This article is supported by the Southern Minnesota Tourism Association.
As the air gets cooler and the snow begins to fall, southern Minnesota’s charming towns, idyllic scenery and entertainment venues get ready to welcome winter travelers looking for something out of the ordinary. This winter, take the time to shop local, try something new and enjoy the outdoors in southern Minnesota.
Shop Small, Shop Local
The many quintessential downtowns of southern Minnesota offer holiday shoppers the “shop small, shop local” option. Find something for everyone on your list in some of these classic downtowns.
Nestled in the bluffs along the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota, Red Wing’s downtown is filled with shopping, dining, museums and more. Peruse the Uffda Shop for signature Scandinavian gifts, stop in the Red Wing Shoe Co. Museum to see the world’s largest boot, and pick up some unique goods at Pottery Place before a pint at Red Wing Brewery.
Stroll the streets of Northfield during the annual Winter Walk for holiday fun and shopping in December. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays with horse-drawn carriage rides up and down Main Street as you shop the local, quirky and artsy shops such as the Rare Pair, Northfield Olive Oils & Vinegars, Eclectic Goat, The Measuring Cup, and many more clothing boutiques and antique shops.
Celebrate German heritage while shopping at the boutiques and specialty shops in historic downtown New Ulm. Be sure to stop into Domeier’s German Store or the Guten Tag Haus for imported German gifts including clocks, steins, ornaments and more. Looking for a gift for the quilter in your life? New Ulm has three quilt unique shops, one of which was named a “Top 10 Quilt Shop” by Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler Magazine.
Bring the Outdoors, Indoors
Bring your rocks and brooms to the Owatonna Curling Club for some good old-fashioned curling. This indoor Winter Olympic sport combines hockey and shuffleboard, making it fun for novices and amateurs alike. Either as a spectator or a participant, don’t miss the weekend tournaments, known as “bonspiels,” where participants often wear fun and sometimes outrageously themed costumes.
Hit the bench for a fan experience like no other and spend the day cheering on a hockey game at the new Red Baron Arena in the southwest Minnesota community of Marshall. Stay cozy and warm indoors enjoying the sport that made Minnesota affectionately known as “the state of hockey.”
Seeing nature outdoors is spectacular, but during winter, you can also experience it indoors at the Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester. The Exploration Hall within the center houses 35 species of native Minnesota wildlife and a 1,700-gallon fish aquarium with seven kinds of Minnesota fish, and interactive fun like trying on a pair of deer antlers.
Explore the Outdoors
Don’t shy away from the outdoors during winter in southern Minnesota. Rent some snowshoes or try cross-country skiing on the trails in Frontenac State Park, located on Lake Pepin near Lake City in southeast Minnesota. Bring the kids for some family fun sliding down the ever-popular sledding hill in the park. With a lake view at the top of the hill and a nearby warming house/picnic shelter outfitted with a stove, firewood and electricity, it will make for some fun winter memories.
With more than 22,000 miles of snowmobile trails in Minnesota, hop on one of the groomed trails in Martin County near Fairmont. Or watch the Ice Kahana and National Straightline Snowmobiling Races held in January on Hall Lake in Fairmont.
Bring a bucket and a pole for the Annual Ice Castle Classic Ice Fishing Tournament on Lac qui Parle Lake in southwest Minnesota in February. Drop in a line for a chance to catch a walleye, bluegill, sturgeon and northern pike, along with more than $75,000 worth of prizes.
It’s always a good time to experience southern Minnesota, but “the most wonderful time of the year” may be the most exciting of all. Find more ideas and plan your trip at exploresouthernminnesota.com.