10 Reasons to Love the Twin Cities this Winter

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From wintery outdoor experiences to cozy indoor events, let us help you build family memories this winter season.

Whether learning to skate, cheering for extreme winter sports or attending seasonal festivals, the Twin Cities metro area doesn’t let winter or wind-chill dampen outdoor fun. It helps to have dozens of lakes, two major river valleys, some of the top park systems in the nation, and a local culture that embraces invigorating fun on crisp winter days.

If you’re looking for a family adventure this winter, you won’t want to pass up these kid-friendly activities on a visit to Minneapolis-Saint Paul:

1. Hit the Slopes

Buck Hill Skiing, snowboarding and tubing, Burnsville
Buck Hill - Burnsville

Three Rivers Park District offers lessons in downhill skiing or snowboarding at Maple Grove’s Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area and Bloomington’s Hyland Hills Ski Area. Both have tubing runs, as well. For bigger challenges, head to Burnsville’s Buck Hill where Olympian skier Lindsey Vonn once trained, or Afton Alps where 48 trails carve through 300 acres overlooking the St. Croix River Valley at Hastings. Buck Hill and Afton Alps offer family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebrations, too, capped off with fireworks above the slopes.

2. Light Up the Lake

Cross-country ski races stack the schedule for Minneapolis’s legendary 2019 City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival, Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. But spectators can also watch fat-tire bike racing, snowshoeing, dogsled races, a kubb tournament and skijoring (a single dog pulling a skier). The most magical event? On Feb. 2, visitors can experience a luminary spectacle that ripples a festive glow across the frozen lake.

Lakes Loppet ski race Minneapolis
Loppet Race

3. Bundle Up for Festival Fun

Stroll through Holidazzle in Loring Park and find locally made gifts, warming beverages, and comforting eats. Rent ice skates, catch a movie in the park, get a glimpse of the holiday lights, listen to live music, and visit with Santa. Entrance is free! Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the nation’s oldest winter festival, kicks off Jan. 24 and runs until Feb. 2. Signature events include a Grand Day Parade with marching bands and floats (Jan. 26), a torchlight evening parade (Feb. 2) and an ongoing giant snow slide. The Minnesota State Fairgrounds feature additional family activities, and temporarily relocated to Kellogg Park for the year, you can also enjoy ice sculpting, live music, an ice bar and mulled wine. This year also marks the third ever Great Northern Festival, combining Saint Paul Winter Carnival, and Twin Cities Loppet Ski Festival.

4. Lace Up Your Skates

Enjoy a free lesson and skate rental during the seasonal Wells Fargo WinterSkate at Saint Paul’s Landmark Plaza and Minneapolis’ Loring Park. Other ice skating options include: the pretty ponds of Edina’s Centennial Lakes Park; Maple Grove’s Central Park Ice Skating Loop; and Roseville’s Guidant John Rose MN Oval, North America’s largest outdoor refrigerated skating facility, ringed by 300 illuminated trees for the holidays.

5. Travel the Mississippi (Indoors)  sea life minnesota aquarium.jpg

Look for turtles, freshwater fish, alligators and more on a multi-story trip at SEA LIFE Aquarium at Mall of America that begins with a simulation of Minnesota’s Mississippi River headwaters. The journey continues to the Louisiana bayous and Gulf of Mexico and into colorful saltwater reefs and ocean depths with sea turtles, sharks and a chance to touch and feed stingrays and watch jellies pulse through colorfully lit tanks.

6. Say Hello to the Mammoth

Stand beneath a towering and curvy-tusked shaggy mammoth, listen to the vocal sounds of black bears, and explore the texture of fur, weight of bones and structure of feathers in touch-and-feel areas at the newly expanded and relocated Bell Museum in Saint Paul. Don’t miss the world-renowned wildlife dioramas, a new planetarium and outdoor learning landscape.

7. Escape from Mars (or Prison)

Plan a prison break, pull off a heist, rescue an intergalactic mission or make your way out of a mine at The Escape Game at Mall of America. Ideal for tweens, teens and adults, it requires code cracking, puzzle solving and rampant curiosity to figure out the clues, team up and escape themed rooms within 60 minutes.

8. Find Sudsy Fun at the Children’s Museum

Prepare to get a little wet with suds, bubbles and sprayers in a wacky car wash station at Saint Paul’s Minnesota Children’s Museum, which caters to kids from crawlers to 12-year-olds brimming with curiosity. Other areas and exhibits explore science with air-powered ball launchers, test physical skills with laser mazes and climbing walls, and fuel young imaginations with a miniature city.

9. Explore a Winter Wonderland

Winter brings its own kind of beauty, from lacy patterns in the ice to the eerie sounds of freezing rivers. Fort Snelling State Park, which hugs a lake and the Minnesota River as it meets the Mississippi, offers wintery activities like ice fishing clinics and luminary-lit snowshoe walks. As spring nears, you can even go maple syrup-ing! Other go-to hiking spots include the Mississippi River Regional Trail with trailheads near Simon’s Ravine in South Saint Paul, Swing Bridge Trailhead in Inver Grove Heights and Lower Spring Lake Trailhead by Spring Lake Park. Also make sure to visit Theodore Wirth Regional Park for a host of winter activities, including cross-country skiing, ice fishing, tubing,  sledding and more. Or take a stroll over the historic Stone Arch Bridge, made from local granite and limestone.

10. Tap Into Your Wild Side

Amble through Saint Paul’s Como Zoo, home to a polar bear, Arctic fox, reindeer, wolves and gorillas, while weaving through indoor and outdoor exhibits. It’s attached to the popular Conservatory, filled with palm trees, spice bushes and seasonal flowers. Apple Valley’s 485-acre Minnesota Zoo takes visitors on outdoor trails past snow monkeys and bison, through an aquarium with penguins and monk seals, and a multi-level tropical habitat with exotic birds, gibbons, tree kangaroos and nocturnal creatures.

It may be cold outside, but with all of these great family activities, there’s no excuse to stay indoors this winter. So grab your coat and scarf, bundle up the family and head out to your next memory-making adventure!



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