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GLOW Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds (Our Honest Review)

glow festival minnesota

It’s the mooost… wonderfuuul time… of… the year!

‘Tis the season right?

Which is why we decided to head to one of the most popular holiday traditions in the Twin Cities – the annual GLOW Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Curious about what this big event is all about? Or just have specific questions about bringing yourself and the family in tow?

Then you’re in the right place! Here’s our full guide + honest review!

What is the GLOW Holiday Festival?

Put simply, every year the Minnesota State Fairgrounds busts out millions of Christmas lights and transforms the Minnesota State Fairgrounds into one of the best Christmas lights displays in the Twin Cities.

If you’re looking for a great family-friendly activity to get into the holiday mood, GLOW is a definite classic!

Last year, the festival was adjusted to a drive-through event, but this year, we’re happy to report that it’s again a walk-through event.

So, you’ll get to wander the grounds on foot, at your own convenience, while taking in some of the most impressive Holiday decorations around!

Plus, as a Minnesota local, it’s always interesting to see the fairgrounds in a different light. Literally!

(GLOW uses many of the same hustling and bustling concourses from the summer Minnesota State Fair, but come winter, those concourses feel like a more peaceful wonderland, thanks to the beautiful glow of endless Christmas lights.)

How much does GLOW cost this year?

  • Regular adult tickets are $20.76.
  • Children (Ages 5-12) are $12.75
  • Children under age 4 are free!
  • VIP Tickets are $45 to $75, depending on the day

Hours and Schedule

In 2021, GLOW Holiday Festival runs from November 18, 2021 until January 2, 2022.

This year, in the interest of COVID safety and proper spacing, GLOW is a timed entry event. What this means is that when you purchase your ticket, you select an entry time window, and you will need to arrive within that window. (Entry time-slots are usually in one hour increments)

Once inside, you’re free to enjoy GLOW for as long as you like.

And if you do miss you entry window for some reason, don’t fret! They allow all visitors who missed their entry time-slot to enter after 8:30 PM.

Location & Directions

GLOW Holiday Festival is located at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, MN:

Glow Festival Entrance Info

glow festival review

The exact entrance location varies based on whether you purchase the VIP or General Admission tickets, and also based on the night you arrive.

Sound confusing enough? Don’t worry. They’ll send an email titled “Know Before You GLOW” the day before your attendance date. It includes all the information you need to find your parking lot and entrance gate.

In our experience, this actually worked out pretty smoothly!

We plugged the info into maps, and our directions swept us to the obviously marked parking lot. From there, it was a smooth and easy process to scan our tickets and start checking out the lights!

Should You Buy VIP vs. Regular Tickets?

GLOW’s online website boasts about a few extra features for the VIP tickets, namely a exclusive parking area, a “VIP gallery”, exclusive full liquor service, and indoor restroom facilities.

Personally, we went with the regular tickets and didn’t feel like we were missing anything.

The “Regular” parking looked daunting at first, but after a quick lap around the lot we found tons of open spaces within a short walk to the entrance gate.

The main benefit of the VIP tickets seems to the be addition of an indoor spaces. Obviously, we didn’t have access, so we may not know what we’re missing. BUT… from the outside, it looked like they converted one of the fair buildings into a sort of Christmas art gallery. I can’t say we felt too jealous of it, but I suppose on really cold nights it may be nice to have a place to warm up?

As far as the full liquor service, tons of general admission tents around fairgrounds serve beverages, including beer, so I guess you’ll just have to judge how much you’d prefer the expanded menu. (Personally, with the cold weather, we were gravitating towards Hot Apple Cider and Hot Coco, anyway!)

Our Full Guide

holiday lights

Basically, you can make the GLOW festival as simple or action packed as you’d like.

After walking into the grounds, you’ll immediately find tons of big exhibits. Basically, everywhere you look, it’s Christmas lights galore!

We were also happy to see that things were nice and spaced out. The State Fairgrounds walking paths (or are they roads?) are huge, so at no point did anything feel too crowded.

The website and official map lists over 20 different attractions to keep the kids and the kids-at-heart gawking. Here were some of our favorites:

Reindeer Run

glow festival attractions

An absolutely magical tunnel of lights that transitions into a lighted holiday maze. (The maze was really short and easy, but a fun and beautiful concept nonetheless.)

Tinsel Tower

They light up the towering 4-H Building with a big projection of Christmas trees and other holiday symbols.

Three Story GLOW Palace

This is definitely one of the most visually striking attractions!

glow palace

It sits at the very edge of the park and kind of looms over everything like a really cool castle!

color blossoms

sELFie Plaza

At the north end of the grounds is an endless collection of warm, soft white twinkle lights that are sure to be oh-so-flattering for selfies.

This also seemed to be where most of the VIP activities were.

The Home Depot Slide

A massive tubing slide that they floored with that same artificial snow surface they sometimes install at Buck Hill in the summer.

Riders were FLYING down this bumpy hill, and everyone looked to be having a great time. I can only imagine how quick this thing gets when there’s some snow on the ground!

(We passed on it, since we didn’t have any kiddos with us and were pretending to be responsible adults for the night.)

The cost for this one was about $4.

Enchanted Forest

glow festival - enchanted forest

Definitely one of our favorites. There’s tons of trees here, and it’s every bit as magical as the name.

Sky Glider

For $6 a person, the State Fair’s Signature Chairlift ride will let you get an aerial view of the lights.

We passed on it… it’s not the quickest ride in the world and most of the riders looked pretty chilly!

Festy Trolley

A hop-on / hop-off trolly to easily transport you and the kids around the fair.

Color Blossoms

christmas lights

We agreed this may have been our favorite overall attraction! 

Thousands of unique bulbs light up and dance to the tune of music. It looks like some sort of Christmas tulip field, and neither of us had ever seen anything like it.

The Tremendous Tree

state of minnesota fairgrounds

This seemed to be the centerpiece of the fair, sitting smack dab in the middle of the grounds. It’s 60 feet tall, dances to the music, and can be seen from most all angles in the park.

State Fair Food Court

You know this had to be our main attraction!

There were all sorts of food vendors set up around the grounds.

Many of the most popular state fair favorites were missing, but we were still able to grab some amazing fried pickles and a Pronto Pup that immediately transported us back to those warm, happy days of Summer!

Glitter Critters

glitter critters at glow festival

Enormous lighted displays of Moose, Polar Bears, and more.

How Long Does It All Take?

We probably spent an hour an a half checking out all the lights and food.

Probably 30 minutes of that time included waiting in various lines for our food and drinks.

That said, we also stuck to a pretty basic itinerary, basically just strolling through the grounds at our convenience. Had we visited some of the attractions like the slide, chairlift ride, or Glow Palace, we could have probably spent over well over two hours here.

Special Nights This Year

We visited on a “normal night” but if you’re interested in something a little more unique, definitely check out some of the special events listed on the official page. They include:

  • GLOW Toy Drive (December 3-5)
  • Prince Night (December 16)
  • Dog Days of Winter (December 27) – Yes, your pup can join!
  • GLOW Pride Weekend (Jan 1-2)

Any Glow Festival Discount Codes?

There aren’t any valid discount codes for glow that we were able to find, BUT… you can purchase tickets through Groupon. The prices are the mostly the same, but you will save a bit on the “convenience fees.”

Plus, if you start your Groupon shopping trip through a cash back portal like Rakuten*, you can earn cash back on your purchase! (Often times, it’s up to 12%)

*Note that this is an affiliate link, which means we may earn a commission if you use our link, at no cost to you.

Final Thoughts

full review - glow festival of lights mn

Overall, GLOW Festival is a really fun, family-friendly event that sports some of the best holiday lights in Minneapolis & St. Paul.

It’s definitely an awesome Twin Cities holiday tradition!

More info:

GLOW Holiday Festival

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