6 Winter Activities to Try with Your Family
Take a snow day and embrace the season. We tell you where to go in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region for snow golf, kite flying, sledding and more.
Minnesota has long been legendary for its epic ski and snowmobile trails, dogsled experiences and ice fishing. Many of these iconic winter activities can be enjoyed without leaving the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region, which often ranks among the nation’s best areas for parks and recreation.
Here are six ways you and your family can embrace the snow and ice this winter.
1. Catch the Winter Carnival
Listen for the sound of marching bands, feel the warmth whooshing from hot air balloon burners, and watch bouncers launch into the air at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, a downtown tradition and the nation’s oldest winter festival. From Jan. 23-Feb. 2, families can enjoy a giant snowslide, snow sculptures, snow golf, a snow maze, flag football and a polar plunge. In Rice Park, artists wield chain saws and tools to carve luminous ice sculptures on display, along with ice bars.
2. Go Fly a Kite
Look to the sky to see everything from an airborne whale and octopus to a cat and a dog soaring above frozen lakes during the area’s winter kite festivals. Minneapolis hosts the annual Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival, where families can also roast marshmallows and try their hands at ice fishing, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking on Jan. 25. About 40 minutes northwest of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region, the city of Buffalo’s Feb. 8 Kites on Ice Festival includes stunt kites, a kite-building workshop for kids, kiteboard racing and a corn hole tournament.
3. Hit the Slopes
With river-sculpted hills and rolling terrain, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region welcomes skiers and snowboarders to its varied slopes that are gentle enough for beginners and steep enough for thrill seekers. Saint Paul’s Como Park Ski Center, Three Rivers Park District’s Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area in Maple Grove and Hyland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington offer ideal setups for newcomers. Other options include Burnsville’s Buck Hill, which was once the training site for Olympian Lindsey Vonn, Taylors Falls’ Wild Mountain and Welch Village south of Hastings. St. Croix River Valley’s Afton Alps is part of Vail Resorts and offers packages with discounts to major ski destinations in Colorado and British Columbia.
4. Break Out Your Snow Tubes and Sleds
For old-fashioned (and usually free) fun, head to a sledding hill at places such as Inver Grove Heights’ South Valley Park, the steep slope at Plymouth’s French Regional Park, Saint Paul’s historic Hyland Park and Golden Valley’s Valley View Park, where you can catch a sunset while whooshing down the hill.
5. Lace Up Your Skates
The Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region goes far beyond typical lakeshore ice-skating rinks. Rent skates for an enchanting evening beneath illuminated trees at Wells Fargo’s WinterSkate, which features rinks next to Saint Paul’s Landmark Center and in Minneapolis’ Loring Park. For a more meandering experience, try Maple Grove’s Central Park Ice Skating Loop or enjoy scenic and interconnected ponds at Edina’s Centennial Lakes Park.
Victoria’s Lowry Nature Center, St. Louis Park’s Westwood Hills Nature Center and Eagan’s Lebanon Hills Regional Park are among the skating sites that also rent kick sleds, which let adults skate and push younger children in the sled along the ice.
For families craving both indoor and outdoor amusements near the light-rail train, Mall of America operates its Skate the Star rink near its north entrance Dec. 16-Feb. 2. Skate rentals benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.
6. Take a Nighttime Trek
Many local, regional and state parks host special candlelit snowshoeing and skiing events throughout winter. Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Richfield’s Wood Lake Nature Center with toasted marshmallows and hot cocoa after your hike. On Feb. 1, Minneapolis’ Lake of the Isles will be aglow for its annual Luminary Loppet, part of the City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival.
Outfitters, such as Stillwater’s DIRO Outdoors in the St. Croix River Valley, offer snowshoeing rentals and custom recommendations for the best trails based on the weather, your abilities and the kind of scenery you’re looking for.
Ice formations along creeks, rivers and lakes are among the often-overlooked wonders of winter — and yet another excuse to layer up and get outdoors.