If you’re looking for a vacation destination where you can enjoy an old-fashioned family-friendly Christmas, look no further than the state of Minnesota. There are plenty of snow-covered towns where you can tour holiday light displays, meet Santa, and enjoy hot chocolate while listening to carolers. Head to the city of Duluth to see one of the nation’s biggest light displays, or head to Park Rapids if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas. From the humble small town of Little Falls to the bustling metropolis of Minneapolis, this beautiful Midwestern state is sure to get you into the holiday spirit. Book a stay at a vacation rental in Minnesota today. Check out the top cities and towns that take Christmas cheer to another level.

1. Duluth

ice shore in lakewalk duluth
Source: Flickr/Sharon Mollerus

The Lift Bridge and other sights on the water’s edge of Lake Superior are the perfect backdrops for a Christmas getaway in this Great Lakes vacation town. Check out the famous Bentleyville Tour of Lights to walk past a giant castle, a 12-story lighted tree, and dozens of other LED characters scattered across the 20-acre park on the shores of Lake Superior. Kids can also visit Santa and get a photo taken with Rudolph. Duluth is also home to the Christmas City of the North parade through downtown, the vintage Christmas City Express on the North Shore Scenic Railroad, and holiday tours at Glensheen Historic Estate.

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2. Minneapolis

minneapolis
Source: Flickr/Joe Giordano

Minnesota’s big city offers a lot more during the holiday season than just world-class gift shopping, and Santa visits at the Mall of America. The Holidazzle festival is a particular favorite, featuring ice-skating, fireworks, Christmas choirs and dozens of other family-friendly events in a pre-designated locale near the downtown area. Be sure to catch an outdoor holiday movie with a big mug of hot apple cider or hot chocolate. For more Minneapolis holiday fun, check out the North-Pole village at Macy’s Santaland or see the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum lit up in brilliant colors.

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3. Winona

Source: Pixabay/stevepb

Tucked away in the foothills of southeastern Minnesota, this small town on the Mississippi hosts old-fashioned vacation homes and a charming downtown area festively decorated for a Holiday Window Walk. The Trester Trolley Christmas Lights Tour is another seasonal favorite, offering the best view of Winona’s neighborhood light displays. When in doubt, book your vacation rental to coincide with the annual 100 Miles of Christmas celebration featuring decorations and festivities within the local communities along the Great River Road.

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4. Stillwater

frozen st croix river
Source: Flickr/Bala Sivakumar

During the holiday season, gondolas and paddle boats give way to horse-drawn wagonette rides and breathtaking ice castles in the historic birthplace of Minnesota. Stillwater creates the picturesque old-fashioned family Christmas complete with Santa visits on caroling on Main Street as well as a lighting of the community Christmas Tree at Lowell Park. During the annual Twinkle Party, families can watch a winter fireworks display while enjoying hot cocoa and Christmas cookies. For even more fun, bring your own skates from your vacation rental to ice-skate at Lowell Park. Stillwater also features a charming downtown area with more than 50 boutiques for your last-minute holiday shopping.

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5. Little Falls

Source: Pixabay/holiho

This small town in central Minnesota knows how to do Christmas right, so rent a cozy vacation home here to take part in Christmas in Little Falls, an annual festival cherished by locals. Past events have included a Red Nose Reindeer 5K Fun Run, carriage tours through Little Falls’ historic downtown district, handcraft holiday fairs, and an indoor farmers market. Other free, family-friendly events include visits with Santa, caroling, and Christmas cookie decorating. Join thousands of locals and vacationers on this tiny town on the Erie Canal for a holiday vacation to remember.

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6. Park Rapids

wind farm sunset at buffalo ridge
Source: Flickr/Nic McPhee

If you’re looking forward to an old-fashioned white Christmas, there are a handful of Minnesota cities that increase your chances of waking up to blankets of snow outside your vacation rental. The historical likelihood of seeing at least 1 inch of snowfall in Park Rapids is 100 percent, according to data gathered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. A giant Christmas tree lights up Main Street every year, and the annual Sweets, Treats, and Treasures offers holiday entertainment for the whole family, including a visit from Santa. When you’re not enjoying the holiday festivities, be sure to spend time snowmobiling on the groomed Heartland State Trail.

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7. Rochester

Source: Pixabay/StockSnap

This chic town in southeastern Minnesota may be best known as the home of the Mayo Clinic, but the city also hosts a slew of holiday events and traditions, including a Santa meet-and-greet during Here Comes Santa Claus. Check out the lights displays at Zolman Zoo’s ZooDazzle, or see more than 200 nativity scenes during the Wonder of the Nativity event. If you want to see the best neighborhood Christmas light displays, hop on the Holiday Lights Trolley for a two-hour tour. Still not convinced? Rochester is also one of the best places to find affordable vacation rentals during the holidays as many of the city’s live-work residents leave their stations at Mayo Clinic to visit their families.

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