People ice skating on frozen Lake Winona

8 Must-Try Winter Adventures in Southern Minnesota

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Rent skates or BYO to Lake Winona in southeast Minnesota / Visit Winona

8 Must-Try Winter Adventures in Southern Minnesota

By Southern Minnesota Tourism Association

Ski, snowshoe, skate, bike, ice climb, fish, repeat! Layer up and get out there—these eight must-try outdoor adventures in southern Minnesota are calling you!

  1. Ice Climbing
    Levi LaVallee ice climbing in Winona

    Ice climbing in Winona  / Levi LaVallee

    Ice Climbing

    Adrenaline seekers need to make their ascent to Winona’s Ice Climbing Park this winter. The ice walls cascade hundreds of feet down the city’s towering bluffs, overlooking downtown Winona. The views of the Mississippi River and surrounding bluffs from above will take your breath away and make the perfect backdrop for Instagram-worthy photos. Bring your own gear or contact Big River Climbing Guides to get you set up for a unique and exciting experience.

  2. Ice Skating
    Ice skating at Ashley Park in Jackson

    Kids and adults play pond hockey at Ashley Park in Jackson / Singvongsa Photography

    Ice Skating

    Lace up your skates and get out on the ice in southern Minnesota this winter. The Straight River, a 55-mile tributary of the Mississippi, offers skate rentals, a warming chalet, hockey ponds and free skating near downtown Owatonna. Or skate on an inlet of the Des Moines River in southwest Jackson.

    Other man-made outdoor skating rinks can be found in Albert LeaMankato and Rochester, where you can skate on a frozen running track. Or head to Fairmont for the Southern Minnesota Pond Hockey Championship.

  3. Snowmobiling
    Snowmobiles at Owatonna's Bold & Cold Festival 

    Owatonna's Bold & Cold Festival 


    Rev your engines and hit the trails. There are more than 22,000 miles of snowmobile trails in Minnesota; hop on one of the groomed trails in Martin County near Fairmont for a spectacular experience, explore 200 miles of Minnesota River Valley Trails in New Ulm, or check out the annual Bold & Cold Festival in Owatonna. Plan your route by checking the Minnesota DNR’s interactive snowmobile trails map.

  4. Ice & Open Water Fishing
    Kids ice fishing in Lake City

    Kids ice fishing in Lake City / Ben Threinen and the Lake City Sportsmans Club

    Ice & Open Water Fishing

    The frosty months bring new life to our lakes and rivers. Whether you seek solitude in an ice fishing house or want to cast into the open waters of an ice-cold river, southern Minnesota’s frozen lakes and flowing rivers are perfect for connecting with nature.

    Try open water fly-fishing in Whitewater State Park in southeast Minnesota or along the Minnesota or Mississippi rivers. Bring a bucket and a pole for the annual Lake City Sportsmen’s Club Ice Fishing Tournament on Lake Pepin. Drop in a line for a chance to catch the “big one,” and enjoy a kids fishing contest, indoor games, raffles, food and a live auction.

  5. Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
    The cross-country skiing trail at Saint Mary's University

    The cross-country skiing trail at Saint Mary's University / Visit Winona

    Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing

    Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat in the woods or a heart-pounding workout, the options for playing in the snow are abundant in southern Minnesota. Grab your cross-country skis and connect with nature at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin, Lake Shetek State Park in Currie, Saint Mary's University in Winona, or Lac qui Parle State Park in Watson. Or, enjoy a winter evening by candlelight at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne or Minneopa State Park near Mankato.

    Snowshoeing opportunities abound in southern Minnesota, with rentals available at the Ney Nature Center in Henderson and Flandrau State Park in New Ulm. Snowshoe your way through Frontenac State Park, located on Lake Pepin near Lake City in southeast Minnesota, or explore miles of trails through Fort Ridgely State Park in Fairfax in the Minnesota River Valley.

  6. Fat Tire Biking
    Winter fat biking Northfield

    Fat biking the Sechler Park River Bottoms Trail in Northfield / Anna Min

    Fat Tire Biking

    Hear the crunch of the snow under your tires as you explore a variety of beautiful wooded, hilly and rural trails for all levels of riders. You’ll find 7.5 miles of varied terrain throughout the Richard J. Dorer State Forest near Rochester, or rent a fat bike at Straight River Sports in Owatonna for a one-of-a-kind scenic ride down Kaplan’s Woods mountain bike trail. Looking for a winter challenge? Sign up for the Snow Crush Fat Bike Race; it features 6-, 12- and 18-mile courses at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

  7. Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding
    Snowboarding at Welch Village ski area terrain park

    Snowboarding at Welch Village ski area terrain park

    Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding

    If you’re looking to hit the slopes to get your downhill fix, head to southeast Minnesota. The stunning bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley provide long drops and excitement on the 14 runs at Coffee Mill Ski Area near Wabasha. As a bonus, you can round out the day with eagle watching along Lake Pepin.

    About 20 minutes west of Red Wing and tucked into the Cannon River Valley, Welch Village ranks among Minnesota’s biggest ski areas with 60 runs. Try the terrain park for snowboarding or tubing at Mount Kato Ski Area in Mankato, which also has 19 downhill runs.

  8. Winter Festivals
    Crowd of people at Bock Fest in New Ulm

    Bock Fest at Schell's Brewery in New Ulm / Don Borstad

    Winter Festivals

    Head to Wabasha for the Grumpy Old Men Festival. Named after the movie filmed here, enjoy the festival’s live music, ice fishing contest on the Mississippi River, costume contest, Grumpy Plunge and much more local fun.

    Raise a beer with a few thousand of your friends at Bock Fest in New Ulm. Held on the historic grounds at Schell’s Brewery, Minnesota’s oldest brewery, this annual festival is a chance to sip some bock and pray for spring.

Southern Minnesota Tourism Association

Southern Minnesota has plenty of other fun indoor attractions, tons of upcoming festivals and events, and countless places to dine. And if you’re looking to stay overnight, there are plenty of affordable lodging options. Plan your southern Minnesota escape today.