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Minnesota isn’t a place where too many people from other places think to spend a winter vacation. It’s notoriously cold and snowy here, but that just adds to the state’s unique culture and resilient attitude. If you know where to look, there are actually lots of ways to enjoy a Minnesota winter, both indoors and outdoors. From lodges to ski resorts and state parks, here are our favorite winter weekend getaways in Minnesota!
Giants Ridge, Biwabik
Another excellent Minnesota resort destination for winter is Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Outdoor enthusiasts love this place for a weekend getaway because of all the winter fun you can have here. Giant’s Ridge is tucked into the Northwoods of Minnesota and offers everything from ice fishing to fat tire biking and skiing and snowboarding among the pines of the Superior National Forest. It’s northwest of Duluth, and the town’s name means “valuable” in the Ojibwa Native American language. Accommodations are provided at the Lodge at Giants Ridge, the Villas at Giants Ridge, Green Gate Guest Houses, and the Residence Club at Giant’s Ridge.
Ely is a college town in Minnesota that is located on the Vermilion Iron Range and has a population of around 3,400 people. The town is absolutely stunning in the winter season and wonderfully uncrowded. This is a great place to relax and unwind or to get outside to experience snow sport activities and capture amazing winter photography shots. Dog sledding trips are popular here. Other top attractions in Ely include the North American Bear Center, the International Wolf Center, the Dorothy Molter Museum, Bear Head Lake State Park, and Sheridan Street. You can find lots of locally handcrafted gift items in the shops in downtown Ely.
Lutsen Mountains, Lutsen
For ski and snowboard enthusiasts, there’s no better place in winter in Minnesota than the Lutsen Mountains. This Northern Minnesota destination is a ski and summer resort that offers ski and stay packages and is the best mountain ski area in the Midwest. It features four interconnected peaks that overlook Lake Superior and give you a big mountain skiing experience without having to travel out west. Look for deals on holidays, bonus weekends, and accommodation specials. Resort accommodations in the area include the Eagle Ridge Resort at Lutsen Mountains and the Caribou Highlands Lodge.
Detroit Lakes is a town in Minnesota that also provides a fun weekend getaway. Polar Fest is a local event that takes place in February and includes everything from warm dinners to fireworks, a lighted ice palace, an ice fishing derby, and even the famous polar plunge into the icy waters of Detroit Lake. It’s also fun to ride a horse-drawn sleigh here and enjoy the many restaurants, brewpubs, and bars here. Brygge Taps & Tastes, The Fireside, and Hub 41 are all popular dining options in Detroit Lakes.
Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts, Tofte
You can stay warm and cozy along Minnesota’s North Shore when you stay at the Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts. This is a great way to experience Lake Superior in luxury. Bluefin Bay is a resort that gives you year-round access to the Lutsen-Tofte region, the Sawtooth Mountains, and the Superior National Forest. Inside you’ll find in-suite wood fireplaces, whirlpool baths, and amazing views of the lake. There are even rooms that are pet-friendly, so you can bring your pup along for the weekend. Great winter activities to do in the area include downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and dog sledding.
Itasca State Park, Park Rapids
Just because it’s chilly outside doesn’t mean that state parks stop offering winter fun. Itasca State Park is the oldest state park in Minnesota and spans over 32,000 acres of land with over 100 lakes. Campsites are available year-round at the Pine Ridge Campground; however, you’ll need to get your water at the visitor’s center or bring it along with you. Naturalist programs are also offered year-round to teach you about the history of the area and the wildlife and geology here. In the winter, there are about 13 miles of groomed ski trails to explore, and the South Entrance Road even becomes a ski trail. You can snowshoe anywhere in the park, and there are 31 miles of snowmobile trails that circle the perimeter of the park as well.
Boyd Lodge, Crosslake
Boyd Lodge is another fun weekend getaway destination in Minnesota for the winter. Located in Crosslake and along the Whitefish chain of 14 lakes, Boyd is a place for family vacations, romantic couples’ trips, and group resort getaways. You can book a cozy loft cabin or cottage and spend your weekend cross-country skiing and sitting by the fireplace. The resort has five miles of its own groomed skiing trails. Then come back to warm up in the relaxing sauna and whirlpool! The cabins here have three to five bedrooms, while the cottages are more spacious than you might expect and have four bedrooms.
St. Croix State Park, Hinckley
Another state park worth making a weekend trip out of in Minnesota is St. Croix State Park in Hinckley. You can book a campground year-round in the Riverview Campground, and there are 71 electric sites available all throughout the year. There are 11 miles of easy groomed trails for cross-country skiing here, as well as 80 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. The park also has a warming house at the trail center (about three miles from the ski trailhead) with two indoor fireplaces, bathrooms, and picnic tables.
The Minnesota town of Moorhead is right next to Fargo, North Dakota, and this region is a fun place to visit for the weekend too. These sister cities of the Red River Valley are great for cultural experiences and kid-friendly activities. Check out the Downtown Fargo ice skating rink, holiday light shows, Santa’s Village, and sledding hills.