Explore Northeast Minnesota with Alyssa Hei (@youreseethrough)
One of my favorite quick stops in Duluth is Brighton Beach. The beach is the perfect place to look at ice formations when sheets of ice push together as winter changes to spring. Watch people ice fishing, playing on the frozen lake, stacking ice floes into neat sculptures, and simply relaxing on the large rocks on shore.
If solitude is your style, the Gunflint Trail and connecting Boundary Waters offers true quiet. There’s more quiet per acre here than most of Minnesota—a true outdoorsman’s dream! It also snows more here than most of the shore, so if you’re looking for billows of snow to play around in, look no further!
Palisade Head from Below
Palisade Head is jaw dropping from above, and equally so from below. If you’re looking for that rush of feeling tiny and need nature to put you back in your place, this is your stop.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
The best part of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in the winter is walking out to a frozen Ellingson Island. Reachable only after the lake freezes, it gives you a new perspective on the lighthouse and a spot to relax within the park.
Looking to get outside, but don’t feel like hiking in the woods? The Duluth Lakewalk runs right next to Lake Superior throughout the town of Duluth, so you can walk right through town without being on streets. It’s the perfect place to catch a quick glimpse of the lake, and take your pups (and yourself!) out for some daily exercise.
Explore Southern Minnesota with Greta Alms (@gretcholi)
Minneopa State Park
Every season is unique and beautiful at Minneopa State Park, just a few miles outside of Mankato. In spite of this, winter holds a special place in my heart. It’s the time when the water freezes over, allowing you to view an especially picturesque frozen Minneopa Falls.
The scenery changes, too, from green to golden to white; a completely fresh look at a familiar place with a clean coat of white to top it off. Going in the early morning, as the sun rises, after a great night of hoar frost is the time to visit. As you’re exploring the prairie, discovering how the hoar frost may have painted the landscape the night before, keep your eyes out for bison: if you’re lucky you might just see one or two of them that were recently introduced to the park.
The history and culture in New Ulm is vibrant and alive. A town founded by Germans, it feels European as you stroll down Broadway Street, window shopping the boutiques and stopping in for a bite of ribs and sauerkraut at Viegel’s Kaiserhoff. If your timing is right, the Glockenspiel will provide the entertainment!
While I’m not much for beer, Schell’s Brewery—the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the U.S.—gives a great tour, complete with history of how they came to be, how they survived Prohibition (1919 Root Beer, anyone?) and even their experiences with the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 .
Sitting high on a hill, the Hermann the German statue overlooks New Ulm, keeping guard over the town below. While his merits may be debated, his statue deserves all the respect. The views of New Ulm from its base are stunning, but the views from the top are breathtaking—well worth the $2.50 if the statue is open during your visit.
Explore the Minneapolis-St. Paul Area with Jessica Brouillette (@mnbucketlist)
Wood Lake Nature Center
The Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield is a big winter favorite of mine in the metro area. Quiet and serene, it offers a place to get outside in the middle of the busyness of city noise. As a crowd favorite “hidden gem,” the Nature Center offers a 150-acre natural area that includes indoor wildlife educational exhibits, an amphitheater, walking trails, floating boardwalk and groomed cross-country ski trails. In Minnesota, just because you’ve found yourself in a city, doesn’t mean you have to look far for cattails, forests, prairies, bird watching and “up-north” scenery.
A place that allows me to capture the winter city landscape without going outside is the Endless Bridge at the Guthrie Theater. The bridge is one of the longest cantilevers in the world. An observatory in the most contemporary sense, it hangs over West River Parkway and overlooks the Mississippi River, Mill Ruins Park, Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, and a number of historic landmarks that tell a story of Minnesota’s beginnings.
Inside the Guthrie, visit the Amber Box on the ninth floor in the Dowling Studio Lobby. The Amber Box is another place to stay warm while taking pictures. With gold-tinted windows, it completely changes the frame of any shot you take.
Explore Central Minnesota with Pixie Stern (@pixstern)
The central region of Minnesota offers me a playground of photo opportunities right outside my door. As the winter season sets in and the waters start to freeze, the area takes on a Jack Frost-esque quality. Foggy mornings become some of my favorite times to explore. They can be incredibly photogenic with that little hint of mystery. The parks in the area, including Lake Carlos State Park and Glacial Lakes State Park, along with the smaller county and city parks, are plentiful. Jumping in the car, driving a short distance, and feeling like I have the world to myself at any of these recreational areas is a photographer's dream. My imagination seems to run wild, as I've often shared in some of the photos I edit.
The ability to capture the landscape of the rural Midwest is also a favorite of mine. The barns peeking out of the freshly fallen snow, catching the farmer during morning or evening chores, or just a walk in the woods to catch that snow hanging off the dense trees is such a sight.
No matter the day, the temperature, the conditions, there's a scene waiting for me and my camera here in central Minnesota.