Things to do near the St. Paul Winter Carnival
The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is the oldest winter festival in the United States. This year's festival takes place from January 26 to February 5, 2023.
What is it?
The first Winter Carnival was staged in 1886, after a few cranky East Coast newspaper writers described St. Paul as “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.” Well, even back then, nothing got Minnesotans more riled up than exaggerated insults fired off from some snooty no-goodnick on the coast. In an act of classic Minnesota-caliber retribution, the St. Paul Winter Carnival was born.
The Carnival now attracts over 250,000 visitors a year, with events such as the Tourchlight Parade, Autonomous Snowplow Competition (robots!), Outdoor Beer Dabbler Festival, Dogsled Race, Kids’ Day, Snow Sculpting, Ice Sculpture Carving and all other manner of cold weather-embracing merriment. Running from late January to early February each year, events are mostly staged around Rice Park in downtown St. Paul and the Minnesota State Fair Grounds. Many activities are free or low-cost. Check the St. Paul Winter Carnival official site for annual information and dates.
After you’ve reached Wholesome Good Time capacity, here are a few other diversions in the area.
Where to Eat Nearby
Downtown St. Paul has enjoyed a burst of great restaurants in recent years. If your evening plans include a memorable meal, you have several options.
- St. Paul Grill: This swanky spot is located inside the St. Paul Hotel and is the downtown stop for special occasion steaks, chops and seafood.
- Sakura Restaurant & Bar: Bringing authentic Japanese food and sushi to St. Paul for over 30 years, Sakura also has sashimi, bento boxes, tempura, teriyaki, sukiyaki and, of course, yaki. All the yakis.
- Ruam Mit: Nestled in downtown St. Paul, Raum Mit is the place to enjoy some of the most delicious Thai and Lao food.
- Meritage: An upscale French bistro, serving modern preparations of dishes like steak frites, cassoulet, and moules frites (mussels).
- Saint Dinette: A place to find flavors from all over, including tartare, poutine, bologna and one of the most talked about burgers in town.
- Patrick McGovern’s Pub: A great place for a casual drink and pub food.
- The Amsterdam Bar & Hall has Belgian beer, Dutch sandwiches, cocktails, lots of events and a weekend brunch.
- Rico's Ice Cream Parlor: If you're looking for a sweet after-meal treat or delicious breakfast, try Rico's. You'll find tacos, breakfast sandwiches, ice cream, and more.
Things to Do Nearby
- Minnesota Children’s Museum: The Scramble, a four-story adventure course with towers, netted catwalk and corkscrew slide; a newly enlarged face-painting station; and Imaginopolis, an imaginative play space to discover out-of-scale animals, plants, and insects. There are also air-powered ball launchers, a decommissioned St Paul fire truck, a laser maze and a “wacky” car wash where kids “might get wet.”
- Science Museum of Minnesota has been blowing kids’ minds (and some parents) since 1907, with interactive exhibits on physical science, mathematics, dinosaurs, sports and live demonstrations of physics, technology, the ways humans use water and many other topics. The museum’s incredible Omni Theater has a dual-screen IMAX/Omnimax retractable dome screen which descends for a dazzlingly immersive viewing experience.
- State Capitol: This building is worthy of a good, long study. A fairly recent renovation included completely restored artwork, the uncovering of long-hidden artwork and vaulted ceilings, an increase in public space, improved accessibility features and an information center.
- James J. Hill House: “Minnesota’s Downton Abbey,” is a 36,000-square-foot Guilded Age, stone mansion, built by the railroad magnate in 1891. It was for a time the largest home in St Paul with 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, 16 chandeliers and a reception hall nearly 100 feet long. Now a historic landmark, it’s possible to tour the house (roughly 75 minutes) and learn about the house’s chandeliers, stained glass, hand-carved woodwork and the original systems that provided heat, light, water, ventilation, and security, not to mention the life of Hill himself.
- Cathedral of St. Paul: Opened in 1915 on Cathedral Hill, the Cathedral overlooks downtown St Paul. The granite church is the third largest (completed) church in the U.S., with a seating capacity of 3,000, one of the tallest churches and has a distinctive copper dome. The cathedral is open seven days a week, with guided tours available Tuesday through Friday at 1:00 p.m.
- The Landmark Center is a cultural center for music, dance, theater, exhibits, museums and more. There’s a St. Paul Visitor Information Center inside which provides maps and tips for seeing the city. The center offers history tours of the building.
More Fun Options
Heading west is, Colossal Café is a quaint, friendly place offering hot breakfasts, sandwiches and pastries. Just a block away, Finnish Bistro Coffee & Café has self-serve breakfasts, soups, sandwiches, salads, flatbread pizzas, cakes, treats and a bunch of glutton-free options. Mim’s Café’s counter service offers Mediterranean and American sandwiches, small plates, platters, kebabs, falafel, burgers and more. To the south, on Como Ave, is Nelson Cheese & Deli, which has hot and cold specialty sandwiches, pasta, box lunches, and a few healthy options. Go north to find, Stout’s Pub & Grill, which has all manner of bar food, pizza, burgers, slider, wraps and a large selection of beer. A block away is New Fresh Wok, serving sushi and a marathon menu of Japanese and Chinese dishes. Mac’s Fish, Chips, Strips has baskets and platters of walleye, halibut, cod, shrimp, clams and chicken. Finally, the Insight Brewing taproom pours several year-round and seasonal brews, with regular events and free brewery tours.
The area around the Fair Grounds is a bit of an activities desert, because, well, the Fair Grounds are right there, with one huge exception. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory has animals like giraffe, bison, tortoise, gorilla, ostrich, polar bear and penguins. There are also indoor and outdoor gardens, an amusement park and the usual city park family activities and facilities.