St. Paul Winter Carnival is back this year with a totally new look

Walk around on a brewery tour or take a swing at the softball tournament for the 135th annual St. Paul Winter Carnival.

Meg Bishop

What are Minnesota winters without wearing three layers of socks to go tubing or sipping hot chocolate while you walk around a holiday lights display?

For people in the Twin Cities, the annual St. Paul Winter Carnival (SPC) is another great winter tradition, and this year it’s back with a COVID-19 twist.

Classic events like ice sculpture carving, the winter run and hot chocolate stations are still alive this season. But the carnival crew is also bringing in new attractions, like a drive-thru ice and snow sculpture park at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The drive-thru experience allows visitors to hop in their car and play the SPC’s bingo card game. There will also be different stops along the path to purchase winter treats to enjoy during the ride.

“Every year we try to mix it up. We try to modernize it based on what the community is asking for and what’s going on in the world,” said Alyssa Olson, a St. Paul Winter Carnival committee member.

In past years, the SPC would keep all attractions within a certain radius of downtown St. Paul, but this year, in order to allow for social distancing, the carnival has created new walking excursions around St. Paul.

One of the events is a scavenger hunt where people can find prizes and solve clues while discovering many of St. Paul’s historic sites. Another option is the carnival’s craft drinks passport, called Crafted. The passport will be available on the SPC app and have a large selection of local breweries and wineries around the city that people can visit to collect stamps and win prizes.

University of Minnesota students are known to head out to the carnival with their family, friends or significant other and join in celebrating the winter season, too. University fourth-year student Sydney Laumeyer went to the carnival last year with her family and enjoyed watching the ice sculpture carving, where local sculptors embraced the cold to create winter-themed sculptures such as a giant fish.

“The sculptures are really cool and those artists are really talented,” Laumeyer said.

Last year, Eleanor Muzzy, a University second-year, was dragged along with her family to attend the carnival’s family day. Her favorite part was the number of dogs she saw there.

“There were a lot of dogs there. It was a really dog friendly event, so that was really cool. We got to meet a bunch of different dogs,” Muzzy said.

For students and community members involved in the carnival, and those who aren’t into ice sculpting, the SPC’s Softball Tournament is back after a couple year hiatus. Anyone will be able sign up to join teams and participate in the bracketed tournament.

Many of the carnival’s usual attractions will not be in store for visitors this year, like their downtown ice skating rink or winter carnival games hosted by local businesses. But, with the entirely new set up and opportunities to explore the city, this year will be a chance for visitors to try new things, according to Olson.

“We had to get rid of a lot of in-person activities but we’re really excited to be able to move carnival activities into a new space.”