| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed


Winter Carnival 2016: Where to Go, What to Do Via Metro Transit

The St. Paul Winter Carnival is a nearly two-week spectacle viewed by coastal transplants (okay, pretty much all non-locals) with curiosity and grudging admiration. The carnival is a celebration of all things cold, snowy and fun: bundled-up parades, dazzling ice sculptures, treasure hunts, disc golf and even an autonomous vehicle (snowplows, obviously) competition.
This year’s carnival looks like it won’t be waylaid by crippling blizzards or brutal cold. But, as always, the event is likely to create more than its fair share of traffic headaches. Whether you’re committed to the car-free lifestyle or simply don’t want to deal with parking, Metro Transit is kind enough to offer free transit passes on both Saturdays: January 30 and February 6, noon to 10 p.m. Here’s a look at how and when to get to the carnival’s signature events, plus a few tips on what to see and do along the way.

Rice Park / Downtown St. Paul

Transit: METRO Green Line, Central Station; Bus routes 3, 16, 21, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 70, 75,
Autonomous Snowplow Competition
Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31
Fair warning, slow-plow drivers: your days are numbered. At least, they will be if the teams competing at this year’s Autonomous Snowplow Competition (ASC) make a decent showing. In the ASC, robotic, GPS- and/or laser-guided snowplows push snow and ice around the sidewalks of downtown St. Paul. About a dozen teams from various cold-climate universities, including the U of M, are in the mix. The winner gets a prize and a shot at world domination.
Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade
Thursday, January 28, 6 p.m.
Though it comes a few days after the unofficial start of the festivities, the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade is the Winter Carnival’s traditional kick-off. The route starts in the lobby of the Securian Building (come early for hot chocolate, say the organizers) and ends at Rice Park, where attendees are invited to melt into the night or stick around for further fun.
King Boreas Grand Day Parade
Saturday, January 30, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
A new king has been crowned! (Sort of.) Join local business leaders and private citizens for the ceremonial crowning of King Boreas, the Winter Carnival’s ceremonial mascot. The parade starts at Smith Avenue and West Seventh Street, then heads through Seven Corners to Rice Park.
Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade
Saturday, February 6, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
The Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade is the counterpoint to the King Boreas Grand Day Parade, mainly because it ends with the ritual overthrow of King Boreas. The parade starts near CHS Field and winds up at Rice Park, where the overthrow is dramatized. The skyways are open for the duration; arrive early for prime viewing spots. Bonus: a live fireworks display following the parade!
Ice Carving Displays & Mini Ice Palace
Ice carving and ice palaces are venerable Winter Carnival traditions that stretch back to the late-19th century. Back then, Montreal was the undisputed hub of the North American ice-carving universe and St. Paul eked out a meager living in its shadow.  The tables turned in 1885, when a devastating smallpox outbreak (!) scrambled Montreal’s winter schedule and sent ice art lovers looking for a new scene. St. Paul gladly obliged with its first recorded ice palace.
About three dozen ice palaces have come and gone at subsequent Winter Carnivals. The 2016 edition, in Rice Park, is a pint-sized “mini ice palace” that’ll complement a host of smaller ice carving displays — definitely worth a visit, as long as you’re not expecting a frozen version of the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Pabst Winter Carnival Music Series
Various days, January 28 through February 6
You don’t have to like Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to appreciate the 10 or so performing artists who’ll be passing through Rice Park between January 28 and February 6. Check the concert lineup for your favorite performers and dress warm!
What to Do Nearby
  • Tin Whiskers: Still among St. Paul’s hottest breweries some two years after its opening, Tin Whiskers is hands-down the best place for funky, experimental craft brews in downtown St. Paul. Grab a hot slice from nearby Black Sheep Pizza and spread out behind the brewery’s (well-insulated) floor-to-ceiling windows.
  • Bedlam Lowertown: If you can’t catch one of the Winter Carnival Music Series shows, never fear: Bedlam Lowertown has your live music (and dance and theatre) fix. Check the ever-changing event lineup, pick your favorit and grab a seat in this cozy, one-of-a-kind venue.
  • Science Museum of Minnesota: St. Paul has a world class science museum for kids, adult kids and kids of a certain age. Best part: It’s within walking distance of the Winter Carnival’s beating heart. Once you’ve had your fill of ice carvings and outdoor music, warm up amid SMM’s interactive exhibits.
  • Minnesota History Center: St. Paul also has a world-class history museum, albeit with a decidedly local bent. Minnesota History Center is just a short bus ride (or long walk) up the hill from Winter Carnival Center. 


State Fairgrounds

Transit: METRO Green Line, Midway Station; Bus routes 3, 61, 84 / A Line

Snow Park at the Fair
Friday, January 29 to Saturday, February 6
Snow Park at the Fair is a collection of kid- and parent-friendly snow- and ice-themed events and exhibits, all organized by St. Paul Vulcans. Highlights include snow block and wall building demonstrations, a snow sculpting contest that comes with a $1,000 grand prize and a spot at the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition, a giant snow slide, snow sculpture displays and much more.
Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival
Saturday, February 6, 3:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
The Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival is one of Minnesota’s biggest craft beer festivals—period—and its ability to draw out thousands of attendees in the dead of winter is downright impressive. But with 120+ breweries from MSP and beyond, the experience is well worth the price of admission (and risk of frostbite). Your free transit pass is sure to come in handy for this one.
What to Do Nearby
  • Gabbert Raptor Center: Hey, even predatory birds can be kind of cute. There are plenty of them at the U of M’s Gabbert Raptor Center, just west of the fairgrounds. Stop by for a twice-hourly tour or visit on weekends for special programming.
  • Goldstein Museum of Design: This cozy collection of galleries is a must-visit for aesthetes of all ages. It’s located a few blocks north of the Gabbert Raptor Center, near the northern bound of the U’s St. Paul campus.

Como Park

Transit: METRO Green Line, Lexington Station; Bus routes 3, 83
Disc Golf Ice Bowl
Saturday, January 30 & Sunday, January 31, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The 20th Annual Gotta Go Throw Disc Golf Ice Bowl benefits Second Harvest Heartland, a leading MSP food charity. The course winds through beautiful Como Park, thrilling disc golfers of all ages and skill levels. Canned and non-perishable food donations welcome.
What to Do Nearby
  • Como Park Zoo & Conservatory: It’s always hot and humid in the Palm Dome, and the indoor animal enclosures aren’t too bad either. Bring the kids!
  • Como Dockside: Como Dockside opened last year to great fanfare. So far, it’s living up to expectations. Stop by for a warm adult beverage, small plate or full dinner and enjoy a frozen lake view in style.
  • Traditional Golf at Como Park Golf Course: Just kidding. It’s winter. And we hear there’s disc golf nearby.

Multiple Locations

Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt
When: Ongoing (ends February 4 at the latest)
We submit that treasure hunters who complete the Pioneer Press’ annual treasure hunt using only Metro Transit routes should qualify for a bonus on top of the $10,000 grand prize. (Not that 10 grand is anything to sneeze at.)
Every day until February 4, the Pioneer Press (and TwinCities.com) will publish one clue hinting at the whereabouts of the hunt’s prize, a medallion hidden somewhere on public land in Ramsey County. Strap on your thinking cap and get hunting—there’s not a moment to lose!
Brian Martucci is The Line’s Innovation and Jobs News Editor.



Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts