37 Covid Safe Outdoor Winter Activities in Minnesota
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links below, at no cost to you. For more information, read my full disclaimer here.
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! And if you’re looking for outdoor gear and clothing, I recommend checking out these snowshoes, cross-country skis, Yaktrax, Merrell boots and warm coats, hats, and gloves from REI and my blog post on Rumpl blankets. Stay active and stay safe!
Shop some of my favorite winter items
- If you’re looking to buy your own equipment, check out these snowshoes.
- 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, like these popular skis. 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.
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.
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.
Become friends with a llama
- Carlson’s Llovable Llamas in Waconia is a great spot.
- Check out Pauley Alpaca Company in Rochester if you’re heading south.
CHECK OUT MY POST ON THE BEST TWIN CITIES PATIOS FOR HEATED OUTDOOR DINING
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.
Bike through the snow with fat tires
- Put fat tires on your bike and keep peddling all winter at these great parks.
- Don’t have your own bike? Rent one from these five places.
Go ice fishing
- Here’s a list of pond hockey rink locations in Minneapolis.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Winterfest in Faribault in Faribault
- Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth
- Chilly Open in Wayzata
- Loppet Winter Festival on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis
- SocialICE in Rochester
- Lake Harriet Kite Festival in Minneapolis
We Must Learn to Embrace Winter
Winter can be tough for anyone, and with COVID 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.
Looking for more winter inspiration? Check out my blog posts on the Top 5 Minnesota Winter Destinations, 9 Reasons to Visit Crosby During Winter, and 12 Great Twin Cities Parks for Cross-Country Skiing.
You are making me miss winter! If I were to winter in Minnesota, I would definitely want to ice fish, just to say I did it. All of your ideas are incredible.
What a great list of winter activities. I’ve been thinking about the winters in Minnesota. It’s where I really fine tuned my winter camping skills. I’d love to just do many of these joyous activities you have so carefully researched.
Thank you Karen!
Lol I have to admit, I didn’t expect to find “make friends with a llama” on this kind of list! 😀
This makes me so excited for wintertime. I really hope they don’t close all the ski hills here due to covid-19, so we have a chance to ski and snowshoe. I LOVE the look of the frozen waterfalls and ice caves. We don’t get those here very often so I am always so excited to see them.
Anyway, it looks like you are ready for the snow with your super cute, snuggly hat!
Haha I thought the llama idea was something new that most people probably haven’t done before. I’m glad you appreciate it!
Thank you for putting together this list! With the kids being home 100% of the time we need ideas on how to get out and move, have some fun, and not break the bank while also staying safe and healthy!!
I look forward to trying a bunch off this list!!
That’s so great to hear! We have to stay creative otherwise it’ll be a long winter 🙂
THANK YOU for taking the time and effort in sharing these resources! I haven’t heard of many of these locations nor events and am now thinking of when to do some of these activities. Way to GO on compiling all of this – I know that it wasn’t easy 🙂
Thank you so much! I’m so glad it’s been helpful.
Jenni / Out in the Nature
That llama was the best advice ever! It’s true that many people feel extra lonely at these strange times, and animals can be really comforting. Winter is no excuse to stay home and do nothing. Great list!