Top Winter Activities in Minnesota

We’ve compiled the best Minnesota has to offer in the winter, from the top skiing, snowboarding, and ice fishing experiences to the best restaurants.

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Few U.S. states do winter better than Minnesota. Although you might think all the tourists skedaddle when the 10,000 lakes begin to freeze – nope – they like to stick around for all the awesome cold weather action. Hardy Minnesotans have pumped enough winter fun into the season to draw visitors non-stop. If you’re planning a winter trip to The North Star State, then check out some of these top spots for the coolest winter kicks.

Groups of visitors at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival Ice Castle in Minnesota on a clear day.

Buck Hill

If you’re into downhill skiing and snowboarding, there’s no place on the planet like Buck Hill in Burnsville. And, yup, the hills that gave skiing stars Lindsey Vonn and Kristina Koznick their pro starts have got to be great. For skiing and snowboarding, hop on one of the three chairlifts, and hit the slopes for lighted night skiing, or show off your freestyle moves on the airbag jump.

Rustic Resorts

If straight-up cross-country skiing is your thing, check out no-frills Maplelag Resort in Becker County. The digs are simple, and the vibe is all about skiing and snowshoeing. Meals are served family style, and you bring your own towels, sleeping bags, and pillows for your stay.

Four hours north of the Twin Cities, at Wildwood Resort you can zoom across the wild countryside on snowmobiles and soak up the awesome winter scenery. The cozy cabins house up to 16 people when it’s time to warm up at night.

A father wearing a black winter coat teaching his two children how to ice fish at Lake Winnibigoshish in Minnesota on a cloudy afternoon.

Ice Fishing

Minnesota is like one big buffet for ice fisherman, with large and small lakes stretched out across the land. Choosing the best place to ice fish depends on what you want to catch. Lake Winnibigoshish (try saying that three times fast) in Chippewa National Forest is famous for its perch, while Lake of the Woods in northernmost Minnesota is the perfect spot for walleye. If you want to hook crappie, scoot on over to Clearwater Lake in Wright County.

Winter-Only Events

More than 250,000 visitors flock to the world-famous Saint Paul Winter Carnival each year, says Nick Cusick, marketing and media relationship manager for Visit Saint Paul. The event is packed with family-friendly action, including parades, ice sculptures, and all kinds of food.

If you’re in Saint Paul at the right time, Red Bull Crashed Ice is another can’t-miss winter happening. A stop on the world tour for the winter extreme sport known as ice cross downhill, Crashed Ice is a high-octane competition for racers on ice skates who speed around a raised ice track, tackling sharp turns and steep jumps. Cusick says the free event usually draws about 100,000 fired-up fans. After the race, book it to the foot of the death-defying hill, where Crashed Ice Village hosts a street party that lasts into the night.

Sporting Events

If you’re a sports fan, you have tons of winter options for watching the pros on their home turf. The NBA’s Timberwolves play in Minneapolis, and the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars take the field in Bloomington. According to Cusick, Minnesotans are “hockey nuts,” which means plenty of thrills at every hockey game. For a night of pure adrenaline, take in some rough-and-tumble roller derby starring the mighty Minnesota RollerGirls in Saint Paul.

Foodie Heaven

No matter the season, no trip to Minnesota is complete without chowing down at a few of the top foodie hangouts that the locals love. Smart foodie folk visit these favorites as often as they can:

  • Matt’s Jucy Lucy: If you’re in Minneapolis, you’ve gotta try the famous cheese-filled burger known as the Jucy Lucy.

  • Spoon and Stable: Located in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis, this canteen features fresh, seasonal Midwest chow with a French twist whipped up by owner Gavin Kaysen, a James Beard award-winning chef.

  • Haute Dish: Also in the North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis, this restaurant dishes up Midwestern eats with eye-popping flair that foodies will dig.

  • 6Smith: This restaurant may be a new kid on the block, but chef J. P. Samuelson’s meat and seafood dishes are already a hit with guests in Wayzata.

  • Burntside Lodge: Head into the woods in Ely for a fancy meal and tasty eats at this restaurant that’s more than 100 years old.

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