winter carnival - best ever - chilly snowy good times
January 22, 2012 4:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I have the best St. Paul MN Winter Carnival Weekend possible?

I have the opportunity to attend the St. Paul Winter Carnival for a special occasion and want to make the most of it. I am booked at St. Paul Hotel and Sunday brunch at their M Cafe. I've never been to St. Paul before. Do you have other tips about the best way to do Winter Carnival in style? Restaurants, events, things to see, good deals, etc? We love really good food, we are pescatarians/locavores and we also like good selections of cheap beers on tap.
posted by treehorn+bunny to Travel & Transportation around St. Paul, MN (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I live in St Paul and have never actually attended the Carnival (sorry!). However, if the Medallion has still not been found by the weekend, you could join in the hunt.
posted by cabingirl at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2012

The Heavy Table blog talks a lot about local food and beers. The our Winter Carnival thing we do every year is get a fire truck ride from the Vulcans. I don't see this specifically mentioned in the activity listings, but in recent years it's been at the snow sculpting event at the State Fairgrounds. Maybe check the Pioneer Press for more details when you get into town. Bring ear coverings. Have a great time!
posted by lakeroon at 5:19 PM on January 22, 2012

How long will you be here?
posted by SemiSophos at 6:12 PM on January 22, 2012

Restaurants: Great Waters (brewpub) and Meritage (French seafood) are good downtown St. Paul places. Both are walking distance from your hotel.

For events, is the best place to look. Almost all of the music and theater is in Minneapolis, but it's only a 20 minute drive. The Ordway Theater is walking distance from your hotel though, it would be worth seeing what's there.
posted by miyabo at 7:44 PM on January 22, 2012

Ugh, don't go to Great Waters. I have never had a good experience there, food-wise. If you have transportation, go to the Happy Gnome instead.
posted by cabingirl at 8:34 PM on January 22, 2012

As a locavore/foodie in St.Paul, I've always appreciated Heartland. A very Minnesotan/pescavore dinner would be Walleye at The Tavern on Grand (bonus: good cheap beers on tap). Further down Grand Ave are great little shops which are worth a spin, especially if you stop for a mocha or to-die-4-turtlecake at Cafe Latte.

As of late December, there was (nearly) free skate rental/ice skating at Rice Park adjacent the Ordway, this is often where the ice sculptures are staged.

Seconding ear-gear & neck/face warmer, a little thermos can be fun & those hot-paks for your mittens, though its been awfully mild this year...
posted by iiniisfree at 10:09 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, every time I am in downtown St. Paul I am slowly yet inexorably drawn to Tanpopo, a Japanese ramen shop. It's a little out of the way and extremely weird inside. In fact, my wife hates it and says it's creepy. But I feel the need to recommend it to everyone I meet....
posted by miyabo at 11:03 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Forgot to mention: its a bit of a faux pas to attend the carnival without a button- so be sure to put one on your coat 1st thing. There should be a carnival history exhibit- the photos are timeless & wonderful. Familiarize yourself with the carnival royalty characters and catch what you can of the events listed here, especially the events with the vulan krewe. If you leave the carnival without a black smudge from the vulcans, you'll never know what you're missing ;)
posted by iiniisfree at 5:22 AM on January 23, 2012

Welcome to Saint Paul!! My family has deep connections to the Carnival, and I will be attending several events myself, such as the Grande Day Parade on Saturday afternoon (on West Seventh Street); and the Beer Dabbler (this year at the Farmers Market downtown). You can check out the official Calendar of events for Carnival-specific ideas.

You're off to a great start, staying at the Saint Paul Hotel. I recommend visiting the Bulldog or the Barrio restaurant for glimpses of the various Carnival crews after the parade is over on Saturday. Alary's bar or the Gopher Grill are other nearby spots where the Vulcans can be found "off-duty."

MeFiMail me if you have any specific questions about Carnival stuff or the Twin Cities scene - I'll be happy to provide a local perspective.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 7:30 AM on January 23, 2012

Every time I am in St. Paul I go to the Blue Door Pub and drink Surly beer. You could do so much worse. I hear the Happy Gnome is good. Sometimes we go to the Chatterbox in St. Paul's Highlind neighborhood for good beer and boardgames (where kids are welcome).

Your hotel is oooh-la-la fancy; expect raised eyebrows from some locals. :7) You are about half a mile from Cosetta's, with wonderful Italian food in an historic part of downtown St. Paul.

The buttons are sometimes very nice (I have one that I treasure), so I second the suggestion to buy one.

Clues for the medallion search are in the St. Paul paper. They are so "inside baseball" that you may even have trouble reading the names. Fun all the same, though.

The Minnesota History Center is AWWWESOME. *ahem* It's quite near your hotel, and has the best gift shop in town.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:39 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Final update on this question: thanks to all for the answers, I didn't mark "bests" because I thought all were helpful.

We did not find the Medallion. We very much enjoyed the parade and the ice sculpture contest and the Saint Paul Hotel was the perfect place to enjoy the festivities from. Brunch there was fine but overpriced. Skating at the rink right next to it was fun!

Hand warmers would have been a good idea for the parade in particular...

We tried to go to the Happy Gnome but we could not get seated there, it was completely packed and we had to give up after attempting to hover for bar seating for about 45 minutes. We did go to Tanpopo and I didn't think it was creepy at all - I really enjoyed it! Thanks all.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:40 PM on January 1, 2013

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