Scattered across the Twin Cities, there are neighborhoods (maybe even yours) that boast noteworthy holiday light displays. But if you don’t want to go from street to street hunting for something to light up your night, head to Sam’s Christmas Village in Somerset, Wis., or Winter Lights at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. These over-the-top displays are guaranteed to add sparkle to your holidays.
John and Kelly Montpetit, owners of Float-Rite Park, knew they wanted to do something with their campground, which sat dormant during the winter.
“We thought, ‘We have a beautiful piece of property, let’s find some winter things to do,’ ” said Kelly.
They lit on the idea of a holiday light display, which they named after the Float-Rite restaurant, General Sam’s Bar & Grill.
You enter the display (which debuts this year) through a massive light tunnel — 500 feet long, 15 feet high and lit with 220,000 lights. The show continues for another half-mile, winding through a stand of more than 700 light-wrapped tree and 50 animated displays. One of the highlights of the display are larger-than-life-sized “ornaments” big enough to walk inside of — and take a selfie.
Depending on the night, you can tour by car or on foot, though I’d recommend walking.
There also are s’more cabins, for rent by the evening, that include supplies for the sweet, gooey treat, a private bonfire and a visit from St. Nick. Weekends feature a European-style Christmas market. And if you didn’t have a chance to feed the kids? No problem, there are concessions as well as a chance to grab a bite at the bar and grill.
But this isn’t just about spectacle. Marketing and event coordinator Kate Shelley said the entire community is involved. Area school choirs have been booked to sing carols, the Somerset High School robotics team contributed a display and local Boy Scouts light the fires for s’more cabins and sell wreaths on site. Visitors are encouraged to donate to Toys for Tots or bring nonperishable food donations in exchange for discounted admission.
The event has walking and drive-through options. Drive-through is from 5-9 p.m. Mon.-Tue. Walk-through is 5-9 p.m. Wed.-Thu., Sun. and 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Jan. 5, closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas. $5-$10, ages 3 and under free. $99 for s'more cabin rental. 710 Spring St., Somerset, Wis.
Not to be outdone, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum also has holiday lights, so many, in fact, that it’s lost count. The indoor and outdoor displays include a stunning, 24-foot-tall tree made of poinsettia plants inside the visitor center. There are also several oversized trees decorated to the nines with nature-based ornaments.
Outside, the display pays homage to Minnesota plants in 14 different botanical-themed vignettes. The half-mile walking tour includes light sculptures of azaleas, hydrangeas, roses and water lilies. There’s also a light show choreographed to music, an ice sculpture and several illuminated spots for selfies and family photos.
Select evenings throughout Winter Lights are special events such as milk and cookies with Santa, a gift market and a rollicking New Year’s Eve party. The Arboretum Cafe is also open for hot beverages and comfort food.
An indoor and outdoor walking display. 5-9 p.m. Fri.-Sun. through Jan. 5. Also open Dec. 23, Dec. 26-Jan. 2. $15, free for ages 15 and under. 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska.
5 more displays to check out
There are several other public light displays around the Twin Cities and beyond. (Local limousine and tour companies also offer light display tours.)
Canadian Pacific Holiday Train: This lighted attraction will roll through various Minnesota cities from Dec. 5 to 14. When the decorated train comes to a stop, performers offer concerts by the likes of Meghan Patrick, Tanika Charles and Kelly Prescott. Free, but food shelf donations are recommended.
CSE Winter Light Show: A 20-minute, 3-D show of more than 250,000 LED lights set to music written and recorded by students at the University of Minnesota. 5:30, 6 & 6:30 Dec. 14. Free. Civil Engineering Building Courtyard, University of Minnesota, Mpls.
Illumination: For this Winter Solstice celebration, the Science Museum of Minnesota is lit up with colored lights and interactive art. 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Dec. 28. $13.95-$19.95. 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul.
Kiwanis Holiday Lights: Walk or roll through this illuminated display in Mankato’s Sibley Park. 5-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. through Dec. 31. Free, but food and cash donations accepted for local nonprofits. 900 Mound Av., Mankato.
Rice Park: The scenic city park is home to a massive tree lit with thousands of twinkling lights. The park will be aglow nightly through the holiday season. 109 W. 4th St., St Paul.
Sam’s Christmas Village and Light Tour
The event has walking and drive-through options. Drive-through is from 5-9 p.m. Mon.-Tue. Walk-through is 5-9 p.m. Wed.-Thu., Sun. and 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Jan. 5, closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas. $5-$10, ages 3 and under free. $99 for s’more cabin rental. 710 Spring St., Somerset, Wis. samschristmasvillage.com.
Winter Lights at the Arb
An indoor and outdoor walking display. 5-9 p.m. Fri.-Sun. through Jan. 5. Also open Dec. 23, Dec. 26-Jan. 2. $15, free for ages 15 and under. 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska. arbwinter.umn.edu.