In 1903, wealthy businessman Swan Turnblad began building his castle-like residence in Minneapolis. In 1929, he donated his mansion to what is now the American Swedish Institute (ASI). For more than 80 years, ASI used this building to share Swedish culture with locals and visitors alike. In 2012, an expansion, the Nelson Cultural Center, opened to offer even more space and opportunities for exhibits.
Norway holiday room
Photo courtesy of ASI
Each year ASI showcases Nordic heritage with its own holiday celebration. Jul to the World: A Nordic Christmas (which opened this past weekend) offers museum visitors an opportunity to spot special exhibits, hear seasonal music (every Sunday through December 22), tour the historic mansion, and taste delicious goodies. Think you’re brave enough to try the Nordic delicacy, Lutfisk? Attend the annual Lutfisk dinner this weekend! Or take special after hours tours of the exhibit while sipping on traditional Glogg, Swedish mulled wine (November 22 & December 3 & 20).
In the ASI’s historic wing, visit all five holiday rooms decorated and offering cuisine of the region. The rooms represent the five Nordic countries of Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Denmark. A bonus sixth room this year? Mexico! This room pays homage to the strong Hispanic culture in the neighborhood surrounding ASI.
Children can search the mansion for Tomte, the Swedish Christmas elf (he’ll appear in person December 7 & 8). Shop Julmarknad, the Christmas Market (December 7 & 8) which is reminiscent of wintertime markets found across Europe. You can also explore the gift shop all month long for Nordic presents. Catch theatrical performances every Wednesday evening. The signature event, the Lucia Celebration (a celebration of light), takes place on Dec. 14.
Hungry? Nosh on holiday sausages and more at ASI’s FIKA café, which Travel + Leisure named to its America’s Best Sandwiches list.