Winter in Minnesota – things to do OUTSIDE!

Believe it or not, Minnesotans LOVE winter! In other places I’ve lived the attitude has been MUCH different, people thought of winter as something to get through, not something to celebrate. That change in perspective makes ALL the difference, in my opinion. I’m especially grateful for the way that winter is embraced here this year as we look for ways to stay healthy and have fun while staying safe.

Today I’ll give you a list of 10 things that Minnesotans do to have fun OUTSIDE in the winter. Many of these are free or low cost ways to enjoy the season, and they range from simple to more adventurous.

Dog Sledding

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I’ll start with the one I most want to do this winter – mushing on a dog sled! We did a training run in a buggy in Alaska once and it was fun, but I want to do the real deal! There are several outfitters in northern MN that have excursions for regular people. They range from a short run to primitive camping trip accessed by dog sled. I’m not sure that I want to camp in winter, but it’s an option. I’d much rather stay somewhere like the Gunflint Lodge in Grand Marais and let them handle the hard stuff while I enjoy the dogs and all of the other fun things they offer all year round.

Minnesota has several dogsled races if you prefer to watch! The John Beargrease Dog Sled Race is run out of Duluth at the end of January, you can head to Ely for the Wolftrack Classic in February, or check out the Gunflint Mail Run … in 2022. 2021 was nixed for our old enemy Covid.


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Ok – lets bring this down to something closer to home and easier to access for an afternoon out: Snowshoeing! When the snow gets deep this is a great way to be able to head out an enjoy nature without struggling through snow up to your thighs. The good news about snowshoeing is that you can try it for FREE! Minneapolis Parks have loaners that you can sign out of their “Adventure Hubs”- check the Minneapolis Parks web site, Theodore Wirth Park has an amazing network of trails and they rent snow shoes for $12/day, several Minnesota State Parks also rent snow shoes – for a great price – only $6/day. I advise checking their website and calling in advance just due to potential Covid related closures.


If you want more of a thrill and less of a workout, try snow tubing! Our family loves to go to Buck Hill every year and spend a couple of hours ripping downhill on a big inner tube. Buck Hill makes it easy because they have a conveyor style lift that you stand on with the tube behind you and you’re pulled to the top to start again. And at the bottom of the hill is a big bonfire that you can stand around to warm yourself and an outdoor kiosk that serves up hot cocoa. If snow if sparse they make their own, so there is never a reason not to go!

Skiing / Snowboarding

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If tubing isn’t your cup of tea, Buck hill also has down hill skiing and snowboarding. This year you have to buy all your lift passes online before you go. There are lots of options for downhill skiing and snowboarding – the other two that come to mind are Afton Alps near Afton State Park and Hyland Hills ski area. A great option at Hyland Hills if you don’t want to buy a season pass, but think you’ll ski multiple times is a 10 or 6 visit pass. They both rent skis there as well as give lessons.

Nordic or cross country skiing is also very popular! You can rent skis at some parks, like Theodore Wirth, and enjoy miles of groomed trails of varying difficulty. Hyland Hills park also has extensive groomed ski trails and ski rentals as well.

Build a bonfire & make s’mores

Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. You can do this all winter. I walk my dog at night and often see people with fire pits in their driveways, sitting out in lawn chairs around it, chatting and having a drink, and roasting marshmallows. In winter. 🙂 If you like this enough to do it often, check out Solo stoves – they are smokeless fire pits that everyone seems to love and they look really slick too. Perfect for flexing at your neighbors.

Ice fishing

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This one holds ALMOST no attraction for me, except when I think about leaving my house and spending quiet time in another location. I don’t care about the fish.

People in MN LOVE being on the ice. If you get near a body of water in the winter, chances are it will be covered with ice shanties. People leave these little houses out on the ice all winter and hang out in them and fish. And you can catch some seriously large fish here if that’s what you’re into.

If you’re not ready for a shanty – drag your gear out onto the ice in a sled – some people set up little tents or just sit out there with a line through a hole in the ice and fish.

Visit the zoo.

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OK, this one is a plan ahead because they are temporarily closed due to governor’s orders, BUT they are normally open all year and are a great way to spend time outside looking at the animals. We have two zoos to choose from in the Twin Cities – Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul is smaller and FREE. It’s a great zoo to go to if you don’t want to spend a whole day and deal with huge crowds, plus it’s close to home if you live in MPLS or STP.

The Minnesota Zoo is the Mac-Daddy zoo. It’s huge and you’ll have your day cut out for you. We were members for a while and one of the things that we liked was the area where you can pet the stingrays. We also loved the indoor tropical forest path, nice and warm and lots of clear panes on the animal habitats so that you could see them from a lot of angles and in little nooks.


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I can’t even begin to guess how many sled hills there are in the metro area. I make a joke that it sounds like an amusement park at the park next to my house because the minute there is snow on the ground the hill is MOBBED with kids AND adults. No one can wait for this. This year I’m extra grateful to have this easy, fun, free and SAFE choice for my kid to gather with her friends outside. They head over there just about every day, and I feel great that they get fresh air, exercise, and social time. Most parks have a sled hill in them somewhere, and the one down the street doesn’t there will be one not far away – guaranteed!

Ice Skating

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Another freebie for the most part! Almost every park sets up an outdoor skating area in the winter. They flood the field, set up boards for a hockey “arena”, and then leave lots of extra space around it for free skating. Parks in Minneapolis have warming houses where you can .. warm up! and change into and out of your skates. Lots of families donate skates that they have outgrown and the warming house has a wide selection of skates to borrow if you don’t have your own. You can also borrow hockey sticks and pucks if you have a pick-up game and I see adults out on the ice at night playing hockey all the time. Side note that Minneapolis has an ENORMOUS pond hockey tournament every (normal) year. It’s held on Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis. They set up nearly 30 rinks on the lake!

Winter Festival

If you are more of an extrovert than me and like hanging around a lot of people and maybe you miss that this year – good news! The St. Paul Winter Carnival happens at the end of January /beginning of February. As of now it is still on!

They are featuring a craft brew passport to try some of our great local beers, there is a drive through ice and snow sculpture park, ice fishing and softball tournaments (yes, in the snow!), fun run, art show and more.

That’s about it for now – I’ll be posting some indoor ideas soon!


My summer Twin Cities to-do list!

I’m posting this on Memorial Day and it’s the start of summer, but we have some different challenges to deal with this summer while we still try to have as much fun as possible in the warm weather. So with that in mind I am presenting my list of 6 things to do this summer that are really fun and still allow for social distancing. #6 is INSANE and the one I most want to do. 🙂

Best things to do in Minneapolis / Best things to do in the Twin Cities
Minneapolis has palm trees! NOT

#1: Regular theaters are closed, but this may mean the rebirth of the drive-in! Minnesota still has several that have hung on and our love of movies and lack of theaters may be the shot in the arms that these theaters need. 🙂 My first pick is the Elko Drive-in theater. No, it’s not down the street from my house, but it’s more than a movie. Its a DRIVE-IN! When I was a kid my mom used to take us in the station wagon and we had our sleeping bags in the back and snacks ready. The “kid” movie was usually first and then they would play one for adults – thinking kids would have knocked out by then? The beauty of it then was that you paid by the car, not the person. Mom loved this. Unfortunately, Elko prices by the person $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 & under. You can see what’s playing here: https://www.elkospeedway.com/drivein/

Minnehaha Falls

#2: Minnehaha Falls & Sea Salt Eatery

If you’re in the city head over to Minnehaha Falls and walk the trails. You can really work your glute muscles by climbing the stairs back up from the Falls when you’re done, about a 100 steps – you can challenge your family & see who wimps out – and even if they do they still have to get up there somehow, so see ya at the top! If it’s hot out you can wade in the creek and cool off – there are little “beach” areas that allow you to easily get in and out. While this year is not the same as past years and you won’t get to gather and listen to music and share picnic tables while drinking beer… (memories!) you can still order carry-out from Sea Salt Eatery and pick it up from the window and take it to a spot for a picnic. Check out Sea Salt’s online ordering here: https://www.seasaltmpls.com/

Chillaxing (I know that’s not cool. I’m not cool)

#3 Rent a Pontoon!

Pricier, but a lot of fun if you have up to about 10 people that you want to spend the day with is to rent a pontoon boat and spend time on the water and the beaches of the St. Croix River. It is a MASSIVE river that borders MN, and it’s only about a 40 minute drive to get to Stillwater MN or Hudson to rent one. We have done this several summers in a row. You can take your food on board and just hang out and relax all day long. We love it as a way to bring the “water culture” of Minnesota to guests. It’s especially nice because it appeals to all ages – my senior citizen mom loves it as much as my daughter.

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#4 Bike the Midtown Greenway or bike paths

Even if you’re just visiting the city, this is a nice way to spend the day and there are day use bike rentals all over the city – our service is called Nice Ride https://www.niceridemn.com/ . It’s great because you never have to loop back to where you started, you can drop your bike at any station and grab a meal, or catch an Uber or a cab to where ever you want to go next. I love that this is an option now – for people that live here and want to use it for transportation or if you want to explore the Greenway, Grand Rounds bike trails around the lakes, or even make your way through the city in the bike lanes.

#5: Walker Art Center – Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

If you just want to wander and take in some art, the sculpture garden is a great place to go. They recently rehabbed the entire park and added a lot of new art that you can interact with. Then stop in the Walker or okay some mini golf nearby as well. And if you feel like exploring a little more, cross the bridge over the freeway and you’ll be in Loring Park – another little gem in Minneapolis.

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#6 (this is my favorite) Drive a tank!

I am so intrigued with this idea. I’m not very interested in anything military, but the idea that you can actually DRIVE A TANK?!?! That just sounds FUN!!

It’s on my bucket list. I really wish I had first hand experience with this one. I would love to hear from you if you do!

They have changed their offerings a little bit for this year, but hey. Still looks awesome. It’s located in Kasota MN, which is about an hour south west of the city, but it seems like an experience worth driving for!


What are your favorite things to do in the Twin Cities?


Looking for things to do in Minneapolis? With (or without!) Kids?

It’s February and here in MN, patience is starting to wear thin as we look out the window at snow that shows little sign of leaving and the sled hills and skating rinks may be starting to lose their charm.

I thought I’d make some suggestions for some indoor activities that kids (of various ages) will enjoy if you’re visiting, or even if you live here, and you’re looking for an idea (or five).

Mill City Museum

Photo Credit to MNHS.org

This is a fun way to learn about the city’s history and why this city ended up parked on the side of the Mississippi River.

The museum sits right downtown on the river front and lives in what was once the worlds largest flour mill. There are hands on activities for kids in the water lab and the baking lab, and the Flour Tower exhibit shouldn’t be missed. I was really surprised by the things I learned!

Mill City Museum : 704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401. 
It is open every day except Monday.  Hours are 10am-5pm with the exception of Sunday when it's 12-5.

Kids under 4 get in free and under 18 is $6. There are discounts for veterans, college students and seniors off the regular adult price of $12.

If you go on a nice day – go outside and walk along the river front. The lock and dam on the river is right in front of the museum, and that’s an interesting thing to see. And then head south past the Guthrie Theater & Gold Medal Park and hit Izzy’s Ice Cream shop! Give your mouth a treat after feeding your brain.

Izzy’s 1100 Second Street South, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Bryant Lake Bowl

 810 West Lake Street – Minneapolis, MN 55408 https://www.bryantlakebowl.com/

This little bowling alley is so much more!

It has a decent menu (even breakfast!) and a full bar. And they have theater there nearly every night as well.

But if you’re just coming to knock down some pins (and/or some pints?), it’s a fun place to be and on the less expensive side! $4.50/person per game, $2 shoe rental. No reservations for bowling or food.

It’s open from 8am – 2am every day and the crowd is varied.

We actually spent Thanksgiving there a couple of years ago as a fun alternative when we weren’t traveling and didn’t have family in town.

Edinborough Park

photo credit to EdinaMN.gov

Tag line “Where it’s sunny and 70 degrees all year long!”. Yes.

Edinborough Park is an indoor playground and it is an AWESOME way to drain your kid of some of their energy on a cold winter day when you just. can’t. deal. anymore.

Check the website for prices and hours: https://www.edinamn.gov/158/Edinborough-Park

7700 York Avenue South
Edina, MN 55435
Phone: 952-833-9540

So much climbing. So much running. So many other kids!

There is a free play area called The Great Hall that has balls and tricycles and just space to RUN.

We’ve had birthday parties here, and there is a HEATED pool that you can pay as you go or get a pass to if you or your kid like to swim recreationally in the winter.

There is a little cafe & coffee kiosk called The Peak Cafe near the front desk and they have pizza, hot dogs, PBJ and other kid accepted foods as well as sodas, milk, juice boxes. I mean, it’s like it was designed by a kid.

The Riverview Theater

3800 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406

I LOVE this neighborhood theater! It’s amazing – like stepping into a 1950’s neighborhood theater. The decor is still mid-mod. The prices are RIGHT. Films are $2- 2.50 unless you’re having a big night out – evening films for adults are $3. The movies are sometimes classics that you get to see on the big screen again, or recent movies from the major theaters, not quite new releases, but not old!

They also do film festivals and special events at the theater. It’s really a great place.

Besides the inexpensive price and the sweet decor – the Riverview has a strict “No butter flavored oil” policy – they put REAL BUTTER on their popcorn and it’s heaven! People actually stop in to buy popcorn to go!

If you want a meal before or after the film, there are restaurants a couple of blocks away up and down Minnehaha Ave.

Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater

Photo credit to Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater HOTB.org


This one requires a little planning because you can’t just drop in, but this puppet theater often has shows and right now is staging a series of SIX FREE shows at the Midtown Global Market on Lake Street (another fun place to visit!) and some have “make and take” activities for the kids.

This puppet theater is a driving force behind the May Day Celebration and, to me, it’s just a really unique thing that can capture the imagination of children and adults.

Photo credit to HOTB.org

I hope these help you find some things to entertain yourself and your kids in Minneapolis! Spring is coming… 🙂

If you have questions, comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them. Send me an email, leave a comment or tap one of the links below.