Top 10 Things to Do in Minnesota in Winter

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If you like it snowy, freezing, and spectacular, Minnesota is a fantastic place to be during winter. Temperatures will be below zero, the expansive snow-covered panoramas will take your breath away, and the electric urban life of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth will bring lots of cool opportunities to enjoy your holiday. It is a state of the grand outdoors dotted with thousands of lakes, thick forests, and scenic roads through the wilderness. The adventures you can embark on are truly endless here. These are the top things to do in Minnesota in winter to make it easier for you to choose the right activity in The North Star State.

Go Downhill Skiing
A slope at Lutsen Mountains ski resort

Go Downhill Skiing

What Is It? With 18 ski resorts, there’s always something for everyone on the slopes of Minnesota. The state boasts ideal riding conditions, a diversity of terrain, and magnificent panoramas. Perfect for beginners and intermediates, the local ski resorts would be happy to help you enjoy the snowy winter to the fullest. 

Why Do It? Downhill skiing is an active and fun way to take the most from the cold winter months. The Minnesotan slopes are gentle, well-groomed, small, affordable, and feature stunning landscapes. An ideal choice for a family vacation it is.  

Good to Know: The largest and best ski resort in the state is the Lutsen Mountains on the northern shore of Lake Superior next to Duluth. It would be a safe bet for your first skiing outing in Minnesota. Buck Hill would be great for beginners and Hyland Hills is a superb pick for cross-country skiing.

Snowshoe Your Way Through Voyageurs National Park
Snowshoe your way through Voyageurs National Park

Snowshoe Your Way Through Voyageurs National Park

What Is It? Putting the snowshoes on and hiking through the heavily forested terrain of Voyageurs National Park is one of the top things to do in Minnesota this winter. There are several designated trails that allow you to admire the frozen beauty of the park’s lakes and have a chance to see the wildlife. 

Why Do It? Snowshoeing is an original and very contemplative way to experience the winter wonderland of Voyageurs National Park first-hand. The trails are easy and you’re getting a smooth outdoor activity and a one-on-one with nature. 

Good to Know: Apart from snowshoeing, the Voyageurs National Park has such visitor-favorite activities as snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Chase the Elusive Northern Lights
Chase the elusive Northern Lights

Chase the Elusive Northern Lights

What Is It? You don’t have to go to the North Pole to spot the aurora borealis, Minnesota is just fine. With vast uninhabited areas, lack of light pollution, the grandeur of Lake Superior, and high chances of spotting this magical spectacle, the state is among the best places in the US to see Northern Lights. 

Why Do It? It’s one of the bucket-list things to do, something you will never forget. And it’s not only about the aurora itself, it’s about the chase too. When you’ve got Minnesota outdoors as a playground, your winter quest becomes even more thrilling. 

Good to Know: Winter is a great time to see the Northern Lights in Minnesota. Check out the aurora forecast before going on a hunt and the Kp index specifically. The higher the index the higher the chance of spotting the aurora. Cook County, Voyageurs National Park, and Lake of the Woods in Northern Minnesota are generally regarded as the best places for Northern Lights watching. 

Try Ice Fishing
Try ice fishing

Try Ice Fishing

What Is It? When you’re in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, fishing is among the top activities. But how about ice fishing? An integral part of Minnesotan culture, this pastime is a charming way to feel the local winter. As the lake waters freeze, the licensed enthusiasts come to take their chances with catching walleyes, panfish, pikes, or eelpouts. 

Why Do It? While definitely not for everyone, ice fishing would be an exciting thing to do for Minnesota visitors that enjoy slow travel. It’s always a social activity paired with conversations, on-site food preparation, and beautiful landscapes around. 

Good to Know: Check out the free Take a Kid Ice Fishing program by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The best ice fishing spots, for starters, would be Lake Mille Lacs and Lake of the Woods. 

Attend a Winter Festival
Attend a winter festival

Attend a Winter Festival

What Is It? Winter is a festival season in Minnesota. Different cities across the state organize celebrations bringing communities together and offering a fun family time. The oldest and biggest one is Saint Paul Winter Carnival. Founded in 1886, it’s still the prime winter St Paul happening that takes place from January 26 to February 04. 

Why Do It? Ice sculpture competitions, carnivals with witty costumes, activities for kids, street food, warm drinks outside, Minnesotan winter festivals are all that. It’s a cheerful way to spend quality family time and a great urban thing to do. 

Good to Know: Detroit Lakes is famous for its action-packed Polar Fest (February 10 – February 26) where the culmination is the ice throne completion. 10-day The Great Northern (a satellite to Saint Paul Winter Carnival) is the Twin Cities’ top event that focuses on winter sports and food.

Enter the Shopping Universe of Mall of America
Enter the shopping universe of Mall of America

Enter the Shopping Universe of Mall of America

What Is It? For the chilly winter days when you want to stay inside, nothing works better than good shopping. Mall of America is among the country’s most impressive establishments for this. With more than 520 stores, 60 restaurants, an indoor Nickelodeon Universe theme park, and an aquarium, it’s a whole world of shopping. 

Why Do It? You can easily spend a day here browsing through the endless shops, checking out all the eateries, and exploring the entertainment attractions. Also, the great news is that Mall of America doesn’t have a sales tax on clothing or shoes so you’re saving money too. 

Good to Know: Check out their website for a program of events. If you’d like to be close to the action, there are many hotels around the Mall of America so you won’t have to get too far from the entrances. 

Have a Private Helicopter Flight Over Lake Superior
Lake Superior near Duluth

Have a Private Helicopter Flight Over Lake Superior

What Is It? If you’re in for something different on your next Minnesota adventure, why not hit the skies? One of the best-reviewed tours in the state, it allows you to glide above the blue waters of Lake Superior and get a bird’s eye view of Duluth. 

Why Do It? Everything looks better from above. When we talk about a picture-perfect Lake Superior, you’re getting a truly unforgettable vista. Doing a helicopter ride is a one-of-a-kind experience and Northern Minnesota is a fantastic place to embark on such an adventure. 

Good to Know: The flight takes 15 minutes to complete. You will see the Enger Park and Tower, downtown Duluth, its iconic Aerial Lift Bridge, and, of course, the wide expanse of stunning Lake Superior.

Discover the Wonders of the Twin Cities on a Walking Excursion
Discover the wonders of the Twin Cities on a walking excursion

Discover the Wonders of the Twin Cities on a Walking Excursion

What Is It? Minneapolis and St Paul together form one of the most unique urban landscapes in the country. An excursion is an ideal way to learn more about the numerous sights that the Twin Cities possess. You will visit the musts like the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Minnesota State Capitol, and History Center with an interesting commentary from the local guide. 

Why Do It? When you’ve got a time shortage, an excursion is the best way to have a quick tour of a destination. This one takes only 3 hours and takes you around everything that matters to get a better perspective on the Twin Cities. 

Good to Know: While winter may not be the most walkable time in Minnesota, it’s one of the most rewarding for sure. So get your warm clothes ready and prepare for countless thrilling stories from the past and present of the Twin Cities.

Stay at a Luxurious Resort by the Water
Stay at a luxurious resort by the water

Stay at a Luxurious Resort by the Water

What Is It? The lakes of Minnesota are there for you to enjoy. Elevate the experience by staying at a luxurious resort on the shores of Lake Superior. Bluefin Bay boasts water-facing rooms, in-suite wood fireplaces, whirlpool baths, and magnificent panoramas. The crescendo of relaxation would be the scenic outdoor heated pool with a hot tub. 

Why Do It? Lakeside resort stay is a great chance to escape the noise of the big city and get close to nature. With Lake Superior as your front yard, there will be a myriad of outdoor opportunities like hiking, having a campfire with s’mores, and dog sledding. 

Good to Know: Bluefin Bay is set very close to the Lutsen Mountains ski resort so you will have easy access to the whole world of winter activities. Also, the hotel is pet-friendly.

Cozy Up in a Lakeside Cabin
Cozy up in a lakeside cabin

Cozy Up in a Lakeside Cabin

What Is It? Renting a cabin next to the lake is the ultimate thing to do in Minnesota in winter. This property is a dreamy choice that takes you directly to the heart of magnificent Itasca County.

Why Do It? With Sugar Lake right in front, booking this cabin allows you to get a full rewind in fresh air while profiting from excellent amenities. Guests noted the spectacular location of the Airbnb, the breathtaking views from the deck, and the unforgettable atmosphere. 

Good to Know: The log cabin boasts 3 bedrooms, can accommodate up to 6 people, and comes with a fully equipped, well-stocked kitchen. You’ve got a spacious living room with a fireplace as well as an outdoor fire pit directly on the lake’s shore.

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