Winter Guide 2019: The best events in outdoors, arts, sports, dance, and theater

Photo by Emily Utne. Model is Hongman Li. Makeup by Denaisha Motley. Hair by Brittany Mari. Styling by Sophia Rasmea and Emily Utne. Dress under fabric is from June.

Photo by Emily Utne. Model is Hongman Li. Makeup by Denaisha Motley. Hair by Brittany Mari. Styling by Sophia Rasmea and Emily Utne. Dress under fabric is from June.

Don't let the urge to hibernate get to you this season.

Fight cabin fever before it starts by getting out of the house and enjoying all the great things that happen in the dead of winter. We're here to guide you on your journey, whether you're looking for an afternoon at a museum, some snow-fueled cardio, or a trip through a giant ice castle.

The Ice Castles are building their structure at Long Lake Regional Park this year.

The Ice Castles are building their structure at Long Lake Regional Park this year. Star Tribune Anthony Souffle


Winter Lights at the Arboretum
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Just in time for the holidays, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum transforms into a bonanza of lights, decorations, and yuletide cheer. Bundle up and shove a bunch of those hand-warmer things into your boots, then stroll through the 13 amazing light installations. There’s plenty of new, botanically themed displays each year, so even if you go every winter it’s still a fresh sensory experience. Oh, and there is a giant metal snake at the Arb, and that’s super badass no matter what time of year it is. Be sure to hop up on the ice throne and snap some pics for the ’gram, then pick up a s’mores kit and get your roast on at one of the bonfire spots located throughout the grounds. If you’re not in the mood to freeze but still want to be a part of the festivities, there is a bananas 25-foot-tall live poinsettia tree inside the Great Hall, decorated with cool botany-inspired ornaments. There’s a cash bar, too, because the only thing better than staring at Christmas lights is staring at Christmas lights with a smooth hot chocolate and whiskey buzz. 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. $15; kids 15 and under are free. 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska; 612-624-2200. November 22-January 5 —Patrick Strait

The Holiday Pageant
Open Eye Figure Theatre

“It was just this little weird thing that we did,” says director Michael Sommers about the origins of what became Open Eye Figure Theatre’s Holiday Pageant. “We made it in the living room. We had a young show, and then an adult show, and there was mulled wine. We did a couple of nights, and then the next year 100 people showed up in the living room.” That was in the 1980s, but the wildly creative production draws on an even older tradition: the medieval practice of telling sacred stories with secular panache, mixing bawdy humor and genuine wonder. From the pageant’s DIY beginnings, it grew to a fully staged spectacular at the Pantages Theatre before scaling back down to Open Eye’s current storefront space. Now the company is bringing the pageant back after a half-decade hiatus. “My children are actually performing in it,” says Sommers, “which kind of brings it back to where it came from.” Incorporating live actors, live music, and the company’s world-renowned puppetry, the pageant’s return will be cheered by the multigenerational fans of Minnesota’s most wickedly entertaining Christmas story. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. $12-$26. 506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis; 612-874-6338. December 6-22 —Jay Gabler

Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy
Historic State Theatre

As buoyant and hectic as a child’s holiday dream, this Minnesota Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker surges with nonstop dancing. Even the sets move, with shifting scrims, projections, and set pieces that evoke the transformative journey of young Marie Silberhaus. The story begins at a Christmas party in 19th-century Germany, and unfolds through the eyes of Marie as her godfather, Drosselmayer, takes her on an extraordinary adventure to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy. From the idiosyncratic maneuvers of Drosselmayer’s marvelous toys—marionettes, wooden soldiers, and assorted dolls—to the battle scene where the intrepid Nutcracker defeats the wicked Rat Queen and her minions, this production captures the holiday spirit with just enough scary parts to keep the kids wide-eyed and alert. A blizzard of snowflakes sweeps Marie to a magic kingdom where dancers from many lands show their stuff and the Sugar Plum Fairy spins Marie out of her nightmare and into the land of happily ever after. All this as a 44-piece orchestra plays Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, led by conductor Philip Brunelle. 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 1 p.m. Monday, December 23. $30-$75. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-339-7007. December 13-23 —Linda Shapiro

Ice Castles
Long Lake Regional Park

The Ice Castles are back in Minnesota for a sixth installment, this time setting up shop in New Brighton. What started with a guy in Utah trying to build an ice cave for his daughter has become a massive tourist sensation, with locations popping up all over the country. Castles feature tunnels, fountains, slides, and crawl spaces, making it feel like the movie Frozen has come to life. Construction begins in November, as professional ice artisans have been growing, harvesting and placing up to 10,000 icicles each day to create the structure, which will be lit up by LED lights once it has reached peak winter wonderland. The expected opening date is early January, and it will likely stay open through March—but that’s only if the weather cooperates and stays cold enough that the castles remain frozen. So, realistically, we’re saying it’ll probably be open until at least Memorial Day. Find updates and more info at 1500 Old Hwy. 8, New Brighton. January through March —Patrick Strait

Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Various locations

For 134 years, Minnesota has been celebrating winter and showing the world that the weather here isn’t so scary. The party returns this January for 11 days of chilly fun. That includes parades, like the nighttime Moon Glow Parade and the daytime march for King Borealis. Rice Park is home to the beautiful ice sculptures and the ice bar, where you can order up beer, wine, and warm mulled drinks. The area will host a slew of happenings, including family festivals, a local makers’ mart, a disco night, and a dog-friendly happy hour with Hops & Hounds. The Vulcan Snow Park at the Minnesota Fairgrounds is also stacked with things to see and do, such as snow sculpting contests, the giant snow slide and maze, sporting events and competitions, and snowboarding demos. For a complete schedule of events, see the official website,, or call the main hotline at 651-223-7400 for details. January 23 through February 2 —Jessica Armbruster

11th Annual Winter Beer Dabbler
Minnesota State Fairgrounds

Thanks to the renaissance of craft breweries, beer drinkers now have access to a vast selection of elixirs, often creatively engineered to match the time of year. Tapping into this seasonal focus, the Winter Beer Dabbler features samples of some 600 beers and ciders from more than 180 companies. The event will provide attendees with a diverse selection of styles to compare before casting their vote for the prestigious Lord Dabbler Cup. Brewers looking for even more competition can tackle an obstacle course to earn the title of American Brewer Warrior (currently held by Modist Brewing Company), while attendees can partake in giant beer pong, a silent disco, and live music. With a meat-and-cheese showcase (sponsored by Lunds & Byerlys) available in the heated Coliseum, the Winter Beer Dabbler looks sure to provide festive provisions to this snowbound season. 21+. Find tickets and more info at 3 to 6:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. VIP. $50; $70 VIP; $20 designated driver. 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul; 651-288-4400. February 22 —Brad Richason

Winter Trails Day
Fort Snelling State Park

The prolonged Minnesota winter can be a trying experience, especially under whiteout conditions and subzero temps. To combat cabin fever, the annual Winter Trail Day at Fort Snelling State Park offers a vast range of activities to encourage engagement with the great outdoors. For those seeking cardio stimulation, the event provides such options as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking, and fat-tire biking. Others might prefer sampling the comparatively more relaxed endeavors of ice fishing, archery, or camp games. Best of all, no prior experience is needed to participate in any of the activities. Novices will be supported with complimentary hot coco, ongoing demonstrations from outdoors enthusiasts, and a welcoming environment. Regardless of age or ability, the Winter Trails Day is an ideal opportunity to discover a recreational activity capable of transforming our long winters into a season to be enjoyed rather than merely endured. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Free; $7 day parking. 101 Snelling Lake Rd., St. Paul; 612-725-2389. January 11 —Brad Richason

U.S. Pond Hockey Championship
Lake Nokomis

Every year, in the dead of winter, hockey teams come together to compete in one of the most epic amaterur sporting tourneys in the nation. Players come from all walks of life and backgrounds; some are retired professional athletes, others have simply been playing for years at their local pond. Some are from the Twin Cities, and some are from Canada and beyond. Divisions include youth, men, women, and rink rat, for those who are 40 and up, with the winner taking home the Golden Shovel. For those not competing, a warming tent will offer beer and eats from Green Mill, and there will be a special section for all ages open skate. For complete game schedules, see the official U.S. Pond Hockey website, 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday; 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free. 5001 Lake Nokomis Pkwy. W., Minneapolis. January 23-26 —Jessica Armbruster

Ballet West dances "Emeralds" from Balanchine's 'Jewels'

Ballet West dances "Emeralds" from Balanchine's 'Jewels' Beau Pearson


9x22 Dance/Lab: Final Shows
Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater

In 2003, Minneapolis dancer/choreographer Laurie Van Wieren—a brilliantly unconventional performer who’s quirky in all the best ways—started 9x22 Dance/Lab. Named for the stage dimensions at BLB, the monthly presentation, which Van Wieren has curated magnanimously and ecumenically over the years, has brought in more than 500 choreographers and 1,500 dancers from around the globe to try out new material. Trusting in the inherent intelligence and benevolence of the Twin Cities dance community and its audiences, Van Wieren set up 9x22 as a conversation between performers and viewers. In her trademark white shirt and black pants, she deftly and disarmingly facilitates discussions about the work, which over the years has varied widely in style and aesthetic. The only limitations? The human imagination... and that tiny stage. This winter marks the end of the series, which will retire with a final performance in January. 7 p.m. doors. $6-$16 sliding scale admission. 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612-825-3737. November 27 and January 22 —Camille LeFevre

Katie Wallich + The YC x Perfume Genius: The Sun Still Burns Here
Walker Art Center

The bold-face name here is Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, who holds audiences rapt as he conjures, through his moving body, a delicate yet defiantly queer performance, giving a lilting voice to the rawest of intimate emotions. The fact that Seattle choreographer Kate Wallich, known for crafting dance worlds of gothic minimalism through a combination of classical and contemporary choreographies, has been paired with Hadreas is, well, pure genius. Together (and with Wallich’s company The YC), they’ve fashioned an immersive, multimedia work in which bodies undergo a sensual yet harrowing descent before transcendence. 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. $35. 1750 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-375-7600. December 5-7 —Camille LeFevre

Mark Morris Dance Group: Pepperland

Nothing like a blast from the past to fight the end-of-January doldrums. Created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pepperland abounds with choreographer Mark Morris’ native wit and theatrical savvy. Dancers in dark glasses and vivid Carnaby Street colors echo psychedelic trips, riffs on Indian music, Asian spirituality, and all the pop-culture folderol of the Swinging Sixties. Morris’ movement borrows from modern and classical Indian dance, ballet, global, and folk dance forms. They make inspired pairings with the infinitely eclectic music of the Fab Four. Well, it’s not exactly their music, rather a reimagining of it by Ethan Iverson, whose bold new arrangements of selections from the album are performed live by a jazz ensemble of trombone, vocals, sax, percussion, and, yes, even a theremin. Expect both a deconstruction and a celebration of Beatlemania. 7:30 p.m. $22-$47. 84 Church St. SE, Minneapolis; 612-624-2345. January 25 —Linda Shapiro

Ballet West: Jewels

Recognized by many as the greatest 20th-century ballet choreographer, George Balanchine trained in Russia, where he danced with the Mariinsky Ballet. He fled to Paris after the Russian Revolution, where he choreographed for the Ballets Russes. In the 1930s, he relocated to New York where, inspired by the sleek athleticism of American dancers, he revolutionized ballet. In his three-part work Jewels, from 1967, he paid homage to the stylistic influences that shaped him. “Emeralds,” danced to music by Fauré, captures the rhapsodic flow of French romanticism, while “Rubies,” to Stravinsky’s jazzy score, digs into the syncopations and sophistication of urban America. In “Diamonds,” set to music by Tchaikovsky, Balanchine goes back to the future, linking the clear-cut brilliance of 19th-century choreographer Marius Petipa’s imperial Russian style to the blaze and power of contemporary ballerinas. For the Northrop performances, all three gems will coruscate to live music. 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $22-$47. 84 Church St. SE, Minneapolis; 612-624-2345. February 22-23 —Linda Shapiro

Julie Buffalohead, 'White Savior Complex'

Julie Buffalohead, 'White Savior Complex' Courtesy of the artist and Bockley Gallery

Visual Arts

Storytelling: Julie Buffalohead
Minneapolis Institute of Art

Julie Buffalohead’s The Garden, which was part of the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s revolutionary exhibition “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists,” is a narrative work with twists and turns that are as ironic as tricksters Rabbit and Coyote themselves. The subject? The controversy over Sam Durant’s Scaffold at the Walker Art Center. At first glance, this or any of Buffalohead’s work appears whimsical, humorous, and fairytale-like. Look again. A member of the Ponca Tribe, Buffalohead invests her figures with the agency to address ignorance and right wrongs, delve into domesticity, and explore the nuances of contemporary life. That they do so with wicked wit and quiet wisdom speaks to Buffalohead’s intelligence and insight. Within the narrative strata lie many truths, which the artist deftly reveals. 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis; 888-642 2787. November 23-September 6 —Camille LeFevre

Found Footage Festival: Volume 9

Found Footage Festival: Volume 9 Pudgie Wudgie

Found Footage Festival: Volume 9
Heights Theater

In the heyday of VHS—unlike our current era of online videos—exposure to regrettable choices captured on tape played to a select audience. Thanks to comics Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, however, the most stunningly misguided productions of the videotape era, rediscovered in dusty thrift-store bins and neglected boxes of estate-sale clutter, serve as hilariously confounding material for the duo’s immensely popular Found Footage Festival. Since 2004, Pickett and Prueher (childhood friends whose individual writing credits include contributions to, respectively, the Onion and The Colbert Report), have amassed a cult following around their bizarre video compilations, which treat audiences to a seemingly endless assortment of perplexing obsessions, imprudent advice, and unflattering family mementos. Their latest collection promises even more uproarious oddities, including a tone-deaf karaoke montage, hopelessly mundane home movies, and unearthed footage of the 1988 Miss Junior America Wisconsin pageant. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. $14. 3951 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights; 763-789-4992. December 3-4 —Brad Richason

"A Choice of Weapons, Honor, and Dignity" at Minnesota Museum of American Art

"A Choice of Weapons, Honor, and Dignity" at Minnesota Museum of American Art L-F: Gordon Parks, 'Black Muslim School Children,' 1963; Jamel Shabazz, 'Father and Sons,' Harlem 1990

A Choice of Weapons, Honor, and Dignity
Minnesota Museum of American Art

The camera, particularly in the hands of Gordon Parks and Jamel Shabazz, is a powerful weapon through which black dignity, humor, and humanity are unflinchingly documented. Parks famously captured life from the Jim Crow era through the Civil Rights movement, creating now-iconic images of emotional and socio-political resonance. Inspired by Parks’ work, Shabazz has been chronicling youth culture, the hip-hop scene, and black visual culture. Together, these champions of black life have documented an evolution of empowerment. Robin Hickman-Winfield, CEO and executive producer of SoulTouch Productions and a great-niece of Parks, curated the exhibition. 350 Robert St. N., St. Paul; 651-797-2571. January 23-April 19 —Camille LeFevre

Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns

An Art of Changes: Jasper Johns Prints, 1960–2018
Walker Art Center

American flags. Targets. Mark making. Collage. As banal as some of Jasper Johns’ subject matter and motifs may seem, his technique was muscular and his work was freighted with hidden socio-political meaning. Or not so hidden, as in the toothbrush mounted with human teeth and titled The Critic Smiles. Decades after he bridged Abstract Expressionism by ushering in a new era known as Pop Art, Johns’ work—especially his printmaking—continues to engage. This exhibition, a selection of 90 pieces drawn from the Walker Art Center’s collection, surveys six decades of the artist’s printmaking oeuvre. A few paintings and sculptures are also included. There will be a Walker After Hours preview party on Friday, February 15. Tickets are $20. 1750 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-375-7600. February 16-September 20 —Camille LeFevre

Christina Baldwin in 'A Doll's House: Part 2'

Christina Baldwin in 'A Doll's House: Part 2' Jungle Theater



Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

The Ordway’s original musicals have been among the strongest productions in the Twin Cities over the past few years, so why all the buzz over a touring show? Well, this one is a little different. Instead of wandering to Minnesota after a Broadway run, this production is hitting the Cities just before its Broadway debut—and with the same leading actors, so local audiences can see a show that’s very similar to the one landing on the Great White Way in February. Hamilton demonstrated that musical audiences are ready to see history revisited through new perspectives, and the audiences who’ve seen Six have raved about the way it uses a pop-concert format to celebrate the unsung wives of Henry VIII. Given that Henry’s kingdom would one day birth the Spice Girls, the concept is a natural fit. A sensation created by two then-undergraduate theater artists in the U.K., Six also bucks the Broadway trend toward jukebox musicals and revivals. It’s all new, and you can see it in St. Paul first. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. $35. 345 Washington St., St. Paul; 651-224-4222. November 29-December 22 —Jay Gabler

A Doll’s House, Part 2
Jungle Theater

Did A Doll’s House, the 1879 proto-feminist classic by Henrik Ibsen, need a sequel? Apparently so, as this season Lucas Hnath’s 2017Part 2 is tied with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time as the most produced play in America. Its Twin Cities debut will be helmed at the Jungle Theater by director Joanie Schultz, starring Christina Baldwin in her second consecutive season taking the Jungle stage as a badass 19th-century mom (last year she was Marmee in Little Women). The original play ends—spoiler alert—with Nora, a wife and mother, leaving her family to live an independent life. What did that life entail? Audiences learn the answer in A Doll’s House, Part 2, which was nominated for a shelf of Tonys; Laurie Metcalf won for her performance as Nora. The New York Times called Part 2 “smart, funny, and utterly engrossing,” and this season the Jungle is one of a dozen U.S. companies to co-sign. Baldwin will get to use her skill at comic acting in a play written in contemporary language, exploring a character who captivates 21st-century theatergoers as much as she did 140 years ago. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; 2 p.m. Sundays. $35-$45. 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-822-7063. January 15-February 23 —Jay Gabler

The Ugly One
Open Eye Theatre

Theater doesn’t always need to play coy. “In The Ugly One, we’ve dropped all subtlety,” says director Amy Rummenie. “It tears along at farce-like speed, and the wit is razor-sharp. It’s a nearly dizzying script, using sharp character turns to veer from scene to scene without pause.” German playwright Marius von Mayenburg has been compared to his unsparing American contemporary Neil LaBute, so get ready to wince with recognition of the hard truths in this satire about a man who seeks to improve his underwhelming appearance with plastic surgery that works all too well. Walking Shadow Theatre Company is presenting this short and punchy play at Open Eye Figure Theatre, a cocoon-like space that’s always somehow redolent of its namesake company’s macabre, darkly comedic aura. That should prove a perfect fit for The Ugly One, says Rummenie. “I love how that demure proscenium arch frames the stage, focusing us in on the action.” With scene changes “in the blink of an eye,” she adds, “this will have to be all about the action.” Find tickets at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, plus Tuesdays, February 4 and Wednesday, February 12; 2 p.m. Sundays. $28-$40. 506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis. February 1-16 —Jay Gabler

Silent Sky
Bell Museum

Using a planetarium as the venue for a play about astronomy? It’s such a good idea, Theatre Pro Rata had it before the planetarium even existed. Artistic director Carin Bratlie Wethern says the company has been considering Silent Sky, Lauren Gunderson’s 2011 play about pioneering Harvard astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt, for years. “OMG, wouldn’t it be wonderful to do it in a planetarium?” she says. “So we actually started talking with the Bell before their new space was even built.” Silent Sky will be the first theatrical production to be staged in the Bell Museum’s new Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium, but it’s far from the first time Theatre Pro Rata is forgoing a conventional space: They’ve worked in a college lecture hall, a defunct movie theater, and even a cemetery. “We’re bringing our expertise on that,” says Wethern, and the museum staff are “bringing their expertise in creating this beautiful visual world that is going to be surrounding the play.” 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. $15-$30. 2088 Larpenteur Ave. W., St. Paul; 612-626-9660. February 22-March 8 —Jay Gabler