Winter Is Hygge Season in Minnesota

By Erica Wacker

Outdoor feast at Surly, The Great Northern Festival
The Great Northern Festival embraces the Danish concept of hygge / BLK WLF Photography

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.

Though no direct translation exists, hygge (pronounced HEW-guh) encompasses the coziness, comradery and contentment that have long been tenets 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.

 

 

Beyond these areas, a hygge-filled retreat can be found virtually anywhere in the state. Minnesota state parks, including Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Buffalo River near Moorhead, Jay Cooke near Duluth and Nerstrand Big Woods, offer candlelit snowshoe, ski and hiking excursions in January and February. Earlier in the winter, try your hand at snowshoe lacing, wreath making and ice luminaries at various state parks. A full event schedule is available on the DNR website.

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 Hygga Lowertown in St. Paul) and museums (most apropos, the American Swedish Institute) 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.

Hewing Hotel room in Minneapolis
Photo by rau+barber, Courtesy of Hewing Hotel and Meet Minneapolis

Check into the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis’ North Loop, complete with a rooftop sauna, or the new Elliot Park Hotel downtown to round out your stay. And if snuggling with your dog is part of your hygge routine, fear not: Both hotels are pet friendly.

Winter events are another way to embrace hygge in Minnesota. The Great Northern festival, Jan. 24-Feb. 3, combines the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, Saint Paul Winter Carnival and City of Lakes Loppet with outdoor dinners, concerts and other winter fun. Just outside Minneapolis in St. Anthony, spend the winter solstice making Scandinavian-inspired arts and crafts, and kick back with food and drink by the fire at Silverwood Park’s Make & Mingle event Dec. 21.

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.