This article is supported by the Southern Minnesota Tourism Association.
Southern Minnesota is known for its exquisite nature and outdoor activities, but there are as many things to do indoors as there are outside. When the temperatures begin to drop, the region is an ideal destination to explore for its theaters, museums and culinary delights. Here is your guide to some of the top things to do in southern Minnesota this winter.
One of the biggest challenges for parents during the winter months is finding a place to take the kids where they can burn off energy and learn something new and exciting. The Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota opened in May 2015, and has quickly become one of the top attractions in southern Minnesota. Among the many highlights are a climbing fort space, infant and toddler play area, a farm gallery, a quarry play space, and an imagineering loft for kids interested in STEM fields. The museum also hosts a series of programs and events that align with children’s interests or particular time of year. These include LEGO leagues, art classes, costume contests during the holidays, special toddler programs, bookmobile visits and special needs accessibility playtime.
Located in Winona in southeast Minnesota is a museum packed with art by world-famous artists, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. All pieces here center around water and marine life. Visitors will find ocean-themed Picasso paintings and Monet’s still lifes of rivers. Other famous pieces include works by Paul Gaugin, Winslow Homer, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Georgia O’Keefe. One of the museum's most recent acquisitions is a smaller version of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by German-American artist Emanuel Leutze.
Southern Minnesota is also home to one of the most unique museums you’ll find in the United States. The Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum, which operated as the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children in Owatonna, housed more than 10,635 orphaned or abandoned children from 1886 to 1945. Today, visitors can tour the orphanage-turned-museum and visit a restored boys cottage to relive the life and times of the children who grew up there.
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.