Minnesota makes the most of its lake-studded landscape and vibrant athletic scene. Accordingly, it’s no surprise that the state overflows with turkey-themed races on Thanksgiving morning. Whether your ideal holiday involves basking in the quiet beauty of the northern lake country, or strolling through the busy city streets of Minneapolis, it’s a breeze to find fun Thanksgiving Day activities for the whole family. Stay close to all the holiday action by booking a Minnesota vacation rental in these cities.
Join one of the biggest Thanksgiving races in Minnesota at the Lifetime Turkey Day 5K in downtown Minneapolis. Enjoy fantastic views of the city skyline and the Mississippi River as you run, and stay after for turkey bowling, hot cocoa, prizes, and a free photo booth. The day after Thanksgiving marks the grand opening of Holidazzle, one of Minneapolis’ favorite events. Watch fireworks, play games in the Kids’ Zone, and enjoy free outdoor ice skating in Loring Park. For the liveliest Black Friday shopping experience, head to the Mall of America, which also features the Holiday Music Festival.
2. St. Paul
If your family is hoping for an active Thanksgiving, St. Paul is one of Minnesota’s best vacation destinations. On Thanksgiving morning, start your day off with the popular St. Paul Turkey Trot 5K or 10K, which are chip-timed and known for their excellent crowd support. For a more challenging course, head to the Turkey Trail Trot at Battle Creek Park, where you can reward yourself with a glass of hot cider after completing the hilly 5K or 10K routes. After dinner, local families burn off the calories at Wells Fargo WinterSkate, a free outdoor rink in front of the beautiful Landmark Center at Rice Park. On the weekend, the St. Paul mayor flips the switch at the Annual Tree Lighting Event in South St. Paul; the event also includes Santa Claus, elves, and a carol singalong.
Thanksgiving in Duluth is packed with family-friendly activities, many with a beautiful view of Lake Superior. Bundle up for the Gobble Gallop 5K, which brings more than 2,000 runners to downtown. The popular Christmas City Express train comes to Duluth on Thanksgiving weekend. As you ride from the Fitger’s complex to the Duluth Depot, listen to a holiday story, sing along with Christmas carolers, and keep an eye out for Santa. Then, head to the Bentleyville Tour of Lights, a walk-through display of 4 million twinkling lights. Free hot cocoa and snacks are available, and on opening night, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrive by parachute.
4. Taylors Falls
Perched on the rocky cliffs over the St. Croix River, Taylors Falls offers photo-worthy Thanksgiving vacation rentals. Burn off a few calories before the big meal at the Dash and Dine Thanksgiving 5K in nearby Chisago City, which also features a 5-mile option and a Kids’ Run. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Taylors Falls hosts the annual Lighting Festival. Pop by the bonfire to warm up before the Friday-night parade, try Swedish treats at the Wassail Party Craft Fair, watch the St. Croix Valley Orchestra’s winter concert, and more.
Experience one of Minnesota’s most unusual and beloved Thanksgiving traditions in Aitkin, a small town in the remote northern section of the state. The day after Thanksgiving, the city hosts the annual Fish House Parade, where members of the community dress up their ice-fishing houses and drive them through town. Santa Claus makes an appearance, along with Minnesota celebrities. The day also features the Fish House 5K race, live entertainment, and fantastic Black Friday sales at local stores.
Thanksgiving begins with a bang in Hastings, thanks to the annual Gobble Gait. Join more than 2,000 runners and walkers on a stunning course that winds through Lake Rebecca Park and offers views of the Mississippi River. After your run, stop by the 2nd Street Depot Bar and Grill, for a Gobble Gait deal on Bloody Marys and hot drinks. On Thanksgiving weekend, the Annual Hastings Holiday Hoopla comes to town, bringing reindeer sleigh rides, ice carving, caroling, and of course, photos with Santa. On Saturday evening, bundle up for the Lighted Parade as it makes its way down 2nd Street.
Prepare for a turkey dinner at the Rochester Turkey Trot, which passes through the beautiful Soldier’s Memorial Field Park. If you’re traveling with little ones, plan for the Kids Dash, which offers prizes for all participants; afterward, indulge in the hot cinnamon rolls waiting at the finish line. For people who don’t want to cook, check out the Pescara Thanksgiving brunch buffet. The weekend after Thanksgiving, Rochester locals head to the Festival of Trees to stroll through a grove of dazzling Christmas trees. Other onsite events include kid-friendly holiday crafts, photos with Santa, and live music and dance performances.
Enjoy Thanksgiving in Minnesota farm country of Faribault, which sits less than an hour south of the Twin Cities. Start the day running for a good cause at the Annual IRIS Turkey Trot, which features five different events to suit everyone in the family. Burn off extra Thanksgiving calories with the 10K run, and enroll your littlest runners in the Tot Trot. Another fun local option is the Northfield Rotary Club’s Turkey Trot 5K Run, which takes place at the Carleton College Weitz Center in nearby Northfield.
9. Elk River
Kick off the holidays with a trail run at the Wild Turkey Wattle, a 5K race that benefits the Elk River Nordic Ski Team. Keep an eye out for the life-sized turkey mascot that patrols the course, and sign up your little ones for the 1K kids’ race. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Elk River locals come out for the Christmas Tree Lighting festivities in downtown Elk River.
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