Minnesota reinvented holiday shopping when the nation’s first enclosed, climate-controlled shopping mall was built in Edina. We still do malls better than most places, but a lot of the state’s best holiday shopping can be found on quaint, historic downtown districts. To maximize your 2023 holiday shopping experience, it’s always a good idea to maintain a good mix of mall and main street.
Few towns do the holidays as well as Stillwater, one of Minnesota’s oldest cities. Built on the bluffs of the St. Croix River, 25 or so miles east of downtown Minneapolis, Stillwater decorates its streets and lights an out-sized Christmas tree. Sleigh rides and carolers entertain shoppers as they pop in and out of the unique, locally-owned shops, galleries and antique stores on Main Street.
One of the Brainerd Lakes’ area’s favorite rainy-day shopping destinations, the village of Nisswa also does the holidays in a big way. The festive downtown area is easy to walk and chock-full of independent shops like the Ardor Boutique, The Fun Sisters Up North, and Zaisers Souvenir Gift Shop. Stop into Stone House Roastery and pick up a hot cup of something to warm your hands as you shop.
The granddaddy of all malls (it was the nation’s first enclosed, climate-controlled shopping center, because winter), Southdale doesn’t skimp on the holiday experience. Its Edina location draws shoppers from across the south and west Metro to tick off their holiday lists. Be sure to stop and visit Santa while you’re there!
The historic, Mississippi River city of Red Wing is known best for the boots that its largest business manufactures. The flagship Red Wing Shoe Store is definite must on your holiday shopping excursion to this town 50 miles south of the Twin Cities. Its brick-fronted downtown area is boulevarded and easily navigated. The festive holiday décor makes trolling between Red Wing’s unique shops, galleries and restaurants a walk in a winter wonderland.
A popular, year-round shopping destination, Canal Park not only boasts blocks and blocks of businesses—including the original Duluth Pack store—it also affords stunning views of Lake Superior and Duluth Harbor. If browsing the shops—or sampling craft whiskey at the Vikre Distillery—doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, wander a couple blocks to Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park. The Bentleyville Tour of Lights, which is the largest, free, walk-through lighting display in the U.S is sure to put you in a festive mood.
With well over 100 manufacturer-direct stores, the Premium Outlets in Albertville is located between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities on I-94, and is the largest outlet center in the state. Albertville Premium outlets is home to many shops that are unavailable elsewhere in Minnesota, like the Nautica Factory Store, as well as popular factory stores from Nike, Polo, Adidas and Columbia. Premium Outlets is a great place for factory-direct deals on holiday gifts.
Named, not surprisingly, for the intersection at the center of this shopping district, 50th and France as grown into one of the Twin Cities’ favorite holiday shopping destinations. As with many Edina destinations, the shops and galleries here tend toward upscale tastes, but also tend to be local, independent businesses. This compact shopping district is only about four square blocks, but its variety of stores and restaurants (there’s also an art-house movie theater) will keep you entertained all day long.
Once a relatively-sleepy town on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior has become an outpost of upscale hipness in the west Metro. The walkable, lakefront downtown area offers a variety of shops and restaurants where you can fulfill just about any holiday wish on your list. Every year, the city hosts a three-day holiday festival, Chriskindlsmarkt, the weekend after Thanksgiving.
An upscale shopping center, Edina’s Galleria is not a mall for the faint of heart or thin of wallet. During the holidays, the narrow, single-aisle shopping center can get congested, but it is home to some stores’ only locations in Minnesota. So whether you a little blue box from Tiffany & Co., a little black dress from Kate Spade, or the latest bag from Louis Vuitton, Galleria is the place to be.
An outdoor shopping mall designed to resemble a small-town downtown, Arbor Lakes’ 200-plus stores get decked out for the holidays. Bring your walking shoes and jacket, though, because, like a downtown, the stores are spread out over a few blocks. Fortunately, there are plenty of places you can duck into and warm up, like Claddagh Irish Pub. A Nordstrom Rack and REI make Arbor Lakes Main Street a unique destination for the the Northwest metro.
A tiny community on Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay, the eponymous town boasts a lovely downtown area. Decorated for the holidays, Lake St. is lined with unique shops and upscale chain stores. With broad views of the bay and an easily walkable outdoor shopping district, Wayzata makes it easy to get into the holiday spirit as you check off your list, at Five Swans or Paper + Cloth, before hitting 6 Smith for happy hour with a lake view.
For shoppers who don’t live in the state’s far North, Ely is not a day trip. But, as one of Minnesota’s best outdoor destinations, it’s worth the trek—especially in winter. Ely boasts a compact, quaint downtown that features a vibrant shopping district dominated by unique, locally-owned businesses. Home to renowned businesses like Steger Mukluks and Jim Brandenburg’s photo gallery, the town offers visitors much more to do than simply shop. While in the area, visit the International Wolf Center or go mushing with one of the local dogsled outfitters.
Located in Minnetonka, Ridgedale is a holiday destination for shoppers who live in the Twin Cities’ Western suburbs. Slightly more upscale than other suburban malls, Ridgedale is anchored by Nordstrom in a recently remodeled wing that also includes Tommy Bahama and Lululemon shops. Hit the Apple Store for your hi-tech wish list, visit with Santa, and grab some lunch at Kona Grill.
One of the world’s biggest malls, with more than 500 stores and an indoor amusement park, the Mall of America (MOA) is by far the most popular holiday shopping destination in Minnesota. For those who love mall shopping, MOA will not disappoint. The halls are decked with holiday spirit and Santa, of course, is on-site. Why not make a weekend of it? The huge, indoor Water Park of America is nearby, and IKEA is adjacent to MOA.