How to Safely Have Fun During a COVID-19 Winter
Winter came early this year with record breaking snow in the middle of October! As the temperatures drop and COVID cases continue to rise, many of us are trying to figure out ways to safely enjoy winter. I’ve pulled together a huge list of unique outdoor winter activities so you can safely have fun this winter during a pandemic. Many of these activities are great for adults, dogs, children and the family as a whole! Stay active and stay safe!
- Lebanon Hills in Eagan offers snowshoe rentals for $7/hour and great trails.
- A dozen parks within the Three Rivers Park District have designated snowshoe trails. Many also offer snowshoe events such as guided hikes for beginners and families, and full moon hikes.
- If you’re heading south, stop by Whitewater State Park in Altura. They offer six scenic overlooks and snowshoe rentals.
- The River Bend Nature Center in Faribault is another great spot for snowshoe and cross country ski rentals. They also have great trails.
Go cross country skiing
- I like cross country skiing on frozen lakes, but of course the lake has to be frozen enough to be safe, so it’s a shorter season for that than being on land. Lake Harriet is a great and free spot to ski on the frozen lake or around the lake. You’ll need to bring your own equipment. Parking is free.
- Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis is a great option. There is a fee.
- Lebanon Hills in Eagan offers a variety of equipment rental packages. Access to the trails is free.
Check out ice castles
- The location changes every year, and prices are based on what day you go. Stay tuned here.
Give curling a try
- Brookview Lawn and Golf Bowling in Golden Valley is just $15/hour for a private rink. It’s a super affordable way to get outside and move with friends.
Keep moving at an ice skating rink
- Destination Winter in St. Paul is free to skate and just $5 for rentals.
- Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis has free rentals, and you can skate on the frozen lake.
Become friends with a llama
Check out frozen waterfalls and ice caves
- Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis is a great spot.
- Gooseberry Falls near Duluth is also a beautiful place for a frozen waterfall.
Go dog sledding
- White Wilderness is a great dog sledding company in Ely.
Rent a snowmobile
- Check out this awesome Star Tribune article on snowmobiling 101: how to rent and ride in Minnesota.
Go ice fishing
Play pond hockey
- Here’s a list of pond hockey rink locations in Minneapolis.
Bike through the snow with fat tires
Keep your drinks cold at ice bars
Go ice climbing
- Learn about great places to go ice climbing, how to sign up for guided tours, where to rent gear and more here.
Hike 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. They are gorgeous places when covered in fresh snow.
- This is a great activity for the whole family. It’s a super fun way to get outside. Here’s a list of 15 Minnesota hills for snow tubing.
Take the kids sledding
- Sledding is another great way to have fun with the whole family. Grab an inexpensive sled from a local store and go have some laughs! Here is a list of 15 Minnesota hills for sledding.
Walk through the snow
- I love going for a walk right after a big snow fall. You can go hiking or walking at a park, or just walk around your neighborhood and enjoy the stillness and quiet after a big snow storm.
- I’m not personally a hunter, but I know many people who enjoy the hunting season. It’s a great way to spend time outside with friends and family. Here is the DNR’s website on regulations, buying a license, learning to hunt and more.
Play 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!
Drive around to see holiday lights
- I love driving around the neighborhood checking out the holiday lights put up by my neighbors. Bring some hot cocoa and a friend or pet for the ride. Here’s a roundup of the 12 best holiday light displays around the Twin Cities.
Enjoy a romantic horse drawn carriage
- The Hitching Company stays open year round and offers 30 and 60 minute tours around Minneapolis and the Mississippi River.
- 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 or camper cabin.
Feel alive and do a polar plunge
- There are a lot of polar plunges around Minnesota during the winter months. Check out the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics, which takes place at many different locations.
Run around a frozen lake
- This is a great thing to do with dogs and kids. Throw a football or frisbee and play in the snow. In the land of 10,000 lakes, you can find a frozen lake in the middle of a Minnesota winter just about anywhere!
Visit the Foshay Tower Observation Deck
- You can purchase tickets in the lobby, then take the elevator to the top floor to visit a museum on the tower’s history before completing your visit on the observation deck. From there, you can check out the beautiful view of downtown Minneapolis for just $10/adult and $6/child.
Try downhill snowboarding and skiing
- Snowboarding and skiing are my absolute favorite winter activities! Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have some great mountains.
- Check out Spirit Mountain and Lutsen if you’re going north.
- Visit Afton Alps in Hastings if you’re staying close to the Twin Cities.
- I also really liked visiting Granite Peak in Wausau, Wisconsin a few years ago.
Swing your club at Top Golf
- There is only one location in Minnesota and it’s in Brooklyn Park. Prices vary based on which package you purchase. They have a restaurant so you can order food and drinks, plus there are heaters blowing on each bay, so you can warm up in between swings.
Make s’mores with friends over a fire pit
- This is one of my favorite ones! Grab what you need from a local grocery store and invite friends over to roast marshmallows!
Be amazed by the Northern Lights
- Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been lucky enough to see them, but it’s definitely on my bucket list! You don’t have to travel too far to see them. Popular destinations for viewing the northern lights include Cook County, Voyageurs National Park and Lake of the Woods. Check out this Explore Minnesota article for more information.
Outdoor Winter Events and Festivals
Last year, these events took place outside. They have not yet announced if they are cancelled or changing anything this year due to COVID, so be sure to check their websites as we get closer to the event dates.
- Holidazzle in Minneapolis – date not yet announced.
- Winterfest in Faribault – December 3 – 5, 2021.
- Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth – November 21 – December 27.
- Chilly Open in Wayzata, February 5 – 6, 2021.
- Loppet Winter Festival – February 5 – 7, 2021.
- SocialICE in Rochester – February 2021.
- Lake Harriet Kite Festival – date not yet announce. Join a festival, or buy your own kite and go whenever you want!
We Must Learn to Embrace Winter
Winter can be tough for anyone, and with COVID-19 still very much a part of our lives it’s more important now than ever before to find ways to safely see other people and stay active. I hope this list of outdoor winter activities inspires you and makes your winter a little more joyful.