Keeping the holiday season merry one block at a time

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December 2, 2010
By: Sarah harris
Sarah harris
The holidays are a time to celebrate, explore and enjoy a sense of wonderment. Theaters, restaurants, shops and many other venues are starting to buzz with visitors coming Downtown for holiday entertainment and shopping.

Downtown is bedecked in holiday decoration, adding to the sense of excitement and festivity. More than 300 illuminated snowflakes, 1,300 feet of garland and about 23 miles worth of twinkle lighting — if they were stretched end to end — adorn the streets of Downtown Minneapolis, indicating the holiday season is officially underway.  

As visitors stroll down the streets to enjoy the festive environment only Downtown can provide, the Minneapolis DID (Downtown Improvement District) reminds visitors to plan ahead, utilize common sense strategies and seek assistance from DID ambassadors when needed.

Although people are generally aware of their direction and environment when coming Downtown, and are self-sufficient, the assurance that a DID ambassador is available to answer questions or lend a helping hand, can make visiting during the holidays an all-around success.  

DID ambassadors patrol more than 125 blocks of Downtown, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday–Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. When in need of assistance, ambassadors can be contacted in two ways: look for the blue jacket and lime-green cap uniform, or call the Fusion Center hotline at 332-1111.

In the last year, DID ambassadors have provided assistance to more than 60,000 people, ranging from directions, advice on good restaurants to try, and ideas for things to do while Downtown, to helping people find their cars.  

Ambassadors are also a resource for safety, patrolling streets serving as extra eyes and ears and providing medical assistance, if necessary. The ambassadors and MPD remind you to use the following common sense strategies (you know, the ones your mother told you many times) when out and about, whether you’re coming Downtown or going to your own neighborhood joint:

If arriving by car, do not leave any items in plain view in your car, rather put them in your trunk before you arrive at your destination.

Pay attention to vehicular traffic and use crosswalks.

Come as a group, stay as a group and leave as a group. Keep an eye on one another’s safety.

Always have a designated safe and sober driver. Have a plan on when to leave, where to meet if the group gets separated, or who to call as a back-up. Do not accept a ride from a stranger.

When at a coffee shop, restaurant, bar or club; keep track of your personal belongings and carry only what you need; keep it to a minimum.  

Don’t give money to people who panhandle (instead, you can give to organizations that help people get off the streets in a meaningful way while eliminating the temptation for people to sit outside asking for money. You can learn more at

Watch your drink!  Do not leave your beverages unattended; don’t accept a drink from anyone you don’t know or trust and if it doesn’t taste right — don’t drink it.

In case of emergency, call 911.  

And, remember, you don’t have to experience all that Downtown has to offer in one evening. Come to the theater one night, Holidazzle the next, then shopping with dinner, or the great music scene at the many nightclubs. Downtown is putting on its holiday attire and will be ready for you each time you visit! Welcome and enjoy!

Sarah Harris is the chief operating officer of the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making downtown a clean, safe, green, and vibrant place to be.

While the DID ambassadors are on the street, eager to help everyone enjoy all Downtown has to offer, the DID website also has resources to help you plan your visit. Check out for a comprehensive calendar of events and activities. The City of Minneapolis ( also offers online parking information that range from parking ramps and rates to parking meter locations and tips on how to avoid a parking ticket.