7 Things to Do in Minnesota This Winter

By Caitlin Hannah

Wells Fargo WinterSkate in downtown St. Paul
Wells Fargo WinterSkate in downtown St. Paul / Photo by Teresa Boardman

Minnesota is a winter haven for outdoor activities, theater, food and drink, seasonal festivals and more. Get out and win at winter with these unique activities.

1. Explore the Trails

Cross country skiing in Grand Rapids
Cross-country skiing outside of Grand Rapids

Minnesota is home to thousands of trails designed for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. In fact, Minnesota's cross-country skiing trails offer more miles of skiing than a trek from St. Paul to Los Angeles, and there are 22,000 miles of groomed trails for snowmobiling. Minnesota trails provide breathtaking views of our state’s forests, lakes and rivers. Find a trail near you.

2. Attend a Winter Festival

Surly's Ultimate Winter Feast outdoor dinner at The Great Northern
Surly's Ultimate Winter Feast at The Great Northern Festival / BLK WLF Photography c/o The Great Northern

Minnesotans embrace winter with a positive attitude. The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is the oldest winter festival in the United States. Since 1886, downtown St. Paul has been transformed into a winter wonderland with ice sculptures, parades and live music in Rice Park. These days it's also an integral component of The Great Northern festival, which unites some of the Twin Cities' premier winter events under one, snowy banner from late January through early February.

Join the frozen fun at Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes and see the ice palace complete with 1,500 blocks of ice that will be illuminated each night. Get moving and sign up for the Freeze Your Buns 5K, watch the polar plunge and enjoy frozen fireworks.

3. Sample New Food & Drinks

Starkeller Brewing in New Ulm specializes in sour beer
The Starkeller is Schell's specialty, Berliner Weiss tap room in New Ulm

Escape the cold and warm up your taste buds with a trip around the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. With every turn you will experience a different variety of food and drink options from around the world. With more than 50 vendors, you are bound to find something you like, whether it’s a bowl of piping hot pho, fresh homemade pasta or an indurrito (Indian burrito).

Minnesota is home to more than 100 breweries and taprooms across the state. Sip a local beer and discover a new variety. You can visit breweries along the Southern Beer Trail or head up north to the Duluth area to experience six breweries along the North Shore.

Local distilleries are also gaining popularity. Craft cocktail enthusiasts will enjoy tasting whiskeys, vodkas, gins and moonshines from distilleries like 11 Wells, J. Carver Distillery, Far North Spirits, Panther Distillery and Vikre Distillery.

4.  Laugh Until It Hurts

Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis
Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis

The cold weather might get you down, so brighten your spirits by taking in a comedy show. Minneapolis is home to many comedy clubs and improv theatres. The Brave New Workshop has been crafting hilarious and thought-provoking original comedy shows for 55 years. See their newest show, or catch one of their late-night improv shows.

ComedySportz in Uptown offers interactive improv shows appropriate for the entire family on Thursday-Saturday nights.

5. Try a Unique Winter Activity

The Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza hosts over 10,000 anglers every year
The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is the largest festival of its kind / Photo by Lisa Meyers McClintick

Did you know the U.S. Men’s 2015 curling team (who won the 2015 championship) is from Duluth? Minnesota has the most curling clubs in the nation. With more than 30 clubs across the state, you are bound to find one near you.

Another unique winter activity that can be found in Minnesota is dog sledding. The Boundary Waters has millions of acres that provide the perfect snowy environment for you and a team of Canadian Inuit dogs to explore. There are also outfitters along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Ice fishing is an iconic Minnesota winter activity. Visit Lake of the Woods, the "Walleye Capital of the World," to experience excellent ice fishing. This fishing destination features more than 50 resorts, sleeper services and hotels. Lodging options include a cozy cabin, condo, hotel, motel or a sleeper fish house on a frozen lake.

6. Cheer on the Home Team

Cheer for Bemidji State Hockey at the Sanford Center arena
Cheer on the Bemidji State Beavers at the Sanford Center Arena

Escape the cold for an evening of excitement cheering on the home team. Minnesota pro teams to watch during the winter include the Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota RollerGirls and Minnesota Wild.

Minnesota collegiate sports are also an exciting way to spend an evening watching athletes compete in multiple sports ranging from volleyball to gymnastics. The University of Minnesota is part of the Big 10 Conference, with winter sports including basketball, hockey, volleyball and wrestling. The University of Minnesota’s men’s and women’s hockey team are consistently ranked among the best in the nation. The teams have various games across Minnesota during the season.

7. Hit the Slopes

Skier jumping over the moon at Spirit Mountain
A skier jumps over the moon at Spirit Mountain in Duluth

Minnesota features some of the highest hills in the Midwest, and Minnesota ski areas offer thrills for any level of skills. From Spirit Mountain in Duluth to the new Detroit Mountain Recreation Area in Detroit Lakes, there are opportunities across the state to cruise the runs.

No matter what you do this winter, get out and explore Minnesota. You can document your adventures and get inspired for new outings by using the hashtag #OnlyinMN on social media.

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