Winter Is Hygge Season in Minnesota

By Erica Wacker

Cozy couple MOA blog
Photo & merchandise courtesy Mall of America

Minnesota takes a lot of cues from Scandinavia, with numerous shops, restaurants, cultural attractions, and even the name of our football team paying homage to this idyllic Northern European region. While Scandinavians have been immigrating to Minnesota for centuries (close to a third of the state’s population is of Scandinavian descent), a more recent import is the trending concept of hygge.

Gateway State Trail candlelight winter walk_MN DNR
Gateway State Trail / Minnesota DNR

Though no direct translation exists, hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) encompasses the coziness, comradery and contentment that have long been tenants of winter in Minnesota. Sipping hot cocoa at a ski lodge. Basking in the glow of a fireplace at a bed-and-breakfast. Snowshoeing by candlelight. All these activities and more make Minnesota the perfect destination for finding the best hygge this side of Copenhagen.

Along the always-stunning North Shore of Lake Superior, Grand Marais and the surrounding towns that make up Cook County are hosting Hygge Week, Feb. 8-14. In addition to cross-country skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling and star gazing, visitors will find Scandinavian foods, a full moon reading, cabin concert and lodging specials.

The towns along the St. Croix River Valley (including Taylors Falls, Shafer, Lindstrom, Chisago City and Scandia) welcome hygge seekers with custom-designed itineraries encompassing wineries, wellness retreats, fine art and outdoor pursuits. This area is known for its Scandinavian heritage, with attractions like the Gammelgarden Museum and Valkommen Gallery telling the settlers’ stories.

Winter cabin at Maplelag Resort_Henrik Nordstrom
Maplelag Resort / Henrik Nordstrom

Beyond these areas, a hygge-filled retreat can be found virtually anywhere in the state. If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, plan a cross-country skiing getaway at Maplelag Resort north of Detroit Lakes, which also offers ice skating, ice fishing, snowshoeing and sledding, plus massages and a fully enclosed hot tub. In Ely, Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge takes adventurers of all ages on trips of a lifetime, mushing a team of dogs across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness before retreating to the cozy lodge for a home-cooked meal and well-earned night of sleep.

For a taste of hygge in the big city, spas, restaurants, coffee shops (including the new Hygga Lowertown in St. Paul) and museums are great places to hole up and stay a while. The Finnish tradition of saunas has recently made its way to the Twin Cities, with a couple mobile units that pop up at breweries, parks and other public locations during the winter months.

Finally, make sure to outfit yourself properly for hygge with scarves and throws from Faribault Woolen Mill and Bemidji Woolen Mills, footwear from Steger Mukluks and Minnetonka Moccasins, and outdoor gear from Frost River and Duluth Pack.