Our Favorite Winter Adventures for Families
With all of these great family activities, there’s no excuse to get cabin fever this winter!
1. Hit the Slopes
Three Rivers Park District offers downhill skiing and snowboarding at Maple Grove’s Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area and Bloomington’s Hyland Hills Ski Area. Both have tubing runs, too. For bigger challenges, head to Burnsville’s Buck Hill where Olympian skier Lindsey Vonn once trained, or Afton Alps where 48 trails carve through 300 acres overlooking the St. Croix River Valley at Hastings. All the sites offer lessons for newbies or chalets with steaming drinks for family members who prefer watching to whooshing.
2. Light Up the Lake
From Jan. 31 through Feb. 3, you can enjoy four full days of cross-country races at Minneapolis’s legendary 2019 City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival at Theodore Wirth Park. Visitors can also join in on or cheer on fat-tire bike racing, snowshoeing, dogsled races, a kubb tournament and skijoring (a single dog pulling a skier). Stick around after dark on Saturday night for a luminary spectacle and live music.
3. Explore a Winter Wonderland
Round up your crew and get outside to experience winter’s unique beauty together — from lacy patterns in the ice to the eerie sounds of freezing rivers. Fort Snelling State Park, which hugs a lake and the Minnesota River as it meets the Mississippi, offers wintry activities such as snowshoe clinics, winter birding and snow-shelter building. As the calendar turns to March, look for sweet maple-syruping sessions. Other go-to hiking spots include the Mississippi River Regional Trail with trailheads near Simon’s Ravine in South Saint Paul, Swing Bridge Trailhead in Inver Grove Heights and Lower Spring Lake Trailhead by Spring Lake Park. And make sure to visit Theodore Wirth Regional Park for a host of winter activities, including cross-country skiing, ice fishing, tubing, sledding and more. Or take a stroll over the historic Stone Arch Bridge, made from local granite and limestone.
4. Lace Up Your Skates
Enjoy a free lesson and skate rental during Wells Fargo WinterSkate at Saint Paul’s Landmark Plaza and Minneapolis’ Loring Park. Other ice skating options include the 10 acres of skating along the connected ponds of Edina’s Centennial Lakes Park; Maple Grove’s Central Park Ice Skating Loop, which meanders for 810 feet; and Roseville’s Guidant John Rose MN Oval, North America’s largest outdoor refrigerated skating facility.
5. Bundle Up for Festival Fun
Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the nation’s oldest winter festival, kicks off Jan. 24 and runs until Feb. 3. Signature events include a Moonglow evening parade (Jan. 24), the Grand Day Parade (Jan. 26) and a torchlight evening parade (Feb. 2). There’s also a treasure hunt, a cat show, an ongoing giant snow slide, sculptures and family activities at The Minnesota State Fairgrounds. This year also marks the third ever Great Northern Festival, combining Saint Paul Winter Carnival and Twin Cities Loppet Ski Festival.
6. Keep an Eye to the Sky
Looking for a short hike and maybe a little bird watching? Head to the Visitor Center for Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. Not far from Mall of America, this tucked-away spot offers workshops on bird behavior and guided birding expeditions that help families spot swans, geese, eagles and wintering songbirds that gather in the trees and along the water near Bloomington’s Bass Ponds or Shakopee’s Wilkie Unit trailheads. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera!
7. Marvel At Ice Formations
Head to Minnehaha Regional Park to marvel at the icicled beauty of a 53-foot waterfall frozen for the season. As one of the most popular parks in Minneapolis, you and your family will also find plenty of places to sled, a dog park and disc golf holes.
8. Tap Into Your Wild Side
Amble through Saint Paul’s Como Zoo — home to a polar bear, Arctic fox, reindeer, wolves and gorillas — as you weave through indoor and outdoor exhibits. It’s attached to the popular Conservatory, which is filled with palm trees, spice bushes and seasonal flowers. Apple Valley’s 485-acre Minnesota Zoo takes visitors on outdoor trails past snow monkeys and bison, through an aquarium with penguins and monk seals, and into a multi-level tropical habitat with exotic birds, gibbons, tree kangaroos and nocturnal creatures.