26 Things to Do for Winter in Minnesota

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minnesota winter scenes

Celebrate Winter

We all know winter in Minnesota can be brutal. With the cloudy gloomy days, the sun setting early, and the bitter cold temperatures that come in January and February, it’s no wonder our winters have a bad reputation. Although I think if winter wasn’t so cold here we wouldn’t appreciate the hot summer days we spend swimming in the lakes, or the beautiful fall days we spend hiking. Over the years I’ve come to make the most of deep snow, strong winds, and slick ice. With some simple preparation and the right gear, winter in Minnesota is actually a pretty spectacular time.

I’ve pulled together an exciting list of unique winter activities so you can fully enjoy this next season. Many of these activities are great for adults, dogs, children, and the whole family! It’s really about your mindset and embracing winter to the fullest (and having the proper clothing and gear to stay dry and warm)! Read on for 26 ideas for embracing winter this year!

things to do in stillwater minnesota
1. Ice Castles

Minnesota Ice Castles always creates really impressive frozen structures! The location changes every year, and prices are based on what day you go. Click here for Ice Castle tickets. The town of Stillwater also does an incredible job of putting together an ice palace maze in the heart of town!

2. Ice Skating

Ice skating can be a great workout and there are so many places to skate around the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. Destination Winter in St. Paul is free to skate and just $5 for rentals. Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis offers free skate rentals, which you can use to skate on the frozen lake!

Cuyuna Crosby
Cuyuna Crosby
3. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is one of my favorite winter activities. It’s both relaxing and a great workout. A few great parks with designated snowshoe trails are Lebanon Hills and the Three Rivers Park District. These parks also offer guided snowshoe walks. If you’re heading south, stop by Whitewater State Park in Altura. They offer six scenic overlooks plus snowshoe rentals.

4. Enjoy a Sauna

There are so many benefits a sauna may provide, like detoxification, increased metabolism, reduced blood pressure, and increased blood circulation. Check to see if your gym has a sauna, (many Lifetime gyms do). Embrace North is a great option in Minneapolis, and for views of Lake Superior, visit Sisu + and Loyly in Grand Marais or Cedar + Stone in Duluth.

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5. Curling

You don’t have to be an Olympian to give curling a try! Check out Brookview Lawn and Golf Bowling in Golden Valley. Call ahead to reserve a private rink for your group for just $15/hour. It’s a super affordable way to get outside!

6. Hang with Llamas

There are a handful of great llama farms around Minnesota, and several locations let you pet, feed, and take photos with them! Check out Carlson’s Llovable Llamas in Waconia and Pauley Alpaca Company in Rochester!

Minnesota winter ice fishing
minnesota winter mankato waterfall state park
7. Ice Fishing

Ice fishing can be a lot of fun, especially if you go with friends! Learn how to prepare for ice fishing, and read about six great places to ice fish in northwest Minnesota. And don’t forget to get your fishing license and check out the DNR’s ice fishing regulations and resources page before heading out.

8. Frozen Waterfalls

Waterfalls are beautiful during any time of the year, and they’re particularly mesmerizing in winter. Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis is a great spot to get very close to a massive waterfall. Gooseberry Falls on the North Shore and Minneopa Falls in Mankato are also beautiful places to see large frozen waterfalls up close.

Minnesota winter hockey
Things to do in St. Paul
9. Play Hockey

Playing hockey on a frozen lake may be the most Minnesotan thing there is! Here’s a list of pond hockey rink locations around Minneapolis. Always use caution when stepping onto a frozen lake or pond.

10. Holiday Markets

Holiday Markets are a really beautiful way to get into the holiday spirit! Some of my favorites are the European Christmas Market and the Holiday Market at Keg and Case, both in St. Paul

11. Ice Climbing

For those seeking a big adventure, try ice climbing! Learn about great places to go ice climbing, how to sign up for guided tours, and where to rent gear here.

Cuyuna Crosby
12. Fat Tire Biking

Fat tire biking is one serious workout, especially in fresh snow. You can either put fat tires on your regular bike and keep peddling all winter at these great parks. Or, if you don’t have your own bike rent one from these five places.

13. Snow Tubing

Snow tubing is a great activity for the whole family, and it’s a super fun way to get outside. Here’s a list of 15 great hills for snow tubing around Minnesota.

14. Dog Sledding

Dog sledding may be one of the more unique ways to enjoy winter, and you don’t have to travel to Norway to experience it! Check out White Wilderness or Chilly Dogs Sledding in Ely, Minnesota.

Cuyuna Crosby
15. Walk Through the Woods

Some of my favorite places to hike in the snowy woods are Lebanon Hills, Fort Snelling, Pike Island, and Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve because they are so heavily wooded and peaceful. Read about the benefits of forest bathing here.

16. Sledding

Sledding is a great way to have fun with the whole family. Grab an inexpensive sled from a local pharmacy or grocery store and go have some laughs! Here is a list of 15 awesome locations for sledding.

17. Outdoor Winter Events and Festivals

Minnesota has some of the most unique winter events! Check out Holidazzle in Minneapolis, Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, Chilly Open in Wayzata, Loppet Winter Festival on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, SocialICE in Rochester, and the Lake Harriet Kite Festival in Minneapolis!

18. Broom Ball

Join an adult league run by your town’s Parks and Recreation office, or grab supplies and go play on a frozen lake with friends. Or even better, create an ice rink in your backyard so you can play whenever you want!

Minnesota Camper Van
19. Camping and Camper Vanning

Yes, you can go camping in the winter! Be sure to wear very warm clothing and be prepared for anything when it comes to the weather. If camping is too much for you in the winter, consider a yurt, camper cabin, or camper van. We went camper vanning in February and stayed warm all night!

20. Horse-Drawn Carriage

For a romantic outing, take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage through the city. The Hitching Company stays open year-round and offers 30 and 60-minute tours around Minneapolis and the Mississippi River.

Minneapolis Lake Harriet Polar Plunge
21. Do a Polar Plunge

There are a lot of polar plunges around Minnesota during the winter months. Be sure to always bring a friend and take deep breaths while your body adjusts to the shock. Also, check out the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics, which takes place at many different locations.

22. Walk on a Frozen Lake

This is a great thing to do with dogs and kids and it can be really peaceful. Build a snowman, sip hot cocoa, or just enjoy a peaceful walk in the sun. In the land of 10,000 lakes, you can find a frozen lake just about anywhere.

minnesota winter lutsen skiing
minnesota winter cross country skiing
23. Snowboarding and Skiing

Snowboarding and skiing are my absolute favorite winter activities. Check out Spirit Mountain in Duluth, and Lutsen Mountains in Lutsen if you’re going north. If you’re staying close to the Twin Cities, Afton Alps is a nice option. I also really like visiting Granite Peak in Wausau, Wisconsin.

24. Cross-Country Skiing

There are so many great places to cross-country ski in Minnesota. Lake Harriet has a trail that goes around the lake, or head onto the lake if you want wide open space.  Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis and Lebanon Hills in Eagan have nicely groomed trails. Check out my blog post for 12 great places to cross-country ski around the Twin Cities. If you don’t already own a pair of skis, here is a great set.

Stillwater
25. Swing Your Club at Top Golf

The only Top Golf location in Minnesota is in Brooklyn Park.  They have a restaurant where you can order food and drinks, plus there are heaters blowing on each bay, so you can warm up in between swings. Prices vary based on which package you purchase and which day you go.

26. Holiday Light Shows

I love driving around the neighborhood and checking out holiday lights. There are also some incredible light shows (ticket required) for places like Sever’s, Christmas in Color at Valley Fair, and Miracle at Big Rock. Here’s a roundup of the 12 best holiday light displays around the Twin Cities.

Stillwater

Embracing Winter

I hope these ideas give you some new inspiration for embracing winter this year! For more cold weather inspiration, check out my blog posts on 5 Unique Minnesota Winter Events, 9 Reasons to Visit Crosby During Winter, Cozy Winter Getaway to Stillwater, Minnesota Winter Survival Guide, or 12 Great Twin Cities Parks of Cross-Country Skiing.

One Comment

  • Alicia Bailey

    Hi, thanks for sharing these great winter options! I am always trying to find something to do to get me thru the cold day. I wanted to share another option you might enjoy too- Ice Yoga! Or sometimes we call it Snow-ga! It is offered thru All Season Yoga but I am sure there might be others too.

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