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10 Ways to Embrace Winter in Northeast Minnesota

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Winter fishing Lake Superior, Two Harbors / Kunal Garde

10 Ways to Embrace Winter in Northeast Minnesota

By Minnesota Arrowhead Association

In winter, northeast Minnesota is synonymous with outdoor adventures like snowmobiling, skiing, fat biking and playing in the snow. But even if there isn't enough snow on the ground to play in, here are 10 ways to guarantee a good time on your next winter getaway to the north.

  1. Visit the Icebox of the Nation
    People smooshing at IceBox Days in International Falls

    'Smooshing' at IceBox Days in International Falls / Marsha Shuff

    Visit the Icebox of the Nation

    Icebox Days is the zaniest winter festival in North America! Go all the way north to International Falls, where “Only the Bold Run the Cold,” during this famous border town’s Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run. The festival includes other wacky events, such as frozen turkey bowling, smoosh races, frozen golf and boot hockey.

  2. Slip into Some Snowshoes
    Slip into Some Snowshoes

    The Sax-Zim Bog, near the Mesabi Iron Range, is a winter home to birds and owls, like the boreal chickadee, northern hawk owl, snow owl, great northern owl and more. Winter snowshoe hikes and guided field trips allow you to experience the flora and fauna of this unique landscape with a naturalist.

    After a day of snowshoeing and winter hiking, relax in your choice of accommodations, and fuel up at a local restaurant. For some indoor fun, explore museums like the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth.

OnlyinMN Monument at Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth

Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth

  1. Get into the Holiday Spirit
    Get into the Holiday Spirit

    America’s largest free walk-through light display, Bentleyville invites Duluth visitors to stroll under the glow of over 5 million lights in a 20-acre park situated on the shore of Lake Superior, while enjoying complimentary hot cocoa, cookies, popcorn and roasted marshmallows!

    Stay overnight in nearby Proctor, and arrive at the front of the line via a private shuttle right from your hotel. Proctor has partnered with Road Trip Limo to offer personal shuttle service on Friday and Saturday nights during Bentleyville. Call the hotels directly to book your room and shuttle service; space is limited. 

  2. See a show in a historic theater
    See a show in a historic theater

    Considered the longest continuous-running theater in Minnesota, the Historic Comet Theatre in downtown Cook, near Lake Vermilion, shows first-run movies year-round on its single screen. In business for 80 years, the theater also hosts live music and theater performances from time to time throughout the year.

  3. Discover fat biking
    Three fat bikers on a snowy trail in Grand Rapids

    Grand Rapids is becoming a mountain biking hub year-round / John Connelly

    Discover fat biking

    Embrace winter in a new way in Grand Rapids. The area boasts an abundance of outdoor recreation, like the new world-class mountain bike trail, Tioga. This 20-mile purpose-built, singletrack trail features a wide variety of cross-country and flow downhills, with great variety for the whole family.

    In the evening, settle in for some live music at a craft brewery, or see a professional theater production at the Reif Performing Arts Center. You'll also find a new wine bar, northern-inspired cuisine, and cozy lodging options.

  4. Mush a Dogsled
    Two teams of dog sledders near Ely, Minnesota

    Ely is Minnesota's dog sledding hub

    Mush a Dogsled

    Dubbed one of “16 Unexpected Adventures You Need to Experience” by Expedia, dogsledding in Ely is a winter must-do. Ely-area dogsled outfitters offer a wide variety of options; there are day trips, overnight yurt trips and even trips for ice fishing. Best of all, no experience is required—anyone can participate. Explore the wilderness by dogsled for an unforgettable winter adventure.

  5. Get Your Hygge On
    Get Your Hygge On

    Offering winter beauty, adventure, relaxation and coziness for miles, this beautiful little harbor village on Lake Superior is your ideal hygge destination. In February, Grand Marais celebrates its annual Hygge Week. Visitors will find dogsledding, snowmobiling, stargazing, fireside gatherings and cross-country skiing, plus other events to celebrate winter on the North Shore.

  6. Hit the Slopes
    Kids downhill skiing at Spirit Mountain in Duluth

    Kids downhill skiing at Spirit Mountain in Duluth

    Hit the Slopes

    No snow is no problem at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, where snowmaking machines ensure there's always fresh powder all winter long. Test your downhill skills on any of the 22 runs and three terrain parks. There's also 22 kilometers of groomed trails for cross-country skiing, snow tubing, and a chalet for warming up with a cup of hot chocolate. Equipment rentals and lessons are available.

  7. Avoid the Crowds
    Avoid the Crowds

    The Crane Lake area offers hiking and snowmobile/ATV trails, unbelievable night skies for stargazing, or simply a new place to visit and relax—crowds not included. Join hundreds of fellow snowmobile enthusiasts in early March for the great Crane Lake Challenge snowmobile races.

  8. Experience the Beauty of Winter
    A couple watches the northern lights at Gooseberry Falls State Park

    A couple watches the northern lights at Gooseberry Falls State Park / Travis Novitsky

    Experience the Beauty of Winter

    From views of frozen cascading waterfalls to the quiet of the forest under a blanket of snow, winter trail adventures are unlike any other season. Discover miles of trails in and around Two Harbors. By foot, walk the lakeside Sonju Trail, hike or snowshoe the rustic Superior Hiking Trail or explore Gooseberry Falls State Park. Or hop on a fat bike and ride the 13+ miles of groomed trails between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and the Lake County Demonstration Forest. 

Minnesota Arrowhead Association is a coalition of travel/tourism and commerce organizations working together to promote the Arrowhead region of northeast Minnesota as a vacation destination.