Monday, March 13, 2023
Home Minnesota MN Places Homey Holiday Venues

Homey Holiday Venues

By Maura Keller

Halloween isn’t even upon us, but already the enormous task of holiday event planning is underway. From a corporate holiday celebration to a New Year’s executive brunch, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate the season and serve up special brands of holiday hospitality. For many meeting and event professionals, executing a memorable holiday gathering-either small or large, simple or elaborate-can depend on the venue. Luckily, Minnesota boasts a plethora of splendid entertaining locales-complete with beautiful decorations and wonderful accoutrements that surprise and delight at every turn.


Christmas is synonymous with the smell of fresh pine, so each year Larry and Caryl Abdo, owners of Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis, hang eight fresh pine wreaths at the main entrance doors to usher guests into the inn, which is teeming with classic holiday charm throughout.

Traditional trees found at the inn are decorated with matching ornaments and lights, while other touches of Christmas show up in every corner, sconce, shelf and fireplace. “Our staff also dresses for the holiday, with tuxedos and bling,” says Larry Abdo. “Our holiday decorations are up the weekend after Thanksgiving and extend to mid-January.

The venue features plenty of room for large and intimate affairs. The Captain’s Room, which seats up to 16, overlooks the Mississippi River and has a chef-preferred menu featuring all the inn’s favorites. Their private Fireside Dining Room, with three sets of french doors, two glass chandeliers and a custom menu, serves up to 24.

The piano lounge is a great casual setting featuring light fare and stand-up cocktails for 24 people. The inn also has two event rooms: The Island Room, with a patio that seats up to 50, and the St. Anthony Room, with stained glass, a framed mirror wall and chandeliers, seats 100.

“Our executive chef, Ryan Stechschulte, has developed fabulous event menu items, from fancy starters to plated steak and lobster,” Larry says. “Our event staff has years of experience and customized training for every event. All rooms are decorated to fit the size and view, which is consistent with that first smell of fresh pine.”

Nicollet Island Inn takes pride in being able to provide and customize everything a group might need for their special event, especially during the holidays.

“We fulfill that grand and warm feel, detail by detail, right down to the horse-drawn carriage,” Larry says. “We’re dedicated to creating a flawless party, from start to finish.”


Immediately upon entering The Carlson Towers Rotunda, you will notice the uncompromising beauty that surrounds this one-of-a-kind venue. The space is magnificent, with marble walls and floors, an indoor fountain and a five-story domed ceiling with state-of-the-art lighting. Large windows overlook the beautiful outdoor Amphitheatre, English gardens and a majestic 60-foot fountain in the middle of the building’s very own Lake Ashley.

Every year The Carlson Towers Rotunda features tastefully themed décor to celebrate the holidays.

“We always have a beautiful Christmas tree in the foyer that both holiday events, as well as the Towers’ tenants, get to enjoy,” says Dawn Crawford Dacut, event sales director at Carlson Center.

The Carlson Towers Rotunda offers gourmet menus and impeccable service by Bon Appétit Management Company, which concentrates on offering the highest standards and true value to its clients, making sure budgets are understood and respected.

For any occasion, from the most elaborate to the simply elegant, The Carlson Towers Rotunda & Amphitheatre, which offers sheer extravagance for events with up to 360 guests, is a remarkably unique setting designed to set your holiday affair apart from the ordinary.

“The venue is strictly private,” Dacut says. “There are no other event spaces within the Towers which would conflict with a Rotunda event. The chef, servers and event manager are concentrating on one event at a time-yours.”


Because of its historical atmosphere and charming location in the heart of the Chippewa National Forest, Chase on the Lake in Walker offers an ideal venue for your next holiday event. Each holiday season, the entire building, as well as the charming ice skating rink, is outlined in lights. Inside, brightly lit Christmas trees dot the common areas, while the lobby’s wood fireplace is kept burning. “We try to match the decorations to the style of the Chase,” says Brian Burggraff, general manager. “Last year we made a gingerbread house that looked like the Chase and had it displayed in the restaurant.”

Its main ballroom can host up to 220 people, while the 502 Restaurant can hold up to 150 in the dining room, and a smaller private room can hold 40 people. “We rent out snowmobiles, ice skates, cross-country skis,” Burggraff says. “We are only one block away from downtown Walker, which offers our guests opportunities to get some gift shopping done, and enjoy other venues decorated in holiday flair.”


Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Glensheen Mansion, The Historic Congdon Estate, is adorned with fresh greenery and vintage decorations from the outdoor paths to each room of this Jacobean estate. According to Lucie Amundsen, interim marketing director at Glensheen, the mansion’s winter garden can accommodate events ranging from 20 to 120 people, and a formal dining room can seat 24 guests (18 at a main table and six at a side table) on the main floor-the most opulent of the five levels in the mansion.

“Teeming with historic and handcrafted beauty, a rarity of this time period, we always recreate the magic of the season just as Chester and Clara Congdon did,” Amundsen says. “Glensheen works well because the grandeur of the estate brings you back to an old-time feel of Christmas.”

Intimate weddings ranging in size from 30 to 100 people, with tented parties available for up to 300, are often celebrated at Glensheen during the holiday season due to the beautiful wintry scene and holiday decorating. The tour of the mansion is included with each private event hosted at Glensheen-truly a gift for all.


In addition to many holiday decorations throughout the hotel, the St. James Hotel in Red Wing is a stunning set for any holiday event. Each season, the hotel sets up two big, beautiful Christmas trees- one in the main lobby and one in the historic lobby. Employees’ self-made gingerbread houses are also displayed in the courtyard of the hotel during the annual Gingerbread House Contest.

On top of 62 unique guest rooms, two different dining venues with lounges, one British-style pub and a coffee shop, the St. James is home to 14 different banquet and meeting rooms. The largest space, the beautiful Summit Room overlooking the Mississippi River, can host 330 guests banquet style. The hotel also offers in-house and off-site catering from its banquet menu.

“With our many spaces to choose from, we have the perfect space for your group,” says Nicole Miller, director of sales and marketing at St. James Hotel. “Our historic setting, beautiful winter surroundings and gorgeous in-house decorations provide that special feeling you look for during the holiday season.”