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Safer Ways to Explore Minnesota this Winter

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When the temperature drops low enough, boiling water will freeze in mid-air and turn into a wave of ice crystals / Jordan Olson

Safer Ways to Explore Minnesota this Winter

By Caitlin Hannah

Winter in Minnesota is always full of wonder and whimsy, and that's as true today as it ever was. This season you'll need to include a facemask on the checklist of winter clothes to pile on before heading out for an adventure, but if you take the appropriate precautions you can still get out and enjoy the sparkling scenery with these travel ideas. 

  1. Hit the Trails
    Hit the Trails

    Whether you choose to explore on snowshoes, cross-country skis or lace up your boots for a winter walk, you'll find plenty of room to roam on Minnesota's thousands of miles of winter trails. More than two dozen Minnesota state parks offer groomed trails for skiing. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, some popular cross-country spots are Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington and Theodore Wirth Regional Park in Minneapolis. Snowshoe rentals are common in state and local park systems, but call ahead to confirm availability before heading out.

  2. Visit a Holiday Light Display
    Visit a Holiday Light Display

    Even though Christmas is behind us, the Minnesota Zoo and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum are keeping their holiday light displays up through Jan. 17. These unique drive-through experiences have been very popular, so make sure you purchase your tickets in advance. For something a little more casual, the iconic Stillwater Lift Bridge is decked out in holiday lights alongside a new "dancing lights" display downtown that will be themed for New Years Eve, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and other occasions.  

  3. Explore a Nature Center
    Explore a Nature Center

    Getting outside in nature for a bit of exercise is a great way to maintain your physical and mental health, and nature centers provide the best of both worlds. In the metro area, visit Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park or Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley. Outside the metro, explore Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in Waite Park, Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin or Hartley Nature Center in Duluth. 

  4. Get Takeout or Dine Outside
    Get Takeout or Dine Outside

    Many restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries are getting creative to keep diners and staff safer this winter. Heated patios stocked with firepits make it easy to continue supporting your favorite local businesses in-person. If you'd rather stay in, by now most restaurants have finely tuned their takeout and delivery options, or you can order a meal kit to assemble and cook your food at home. Some creative kits include the delicious cheeseburgers from Parlour Bar, the biscuit mix from St. Paul’s Hot Hands Pie and Biscuit (which includes an online video to walk you through the baking process!) or pasta sauces from Mucci's in St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

  5. Try Winter Camping
    Try Winter Camping

    First, let's get the obvious out of the way: Winter camping sound intense. But with the proper gear, camping in the winter can be an out-of-the-ordinary and remarkably fun, refreshing adventure. There's nothing like sleeping in the serene, snow-covered landscape beneath some of the darkest skies in America. Beginners can ease into the experience by staying in a camper cabin or yurt in select state parks, or camper cabins at any number of regional parks like Elm Creek or Whitetail Woods. You can also go winter tent camping in the Boundary WatersVoyageurs National Park and some Minnesota State Parks.

  6. Visit a Frozen Waterfall
    Visit a Frozen Waterfall

    Waterfalls are some of Minnesota’s most picturesque spots, and in the winter many freeze to become more beautiful than ever. Some of the most spectacular frozen waterfalls are Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, Minneopa Falls in Mankato, Winnewissa Falls at Pipestone National Monument, and Gooseberry Falls along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Truly adventurous travelers can even go ice climbing some of these frozen waterfalls

  7. Take a Sculpture Walk or Visit a Sculpture Park
    Take a Sculpture Walk or Visit a Sculpture Park

    Sculpture walks are self-guided public art trails featuring works from artists from around the world, and you’ll find them in Minnesota towns both large and small. It’s a great way to get outside, admire the arts and discover some hidden gems along the way. You’ll find notable public sculpture walks in Mankato, Stillwater and Bemidji, among other towns. You can also enjoy public art at Franconia Sculpture Garden, Nyberg Sculpture Park in Vining, Norby Sculpture Garden in New London and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Caitlin Hannah

Caitlin Hannah is Explore Minnesota's social media strategist and resident Disney expert. She grew up spending summer weekends at her family's lake cabin in Detroit Lakes, and brings that "up north" attitude to everything she does. When traveling around the state, she likes trying new restaurants and taprooms, or watching Minnesota hockey.