Northland holiday entertainment guide: 10 ways to get merry and bright
Ready or not, the holiday season is coming for you — right down Superior Street, in fact. Regardless (probably) of rain-snow-sleet-or-hail, the local marching bands will play, batons will be tossed and floats will all float on during the annual Christmas City of the North Parade, which starts at 6:20 p.m. Friday in downtown Duluth.
As long as we're already whistling the city's holiday anthem "Christmas City," made popular by Merv Griffin, here are 10 arty and entertaining ways to lean into this holiday season.
YOU WANT FROZEN NOSTRILS
We have a sort of rep, right, of hearty folk able to withstand cruel winds and icy obstacles. That's why the annual Christmas City of the North Parade is so on-brand. This deep-dark fall, potentially below-zero, parade starts at North 10th Ave. East and continues along Superior Street to Fifth Avenue West. This year's grand marshals are Team Shuster, the local curlers who won an Olympic gold medal during the 2017 Winter Games. Meanwhile, for the scarf-challenged, the big show also airs on KBJR-TV.
Christmas City of the North Parade is at 6:20 p.m. Nov. 16 along Superior St. Free.
YOU WANT TO APPEASE YOUR INNER CINDY LOU WHO
It's pretty tricky to ignore Bentleyville, the mid-city beacon of holiday cheer. The somewhat Seussian tour of lights includes lit trellises, locally-themed displays, and — smack dab in the middle — Santa. He not only has a photo-friendly sleigh bench that allow for Instagramming side-hugs, he also distributes the latest in Bentleyville fashions. Locals-only hack: Go late and/or on a weeknight. Leave the lines to the Apple Valley-ites.
Bentleyville is open 5-9 p.m. Sun.-Thur., 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. from Nov. 17 to Dec. 26. At Bayfront Festival Park. Free.
YOU WANT JAZZED OUT VERSIONS OF TRADITIONAL TUNES BY ALT-ROCKERS
Get thee to the nearest car, point it up the North Shore, press go. The New Standards will perform their super-popular holiday show on Nov. 23 at Lutsen. This trio's members Steve Roehm, John Munson and Chan Poling have been in The Suburbs, Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic and more. They take familiar tunes and give them a plucky, oh-so-fun reimagining. Check out their take on Outkast's "Hey Ya" for full-on immersion. Their holiday songs will make you spontaneously eject the Bing Crosby from your record player.
The New Standards Holiday Show is at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23 at Papa Charlie's, Lutsen. Tickets start at $20 at Lutsen.com.
YOU WANT FAMILY-FRIENDLY, SANS SANTA
This is the time of the year when the Duluth Playhouse stages something bright and musical, though not always one set in a snowscape with a fa-la-la-la-lah message. This year's pick is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," a musical about two bookish sorts. The former, who is being held in a gloomy castle where even the candlestick sings, first abhors than adores the hairy brute who is her gatekeeper. Expect all the pageantry.
Duluth Playhouse's "Beauty and the Beast" is at 7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Nov. 29-Dec. 16. Tickets start at $35. Available at duluthplayhouse.org.
YOU WANT TO BE PART OF A VILLAGE OF WINTER-MINDED FOLK
In Knife River, there is a weekend-long market based in Scandinavian and German tradition, including an outdoor market with cute booths, ethnic food, a gnome dome and activities for kids. There is also the option of riding the North Shore Scenic Railroad to the village.
Meanwhile, there is also Duluth Winter Village, with more than 40 local vendors ranging from jewelry-makers to craft brewers.
Julebyen is 4:30 p.m.-8 p.m. on Nov. 30, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 1, 10 a.m. 4 p.m. Dec. 2.
Duluth Winter Village is 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 1-2 at Glensheen, 3300 London Rd. Tickets: Free.
YOU WANT TO CRACK A RIB LAUGHING
Among the greatest of holiday tales: "The Santaland Diaries," humorist David Sedaris's take on being cast as Crumpet, one of Santa's helpers at Macy's in New York City. Spoiler: The gig is not as sexy as the pointy shoes might suggest. Actor Luke Moravec returns in the short, one-elf performance that premiered on National Public Radio more than 20 years ago and was adapted for stage in the mid-1990s. Bonus: Moravec's one-musician band Zeb or Zeke and the Runaway Screamings play holiday music after each performance.
"The Santaland Diaries" plays Dec. 6-8 at The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St. Tickets: $20 at duluthplayhouse.org.
YOU WANT CLARA, A MOUSE KING, A SUGAR PLUM FAIRY AND YOU WANT IT NOW
The Minnesota Ballet's annual staging of "The Nutcracker" is the traditional tale of Clara, the titular gift, and a whirlwind dream-like tour that takes the two to battle and beyond — including visits with an Ice Fairy, gingerbread children, the Dew Drop Fairy and more.
Spoiler: Things get regal. The performance includes company members and students, an orchestra and the Lake Superior Youth Chorus.
Minnesota Ballet's "The Nutcracker" is at 7 p.m. Dec. 7-Dec. 8 and 3 p.m. Dec. 9. Tickets: At Minnesotaballet.org.
YOU WANT SYRUP ON YOUR SPAGHETTI
Zinema 2 is hosting fan-picked holiday movies on back-to-back weeks. "Elf" is the story of a grown adult man who was raised by the elves in Santa's workshop. He strikes out to find his real family on the mean streets of New York City. Will his playful ways get smothered by doom-n-gloomers, or will the jaded city-folk find his charms refreshing? Shrug.
The next week, the Muppet gang stars in the Dickens tale of the past, the present and the future. In the end, everyone is #blessed.
"Elf" is at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 and "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at Zinema 2.
YOU WANT VARIETY, MAN
Zeitgeist Arts is again hosting a holiday-themed variety show. "A Holiday Spectacular Extravaganza Pageant" features performances by members of Renegade Improv, Colder By the Lake, and Superior Shorts. Plus, singing and beer.
"A Holiday Spectacular Extravaganza Pageant" is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. superior St. Tickets: $5.
YOU CAN'T QUIT JIMMY STEWART
You know the scene. James Stewart is George Bailey, who is about to end it all — but is intercepted by a guardian angel who takes him on a Dickens-esque round of "This is Your Life." (Except this, of course, is "It's a Wonderful Life.") The 1940s flick gets a season-appropriate screening at the NorShor Theatre as part of its series highlighting classic movies. Stick around to talk to fellow film-heads Jody Kujawa, Jason Scorich and Justin Peck.
"It's a Wonderful Life" plays at 7 p.m. Dec. 23 at NorShor Theatre. Tickets: $12.