Last updated on August 24th, 2019
For some, a Winter in Minnesota is one of dread. The blizzards, epic cold weather and of course road conditions. When I think of a Minnesota winter, I think of all the fun you can have on the snow. Like taking a sled or tube and hurtling down a hill at top speeds, building a snowman or having a snowball fight. Or warm up with a nice hot chocolate by the fireplace. Any way you enjoy the season, it is one of my favorite times to be in Minnesota. To get you into the spirit of winter, here are 28 different things to do to keep you busy all winter.
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28 Ideas to keep you busy this Minnesota Winter
Things to do Outdoors in Minnesota
The Sandstone Ice Festival is celebrating its 15 years. Brave the elements and give it a try. You don’t have to wait for the festival to start climbing. Give it a try through REI and other outfitters.
The fishing doesn’t stop when the lakes freeze over here, just Ice Fish. The largest festival is held in Mille Lacs Fishing for Ducks competition with a grand prize of $20,000 in cash.
Speed over the fresh snow with a Snowmobile. The DNR has a great list of trails to check out. If you don’t own one, you can rent one at a few different places around the state, including Brainerd and the Twin Cities.
Excelsior Ice Castle
The Ice Castle in Minnesota moved to Excelsior. They have built an amazing experience you don’t want to miss out on, filled with ice slides, tunnels and lights. The Saint Paul Winter Carnival likes to create their own too but you can’t go inside.
Snow Shoeing around the Arboretum Trials or in MN State Park. Rentals are inexpensive or bring your own. Your local nature centers offer rentals too, so there is no excuse. I recently went with the Dodge Nature Center in St. Paul for one of their events, Women in the Woods with Wine. It was a blast and a great way to warm up to snowshoeing.
Skiing or Snowboarding the Slopes
Skiing the Slopes or even Snowboarding. Minnesota is far from flat, and while we don’t have the mountains, we do have enough hills to get your fix in. Check out some of the best hills in Minnesota.
Cross Country Ski
Cross Country Ski around Minneapolis. There are great parks around Minnesota. The MN State Parks also have groomed many of their trails, including those on the MN State Parks Hiking Club into Cross Country Ski trails. It’s an alternative way to get your passwords all season long. Head out to a trial or rent a pair of skies and get a great workout.
Jump into a chilly ice-covered lake for a good cause with the Polar Plunge. Everyone that does this is absolutely crazy. But I say this from experience, you will never forget it. All the money collected goes to the Special Olympics, so quit your whining and take the plunge.
Try Kicksleding. The kicksled is a small chair with metal runners and a handle on the back for the person to kick the rider around. Think of it as a dog sled, minus the dogs pulling it. Instead, you do the work. It’s a great way to get your younger kids on the ice and enjoy a Minnesota winter. The Three Rivers Parks rentals them for only $5 an hour.
It doesn’t matter the age; sledding is always a fun way to spend the day. The excitement as you fly down at record-breaking speeds, listening to your kids’ squeal with excitement. Or warming up after with a hot drink. Grab your favorite sled, and get out to some of the best hills in the Twin Cities. 10 of the Best Sledding Hills in the Twin Cities
Zip Line above the trees with Kerfoot Canopy Tours in Henderson MN. Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you have to hang up your carabineers and put away the ropes. The course is still open for those that love the adrenaline rush. I’ve done their Brainerd trip during the summer and winter is something I need to try.
Fat Tire Bike
Just because the snow falls, doesn’t mean you have to put away your bike. Put on your Fat Tires and hit the bike trails. Or take part in the Stupor Bowl race going on over the Super Bowl. The race is known only to the MPLS biking community and finding ‘Official Race’ info online is challenging, so good luck!
Try Winter Camping. Many of the MN State Parks are open year-round for camping and from what I’ve seen, you won’t have to fight for the best camping spot like you do in winter. If tenting it sounds too scary, think about renting a cabin.
MN is filled with waterfalls, and when winter hits, they all freeze into something amazing. I’m sure most of you know about Minnehaha Falls and it’s ice cave, but that is nothing compared to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. I’ve also got 8 more stunning waterfalls near Minneapolis that you have to check out! And visiting them is always free.
Skijoring is not quite dog sledding but not cross country skiing either. Skijoring uses man’s best friend to pull skiers around a track. The Three Rivers Park District has trails you can use to practice. And this year, Canterbury Park is also hosting an extreme version of the event. And you thought their season ended already, didn’t you? It should be a fun race to watch. Or even better, Points Unknown offers you the chance to try it out.
Find an Ice Bar
Visit an Ice bar with Social Ice in Rochester. It’s one of the biggest collections of outdoor bars in one location complete with music. This free event takes over downtown Rochester and turns it into a winter wonderland.
Things to do Indoors in Minnesota in Winter
If ice climbing isn’t your thing, you can still get your rock climbing in at some of the indoor locations around Minneapolis. Vertical Endeavors indoors is the best place to go due to its large amounts of climbing walls and difficulties But you can also do it at some of the Life Time Fitness locations.
Visit a few of Minneapolis’s museums. My favorites are the Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of MN and Minneapolis Institute of Arts. What I love about the collection of Minneapolis Museums, is how many offer free admission. There are over 28 are either always free, or have free days so everyone gets a chance to enjoy them.
Get dressed up and check out one of our great Theaters. The Chanhassen Dinner Theater always has something playing. For bigger shows, some coming directly from Broadway go to Minneapolis and visit the Hennepin Theater Trust. It’s always warm inside.
Mall of America
Spend a day at the Mall of America. The MOA has a rotating collection of great shopping experiences, specialty stores, and other events. It attracts celebrities putting on concerts and signing autographs. The mall has its own Sealife Aquarium to explore the world below the oceans, and amusement park and games like Nickelodeon Universe, Flyover America and zip lining. So whoever said it’s just a Mall, doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Go on a Wine Tour around Minnesota. There may not be grapes on the vines anymore, but that doesn’t have to stop the fun. The Minnesota Wine Growers Association sells a wine passport that will help you get started. For $25 you’ll get ten free wine tastings and other great deals.
Visit a Comedy Club. The Twin Cities attracts some of the best talent in the country. In my family, a good laugh is always what we are looking for on date night. Check out the best places to see it in action.
Visit a place where it’s always 50 degrees, Niagara Cave. Located in southern MN, this cave is hidden away and 100% bat free. But what I loved about it was the waterfall inside. At some point, you can even experience blackout conditions.
Don’t want to wait outside for amazing Food Truck delicacies, check out the Seventh Street Truck Park in St. Paul. It’s an indoor food truck park, for those that don’t want to deal with Minnesota’s slushy streets this time of year.
The SPAM Museum is a must-see destination, and it’s completely free. They have a great indoor play area. The museum catalogs SPAMs impact through history. Their displays rival any children’s museum. Be warned, you may end up leaving with a crate of SPAM to remember your visit.
Visit a Zoo
The COMO Zoo Conservatory has flowers blooming all year round. The conservatory is heated; you’ll forget that you are in the dead of winter. Once you are done checking that out, make sure to visit some of the animals! It’s the only Free zoo in MN. Another great zoo to check out is the MN Zoo. Their tropic trail stays consistently at 72 degrees all the time. And if you plan it right, you may have the zoo all to yourself.
This is just to get you started thinking about things to do in Minnesota in the winter. There are tons more winter activities in MN that haven’t made our list. If you are planning to stay overnight, make sure to check out Expedia for some of the best rates on hotel stays. Always make sure to have a winter safety kit in your car whenever you travel this time of year. I recommend AAA’s 66-Piece Severe Weather Road Kit. Do you have any other winter traditions?
Need some more inspiration, make sure to check out my other list of 28 Things to Do: