Girl at Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark in Bloomington

Have Fun Indoors This Winter in Minnesota

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It's always 84 degrees at Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington 

Have Fun Indoors This Winter in Minnesota

By Erica Wacker

There's no question that Minnesota is one of the world's top destinations for winter fun. But if snow days leave you longing for sunnier ones, you’ll find plenty of ways to partake in summer’s many splendors from the comfort of the great indoors.

From golfing and swimming to farmers markets and food trucks, you may be surprised to find many of summer’s favorite pastimes happening year-round—yes, even in Minnesota.

Girl climbing at Vertical Endeavors in Duluth

Girl climbing at Vertical Endeavors in Duluth / Krista Mathes

Indoor Golf & Rock Climbing Gyms

Ever wish you could golf in January? You can, thanks to indoor golf centers like Top Golf in Brooklyn Center, which offers loads of fun for even the non-golfers in the family with its interactive games, big-screen TVs and climate-controlled hitting bays. Golf domes, which typically house dozens of hitting stalls, chipping targets and putting greens under a large dome, can be found in Edina, Brooklyn Park and Maplewood.

If simulators are more your speed, Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd, Bulrush Golf Club in Rush City, Bunker Indoor Golf in Minnetonka, Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids, and the PGA Experience at MSP Airport allow golfers to virtually visit Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and dozens of other world-renowned courses all from one tee.

People playing mini golf at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul

Mini golf at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul / Mike Krivit

For families, indoor mini-golf is a winter must-do. Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul houses 18 quirky, artist-designed holes, a few of which pay tribute to Minnesota icons including the State Fair, St. Paul Saints and Prince. Another fun twist is black light mini-golf, available at Glow in One in Blaine, Mall of America in Bloomington, AirMaxx in Eden Prairie and Wow Zone in Mankato.

Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, Barn Bluff in Red Wing and Tettegouche State Park on the North Shore are popular rock climbing destinations, but the sport is also lots of fun indoors. With locations in Duluth, MinneapolisSt. Paul and Bloomington, Vertical Endeavors offers lessons for all ages and abilities, as well as day passes and equipment rentals. First-timers can check out the monthly free climbing nights to get a taste of this exciting sport. Or check out the Minneapolis Bouldering Project for climbing without ropes!

Beyond the Twin Cities, independent rock climbing gyms can be found in Rochester, Monticello and at universities in Winona, Mankato, Bemidji, Collegeville and Moorhead.

Girl playing in sandbox at the Minnesota Zoo Tropical Beach Party

Playing in a sandbox at the Minnesota Zoo's Tropical Beach Party

Water Park, Zoos & Indoor Playgrounds

Get a taste of the tropics at Minnesota's indoor water parks, zoos and conservatories. Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington features an indoor climbing wall, as well as a ropes course, mini bowling alley, arcade and live-action adventure challenge called MagiQuest. Unlimited access to the resort’s water park is included with an overnight stay. Other resorts with indoor water parks include The Edge in Duluth, Arrowwood in Alexandria and Baxter, and Seven Clans Casino in Thief River Falls. Some offer day passes based on availability, so be sure to call in advance.

Flowers in the Marjorie Mcneely Conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul

Marjorie Mcneely Conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul / Perrine Dailey

Zoos in Minnesota are all-weather destinations. In particular, the Tropics Trail at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley keeps the animals—and their human visitors—warm year-round, and hosts a tropical beach party complete with a giant sandbox every February. Penguins, snow monkeys and various sea creatures are also on view indoors. In St. Paul, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park is another popular tropical escape.

Kids still have some energy to burn? In the Twin Cities area, towns including Maple Grove, Eagan, Edina, Chanhassen, Ham Lake, Minnetonka and several others have indoor playgrounds that range from standard to spectacular. Most charge a daily fee of $4-$9 per child depending on the location; babies and parents are usually free. Elsewhere in the state, similar play areas can be found in Winona, Rochester and Detroit Lakes.

Fresh vegetables from Minneapolis Farmers Market

Fresh vegetables from the Minneapolis Farmers Market / Jenni Hagen

Farmers Markets & Food Trucks

If you think food trucks and farmers markets are closed until spring, think again. In St. Paul, Seventh Street Truck Park brings the joys—and quirks—of a summer road trip indoors, with trucks and trailers serving pizza, tacos and ice cream sandwiches in a campsite setting, complete with picnic tables and repurposed porta-potties.

Several of the state’s popular farmers markets hold winter markets on select days, including markets in Blaine, St. Paul, Eagan, Hibbing, Red Wing, Rochester, and five in Minneapolis. Expect to find foods like cheeses, chocolate, honey, jams and sauces, and root vegetables.

Erica Wacker

Erica Wacker is a Midwesterner through and through, growing up in Illinois, going to college in Wisconsin, and settling down in Minnesota. She loves to run, travel with her family, and go to concerts to relive her youth.