MINNEAPOLIS — Holiday celebrations and spirit are back with a vengeance after a pre-vaccine pandemic spike kept us mostly apart last year.
We've compiled a list of some of Minnesota's best light displays, new and old, to get you started on your 2021 holiday season.
GLOW Holiday Festival
GLOW Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic as a drive-thru event, allowing Minnesotans to enjoy its offerings while remaining socially distanced.
This year, the festival has transitioned into a walking affair, so event organizers share a reminder to "dress cozy." The experience includes over one million lights, a sElfie plaza, three-story ice palace, outdoor fire pits, a 25-minute golf cart tour and more. A selection of favorite State Fair foods will also be available, including Pronto Pup and Two Rivers Kettle Korn.
The event is cashless — only credit and debit cards will be accepted — and runs now through Jan. 2.
For information about tickets and times, visit GLOW's website.
Mears & Rice Parks
Both Mears and Rice Parks in downtown St. Paul have become popular destinations to take in a big holiday light display.
Both parks offer a showing of thousands of lights, and are less than a mile apart — making it easy to enjoy them both in one evening.
See more about the parks on Visit St. Paul's website.
Holiday Tree Lighting at Union Depot
Union Depot is back with its Tree Lighting and Movie Night for 2021, which will take place Dec. 4.
The event includes the unveiling of the St. Paul Winter Carnival 2022 button, live entertainment, the tree lighting ceremony and a showing of Christmas classic, "Elf."
From Dec. 4 until the end of the month, the public is welcome to stop by and view the tree on the North Plaza. For more information about holiday events taking place at Union Depot, visit its website.
If you're looking for some shelter from the cold, but still want a full Christmas-lights experience, head over to Psycho Suzi's for a night inside Mary's Christmas Palace.
From now until Dec. 31, you can book your reservations to "enjoy mismatch Christmas decor with a retro flare" that "plasters every nook and cranny...as if Santa’s elves dropped some LSD."
Click here to learn more about the new annual tradition and to plan your visit.
The annual Holidazzle event will be a bit spread out this year, both in timing and location.
Holidazzle's impressive annual display will cover both Nicollet Mall and Loring Park. The Holidazzle Yeti is set to make its first appearance at downtown's Peavey Plaza from Nov. 26 through Dec. 3, while Holidazzle's annual in-person event at Loring Park will be held Friday, Dec. 17 through Sunday, Dec. 19. After walking through thousands of lights and taking rides on a Ferris wheel and carousel, Holidazzle-goers will enjoy fireworks both Friday and Saturday nights.
For more info on Holidazzle, click here.
Armatage Holiday Lights Tour
Minneapolis' southwest Aramatage neighborhood is coming together again this year to create a drive-and walk-thru tour of lights.
A self-guided tour map will be available by Dec. 9, making it easy for interested parties to plan their routes. The lights tour runs from Friday, Dec. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 19.
Head over to the Aramatage Neighborhood Association for more information, and to watch for this year's tour map.
CSE Winter Light Show at the University of Minnesota
For a 10th year, the U's College of Science and Engineering has designed three light shows featuring more than 250,000 LED lights coordinated to music written and recorded by U of M students.
Shows run Thursday, Dec. 9 through Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Civil Engineering Building Courtyard. They are all free and open to the public.
For more information, click here.
Twin Cities Metro
Christmas in Color at Valleyfair, Shakopee
Millions of lights synched to holiday music will adorn Valleyfair for its drive-through event held Nov. 19 through Dec. 31.
An online reservation is required for each vehicle, with group rates available for parties of 10 or more. Valleyfair season passholders also get a 20% discount on tickets.
To make your reservation, click here.
Nature Illuminated at the Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley
The Minnesota Zoo is inviting the public to check out both its driving and walking tours, featuring thousands of lights and "brilliant displays of larger-than-life animals."
The driving tour runs Dec. 2 through Jan. 2, and is accompanied by educational audio.
The walking experience begins Jan. 6 and runs through the 16th. Walkers can enjoy walking the trail at their own pace while enjoying snacks and beverages.
For ticket information, click here.
Sever's Holiday Lights, Shakopee
Experience a blast of holiday lights and sound without leaving the comforts of your car while driving through Sever's Holiday Lights in Shakopee. The 1/2 mile, 21-acre tour features more than 2 million lights that dance to the beat of your favorite traditional and contemporary holiday songs. After driving the course you can park in the observation lot for a different view.
There are also food and drink options to make an evening of it.
The course is open from Nov. 25 through January 2. For more on times, reservation opportunities and ticket prices check out the Sever's website.
Winter Lights 2021 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska
The Winter Lights display sprawls the grounds of the Landscape Arboretum, which includes 16 outdoor light displays, ice sculptures and more.
Halfway through the walking tour, light lookers can warm up by a bonfire and roast marshmallows for s'mores.
Also be sure to check the Arboretum's calendar for its Winter Music series.
For more information and to grab your tickets, click here.
Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth
A Christmas-time favorite, Bentleyville is going back to its walking format after opting for drive-thru status last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A massive lights display adorns each step of the tour, while Santa and Mrs. Claus visit with guests to hear Christmas wishes and to take pictures. The event is free, with just a $10 parking fee.
Bentleyville runs from now until Dec. 27. Click here for more info.
Celebrate the Light of the World, Willmar
More than 1,000 volunteer hours are to thank for putting together the massive light display in Willmar that runs now through Jan. 1.
The drive-thru display of over 800,000 lights started with one tradition, but has grown into a community tradition over the last 10 years.
Lights are on display each night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. To plan your visit, click here.
Kiwanis Holiday Lights, Sibley Park in Mankato
KARE 11's Facebook friends roundly support this display, which is sponsored by the Mankato Area Foundation and CHS, and is free to the public.
The large light display is viewable both from a vehicle or by walking the course, and those attending are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item or donate for area food shelves. It's 100% staffed by volunteers.
The Kiwanis Holiday Lights display runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 31, with an opening night parade set for Friday at 6 p.m. For more on operating hours and other details, check out the event website.
Sertoma Winter Wonderland at the Northland Arboretum, Baxter
The Brainerd Area Sertoma Club started this annual tradition in 2007, which boasts more than 80 animated light displays on a driving tour through the Northland Arboretum.
Those interested can visit the display from 5:30 p.m. through 8:30 p.m. on select days through Dec. 31.
Click here to view the schedule and find out how to get your tickets.
Country Lights Festival, Sartell
Sartell's Country Lights Festival at Lake Francis Park is a 33-acre attraction, equipped with thousands of lights, bonfires, hot chocolate and more.
The event runs Dec. 1 through Dec. 31, and is free and open to the public.
Head over to the event website to plan your visit.
Notice something missing? If you know of an impressive holiday light display that didn't make the list, send us the details using "Near Me" on the KARE 11 app, or text us at (763) 797-7215.