Tens of thousands of people will descend upon St. Paul for this winter's Crashed Ice event. Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

City Pages Winter Guide: The top 20 events of the season

The weather is finally turning colder, but Minnesotans aren’t going to be hibernating through the snowstorms and harrowing temperatures. Instead, they’ll be snowshoeing around the lakes, cheering on parades, hunting for Christmas trees, and drinking beer outdoors. Let our winter guide help you make the best of the darkest Minnesota months, which also have the potential to be the most fun ones.


Lowertown SantaCon IX
Lowertown St. Paul

The holidays are about togetherness, and that includes your drinking buddies. For the past nine years, Lowertown SantaCon has been bringing people together. Each year, revelers venture out into the cold night to spread joy and toast to good fortune. Attendees frequently include Krampus, a hooved beast who punishes bad kids while swilling Jäger; Santas of all sizes and genders; jolly — and frequently tipsy — elves; and even a few turduckens, dreidels, unicorns, and snowmen. While the route has yet to be announced, stops along the way typically include Black Dog, Golden’s, and Mears Park, and shenanigans can be followed live via Twitter at santacon55101. Location updates will be announced at 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Free. December 17 —Jessica Armbruster

2017 Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Various locations

Minnesotans might complain among ourselves of the endlessly frigid winter months, but the same arctic conditions often serve as a source of pride, as exemplified by the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. Though centered in Rice Park, the traditional site of the festival’s ice sculptures, the event has grown to encompass much of our capital city. At the State Fairgrounds, revelers can partake in the Beer Dabbler tasting featuring libations from over 120 brewers. For family-friendly activities, the Fairgrounds will also offer competitively judged snow sculptures, sledding hills, and a Polar Plunge into icy waters. Those seeking the thrill of competition can head to Como Park for 28 frozen holes of disc golf at the Gotta Go Gotta Throw Ice Bowl, or sprint through downtown with the Securian Winter Run. While other activities abound, including the technology innovations of the Autonomous Snowplow Competition and the ever adorable Saintly City Cat Show, nothing is as closely associated with the carnival as the three mainstay parades: Moon Glow Pedestrian, King Boreas Grand Day, and Vulcan Victory Torchlight. However one partakes, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival offers ample reasons to forgo the complaints and actually enjoy our prolonged months of ice and snow. For complete prices and event schedules, see the official website,, or call the hotline at 651-223-7400. January 26 through February 5, 2017 —Brad Richason


U.S. Pond Hockey Championship
Lake Nokomis

For this epic tournament, athletes take to the ice during some of the coldest days of the year in hopes of winning the Golden Shovel. On the way to the final battle, many teams will square off in divisions including co-ed, womens, 40-plus, and rink rat. The most competitive players can be found in open division, where it’s not uncommon to find a former pro or college athlete. While teams of eight duke it out, revelers can practice their moves on a public rink open to all ages, relax in the beer garden, and warm up in a heated tent serving eats and warm beverages. For complete game schedules, see the official U.S. Pond Hockey website, 5001 Lake Nokomis Pkwy. W., Minneapolis. January 26-29 —Jessica Armbruster

City of Lakes Loppet
Various locations

For many outdoor enthusiasts, winter, with all the snow it brings, is a special time to partake in seasonal activities. Enter the City of Lakes Loppet, a three-day festival that celebrates winter sports. There are a variety of races to partake in, including snowshoeing, speed skating, ski sprints, and skijoring (aka dog sledding). Or hop on a bike and check out the fat tire races. Events are offered for all ages and skill levels, so whether you’re a bit wobbly or a total speedster bad-ass, there’s a good fit for you or your little one. Less competitive happenings are slated as well. There’s the Luminary Loppet, a lovely nighttime walk/snowshoe/ski around Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles featuring glowing ice sculptures, fire dance, and live music in the beer garden. Snow sculpting tournaments are also fun to watch, or root for someone in the kubb tourney, which is a wintertime lawn game played in the snow. Events are free for spectators, with sign-up rates ranging from $10 to $130. For a complete schedule of events, times, and locations, visit February 3-5, 2017 —Jessica Armbruster

Crashed Ice 2017
Cathedral of Saint Paul

For the sixth consecutive year, downhill ice cross skating competition Crashed Ice is being held in St. Paul. It’s an increasingly popular event readily recognized by the visually intimidating track that peaks at the Cathedral of Saint Paul before swiftly descending 12 stories on a precarious surface of sheer ice molded into razor-sharp curves and precipitous jumps. The athletes, drawn from more than 20 countries, brave the 500-meter course four skaters to a heat, jostling for position even as they reach speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour. One of only four host cities in the 2016-17 Crashed Ice season, St. Paul also has the distinction of being home to the reigning World Champion, Cameron Naaz, who clenched last year’s title with a stunning run against top seeded Scott Croxall. With the two athletes set to square off, the series of heats are certain to be competitively raced. For the 100,000 anticipated spectators, however, such background could easily be forgotten as they marvel at the sight of daredevil athletes executing jaw-dropping maneuvers as they barrel down the track to icebound glory. Look for a complete schedule at later this season. Free. 239 Selby Ave., St. Paul. February 3-4, 2017 —Brad Richason



2016 British Arrows Awards
Walker Art Center

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the British Arrows Awards for video advertisements (formerly known as “TV commercials”). It also marks the 30th anniversary of the annual award-winner screenings at the Walker Art Center. To celebrate the occasion, this year’s screening opens with a few winning clips from years past, including the wincingly retrograde 1976 award-winner and the 2008 Cadbury’s gorilla spot that helped make “In the Air Tonight” the one Phil Collins song people actually want to hear. Then it’s on to this year’s winners, which are long on sentiment and short on scares. A mini-documentary about a pro rugby player who comes out to his teammates will move you, even if it doesn’t make you order a Guinness. In another eye-misting clip, a town comes together to save a cute kitty’s Christmas after a house fire, because that’s the Sainsbury’s spirit. Among all the feels, there are also plenty of laughs. Jeff Goldblum turns out to be the year’s unexpected VIP, with a series of amusing ads where he intervenes to stop family fights after someone forgets to shop at Currys. What’s Currys? Never mind, just enjoy the show. Showtimes vary, check online at to reserve a seat. $12. 1750 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-375-7600. December 2-30 —Jay Gabler

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters
Minneapolis Institute of Art

The films of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro are filled with beautiful horrors. Walls bleed red clay, monsters taunt hungry children with glistening grapes, and giant steel machines fight aliens in an electric city of the future. His movies range from cult classics to big-budget mega-hits, and include Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, and Pacific Rim. For “At Home with Monsters,” you’ll be able to take a peek into the darkness that inspires him. The show will include paintings, drawings, concept art, artifacts, and other filmmaking ephemera. 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis; 888-642-2787. March 5 through May 28, 2017 —Jessica Armbruster

Form + Content Gallery’s 10th Anniversary Exhibition
Form + Content Gallery

A decade ago, Robyn Stoller Awend and Camille J. Gage initiated a process that would become the member-owned, -curated, and –operated art gallery Form + Content. Since then, the organization has presented 85 exhibitions dealing, in large part, with critical social issues, including LGBTQ rights and identity politics, the housing crisis, Israeli/Palestinian conflicts, and the values and use of water. Perhaps no other Twin Cities gallery has so consistently and seamlessly merged socially engaged practice with artistic excellence. And the shows haven’t been limited to visual art. In 2011, the space was transformed into the Wee Cabaret, a performance venue. This celebratory exhibition will reunite the 30 artists who made the gallery a singular platform for artistic exploration and expression. There will be an opening reception Saturday, January 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. 210 N. Second St., #104, Minneapolis; 612-436-1151. January 26 through March 4, 2017 —Camille LeFevre

Ken Gonzales-Day: Shadowlands
MMAA Project Space

Race-motivated lynchings of the early 20th century meet modern-day uprisings against police violence when interdisciplinary artist Ken Gonzales-Day presents “Shadowlands” at the Minnesota Museum of American Art’s Project Space. Gonzales-Day combines visceral, often jarring images with critical thinking and research on race in America, both historically and how it plays out in current events. The exhibition will span Gonzales-Day’s career, featuring works from series such as “Erased Lynchings,” where he deleted lynching victims from historic photographs; “California’s Hang Tree,” a 10-year project in which he searched for trees used in hangings; and “Run Up,” in which he restaged a 1920 lynching of Charles Valento, a Mexican man, in California. The show looks at the ways racist violence played out earlier in our country, and how that violence plays out differently today. His work offers a fresh take on perceptions and power, and the collection is sure to be a thought-provoking and riveting experience. 141 E. Fourth St., St. Paul; 651-797-2571. January 19 through April 16, 2017 —Sheila Regan

The Soap Factory’s Volunteer Biennial 2016
The Soap Factory

A year ago, it wasn’t clear whether the Soap Factory was going to survive. With financial troubles and the loss of their longtime executive director, Ben Heywood, the southeast Minneapolis gallery went dark for a time while they regrouped. They seem to have pulled through, thank heavens, after a successful residency and a summer exhibition program that highlighted emerging artists. Now they’re back in action under the leadership of interim executive director Bill Mague and gallery director Kate Arford. This fall they hosted an exhibition organized by guest curator Jehra Patrick and the ever-popular Haunted Basement. This winter marks another return with the Soap Factory’s Volunteer Biennial, an event showcasing the artists who work behind the scenes to keep the Soap running. The gallery has always been indebted to their 200-plus volunteers and interns, and this year is no different. Now, as in past years, they have a chance to submit their work for this show, which gives them a “thank you” and highlights their wonderful talent. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, January 14, from 7 to 11 p.m. 514 Second St. SE, Minneapolis; 612-623–9176. January 14 through February 12, 2017 —Sheila Regan

Art Shanties Project
White Bear Lake

Although it takes place during some of the coldest weeks in Minnesota, the Art Shanties Project is a warm and fuzzy experience. Each year, artists set up shanties on a frozen lake, offering weekend fun for everyone. Step inside this year’s shanties and you’ll find plenty to see, do, experience, and learn, including dance parties, chef sessions, storytelling, and camaraderie. The event is kid- and adult-friendly, and encourages everything from quiet contemplation to rowdy interactions with new friends. Before the Shanties take to the ice this year, stop by Soo Visual Arts Center on January 7 for a one night-only photography show featuring images from last year. For more info, visit 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Free. 5050 Lake Ave. N., White Bear Lake; 612-567-6844. February 4-26 —Jessica Armbruster


24:00:00 Xtreme Theatre Smackdown
SteppingStone Theatre

Theatre Unbound’s annual overnight playmaking festival used to be called the 24-Hour Play Project. Now it has a more marketable name: 24:00:00 Xtreme Theatre Smackdown. Playwrights are given “ingredients,” voted on via the company’s website, that serve as the basis for scripts whipped up overnight. They work with directors (all female artists, like the writers, in keeping with the company’s mission) throughout the next day to stage the shows, and rehearsals continue until it’s almost showtime. The results are often surprisingly memorable. One 24-hour play about an encounter between a black girl and a white girl on a bus, written by Brenda Bell Brown and Toni Halleen, was subsequently restaged multiple times. “It’s a great opportunity for actors,” says executive director Anne Bertram, “and it’s a very satisfying piece to watch.” Solicitations for this year’s Smackdown prompts are still ongoing, but Bertram hints that “quite a lot” of people who have suggested ideas this year “use the phrase ‘a nasty woman.’” 8 p.m. 55 Victoria St. N., St. Paul; 612-721-1186. January 7, 2017 —Jay Gabler

Anna in the Tropics
Jungle Theater

“The best time to do the work of Nilo Cruz is in the winter in Minneapolis,” says director Larissa Kokernot. “It evokes such a totally different climate. It’s thick and it’s hot and it’s tropical and it’s humid, so you get to escape to this tropical environment for a sweeping romantic journey.” A local stage vet (Eye of the Storm Theatre, Ten Thousand Things) now based in L.A., Kokernot is returning to her home state to helm the Jungle Theater’s production of Anna in the Tropics, the Nilo Cruz play that won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Set in a Tampa cigar factory in the 1920s, the play centers on a group of Cuban-Americans whose lives begin to blur with the lives of the characters in Anna Karenina as they listen to the novel read aloud while they work. “I love his language,” says Kokernot about Cruz. “It’s rich and poetic and romantic in its themes, and he’s really rooted in history. The play is extremely evocative of this time and this place.” 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. $35-$45. 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-822-7063. February 11 through March 12, 2017 —Jay Gabler

Black Nativity
Penumbra Theatre

“The story is a simple one,” Lou Bellamy says about Black Nativity, “and I wanted it to be simple again.” Black Nativity has been a cherished Twin Cities holiday tradition for three decades, and it’s all the more so now that presenting company Penumbra Theatre is back from the brink of financial collapse. As he gradually hands leadership reins over to his daughter Sarah, founder Lou Bellamy remains active, directing this fall’s acclaimed Jitney and returning to narrate Black Nativity. While some past years have featured high-concept variations on the play (“We had gilded it so that it was almost collapsing under its own weight,” says Bellamy), this year’s show is retaining the straightforward concert staging that Langston Hughes initially used for his 1961 retelling of the Christmas story. “What it is now,” says Bellamy, “is stripped down to the way Langston first did it. It was done with a choir, two dancers, and a narrator. We’ve brought it back to that essence.” 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays. $15-$40. 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul; 651-224-3180. December 1-23 —Jay Gabler


Karen Sherman: Soft Goods
Walker Art Center

Karen Sherman’s new work, Soft Goods, wrestles with the beauty, brutality, and complicated social dynamics of the creative production world and its culture. Her 20-some years as a choreographer, dancer, and stagehand have given her considerable insight into both worlds: dancers who are constantly exposed to scrutiny and stage technicians who, hidden in the wings and isolated in booths, are meant to disappear. Sherman mines the tension between these professions, and the nuanced survival skills that dancers and technicians must cultivate in order to work together. She reveals the choreographic elegance of manual labor, and the vulnerability of dancers, who are often fetishized by audiences. A cast of 10 dancers and stage technicians, including Sherman herself as “The Choreographer,” illuminates the focus and dedication inherent in both professions. If Sherman’s previous work is any indication, there will be plenty of barbed humor and spectral beauty. 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. $22. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-375-7600. December 8-10 —Linda Shapiro

James Sewell Ballet: Nutcracker (not so) Suite
Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts

The James Sewell Ballet’s production of Myron Johnson’s revitalized Nutcracker (not so) Suite returns for a jolting seasonal punch of outré holiday cheer. Set in 1950s New York, this grittier version of the fairy tale is closer to E.T.A. Hoffman’s German original. The plot sends Little Marie from her fancy Upper East Side apartment to a Lower East Side stew of drugs and brothels. Luxuriant false-eyelash winks at traditional Nutcracker tropes include a holiday shindig with cocktails and party-hearty guests and a nasty Rat Queen as the madam of a bordello with her menacing squad of Beatniks. There’s plenty of Myronic Ballet of the Dolls wit here. Johnson himself camps it up as the funny uncle who gives Marie the gift of Barbie and Ken dolls that come to drolly animated life. Saucy characters abound, including Marie’s mom Flo in haute-couture drag, and James Sewell as a magician par excellence. In addition to virtuosic dancing, there’s a musical mash-up of hip-hop, R&B, contemporary tracks, and Christmas carols. Last year everyone onstage appeared to be having as good a time as the audience, which included both savvy kids and adults ready for a holiday suite with plenty of tart. A racier version gets its own five naughty Nutcracker performances while the children are nestled all snug in their beds. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. $25-$50. 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-206-3600. December 2-18 —Linda Shapiro


Stevie Nicks
Xcel Energy Center

It’s been two years since the fantastically scarf-draped witch released her most recent album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, a collection of tunes Nicks wrote between 1969 and 1995 but hadn’t yet gotten around to recording. An extended tour with her old band, Fleetwood Mac, kept Nicks from going on the road by herself until now. And after that extended delay she’s going to take some cues from the local hero who inspired (and played synthesizer) on her huge 1983 hit “Stand Back.” “We’re gonna go on for like two hours then we’re gonna go and do what Prince would, which is then go find a club and play the other 14 songs,” Nicks told Rolling Stone in September, adding, “I feel really sad that Prince’s journey didn’t continue until he was 95.” Let’s hope this 68-year-old legend’s journey will itself continue that long. Chrissie Hynde’s indispensable Pretenders crewed up for the first time since 2012 to serve as openers. 7 p.m. $49-$150. 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-726-8240. December 6 —Keith Harris

Puff Puff Pass Tour 2 feat. Snoop Dogg

Last time we saw Snoop Dogg ’round these parts, he roared into Soundset 2013 as his Rastafied Snoop Lion persona (mercifully, he played a medley of classic Snoop jams). Since then, the silky-flowing G-funk legend has added predictably wacky extracurriculars to his stacked rap résumé, including induction into the WWE Hall of Fame and a brand-new cooking show with Martha Stewart, VH1’s Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party. Musically, the 46-year-old born Cordozar Broadus Jr. has issued two post-Lion albums: the Pharrell-produced Bush in 2015 and July’s Beyoncé-inspired Coolaid, his 14th full-length. Snoop’s current Puff Puff Pass Tour 2 is the smoky successor to his 2001 jaunt that later spawned a concert film. This time around, he’ll be joined by ’90s hip-hop hitmakers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (“Tha Crossroads”) and Warren G (“Regulate”), plus former Death Row Records affiliates Tha Dogg Pound and DJ Quik. Expect the Doggfather to tout the merits of THC (he invests in a weed company) and possibly diss President-elect Donald Trump, whom he’s described as a “punk-ass.” 6 p.m. $64.50-$200. 3090 Southlawn Dr., Maplewood; 651-779-6984. December 23 —Jay Boller

First Avenue

The angst-fueled ’00s indie-rock scene dissolved just when the world needed it most. And now Japandroids, freshly returned from a nearly five-year hiatus, are back to once again lead us all in yelling like hell to the heavens. The Vancouver garage-rock duo are set to release their third LP, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, in January. The album’s raucous lead single/title track taps into our collective anxiety, providing a cathartic escape from pervading senses of dread and hopelessness (sound necessary, America?). The band is set to hit First Avenue for the very first time in support of Wild Heart; during combustible past visits, they laid waste to smaller Twin Cities venues Turf Club, 7th St. Entry, and Triple Rock. Japandroids’ untamed anthems should resonate with disaffected music fans who are ready to burn the whole thing down — the timing’s perfect. Craig Finn opens with his band the Uptown Controllers, whose name was inspired by a Craigslist prank from local comic Justin Colucci. 8 p.m. $20. 701 First Ave. N.; 612-338-8388. February 14 —Erik Thompson

Hippo Campus
First Avenue

Hippo Campus are already the biggest Twin Cities rock exports since Howler, and they appear poised to make even more noise. The fresh-faced quartet stirred national buzz fresh outta the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists in 2013. Since then, they’ve rocked Conan, gigged around the U.K., and performed at Rock the Garden — with just two EPs to their name, no less. And now the hyper-polished, Vampire Weekend-channeling group are finally ready to drop their debut full-length, Landmark, due out next February on New York City-based indie Grand Jury Music (Twin Peaks, Esmé Patterson). Lead single “Boyish,” released in October, sees the Hippos skillfully tiptoeing the line between Pitchfork credibility and Cities 97 accessibility. Produced by BJ Burton (Low, Bon Iver) and recorded in El Paso, Texas, the new LP should balloon the young band’s Spotify plays, which already number in the millions. This two-night homecoming party lands in the middle of a 33-date tour of Europe and the U.S. 6 p.m. $22-$25. 701 First Ave. N.; 612-338-8388. March 11-12 —Jay Boller