For more than a hundred years, travelers have flocked to Minnesota to celebrate winter. The St. Paul Winter Carnival is the oldest winter festival in the country, with a mere 2 years over the Tournament of Roses Festival, and this year there are new activities and events for winter lovers to enjoy.
Winter Carnival History
In 1885, newspaper employees from the eastern U.S. visited Minnesota and reported that it was uninhabitable because it was too cold. To prove them wrong, a group of business owners created the winter festival to showcase and celebrate Minnesota winters. From there, the festival only grew in size and popularity.
Winter Carnival Events
The St. Paul Winter Carnival runs from January 26 through February 5, 2023, with activities and events every day, most of which are free. The festival kicks off with the “Light the Park” event complete with a new laser show, an ice bar, and the start of the ice sculpting competition.
Not an ice sculptor? There are other friendly competitions you might want to try, like ice fishing or the beard-growing competition. Participants can try to grow the longest beard or enter the freestyle category which allows them to get creative with their facial hair — all for fun prizes and bragging rights, of course.
The Vulcan Snow Park is a family-friendly favorite at the Winter Carnival. Kids can play on the huge snow piles while their parents marvel at the elaborate snow sculptures. See what you can create at the snow sculpting competition or get lost in the snow maze. The snow park is free to enter, but visitors are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to benefit the local food bank.
Another favorite tradition is the Royal Coronation, where festival officials crown King Boreas and his royal guards including Aurora the Queen of Snows. The royal court oversees the festival and you can have dinner with them on a VIP paid experience.
Other festival events include a scavenger hunt, live music, and walking tours where you can learn about the area’s history and see possibly haunted buildings. And when it’s time to warm up, head to the newly-enlarged warming hut where you can escape the cold but enjoy a cold beverage, listen to live music, and play games.
The Great Northern
Another festival happening at the same time is the Great Northern, an event focused on climate change. The 10-day event is filled with specialty cocktails, fire-lit entertainment, food, and a series of discussions on climate solutions.
New this year is an interactive art exhibit about climate action, Kidarod, a 2-mile kid-friendly outdoor racing event inspired by Alaska’s famous dog race, the Iditarod. Also new is the Great Northern Sauna Village where you can learn about aroma and steam therapies.
When you’re done with the festivals, check out our favorite places to eat in St. Paul, eight great things to do in Minneapolis, and where to find the best burger.