Minneapolis Christmas Market & Village:
UPDATE: In 2015 there the traditional holiday market will be converted into a free holiday village
Village Location: Free
2015 Dates: The last weekend of November through the Sunday before Christmas.
Village Hours: Thursday-Friday 5-9pm & Saturday-Sunday 11am-9am.
For decades the City of Minneapolis sponsored the very popular Holidazzle Parade of the holiday season, before replacing it with a Christmas village in 2014. The village is modeled after successful European holiday markets and was a huge success its first year despite some crowding at times. In 2015, the concept changed again and it will be more of a village and Winter wonderland in Loring Park.
Our Experience At The 2014 Christmas Market:
Although it is 5000 miles from Germany, the Minneapolis Holiday Market brings the wonderful experience of an authentic European Christmas Market right to the Midwest. Music seems to spill out everywhere around the Market from traditional choirs to Polka songs and even German Oompah bands playing Oktoberfest hits. Don’t be surprised if you see costumed characters like the Narren of New Ulm joining in on the fun. The nights with scheduled themes and live music are extra festive.
Adding to the authenticity of the market are the dozens of vendors from all over Europe and Minnesota who come to sell their crafts and Christmas wares. The most well known vendor at the Minneapolis Holiday Market is Käthe Wohlfahrt from Rothenberg Germany. They are World famous for the quality of their Christmas ornaments and decorations. We visited the Käthe Wohlfahrt headquarters in Rothenberg just one month before our 1st visit to the Minneapolis Holiday Market and high level of quality products definitely carries over.
Make sure to try some of the market’s traditional German food from cheese and sausage to strudel and potato pancakes called Kartoffelpuffer. Hot cider and Bavarian beer are staple drinks at the market, but you can also sample warm Glühwein (pronounced Glue-Vine) which is a famous mulled wine served added spices. Our favorite drink is warm mulled wine made with a rum laced sugar loaf Flambé called Feuerzangenbowle.
After dark the lights, Moravian Stars and music turn the Minneapolis holiday market into a magical place. Make sure to stop by the Moravian Star booth and ask about their history. It is a very interesting story about how the stars were used to teach children geometry.
First Year Visitor Complaints:
During the first year of the market there were a couple common complaints from visitors, but overall feedback was positive. The main issue was with space and how the market was crowded at times. This was a valid complaint as the influx of visitors was higher than expected for the space at times although we didn’t find it to be an issue. It is very common in Europe for the markets to be quite cozy during peak hours.
The second issue we heard from people was about cost which we just couldn’t understand. It was only $6 to come as many times as you like for the entire season which isn’t a bad deal. In Europe many of the markets are free, however, for a metro the size of Minneapolis there would be 5-6 markets spread through out to even out the crowds. As an example, Vienna Austria which has a metro about the size of the Twin Cities has 20 holiday markets for the same population. Charging a fee helps to make sure it isn’t even more crowded as it weeds some visitors out including homeless people and rift raff. As far as the costs of the goods, remember that this isn’t a flea market. Many of the vendors have come from all around Europe so you are going to be paying European prices. Either way we found the value of the souvenirs to still be good and a lot better than having to fly all the way to Europe for the same experience. Overall we felt that the Minneapolis Christmas Market held a lot of value as a visitor by bringing Europe to the Twin Cities for a mere $6 instead of a $1600 plane ticket.
The Holidazzle Village:
Replacing the Holidazzle Parade in 2014 the new Village is along Nicollet Mall. Daily the Village has numerous free activities from from live reindeer and dog sledding to outdoor Christmas plays. We have seen great performances of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Nutcracker Ballet at the Village. On our first trip we even got to watch demonstrations from local vendors who were making hand blown glass ornaments from start to finish. While the parade was a joyous spectacle engrained into the culture of Minneapolis, the Village has a lot of promise to grow into turn into a amazing event as it grows.