By Amy C. Rea
We may be mild-mannered in general, but back in the 1880s, when a snippy New York journalist described St. Paul as “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation,” St. Paul residents weren’t about to let that go unchallenged. There was nothing for it but to create a celebration of winter, a defiant thumbing-of-the-nose at the idea that no one could handle the great outdoors.
St. Paul Winter Carnival
Jan. 26 – Feb. 6
Various Locations, Times and Prices
More than 125 years later that Carnival continues as a most beloved winter tradition. In 2012, festivities officially kick off on Jan. 26, but some earlier events will start on Jan. 3 and run through Feb. 5. Here are some highlights of what’s in store for you to enjoy. And if you enjoy the Carnival, consider purchasing one of the Winter Carnival buttons for $5, to help pay for winter’s biggest event.
Jan. 29-Feb. 6
Snow sculptures. These are intricate, often humorous and generally much larger than life. These will be on display at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds beginning Jan. 29. Bonus: driving through the Fairgrounds in winter is a fun, somewhat eerie experience.
5th Street and Washington
St. Paul, MN
Even more beautiful are the ice sculptures that will be on display at downtown St. Paul’s Rice Park, complete with an ice wall commemorating the sponsors (and the St. Paul Central Library as a backdrop). Sculptures will be on display throughout the Carnival; judging takes place for multi-block sculptures on 1/26, and individual carvings will be judged on 1/29. Visit the sculptures on Thursdays at noon during the Carnival to also enjoy live music. And don’t forget WinterSkate — free open skate (weather permitting) Thurs.-Sun., 1/26-2/5. Skate rental is $2.
White Bear BEAR’ly Open
White Bear Lake
Saturday, Jan. 21
Price: $30 for adults, $15 for students
Who says the weather has to be warm and the grass has to be green in order to enjoy a little golf? St. Paul suburb White Bear Lake hosts this newer Carnival event, with proceeds benefiting the local emergency food shelf.
Saturday, Jan. 28
$20 at the door ($17 with a St. Paul Winter Carnival button)
They’ve even recruited F. Scott Fitzgerald into their wicked ways.
Saturday, Jan. 28
Register in advance at www.active.com
What’s a little winter when there’s a 5K, 10K, or marathon to be run?
Lowertown to Rice Park
Saturday, Feb. 4
There are several parades throughout the Carnival—the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade on 1/26, the King Boreas Grande Day Parade on 1/28—but the major parade event of the Carnival is the annual Torchlight Parade.
This is one of the final events of the Winter Carnival, and it’s a huge parade. But it doesn’t end there; follow the festivities to Rice Park and witness King Boreas being overthrown on the steps of the St. Paul Public Library, then take in the fabulous fireworks from Raspberry Island. Time to warm up? Then head over to the (indoor) Vulcan Victory Dance at the Crown Plaza Hotel.
Saturday, Feb. 4
$20 at the door ($15 in advance)
Don’t forget the Medallion Hunt, crowning of the royalty, hockey tournaments, ice skating, cross-country skiing, Worst Tenor Contest, dinners, music, orchid shows—what are you waiting for? Siberia can only be envious.
Amy C. Rea lives with her family in the Twin Cities. She’s the author of Backroads & Byways of Minnesota and Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes: an Explorer’s Guide. She can also be found chatting about Minnesota travel topics at www.flyover-land.com.