The holidays are drawing near, and there’s no better place than Minneapolis Northwest for spreading holiday joy and merriment. From essential holiday shopping, fun events, outdoor recreation, and holiday shows, here are the top five reasons we love Minneapolis Northwest during the holidays!

1. All the holiday lights

House decorated with Christmas lights and a lighted snowman

There's no better way to get in the holiday spirit than taking a moment to enjoy the beautiful light displays around town. Brooklyn Park is pleased to present its second Holiday Lights Tour throughout December. Pick up a tour map from the Community Activity Center starting Dec. 1, and go for a nighttime drive around town while playing your favorite holiday music. For a longer drive, check out holiday lights recommendations in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. 

2. All the shopping

Holiday display at the Mall of America featuring a life-sized nutcracker standing in front of a row of Christmas trees

Whether you’re shopping for your family and friends or looking for a personal treat for yourself, Minneapolis Northwest has you covered during the holiday season. The Arbor Lakes Shopping Area in Maple Grove is a combination of three distinct shopping centers: The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes, The Fountains at Arbor Lakes and Main Street at Arbor Lakes. Here you’ll find national retailers like Gap, White House | Black Market, and J. Jill alongside charming boutique shops such as Apricot Lane, Good Things and Pottery Barn. Wander through the newly renovated Central Plaza area featuring fire pits and hanging lights.

Combined, the Arbor Lakes shopping districts have the most retail space in Minnesota, second only to Mall of America, which is located just south of Minneapolis. Many different hotels are located within the Arbor Lakes area as well, making it easy to plan a weekend stay filled with fun shopping and dining. And just a short drive away is Albertville Premium Outlets, offering big discounts on designer brands from factory stores like Ann Taylor, Coach, The North Face, Michael Kors and more.

3. All the live shows

how the grinch stole christmas

Minneapolis is often called the Minnie-Apple when it comes to the variety of theatrical productions produced by local performing arts groups. Local favorite Yellow Tree Theatre gets audiences in the holiday spirit with Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!). Three actors portraying countless holiday tradition resulting in one unhinged comedy. Playing December 1-31, 2023, the month will never be the same!

Lyric Arts Main Street Stage in Anoka is another area venue with its own seasonal productions, including this year’s Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley From the pen of America’s most produced playwright comes this charming and cleverly imagined sequel to Pride and Prejudice. It is two years later, and the Bennet family gathers at Pemberley to celebrate Christmas together.  The show is an energetic, witty, and romantic holiday comedy about family, awkward love, and personal transformation that will delight and enchant Jane Austen aficionados and newcomers alike. Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis is nationally known for its entertaining holiday productions, and this year features How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In this holiday favorite filled with music and Seussian rhymes, the Grinch conceives a dastardly plot to destroy the Whos’ beloved holiday—until tiny Cindy Lou extends a hand. Will her combination of kindness and community change the course of Who-History, and the size and capacity of the cantankerous Grinch’s heart?

4. All the outdoor fun

A group of people each standing next to blue and red snow tubes at Elm Creek Park Reserve

In Minneapolis Northwest, you don’t have to stay cooped up inside when the holidays are approaching. Instead, get outside and explore the snowy Minnesota wonderland at legendary Elm Creek Park Reserve, popular for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snow-tubing and even skijoring during the winter. The park features a Winter Recreation Area with equipment rentals and concessions to keep you fueled. The park also features fun holiday celebrations each year. Look for special events like nature hikes with Santa, and mark your calendar for a New Year's Day Snowshoe and Bonfire.

Children skating at the Ice Skating Loop at Central Park in Maple Grove, MN

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget about the Ice Skating Loop at Central Park. A favorite for local and visiting families, the loop is one of the largest in the country (810 feet of trail to be exact). Stick around long enough and the little ones can watch as the Zamboni takes a few loops around the trail. Skating the loop is free, and skate rentals are available. 

​5. All the treats

The holidays bring out the best in delicious treats, like cozy cups of coffee and sugary confections. Enjoy piping hot seasonal drinks and fresh-baked cookies at Daily Dose Cafe and Espresso at itstions in Brooklyn Park location. Enjoy a spot of flavorful tea at The Mad Hatter Restaurant & Tea House in Anoka. This historic house-turned-restaurant offers a charming holiday tea service like no other. Start with hearty Chicken Wild Rice Hotdish and fluffy scones, followed by a course of savory finger sandwiches including Cucumber Mint and Smoked Salmon Mousse. 

Tea cup sitting next to a pinecone and red ribbon with out-of-focus holiday lights in the background

For artisan chocolates, head to Painted Turtle Chocolatier. The shop is a mini Willy Wonka factory producing chocolate snowmen, Santa and reindeer; chocolate-covered potato chips, marshmallows and graham crackers; a case full of truffles, and a large selection of gummies and candies. A real hit is the hostess tray of cookies – an extra convenient way to serve homemade holiday cookies without all the work. And the chocolate suckers make great stocking stuffers!