Things to do in Minnesota in Winter

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December 23, 2017
Ice Skating at Maple Grove Central Park

There’s no better time to be with our loved ones than the holidays, but too often, snow and cold weather seems to limit our winter activities to the indoors. And sometimes that means we don’t get the face-to-face time we need to feel connected and content.

In the spirit of being well during the holidays, we pulled together things you can do in Minnesota in the winter to be with your loved ones and celebrate in healthy ways!

Go Ice Skating

One of the most satisfying Minnesota-winter sounds around: Lace up a pair of skates and listen to the blades carve the glossy, slick surface of the ice.

Here are our picks:

The Depot
One of the most iconic places to plant a toe pick—it’s been named in the top 10 by USA Today and MSNBC—is also closing in March, so squeeze in a visit for the ultimate historic train shed ambiance. Check the website for hours and rates.

Plymouth Ice Center
Three sheets of ice in two sizes—one Olympic-sized and two professional-sized, will make you feel like you’re ready to go pro. Open skate times and rates vary, so make sure to check the website before you visit.

 

 

Lake of the Isles
The classic outdoor experience: In the Chain of Lakes Regional Park lies Lake of the Isles Park, where you can skate, play hockey, and even attend a New Year’s party, complete with hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows. Check the website for updates.

Maple Grove Central Park
Leave the sticks and pucks at home: This LED-lit, refrigerated ice loop is designed purely for pleasure skating. At 20 feet wide and 810 feet long, there’s plenty of room for skaters, and admission is free. Skate rental is available. Check the website for hours and more info.

Start Sledding

It may be cold outside, but remember: There’s no bad weather, just bad gear. Put on your warmest layers and prepare to smile so hard your face will hurt. Fresh air and exercise boosts mental and physical well being, as does the exposure to natural light. Build memories and muscle stamina by hiking up high hills, then flying down with the wind in your face. The Twin Cities has plenty of options, and they are all free, which is probably why it’s one of the most popular things to do during Minnesota winters!

Here are our picks:

Three Rivers Park District Parks
The parks that are part of the Three Rivers Park District have many sledding options. Plus, there’s no park fee for sledding, and parking is free, too. Most hills are near chalets or nature centers for quick warm-ups, restrooms, and concessions on the weekends.

Check out the northwest-facing hill at Baker National Golf Course for end-of-winter fun, as snow has good staying power there. Carver Park Reserve boasts the longest run and is usually the last to close at winter’s end. Elm Creek Park Reserve’s southwest-facing sledding hill isn’t groomed, but it also offers tubing, skiing, and snowboarding at the winter recreation area. French Regional Park brings the thrills with its steep, south-facing hill. There’s a paved path for walking back uphill, instead of trudging through the snow, and lights stay on ’til 10 p.m. For more info on each park, check out the Three Rivers Park District website.

Minneapolis Parks & Recreation

Theodore Wirth Park
The former tubing hill at Theodore Wirth Park is now a free sledding hill. Admission is free. Bring your own sled, snow tube, or toboggan. Call Wirth Chalet for more information.

Sunset Hill
Sunset Hill is the designated sledding hill nearest to Wirth Park. It is located a half-mile North of the Wirth Winter Recreation Area in Valley View Park. Admission is free, and BYOS (Bring Your Own Sled). Call Wirth Chalet for more information.

Columbia Golf Club
The designated sledding hill at Columbia Golf Club is one of the steepest hills in Northeast Minneapolis. Bring your own sled or rent a snow tube. Plus, concessions are available in the Golf Clubhouse on weekends, holidays, and school release days. Call Columbia Golf Club for more information.

Shop the Winter Farmer’s Markets

Minnesota winter activities don’t all have to be about slicing through snow. Bring family and friends together over food. Minnesota nails healthy, fresh Farmer’s Market fun, incorporating some light exercise, family friendly entertainment, and nutritious fare. Make memories, share stories, and start family traditions while supporting local businesses and farmers.

Here are our picks:

Mill City Farmers Market
This classic, beautifully curated, and free winter farmers’ market will delight and surprise. Located within the historic Mill City Museum, you’ll be able to find artisan cheese, eggs, meat, root and pickled vegetables, gorgeous handmade gifts, live music and more! Check the Mill City Farmer’s Market website for featured dates and times.

 

 

Maple Grove Farmers Market
Get in the holiday spirit and stock up on local food before the holiday. Wear your ugly holiday sweater and pick up some gift tokens for the foodies in your life. Enjoy live music and camaraderie from 3 to 6 p.m. Free admission. Check the Maple Grove Farmers Market website for other winter dates.

Holidazzle
OK, so maybe this one isn’t a classic farmer’s market, but it IS a family fun classic for Minnesotans and there IS food. Up until December 23, you can enjoy free lit-up fun in Loring Park with more winter activities than you can shake a snow-crusted stick at! Skating, Santa appearances, fireworks, illuminated installations, games, and of course, food! Check the Holidazzle website for the hours and the rotating cast of vendors.

Be a Volunteer

To share and care together is the spirit of the season—a perfect Minnesota winter activity. When you give your time, the community gets well.

Here are our picks:

North Memorial Health
Our hospitals offer more than 100 ways to get involved, from companionship during chemo to helping cut waiting-room tension with surgery-status updates. Fill out an application for North Memorial Health Hospital or Maple Grove Hospital opportunities and give and live generously. Get involved by visiting the Volunteer website page.

The Food Group
Volunteers sort donations, assemble food packages, and more during their two-hour shifts. The Food Group can take groups of 10-100 at a time, so assemble your co-workers, friends, community groups, and families to make a difference. Find more information at The Food Group website.

The Bridge for Youth
Be a port in the storm by being the first point of contact for homeless youth looking to enter a shelter. Take calls and texts 24/7/365 (2 to 4 hour shifts every two weeks) to get youth placed or just let them be heard. Check the Bridge for Youth website for more information.

 

Help at your Door
Be someone’s Girl or Guy Friday: From helping order groceries to changing light bulbs, employing handyman skills or office management know-how, you can help seniors and those with disabilities throughout the community. Get involved by starting at their website.

Books for Africa
Bring your inner librarian out and sort and pack books in two-hour shifts at the Books for Africa warehouse in St. Paul. No heavy lifting involved. Check the Books for Africa website for shift times.

Salvation Army Bell Ringing
One of the most iconic images of the holiday season are those red kettles. Just one hour of jingle-bell-ringing before Christmas Eve can help provide a family with two bags of groceries or shelter someone for a night. Check the Salvation Army website for more information.

Master the Art of Mall Walking

So, you may have joked before that shopping is your cardio, but you truly can pack in a good heart-pounding punch if you make an effort to do mall walking in the winter. Not surprisingly, the land of the first enclosed mall is also the land that invented mall walking as a way to get exercise without having to worry about slipping on ice. Minnesotan malls have embraced the opportunity with special hours and perks—you should too.

Here are our picks:

Ridgedale
Head to this tony Minnetonka mall two hours before mall opening to walk without having to dodge window shoppers. Hours and more info are at the Ridgedale website.

Mall of America
The all-star American mall in Bloomington also offers the MOA Mall Stars walking program. Join the Mall Stars and you can swipe your card to track and record time (and the calories you burn) you spend walking at the Mall. Just one loop equals more than half a mile. Your membership also gets you exclusive access to monthly meetings featuring coffee, breakfast, and speakers on health topics, plus discounts on mall purchases. Not to mention—you may make new friends, increasing the size of your community and feelings of belonging. Check the Mall of America website to learn more about Mall Stars.

 

Rosedale
This Roseville retail mainstay offers mall walking opportunities from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Walk the mall’s upper or lower level to clock three-quarters of a mile, or do both for a doubly impactful workout. More info at the Rosedale mall website.

Southdale
Take it back to where it all began, in Edina, starting at 8 a.m., seven days a week. Slip on your Fitbit and watch the miles add up as you loop around the first, second, and third levels of America’s first enclosed mall. Walking distance maps are available at the Mall Management office on the lower level. More info at the Southdale website, too.

Blaine
Every morning at opening time, Northtown mall welcomes mall walkers to their Blaine halls. Check get information and times at the Northtown mall website.

So there you have it: Tons and tons of things to do in Minnesota in the winter that are healthy, low cost, and likely to boost your mood.  Make the most of these Twin Cities winter months!

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