With so many people in the stores, shopping for Christmas presents and dealing with holiday crowds can be one of the most frustrating parts of the holiday season. In order to beat the holiday crowds, consider taking off to one of the following destinations for an afternoon or for a weekend. Regardless of how long your escape lasts, you’re sure to return feeling energized and enthusiastic about the winter season.

Indoor Water Parks

(credit: VenetianWaterPark.com)

Venetian Indoor Water Park
Holiday Inn & Suites
11801 Fountains Way N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369
(763) 425-3800

The Great Serengeti
Holiday Inn Owatonna
2365 43rd St. N.W.
Owatonna, MN 55060
(507) 446-8900

Because winters can be so long in Minnesota, indoor water parks have been a favorite of the locals for years. In fact, for many families, meeting at a hotel or water park during the holiday season is a treasured tradition. To escape the holiday crowds, choose a water park a bit outside of the Twin Cities. The Great Serengeti in Owatonna and Venetian Indoor Water Park in Maple Grove are great choices. The Great Serengeti, located about an hour south of the Twin Cities, features several slides, a lazy river and a zero-depth activity pool. Located about 30 minutes from the Twin Cities, the Venetian Indoor Water Park also has a pool area for children and features slides four stories high.

Dogsledding Trips
Suomi Hills Kennel
37515 Orange Lake Road
Deer River, MN 56636
(218) 244-1265

Located about three hours north of the Twin Cities, Suomi Hills Kennel provides the adventurous Minnesotan with a unique and incredible experience. The kennel has several options for guided tours with prices ranging from $125 to $500 for large groups. Those who participate in the tour have the opportunity to drive their own sled. Bring warm clothes and an aptitude for excitement.

Related: Getaway Guide: One Tank Trip to Red Wing

(credit: Jupiter Images)

1265 N. Snelling Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108

Looking to stay close to the Twin Cities this year? Located on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, Christmasota features a drive-through Christmas display and the state’s largest train set. In addition, on Fridays and Saturdays only, the Christmas Village is open to those who wish to visit Santa Claus and the North Pole while listening to Christmas carols. The display opened in November of 2012 and remains open until Dec. 23.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

Bayfront Festival Park
700 Railroad St.
Duluth, MN 55802
(218) 740-3535

For a trip a bit farther from the Twin Cities, check out the Bentleyville Tour of Lights. The activities, which include visiting with Santa Claus and a walk-through Christmas display, are free for the entire family. Stop for a while near the fire, grab a few cookies at the cookie house and simply enjoy the beautiful lights. There are more than one million of them! With a Christmas display covering more than four acres, the Bentleyville Tour of Lights in downtown Duluth is about 2.5 hours north of the Twin Cities. The display is open each evening until Dec. 26.

snowshoe, snowshoing, snow, winter, generic

(credit: Jupiter Images)

St. Croix State Park
30065 St. Croix Park Road
Hinckley, MN 55037
(320) 384-6591

With more than 34,000 acres of land, the St. Croix State Park in eastern Minnesota is the perfect place for a snowshoeing expedition. Take the afternoon off to trek through the wilderness. Be sure to bring warm clothes. Snowshoe rentals are $6 per day in Minnesota State Parks. For more information about snowshoeing events and workshops, visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.

Related: Weekend Trip to Rochester, MN

Kristyn Gansen is a freelance writer covering all things Minneapolis. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.