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Eat, drink and be merry! That's what the Christmas spirit is all about, right? So why not do all three while tackling your way-too-long shopping list?

That's right, holiday shopping doesn't have to be a miserable experience. You don't have to park a mile away to fight the crowds at the mall for a doorbuster sale only to discover that you can still find it cheaper online. Nor do you have to do all your shopping on Amazon. (Let's face it -- that kind of takes the fun out of it.)

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Winter in Minnesota often feels like it lasts half the year. From mid-October through mid-April, snow is always a possibility. Long after the magic of the season's first snowflakes has worn off - and after the holiday cheer has faded into frigid despair, when summer feels like a distant dream - the cold drags on ... And on ... And on ...

If you can't afford to get away to some tropical paradise (or even if you can), why not make the most of the season by checking some things off your bucket list? Bring along some friends (or your sweetheart) while you're at it. No matter how low the temperatures plummet, you're sure to find warmth in their company.

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It's the perfect time of year for an impromptu getaway. The holiday travel boom hasn't hit yet, and many people are saving up their vacation days for the dead of winter.

That means prices are low. And not just airfare; in many of these destinations, you'll find great deals on hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages, too.

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Let's face it: Minnesota winters drag on for waaaaaay too long. Even if you're the hardiest of cold-blooded northlanders, by the time March rolls around and there's still a foot of snow on the ground, you're yearning to hop on a plane and land somewhere warm (or, at least, somewhere less cold than here - which is pretty much anywhere).

Thankfully, you don't have to spend a fortune for a midwinter escape. Below you'll find deals for every budget. And the best part? They all include accommodations and round-trip airfare from gateway cities.

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November in Minnesota is about as gloomy as it gets. Sure, there's Thanksgiving. And there's the occasional 50-degree day when everyone busts out their shorts and spends the entire day outside. But for the most part, it's a solid month of cloudy, drizzly (or even snowy) weather.

With darkness falling earlier and earlier, and winter on its way, you'll need any excuse you can to get out of the house and brighten up your day. Fortunately, you'll find plenty to do with these amazing deals.

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You don't have to drink to have a good time on a date. In fact, there are numerous benefits to keeping it virgin: You won't wake up in a fog, wondering where you are or who you're with. You won't suffer from a pounding headache the entire next day. You won't have to swear off Jack Daniels for life after overdoing it on whiskey sours. And you won't have to worry about scaring away your date by doing or saying something stupid. (Okay, you might still blow it, but at least you won't have alcohol to blame...)

Plan a night to remember by taking your date to one of these places instead of a bar or club. You can get to know each other and have a great time without risking a DUI on the way home. (Because getting arrested is definitely a date-killer.)

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Let's face it: Even the most passionate of romances can grow stale at times. You get into a routine. You go to the same ol' places for dinner and drinks every weekend. You play the same ol' game of "Well, what do you want to eat?" And, paralyzed by indecision, you end up spending the night on the couch, binge-watching Search Party and ordering in pizza.

When you're stuck in a rut this winter, these lesser-known local treasures in the Minneapolis area are sure to spice things up. They're practically made for lovebirds. And they're the perfect antidote to the ho-hum.

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Step aside, hotdish. Though Minnesota doesn't make it onto the Michelin map (yet!), the Minneapolis-area culinary scene has exploded in recent years. And the results are well worth sampling.

You have to live to eat. So why not live it up with food you actually enjoy? Or, better yet, expand your palate with something outside the norm.

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Halloween is almost here, and it's the perfect time to hit the road for some paranormal thrill-seeking. Minnesota has a rich history of hauntings. In virtually every corner of the state, you'll find reports of ghostly apparitions, spooky sightings and mysterious phenomena.

So skip the kitschy haunted houses and lame hayrides. By comparison, those are child's play. These are the real thing.