We’ve been going hard on holiday events the last few weeks. We started with Holidazzle in Loring Park, which wasn’t a slam dunk. The grounds were too muddy and it was ridiculously crowded on a Friday at 5 p.m. Though we appreciated the free carousel rides and devoured the elote chowder from vegan food vendor Root to Rise Kitchen, we wouldn’t go back.
Fortunately the Winter Lights experience at the Minnesota Arboretum in Chaska was more enjoyable. We swung by on Family Night, which included kids crafts, costumed characters, hot cocoa, and fresh sugar cookies. We took family photos in front of the 25-foot-tall Poinsettia tree, made from more than 500 red, white, and pink poinsettias, but Julian was most intrigued by the outside lights — especially the Weeping Willow dripping in trippy white lights and the glittering red apple installation (an homage to Minnesota’s apple researchers).
Winter Lights 2022 runs through January 1. The next family night happens December 15. There are two time slots you can can choose from: 4 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. We recommend booking the first time slot but showing up around 5 or 5:30 p.m., so you miss the crowd crush of the first session but arrive before the second one gets cooking. Strolling the grounds during the in-between slot made it feel like we had the whole Arboretum to ourselves.
Other theme nights include Date Night (Dec. 8 and 22 from 5 to 10 p.m.), Photography Night (Dec. 7 and 14 from 5 to 8:30 p.m.), and a New Year’s Eve party from 5 to 10:30 p.m. If you go, wear traction cleats because parts of the .75-mile path can get very icy.
3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska, MN; 612-624-2200.