Minnesotans boast of their gorgeous summers, their 10,000 lakes and their food-on-a-stick mecca, the State Fair. But to the rest of the world, we’re known as the coldest major American metro, according to a recent report by the Weather Channel. So it stands to reason that it’s the St. Paul Winter Carnival — not the Great Minnesota Get Together — that truly defines us.
Whether you’re a Winter Carnival regular or an adventurous newbie, our user’s guide to the fest will have you covered. How you keep yourself warm is up to you.
The Coronation & Parade of the Royal Family: Since it was established in 1886, the Winter Carnival has commenced with the Royal Coronation, which crowns a new King Boreas and Aurora, Queen of the Snows, each year. A ticket to the soirée — which includes a social hour, dinner banquet, seating for the coronation, and the royal ball and reception — costs a cool 85 bucks; the public can watch with a $5 Winter Carnival button. (5:30 p.m.-midnight Fri., 8 p.m. coronation. RiverCentre, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd.) You can also see the royal family in all of its wintry glory at the King Boreas Grande Day Parade, flanked by dozens of marching bands, floats and festively dressed individuals. (2 p.m. Sat. Free. W. 7th Street beginning at the Smith High Bridge and ending at Rice Park.)
The Vulcan Krewe & Torchlight Parade: On the other end of the mythological spectrum are Vulcanus Rex and his Vulcan Krewe, signified by their black and red garb and masked appearance. The rowdy Vulcans can be spotted at Vulcan-hosted events including the annual snow sculpting competition (8 a.m. Fri.-noon Sun.) and “Snow Park at the Fair,” with free fire-truck rides (11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun., State Fairgrounds, 1265 N. Snelling Av.). You can also see them wreak havoc at the Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade, which culminates with the ceremonial overthrowing of Boreas and a fireworks display. (5:30 p.m. Sat. 5th Street beginning at Union Depot and ending at Rice Park.)
Carve your way to victory: The carnival shows off its artistic side with its snow- and ice-carving competitions. In the snow-carving competition, pre-registered teams of three spend up to 30 hours carving prepacked blocks of snow. (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sun., free, State Fairgrounds). The ice-carving event in Rice Park features a multiblock competition, in which four-member teams have 48 hours to carve 20 blocks of ice (9 a.m. Thu.-9 a.m. Sat.), and a single-block competition (9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.). (Free.)
The Beer Dabbler, Ice Bar & food trucks: The Winter Carnival edition of the Beer Dabbler features music from Sims, Farewell Milwaukee, the Ericksons, Bigtree Bonsai and Valley Meadows. And of course, there’s the beer — more than 150 local, regional and national craft breweries will sample their goods. With food trucks, a homebrew contest and a silent disco. (3:30-7:30 p.m. Sat. $35-$50, $10 for designated driver. Midway, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, www.beerdabbler.com.) The Cannon River Winery returns to host the Ice Bar throughout the run of the carnival. (5:30-9 p.m. Thu., 4-9 p.m. Fri., noon-9 p.m. Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Ends Feb 2. Rice Park.)
The hunt for the silver medallion: The Treasure Hunt for the Medallion has been a Winter Carnival tradition since 1952. The Pioneer Press publishes a new clue pointing to the medallion’s secret location every day until Jan. 30, or until the medallion is found. With a grand prize of $10,000, sleuthing types will be well-rewarded for their efforts.
Securian Winter Run: Working up a sweat is one of the best ways to shake off the winter chills. The 35th annual winter run is made up of three races: the half-marathon, the 10K and the 5K, all of which wind through downtown St. Paul and into nearby neighborhoods. (7 a.m. registration, 9 a.m. start Sat. $35-$50. Starts & ends at 6th & Jackson Sts.)
St. Paul Winter Carnival
When: Thu.-Feb. 2.
Where: Events throughout downtown St. Paul and the State Fairgrounds.
Tickets: Most events free; some require $5 button. www.winter-carnival.com