28 Things to do in MN during Winter

30 FUN Things To Do During Winter in Minnesota 2023

For some, a Winter in Minnesota is one of dread. The blizzards, epic cold temperatures, and of course, road conditions. When I think of a Minnesota winter, I think of all the fun you can have in the snow.

Like taking a sled or tube and hurtling down a hill at top speeds, building a snowman, or having a snowball fight. Walk around Downtown Minneapolis in our Skyways. Or warm up with a nice hot chocolate by the fireplace.

Any way you enjoy winter, 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 during winter in Minnesota. You may find there are too many things to do during the winter months.

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30 Ideas to keep you busy this Minnesota during Winter

This list includes things you can only do during the middle of winter in Minnesota. While most are outdoor activities, and winter recreation sports, there is so much more.

Sure, there are plenty of other things to do around the community indoors, but what’s the fun in celebrating the season hidden away?

With that being said, if it’s too cold to be outside, I included a few indoor activities in Minnesota that are unique too. For more great ideas, check out some of my other seasonal lists too, at the bottom of the page.

Things to do in Minnesota Outdoors During Winter

Ice Climbing

The Sandstone Ice Festival takes place January 12,13,14. Ice climbing is a popular outdoor activity you can watch in person, or brave the elements and try it out.

You don’t have to wait for the festival to climb. Try it with programs through REI and other outfitters.

Ice Fishing

The fishing doesn’t stop when the lakes freeze over here, just Ice Fish. It may be one of the most popular winter sports in the state.

Minnesota holds the largest festival in held in Mille Lacs Fishing for Ducks competition with a grand prize of $20,000 in cash. Fun tournaments like these in the middle of winter in Minnesota is what makes the season so much fun!


Speed over the heavy snow with a snowmobile. The DNR has an impressive 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.

There are a lot of great trails all over the state, including in Northern Minnesota.

MN Ice Castle

The Ice Castle in Minnesota seems to always be on the move. They have built an amazing experience you don’t want to miss out on, filled with ice slides, tunnels, and lights. This year they have moved to Maple Grove.

St Paul Winter Carnival

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival likes to create its own ice castle, but you can’t go inside.

Ice Palace Maze

There is also the Ice Palace Maze in Eagan. This was a fun, family-friendly activity. These go through late February.

MN north Shore

With all the Outdoor Activities in Minnesota, visiting the ice structures is the best way to see some cool art, and embrace the cold weather.
The Enchanting Ice Castles in Minnesota: Inside the latest attraction + Tips
The Delightful Ice Palace Maze: The Largest Ice Maze in the USA

Ice Sled

Ice Skating

Winter in Minnesota is more fun with skates! Glide across some fresh ice and go Ice Skating! Most cities have local rinks, but my favorite has to be in Roseville’s OVAL, Centennial Lakes in Edina with their frozen lake, and of course Rice Park in St. Paul. You can also skate in downtown Minneapolis.

Check out all the great ice rinks in the Twin Cities.

Centennial Lakes warming house


Snowshoeing around the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum trails or in an MN State Park. Snowshoeing is a fun way to enjoy the winter weather and keeping you in shape!

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.

Snow Shoes

Downhill Skiing or Snowboarding the Slopes

Skiing the Slopes or even Snowboarding across the state. Minnesota is far from flat, and while we don’t have many mountains, we have enough hills to get your fix in.

Head out to Spirit Mountain, Buck Hill, Lutsen Mountains or some of the best hills in Minnesota.

Cross Country Ski

Cross Country Ski around Minneapolis. There are magnificent Minnesota State Parks.

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.

If you get the chance, the North Shore is breathtaking this time of year, especially with the freezing waters of Lake Superior.

It’s an alternative way to get your passwords all season long. Head out to a trail or rent a pair of skis and get a great workout.

Dog Sledding in Duluth

Watch the start of the John Beargrease Dog Sled Race in Duluth. Or get into the spirit and try dog sled racing yourself with an outfitter. If this isn’t on your bucket list, it should be!

You can also see it in the Twin Cities in Excelsior! The Klondike Derby is held annually at the beginning of February!!

Klondike Derby

See the Trumpeter Swans

When the lakes freeze, swans look for whatever open water they can find. This is my favorite thing to do during winter in Minnesota. In the metro area, there are two places that are prime spots for viewing them.

Sucker Lake in Vadnais Heights. Walk the 2.6-mile loop around the lake.

The other is at Memorial Park in Shakopee. The swans are right next to the parking lot and are easy for families or people with mobility issues to check them out. This is a free winner active near you to do!

Trumpeter Swans

Polar Plunge

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.

The cold water you will never forget it. All the money collected goes to the Special Olympics, so quit your whining and take the plunge.

Doing your own polar plunge?

Thinking about doing a Polar Plunge? Check out what it’s like: Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Polar Plunge Plus Tips


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.

Sledding or Snow Tubing

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. Best Sledding Hills in the Twin Cities

Staring Lake Park Sledding Hill in Eden Prairie

Zip Line

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!

Winter Camping

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 summer. If tenting sounds too scary, think about renting a cabin.

There are some great ones, including parks like Itasca State Park with heated cabins and warming houses.

Frozen Waterfall

MN is packed with waterfalls, and when winter hits single digits, they all freeze into something amazing. During the summer, you may have to worry about the average rainfall affecting the flow.

But in winter, it’s never a problem. I’m sure most of you know about Minnehaha Falls and its ice cave, but that is nothing compared to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, or Hidden Falls in St. Paul.

I’ve also got stunning waterfalls near Minneapolis that you have to check out! And visiting them is always free.

Nerstand Big Woods State Park Hidden Falls


Skijoring is not quite a 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 and food. This free event takes over downtown Rochester and turns it into a winter wonderland.

Holiday Light Displays

During the beginning of winter, all of your favorite gardens and remote spaces transform into holiday light shows. Grab something warm, fill a mug of hot chocolate and wander around some of the fun festivals.

Some of my favorites are the MN Landscape Arboretum and Glow Holiday Lights at the MN State Fairgrounds.

Chistmas Lights in MN

We have some amazing Christmas Light displays around MN. Check them all out!
Where to See Christmas Lights in MN

Holiday Lights
The Top MN Destinations You need to visit next

Things to do during Winter in Minnesota Indoors

With the average weather being 13 degrees, sometimes you’d prefer to stay inside. No judgment. There is still plenty of stuff to do in Minneapolis indoors too!

Rock Climbing

If ice climbing isn’t your thing, you can still get your rock climbing in at some of the indoor locations around Minneapolis in December.

Vertical Endeavors indoors is the best place to go because of its large amounts of climbing walls and difficulties but you can also do it at some of the LifeTime Fitness locations.

Minneapolis Museums

Visit a few of Minneapolis’s museums during winter in Minnesota. My favorites are the Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of MN, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

What I love about the collection of Minneapolis Museums is how many offers free admission. There are over 28 who are always free or have free days, so everyone gets a chance to enjoy them.

Minnesota Children's Museum Green Room


Get dressed up and check out one of our grand 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 hosting concerts and signing autographs.

The mall has its own Sealife Aquarium to explore the world below the oceans, and amusement parks 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.

Wine Tour

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.

Four Daughters Winery in Southern Minnesota

Comedy Club

Visit a Comedy Club during Minnesota’s winter. The St. Paul Metro area attracts some of the best talents 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.

Food Trucks

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.

SPAM Museum

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 on history.

Their displays rival any children’s museum. Be warned, you may end up leaving with a crate of SPAM to remember your visit.

A peak inside the SPAM Museum in Austin MN

Visit a Zoo

The great places to visit in the winter season are the ZOOs! 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, visit some 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, like on a snowy winters day, you may have the zoo all to yourself.

The Como Zoo in St Paul MN

What about more fun things to do in Minnesota in winter?

This is just to get you started thinking about things to do in Minnesota during winter. If you are looking for something to do this weekend in Minnesota, there are tons more winter activities in MN that haven’t made our list.

Like mini-golfing Can Can Wonderland or exploring some of the great small towns to Day Trip too, but you can do those any time of year. 

If you are planning to stay overnight, check out Expedia for some of the best rates on hotel stays. Always 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:

28 Things to do in Spring in Minnesota
28 Things to do in Summer in Minnesota
28 Things to do in Autumn in Minnesota

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