season to the fullest. A couple of shows to catch sans orchestra: jazz trumpeter Chris Botti (Dec. 4-5), a cappella quartet Tonic Sol-Fa (Dec. 14) and pianist George Winston (Dec. 20). Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-371-5656, www.minnesotaorchestra.org
 

ACTIVITY

A Rockefeller Feeling

Downtown St. Paul sparkles every December. In the center of Rice Park sits a giant tree, lit with thousands of LED lights, that rivals New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza tree. The surrounding evergreens are also strung with twinkling lights, making for a beautiful wintertime stroll before or after a dinner at nearby Pazzaluna or a show at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. Those looking to turn some figure eights can walk over to the adjacent Landmark Plaza, lace up some skates and take to the WinterSkate outdoor rink. Downtown St. Paul, 651-291-5608.
 

THEATER

A Caroling We Will Go

Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption plays out on the stage of the acclaimed Guthrie Theater each holiday season. And Scrooge is back again this December in a fresh staging of A Christmas Carol. For the 35th anniversary of the performance at the Minneapolis theater director Gary Gisselman returned to the play’s roots. By telling the story in just one breath, he hopes to add more urgency to Scrooge’s plight. Peter Michael Goetz steps into the lead role in this now 90-minute adaptation of the Dickens tale. Through Dec. 31. 818 S. Second Street, Minneapolis, 612-377-2224, www.guthrietheater.org
 

SHOPPING

Playing Santa

We can’t begin to name all the places you can shop for gifts around the Twin Cities, but we can point you in a couple directions. Most likely your travels will take you to the mall with it all, Mall of America, and if you have a little girl to shop for, head straight to American Girl. If your young lady happens to be with you, don’t pass up the chance to enjoy a holiday dining experience right inside the store. For those who like quaint shops filled to the brim with clever gifts, the locally owned Bibelot Shop is the place. With four locations around the Twin Cities, Bibelot offers everything from clothing and dishes to games and home accents. If you want to give an original and artsy gift to a child or adult, you can find myriad items at downtown Minneapolis’ modern Walker Art Center museum gift shop. Filled to the brim with contemporary home pieces, artisan-designed jewelry and creative kids toys, the Walker shop is more than a store—it’s a destination. American Girl, Center Court, Mall of America, Bloomington, 877-247-5223, www.americangirl.com; Bibelot Shop, four locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, www.bibelotshops.com; Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-375-7600, www.walkerart.org
 

DANCE

Variations on a Theme

The story of Clara, the Nutcracker and the Mouse King ushers in the holiday season here in the Twin Cities. See the ballet and hear the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s famous music in five adaptations of the story. For traditional performances, try The Classic Nutcracker by Ballet Minnesota on the stage of St. Paul’s O’Shaughnessy Auditorium (Dec. 18-20), the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, on tour for the 17th year at the Orpheum Theatre (Dec. 11 & 12), or Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy by Minnesota Dance Theater at the State Theatre (Dec. 18-20). Looking for something different? Minneapolis’ Ritz Theater welcomes two unique adaptations. Ballet of the Dolls adds its signature sass to Nutcracker (not so) Suite (Dec. 9-31), which also celebrates Barbie’s 50th birthday, while Zenon Dance Company’s The Nutcracker According to Mother Goose pairs The Nutcracker Suite with favorite nursery rhyme characters—recommended for ages four to 14 (Dec. 12-20). O’Shaughnessy, College of St. Catherine, 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, 651-690-6700, www.spcballet.org and www.balletminnesota.org; Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Avenue & State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 800-982-2787, www.hennepintheatredistrict.org; Ritz Theater, 345 13th Avenue N.E., Minneapolis, 612-436-1129, www.ritzdolls.com, www.zenondance.org
 

THEATER

Bringing Holiday Cheer

For the past 21 years, the acclaimed Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul has celebrated the holiday season with Black Nativity. This year, Black Nativity: A Season for Change (Dec. 3-27) presents the best jazz and gospel singers, combined with dancers from several local companies, to tell the story of a widowed grandmother whose family works to bring back her joy. The Penumbra is one of three professional African-American theaters in the country and known for its role in launching the career of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson. Sit back and enjoy the theater’s holiday tale about the bonds of family and the power of faith, including favorite songs, such as I Wonder as I Wander, Go Tell it on the Mountain and The Little Drummer Boy. 270 N. Kent Street, St. Paul, 651-224-3180, www.penumbratheatre.org
 

DINING

Wine & Spirits

If you’re looking to toast the holiday season with a colleague or loved one, plenty of special spots around the Twin Cities offer the libations for just that occasion. After a performance of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater, check out Spill the Wine, which features an eclectic selection of wines from around the world. If you’re on the west side of downtown Minneapolis, La Belle Vie, one of our most celebrated restaurants, not only offers a pages-long wine menu but also imaginative cocktails and mocktails for the truly adventurous. For those visiting our capital city, The St. Paul Grill, located in downtown’s Saint Paul Hotel, is just the spot for drinks with its extensive list of wines, rare scotches, Irish whiskeys and imported vodkas and gins. Spill the Wine, 1101 Washington Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-339-3388, www.spillthewinerestaurant.com; La Belle Vie, 510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-874-6440, www.labellevie.us; The St. Paul Grill, 250 Market Street, St. Paul, 651-224-7455, www.stpaulgrill.com
 

PERFORMANCE

Stages Full of Wonder

The Hennepin Theatre District gives a festive salute to the season all month long and across its stages. At the Hennepin Stages, Twin Cities native Phil Olson pays homage to his home state with his hilarious parody of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale, A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol (continuing). At the Pantages, the true story of a wartime holiday miracle comes to life in All is Calm—The Christmas Truce of 1914 (Dec. 17-20). Meanwhile, at the State Theatre, there’s the holiday music of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Dec. 5), Kenny G (Dec. 6) and more. Hennepin Stages, 824 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-673-0404, www.adonthugmechristmascarol.com; State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Avenue & Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 800-982-2787, www.hennepintheatredistrict.org
 

CONCERTS

Hometown Holiday

Talented performers who call Minnesota home belt out the best of the season’s songs this month. Catch The Steeles, a family with a lot of soul, as the legendary gospel group performs an acoustic concert at St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater (Dec. 11 & 12). There, you can also listen to local jazz ensemble The New Standards reinterpret holiday classics with the help of friends such as Dan Wilson of Semisonic (Dec. 5). Home for the Holidays: A Minnesota Christmas, at the Pantages Theatre, joins together the voices of Tim Mahoney, Katie McMahon, Mick Sterling, Patty Peterson and more to benefit a local charity (Dec. 10). The Blenders, a vocal quartet, also takes the Pantages stage to perform a show filled with music and comedy (Dec. 11-13). Pianist Lorie Line’s 20th anniversary show features great holiday tunes and a special fashion show on the stage of the State Theatre (Dec. 12-13). Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange Street, St. Paul; State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Avenue & Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis. Tickets: 800-982-2787.
 

HISTORICAL EVENTS

In the Days of Yore

Learn something this holiday season with a visit to our landmarks and museums.

» Alexander Ramsey House At this historic St. Paul home, Victorian Christmas tours make the Christmas of 1875 come alive (continuing; visit the Web site for more information). 265 S. Exchange Street, St. Paul, 651­-296­-8760, www.mnhs.org

» James J. Hill House Step into a Gilded Age Christmas as you move through this elegant home and into the world of the servants below for Hill House Holidays (Saturdays & Sundays 1-3:30 p.m.). 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, 651-­297­-2555, www.mnhs.org

» Landmark Center While around downtown St. Paul, enjoy this site’s Holiday Bazaar, with more than 80 vendors selling arts, crafts and treats (Dec. 3-5).
75 W. Fifth Street, St. Paul, 651-292-3225, www.landmarkcenter.org

» Mill City Museum Learn Minneapolis history on a tour of this unique museum and enter a 1920 company holiday party in An “Eventually” Christmas: Holidays at the Mill (Dec. 18-20, 26 & 27 at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.). 704 S. Second Street, Minneapolis, 612-341-7555, www.millcitymuseum.org

» American Swedish Institute In celebration of Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage, this Minneapolis museum presents A Nordic Christmas, its annual exhibit that studies the traditions of several Nordic countries. 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, 612-871-4907, www.americanswedishinst.org
 

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